Ellis’ Bucket List: see the seven wonders of the world.
I think the seven wonders are probably a regular feature on bucket lists everywhere: Christ the Redeemer, Petra, the Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza, the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu with either the Pyramids of Giza or the Colosseum taking the last place (depending on the list you read). So far, I’ve only made it to the pyramids and the Colosseum.
There are other lists of wonders, including natural wonders, ancient wonders, medieval wonders and underwater wonders. Now some of these seen, like Stonehenge, the Great Barrier Reef and Halong Bay, but I have still seen many, many more wondrous things. With that in mind, I thought I would list seven of my own wonders (plus some runners up because I couldn’t actually pick just seven).
#1. Piazza San Marco, Italy
There are few places in the world that have made me double-take and exclaim but Piazza San Marco was one of them, as I stumbled out of a narrow alleyway and into the massive square. With the Basilica, the Clock Tower and the Bell Tower (from which you can get some pretty amazing views of the city below) and with the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs around the corner, it is an area of staggering architectural beauty in Venice.
#2. Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong
After taking a cable car ride out of the city, I found the 34 metre, bronze Tian Tan Buddha sitting at the top of 268 steps. In the July heat, I couldn’t face climbing all the way up but its sheer size means that it can still be appreciated from the bottom. You can also wander around Ngong Ping shopping village and pick up some souvenirs, while you are up there.
#3. Prague Castle, Czech Republic
I ultimately went to Prague Castle just to see St. Vitus Cathedral (above) but what I actually found was one of the biggest castle complexes in the world. The buildings include the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica the Golden Lane.I spent about half a day wandering around and I still didn’t see everything there was to see. What I did see, however, was some stunning architecture.
#4. Hearst Castle, California USA
Hearst Castle was two things for me. Firstly, it was unexpected. Secondly, it was the time I settled on my future home. Since the word “castle” is in the title, I was expecting something along the lines of an English Heritage medieval castle but, instead, I found a Mediterranean-themed, classically-inspired mansion, with baroque and gothic influences. There was also not one but two amazing swimming pools. One was outside and surrounded by columns, whole the other was inside in a room covered in dark blue and gold tiles. I don’t know how I’ll manage it but I swear I will live there one day.
#5. Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
I was on my way to see the fortress in Ouarzazate when my day-tour group stopped off at Ait Benhaddou on the way. Located on the edge of the Atlas Mountains, this old fortified city is made up of earthy buildings and has been used as a filming location in several movies and TV shows, including The Mummy, Gladiator and Game of Thrones. As someone who spends the majority of their life in front of the telly, I got very excited.
#6. Pompeii, Italy
Standing in sight of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii is an ancient city frozen in time. It is incredible to be able to wander around the streets and go in and out of the buildings, which were buried by a volcanic eruption in AD 79, and learn about what happened and the people who lived there.
#7. Grand Palace, Thailand
The main reason I went to the Grand Palace was to see the Emerald Buddha but it was the building itself that stole the show. The buddha actually turned out to be quite tiny and dwarfed by the architecture, which was covered in detailed mosaic patterns. There were also statues and monuments everywhere, including a small model of Angkor Wat. I can only imagine how long it would have taken to put the Grand Palace together.
The Runners Up:
#1. Sydney Opera House, Australia
Sydney’s Opera House is not only an iconic piece of architecture but it has also been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It can be found in Sydney Harbour, overlooking the Harbour Bridge. Even if you’re not going to swing by for a show, no trip to Australia is complete without stopping by for some photographs.
#2. Roman Forum, Italy
Located close to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum contains various ancient ruins, including temples and arches, spanning hundred of years of history. It is the perfect place for a bit of exploring.
#3. Wat Rong Khu (the White Temple), Thailand
Any trip to Southeast Asia will likely be filled with many a temple trip, however the White Temple was unlike any other temple I have ever seen. Whilst the temple itself is extremely intricate and beautiful, as you walk closer you can spot heads in the trees in front of it and a pit of skulls and hand reaching out towards you. You might also spot the bust of Predator sticking out of the ground. The unexpectedness carries on inside where the walls are painted with fictional characters, including superheroes and villains. The whole site is designed to show sin with the pure Buddhist temple standing tall in the middle of it all. You won’t forget it.
#4. Petronas Towers, Malaysia
These two identical towers are the landmark of Kuala Lumpur. Once upon a time, they were the tallest buildings in the world – although no longer. About halfway up, there is a skybridge which visitors can travel up to. Even from this point, you will find yourself looking down upon the rest of the city below.
#5. Eiffel Tower, France
At 324 metres, the Eiffel Tower literally towers above Paris. From the top, you can get views of the city below but you can still enjoy it even if you don’t fancy going up , when the sun goes down the tower puts on a show all of its own. It lights up and then, at various intervals, hundred of bright lights flash all over it, like hundreds of flashing cameras.
#6. Whitsunday Islands, Australia
One of the highlights of my trip along the east coast of Australia was sailing around the Whitsunday Islands. With the white beaches of spots like Whitehaven, the clear blue water and the snorkelling opportunities which come from being so close to the Great Barrier Reef, I can’t imagine that there are many places so picturesque.
#7. Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand
Hiking the Tongariro Crossing was a struggle that took place over the course of about eight hours on day during my trip around New Zealand. I can’t say that walking the crossing was a particularly pleasant experience but it was worth it for the amazing views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. It was a also a chance to get up close to Mount Ngauruhoe, which is better known as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings movies. In all honesty, there are dozens of places of natural beauty in New Zealand that could proudly take the spot as a wonder of the world. The whole country is a wonder.