Bucket List number 43: see the seven wonders of the world.
I think that this is probably a regular feature on bucket lists: 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. With the exception of the latter I haven’t been to any.
There are other lists of wonders including natural wonders, ancient wonders, medieval wonders and underwater wonders. Some of these I have seen, including Stonehenge, the Great Barrier Reef and Halong Bay, but it occurred to me that actually I have seen many more wonderous things. With that in mind, I thought I would list seven of my own wonders (and some back-ups because I just couldn’t pick only seven).
#1: San Marco Square, Italy
There are few places in the world that have made me double-take and exclaim but San Marco Square was one of them. With the Basilica, the Clock Tower and the views from the Bell Tower 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, my friends and I found the 34 metre, bronze Buddha statue sitting at the top of 268 steps. In the July heat, we didn’t even attempt to climb the stairs but its sheer size can be appreciated from the bottom.
#3: Prague Castle, Czech Republic
I went to Prague Castle to see St. Vitus Cathedral (below) but actually found one of the biggest castle complexes in the world. The buildings include the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica the Golden Lane. My friend and I spent about half a day wandering around and we still didn’t see everything there was to see. What we did see was some stunning architecture.
#4: Hearst Castle, America
Hearst Castle was two things for me. Firstly, it was unexpected. Secondly, it is my future home. I was expecting something along the lines of an English Heritage Castle but instead it was a Mediterranean-themed, classically-inspired mansion with other styles including baroque and Gothic influencing the design. There was also not one, but two amazing swimming pools.
#5: Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
I was on the way to Ouarzazate when we stopped off at Ait Benhaddou and it turned out to be the highlight of the day. Located by the Atlas Mountains, the earthy buildings have been used as the setting for several movies and TV shows, including The Mummy, Gladiator and Game of Thrones.
#6: Pompeii, Italy
Standing in sight of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii is an ancient city frozen in time. It is remarkable to be able to wander around the streets and go in and out of the buildings, buried by the eruption in AD 79, and learn about what happened and the people who lived there.
#7: Grand Palace, Thailand
It was the prospect of seeing the Emerald Buddha that made me visit the Grand Palace but the site itself turned out to be the most impressive thing. There were statues and monuments everywhere (including a small model of Angkor Wat) and the buildings were covered in mosaic patterns.
And the seven runners up:
Sydney Opera House, Australia
The Opera House is an iconic piece of architecture that has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also overlooks Sydney’s Harbour Bridge.
Roman Forum, Italy
Located close to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum contains various ancient ruins, including temples and arches, spanning hundreds of years of history.
Wat Rong Khu- the White Temple, Thailand
The White Temple is unlike any other temple I have seen. Whilst it is beautiful, on approach you can spot heads in trees, skulls and hands reaching out towards you. You can also find the bust of Predator stuck in the ground. The unexpectedness carries on inside where the walls are painted with figures 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.
Petronas Tower, Malaysia
The two identical towers are the landmark of Kuala Lumpur. Once upon a time, they were the tallest buildings in the world and even from the skybridge, which is located about halfway up, you find yourself looking down on the city below.
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 even if you don’t fancy going up it, when the sun goes down it puts on a spectacle of its own. At various intervals, hundreds of lights flash all over it, like hundreds of flashing cameras.
Whitsunday Islands, Australia
One of my highlights during my time in Australia was sailing around the Whitsunday Islands. With the white beaches of spots like Whitehaven, the blue water and snorkelling opportunities, there are few places so picturesque.
Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand
Hking the Tongariro Crossing was a struggle that took place over the course of about eight hours. It was unpleasant to say the least but it was worth it for the amazing views of surrounding mountains and lakes. It was also a chance to spot Mount Ngauruhoe, which is better known as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings movies. In all honesty, there are dozens of places in New Zealand that could have proudly taken this spot. The whole country is a wonder.