The Colossus of Rhodes. The Great Pyramid of Giza. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. OK, these are starting to sound vaguely familiar. But what are they? The next movie epics to hit the summer screens? Not quite.
These, along with some other spectacular sights make up the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Think of it as a sort of ideal travel itinerary from a long, long, long time ago. In 2007, a new list of natural wonders was announced for our modern world. What made the list?
Chichén Itza, Mexico
The ancient city of Chichén Itza (pronounced chee-chehn eet-sah) is located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This well-known Mayan city served as a religious, political and economic center spanning several hundred years. The Pyramid of Kulkulkán — also known as El Castillo — is probably the most recognized ruin of Chichén Itza. This step pyramid stands approximately 80 feet high. It has nine terraces and four sets of stairs. Each staircase has 91 steps. If you include the top platform as a step, then the pyramid has a total of 365 steps – one for each day of the year!
Christ the Redeemer Statue, Brazil
This statue of Jesus is one of Rio de Janiero’s most widely recognized monuments. It stands 98.5 feet tall atop the summit of Mount Corcovado, which itself rises more than 2,300 feet high. With a hug-like wingspan of 92 feet, the statue seems to both beckon and welcome local residents and visitors alike. It weighs approximately 700 tons and is made of concrete and soapstone. To see the statue up close, you can ride a cogwheel steam engine train up the steep 2.3-mile slope. Rest up on the ride because at rail’s end you have more than 200 steps to climb to get to the foot of the statue.
If you’ve seen the movie “Gladiator,” then you’ve seen the Colosseum – well, a CGI-enhanced version of it anyway. Built in Rome sometime around AD 70, it was the first freestanding amphitheater. Others in that era were dug out and built into the sides of hills or mountains to provide stability. Gladiator contests, group combats, battle reenactments, and other productions were held there to an audience of nearly 50,000. Today, even after some renovations in the 1990s, the wear and tear from poor weather, natural disaster and vandalism show. Nonetheless, visitors flock to this amazing sight daily.
Taj Mahal, India
This 42-acre marble mausoleum complex located in Agra is a stunning and well-known Indian landmark. Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal (or Mogul) Emperor, built it as a memorial to his deceased wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died during childbirth. Construction, which started shortly after Mahal’s passing in 1631, spanned more than two decades. It required more than 20,000 laborers and cost several million rupees.
Great Wall of China
OK, we’ve all heard the claim that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from space. But it just isn’t true. According to NASA, not only is the wall not clearly visible from low Earth orbit, other man-made things are. The space myth aside, the Great Wall of China is definitely a modern marvel and rightfully belongs amid the other seven wonders. Contrary to popular belief, the wall isn’t one continuous structure. It’s actually made up of several separate structures that connect and branch out here and there. Including the branches, it covers approximately 4,500 miles.
Located in southwest Jordan are the ruins of the ancient city of Petra. Massive temples, tombs and monuments have been cut into the surrounding sandstone cliffs. Petra, which is Greek for “rock,” is also known as “the city in the rock.” Perhaps the most impressive Petra structure is the Sik al-Khazneh, also known as the Treasury. It is an elaborately carved and embellished tomb. Besides the decorative tomb facades and monuments, Petra is also known for its highly organized water system, which included ceramic pipes, intricate water channels and cisterns.
Machu Picchu, Peru
If Petra is the city in the rock, then Machu Picchu is the city in the clouds. Built in the 15th century, this ancient Incan city is nestled between two peaks – Machu Picchu (Old Peak) and Huayna Picchu (New Peak) at an amazing elevation of 7,710 feet. It is often (mistakenly) called the lost city of the Incas, because it was hidden amidst the lush forest and clouds for more than three centuries. Yale professor Hiram Bingham rediscovered the city in 1911. Since then, excavation research suggests that the city was home to about 1,200 residents at its peak. Today, it is a key tourist attraction.