Archive for the ‘WONDERful World’ Category

Wonders Unlisted

Each list of wonders comes with its own set of criteria and standards. In addition, some of the lists have been voted on by the public, to allow travelers themselves some input. Because of these factors, there are many ?wonders? that have not made any well-known list, that I think still deserve credit. I?m not setting up any specific criteria, just sites that perhaps were up for consideration, or maybe were not, and that I feel are traveler must-sees. These are based on personal travel experiences, since for something like this, I only like to include those places I have seen and experienced myself. There are entirely too many to write about here, but below is a sample of some of my personal top wonders of the world that have not been included on the New or Natural Wonders lists.

Igua?u (Iguazu) Falls: At 269 feet and a total length of 1.7 miles, the falls of Igua?u are some of most revered in the world. They can be seen from you Paraguay, Brazil, or Argentina, though Argentina is often considered the best side from which to view them.

The Twelve Apostles/Great Ocean Road: Stretching from Torquay to Warnambool, Australia?s Great Ocean Road is 151 miles long and one of the most magnificent driving routes in the world. Most notable are the Twelve Apostles ? twelve limestone formations that jut out of the water along the coastline.

Dubrovnik?s walled city: While not on a ?wonders? list, the walled city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is believed to have been built in the 7th century, and though it?s been damaged by earthquakes and conflict, has managed to preserve it?s Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance Architecture ? namely, it?s churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. Visitors who walk along the city walls not only experience a taste of the past, but are rewarded with expansive view of the city within the walls, the harbor at the edge of the city, and the hills that sprawl behind it.

Milford Sound: Located within Fiordland Naitonal Park, Piopiotahi Marine Reserve, and Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site in the South Island of New Zealand, it?s no surprise that Milford Sound makes our list of wonders. Rainforests cling to the sheer cliffs of 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) that surround the waterway, and the sound itself is home to seals, penguins and dolphins. With an annual rainfall average of 268 inches a year, over 182 days, it is considered one of the wettest places on earth.

Pompeii: I want to clarify that I don?t like to consider a tragedy, such as eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD that buried the city of Pompeii under up to 20 feet of ash, a ?wonder?. (Nor can it really be classified into natural or man-made). It?s the restoration work done on this city-turned-mausoleum that is so incredible. The city lay under the ash virtually undiscovered for almost 1700 years until excavation efforts began in 1749, and they continue to this day. The history, the emotion, and the stories told as you wander through this once-lost city are captured in such a way as to transport you to life as it was in that time, moments before the incident occurred, as people went about their daily lives, completely unaware of the peril that awaited them.

The Natural Wonders

Although the list itself perhaps is not as well known, the 7 Natural Wonders may rival many of the New World Wonders for popularity among travelers. Each wonder on this list must be completely natural ? not only in that it incorporates nature, but in that it hasn?t been manipulated at all. In addition, it must be unique. The Natural Wonders span six continents, with Antarctica being the only one not represented. The list and descriptions below are in no particular order of significance.

Aurora Borealis: Also known as the Northern Lights, these naturally occurring lights appear in the sky, generally around 11 PM or midnight. The closer one gets to the magnetic pole in the Northern Hemisphere, the better your chances of seeing them. Unfortunately, their appearance is rather unpredictable, but you?re most likely to see them in March, April, September, or October.

Grand Canyon: This 277 mile long gorge is located in Arizona, formed by the Colorado River. It?s over a mile deep, spanning in some parts to 18 miles wide. While visitors can simply see the canyon, which is spectacular in itself, many choose to hike, backpack, or explore the canyon on the back of a mule. White water rafting at the floor of the canyon is also a popular activity.

Paricutin: Perhaps the least well known of the Natural wonders, Paricutin is a cinder volcano located in Michoac?n, Mexico, and it?s birth was actually witnessed by humans. While still active, it last erupted in 1952. Visitors can hike or ride horseback through the banks and the lava fields surrounding the volcano.

Victoria Falls: These 360-foot high falls are located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia and can be seen from either side (though it?s said that the view from the Zimbabwe side is better). While the falls have more water during the rainy season of November to early April, they also produce a lot of mist which make the view more difficult ? not to mention getting the viewers wet. The best time for the view may be June or July, though the falls will be less lush.

Mount Everest: This highest mountain in the world is located in the Himalayas on the border of China, Tibet, and Nepal. Many visitors choose to trek to the base of the mountain, allowing them to experience it without requiring extensive climbing expertise. October and November are the start of the dry season here, so probably the best time to visit. However, weather can be unpredictable, and the most important factor to avoid is active snow fall.

Great Barrier Reef: Located off the coast of Cairns, Australia, it is the largest reef system in the world, with 2900 reefs covering 1600 miles. Snorkeling and SCUBA diving are by far the best way to experience the reef. November through May is the summer season here, though also the rainy season during which the area gets the majority of its annual rainfall.

Harbor of Rio de Janiero: Also known as Guanabara Bay, it is the largest bay in the world based on water volume, and the mountainous surroundings add to its visual appeal. The most popular way to see the harbor is from either Corcovado Peak or Sugarloaf Mountain, both of which offer a panoramic view of the bay, and the city below. The best months for visiting the bay are September and October, when it?s warm enough but not yet as humid as the summer months.

The 7 New Wonders

In 2001, it was decided that a new list of World Wonders should be chosen. After all, only one of the originals remains standing today. The initiative was understaken by the New7Wonders Foundation based in Zurich, Switzerland, and after much hubbub among voters and travelers worldwide, the 7 New Wonders were decided on in 2007. They are (in no particular order):

? The Taj Mahal
? Chichen Itza
? Christ the Redeemer (statue)
? Colosseum
? Great Wall of China
? Machu Picchu
? Petra

The Pyramids of Giza, being the only remaining ancient wonder, was not voted in again, but was given an honorary spot on the list.

So we know they’re popular – at least among the voters – but what are they really? Why should we visit? Below is a bit of information about each, to help travelers decide which of these wonders may be next on their travel wish list.

Taj Mahal: This marble mausoleum located in Agra, India was built by the Mughal emporer Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife. It is considered one of the most astounding pieces of Muslim art in the world, and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The tomb is the central feature of the structure, and the site is most recognizable by its white marble dome.

Chichen Itza: Chichen Itza is a Mayan city located in the eastern portion of the Yucaton in Mexico. Built possibly around 600 AD, it was one of the largest Mayan cities, and is considered to have been a major economical power, during its highest points. Within the city, visitors can see multiple architectural styles, representing its diverse population.

Christ the Redeemer: Located on Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park Overlooking Rio de Janeiro, this statue stands 130 feet tall and is the 5th largest statue of Jesus in the world. Visitors to the statue take a short train ride through the park to the top of the mountain – the view from the peak alone is worth the trip up.

The Great Wall of China: The wall stretches approximately 5,500 miles from east to west along the historical northern borders of China. Originally, the wall was built, at least in part, for protection of the Emperor and those within its borders from military invaders. The ?wall? consists of actual walls, trenches, and natural barriers such as hills and rivers, and has been rebuilt several times. Today, it is most frequently visited from Beijing, where travelers can walk along portions of the wall.

Colosseum (Coliseum): In it?s prime, the Colosseum could seat 50,000 spectators, and was used for gladiator fights and other public spectacles. Today, as in its hay day, it?s considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering in existence. While damaged, much of the Colosseum still stands and visitors can tour it, transporting themselves back to the times of the ancient emperors.

Petra: Ancient cities seem to be a theme with this list of wonders, despite the designation of ?new?. This Jordanian city dates back as far as 312 BC and was the capital of the Nabataeans. It?s particularly famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits that, along with dams and cisterns, were used to help control flooding. Among Petra?s most notable ruins are Aaron?s Tomb – said to be the burial place of Moses? brother, Al Khazneh (commonly known as the Treasury), and the amphitheater.

Machu Picchu: This 15th century Incan city lies in the mountains overlooking the Urubamba Valley of Peru. It was abandoned seemingly overnight, and sat undiscovered and dormant for 500 years, until Hiram Bingham came upon it in 1911. It?s thought to have been built for the emperor Pacachuti, and is often referred to as ?The City of the Incas?. Visitors to Machu Picchu can wander through the houses of the emperor and the nobility, the Temple of the Sun, the working and living quarters of the lay people, envisioning the city, and the daily life of its residents, as it occurred in the 1400?s.

WONDERful World

Travel makes the vast world much smaller. It allows us to reach destinations that people only dreamed of seeing even as recent 50 years ago. Ancient sites transport us back hundreds or thousands of years, we hike through thick jungles and rainforest, canoe down the amazon, wander through the streets of countries where no one else speaks our language, swim deep in the ocean among endangered and rare species.

Throughout the years, various people and organizations have tried to determine the ?best of the best?, so to speak. Those sites that if you saw nothing else, you must sea. We originally started with the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

? Great Pyramid of Giza
? Hanging Gardens of Babylon
? Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
? Statue of Zeus at Olympia
? Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
? Lighthouse of Alexandria
? Colossus of Rhodes (there?s been some debate on this one, as no historical depiction or description of it has been found, yet it?s mentioned frequently in literature from the time. The location is also debated).

In 2007, with only one of the original Wonders still standing (the Pyramid of Giza), a new list was created – the 7 New Wonders of the World. It was a multi-step process, which allowed the public to vote on nominees, and those with the highest number of votes won, though there wasn?t a measure to prevent multiple votes, so the validity of the list as “the best of the best” has been disputed, particularly from those countries with nominees that were not chosen. Still, there’s no denying that the new list of wonders contains some of the world’s most spectacular sites, so regardless of the procedure used to create it, it’s worth paying attention to.

Other lists of Wonders have been created over the years, which include the 7 Natural Wonders, the 7 Underwater Wonders, and doubtless other, less celebrated lists. It appears that there will soon be a “New7Wonders Cities”, as well. To kick off the new year, this issue of TraveLuxe will focus on several of these wonders, to highlight some of our world?s most treasured sights, and perhaps serve as some inspiration for future travels.