So, you’ve worked long and hard to earn your vacation time, or possibly you are able to retire and are now looking forward to visiting places that you believe will be of enormous interest to you, and which you now have both the time and money needed to travel around the world and fulfill your dreams.
Where exactly, though – you don’t want to be disappointed, and waste your money and time, so which places are likely to live up to their reputations, perhaps as one of the wonders of the world, ancient or modern? Whose opinions are you most likely to believe, to take notice of ? Well, how about millions of opinions, of people just like yourself?
Several organisations survey tourists and travellers to ascertain just such desirable answers. Perhaps the most comprehensive is collated by Trip Advisor, and reflected in their Traveller’s Choice Awards, recently released, based on responses from millions of fellow travellers during 2015, and finalised utilising a quality and quantity algorithm.
Many on the list do confirm that the reputations of well-known landmarks are not misplaced, but as always in such lists there are a few surprises. All continents are represented with the exception of Africa – possibly volatility in the Middle East deterred many from visiting such places as Egyptian historical landmarks, and terrorist activities in the east of Africa making safaris a little less attractive. You may debate the order of listing, but probably not the inclusions on the list.
So enjoy, and perhaps take notice of this list of the top 25 in the world and plan accordingly – after all, can so many people be wrong, especially when many are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sights/Sites?
25. Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, Kyoto, Japan
The head shrine of Inari, a principal kami of Shinto and the god of rice, was removed to this site in 816, and the present building dates from 1499.
24. Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia
The iconic building, designed by Dane Jorn Utzon after winning a competition, was opened in 1973, and is rated as just as impressive inside for its architecture as it is externally. It hosts over 1600 performances a year. (UNESCO)
23. Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australia
Actually a museum, again its displays are rated as highly as the whole building itself, one of the best in the world. It is an integral part of the capital city of Australia, which was built to a plan. It was opened in 1941, but displays are continuously updated, as is the wall of remembrance.
22. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The tallest structure in the world at 829.8m, it depicts Islamic architectural styles, designed by Adrian Smith and opened in 2010. The aim is to distract from the emphasis on oil, and establish Dubai as a multi-faceted economy, particularly concentrating on finance in the gulf region.
21. Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), Bangkok, Thailand
One of the oldest Thai temples, it was founded in the 16th century and re-dedicated in 1788 on the order of Rama 1 when he established Bangkok as his capital. It commands the top place in the highest grade of Thai royal temples. The reclining Buddha is 46m long, and depicts a major icon, and statuary Buddhist pattern. The site has served as an education centre, including the teaching of Thai massage.
20. Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico
A Mayan ruin complex located in eastern Yucatan, it is the remnant of a period of prosperity spanning the 7th to 13th centuries. Several architectural styles from Central America are represented, hence the historical significance, as the ruins are still relatively well preserved. (UNESCO)
19. Big Ben, London, UK
Most will know that the name is that of the Great Bell of the clock inside what is actually the Elizabeth Tower – previously Clock or St Stephen’s Tower since it opened in 1859, but both the tower landmark and the chiming of the bell are apparently equally attractive to travellers visiting London.
18. Corcovado – Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The creation of Paul Landowski and Georghe Leonida, and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, ‘Christ the Redeemer’ is 38m tall, with a ‘wingspan’ of 28m on the summit of the 700-metre (2,300ft) Mount Corcovado dominating the city.
17. Acropolis, Athens, Greece
The high point of Athens actually contains the relatively well-preserved ruins of several buildings dating back with certainty to the 5th century BC. Varied use over the centuries since means that there is something for (almost) everyone as you wander around this hill-top site. (UNESCO)
16. Great Wall at Mutianyu, Beijing, China
Building commenced in the 7th century, and has continued intermittently ever since, more recently in terms of renovations. The sheer enormity of the exercise, stretching over hill and dale for a distance of over 6,000kms of actual wall, plus natural hillside defences, is even more awe inspiring today, considering the unavailability of automated assistance in days gone by. (UNESCO)
15. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
Begun in the 12th century, and still dominating the skyline of central Paris because of a ban on modern high-rise within ‘the peripherique’, the medieval catholic cathedral symbolises the importance of Gothic architecture, as well as identifying the centre of the city on the Ile de la Cite.
14. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
The cultural icon of Paris and France is the other dominating feature of the city’s skyline, and because of the aforementioned low-rise city, gives a magnificent view of the capital from the top. Opened in 1889 for the World’s Fair, it was both criticised and supposed to be temporary. Fortunately, the wise counsellors of Paris ignored such trivialities.
13. Grand-Place, Brussels, Belgium
Initially established in the 10th century as a fort at the tidal reach of the River Senne, then a market place, only the town hall survived the French bombardment of 1695. All other buildings are therefore relatively modern, but the architecture is eclectic, construction needed council approval, and the end result still reflects the many trade uses to which they were put.(UNESCO)
12. Hagia Sophia Museum/Church (Ayasofya), Istanbul, Turkey
11. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
At its opening in 1937 the longest suspension bridge main span in the world at 1,280m, it has been declared a Wonder of the Modern World. The project is still impressive, especially given its site linking San Francisco with (now) Marin County on the north side of the Bay, and in retrospect the cost at just $35 million, more than a million under budget.
10. Milan Cathedral (Duomo), Milan, Italy
The site of the first church dates back to the 4th century, and the present building was begun in the 14th century. Its rather eclectic architecture is a major attraction, as well as the size of the Cathedral, being the third largest in the world and second largest in Italy after St Peter’s at 160m long and 62m wide/ It was only completed in the early 19th century at the insistence of Napoleon.
9. Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Washington, D.C., US
One of several such pools in Washington DC, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Mall’s trees (plus the expansive sky) are dramatically reflected, to the delight of the estimated 25 million visitors each year. It is over 600m long and 50m wide, and opened in 1923. A two-year restoration was completed in 2012.
8. The Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Initially the site of a small 9th century fortress, expanded by the Moors over the next several centuries, then intermittently extended for use by Spanish nobility before falling into disrepair, the present magnificent buildings were only renovated beginning after the Napoleonic Wars, largely by northern Europeans.(UNESCO)
7. Church of the Savior on Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia
The church was built by the Romanovs after the assassination of Alexander 11 on the site in 1881, and consecrated in 1907. It was constructed in the style of medieval Russian architecture, and is also impressive as it houses over 7500sqm of mosaics, allegedly more than any other world church. Following wars and the communist era, the church ‘s renovation was finished in 1997, but has not been reconsecrated.
6. Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain
The present building was begun sometime after 784, by the Emir Abd al-Rahman 1. The Moors were evicted in the early 13th century, and the mosque converted to a Catholic church, the final step being the construction of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the 16th century, which remains to the present day. However the changes are regarded, the attraction of the building is indisputable.(UNESCO)
5. Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Completed around 1650 under instructions from Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, at a modern cost estimated at $827 million, the building probably justifies the expense. It has been described as ‘the jewel of Muslim art in India’, thereby also displaying India’s history. With over eight million visitors a year, it must be one of the most visited ‘graves’ in the world.(UNESCO)
4. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
One of the largest churches in the world – but not a cathedral – it was built in the Italian Renaissance style and completed in 1626. It is a symbol of the catholic church built over the supposed grave of St Peter, and there a place of pilgrimage rather than a functioning ‘parish church’.
3. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Renowned as much for the mystery of why this extensive complex was largely abandoned, as much for the architecture of the temples of which Angkor Wat is the most complete, it was built in the 12th century as a Hindu religious centre, later being converted to Buddhism.(UNESCO)
2. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre, Abu, Dhabi, UAE
Construction of the largest mosque in the UAE was completed in 2007, under instructions from the late President Sultan Al Nahyan. It aims to bring together the Islamic world’s cultural diversity, in both past and present values of art and architecture. The complex is a place for both religious observance and education.
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
An Inca citadel of the 15h century, it was nonetheless abandoned a century later, and although known to locals was not ‘discovered’ by outsiders – American Hiram Bingham – until 1911. Restoration continues today, mainly to give visitors an idea of what the complex originally looked like. It has been nominated as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.(UNESCO)