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The New Seven Wonders
Chichen Itza

For anyone touring Mexico hoping to view Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza Mexico is the place to be. With scores of palaces, ball courts, pyramids, and other fascinating stone buildings, Chichen Itza is a Mayan ruin paradise. While the major attraction to Chichen Itza is the city of ruins, Chichen Itza also has a nice group of beautiful resorts near the ancient Mayan remains.

Chichen Itza tours can be booked from just about anywhere in Cancun, Cozumel, and of course online before you travel. Since Chichen Itza Mexico does not have its own airport, travelers coming by plane or cruise ship will likely need to book Chichen Itza tours that leave from nearby Cancun or Cozumel. If you would rather come to Chichen Itza Mexico on your own time, you may also get a rental car. From Cancun, Chichen Itza is about a 2-3 hour drive and drivers should expect to encounter tolls along the way. A good Chichen Itza map will be invaluable for this trip. A Chichen Itza map can be purchased before you travel to Mexico or will be available at various tourist locations in Cancun and Cozumel.

Once you arrive in Chichen Itza, you'll find that the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins are quite an extensive network. While it is possible to tour the ruins in one day, travelers looking for a less rushed experience may choose to purchase admission for two days. Note, however, that you will have to pay separate admission for each day you plan to spend touring the ruins. Many travelers choose to book a hotel in Chichen Itza for the night. This can be worth the expense, since the price of admission to the ruins during the day also includes access to the nighttime Sound and Light Show.

If the Chichen Itza tours leave you hungry, there are restaurants near the ruins. The visitor center at the entrance serves food, with simple fair. Many travelers making the trip for the day choose to pack their own food. The nearby city of Piste also has a few small restaurants, as well as low priced hotels for travelers looking for a bargain. Piste is only about a mile and a half from the ruins, and you may book a tour bus from the city of Piste.

The Chichen Itza Mayan ruins are truly one of the most amazing wonders Mexico has to offer. Experiencing them in person has no parallel to merely reading about them. Be sure to get a good Chichen Itza map and enjoy your stay at one of the most historically fascinating sites in Mexico.

 

Christ The Redeemer

Brazil's central religion since the 16th century has been Christianity with Roman Catholicism being the most prominent. It has the highest number of baptized Roman Catholics in the world with about 74% of Brazilians declaring Catholicism as their religion. Christ the Redeemer, a large art deco-style effigy, is located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and stands 38 meters high. The statue is located at the summit of Corcovado mountain in Tijuca Forest National Park standing at 710 meters and looking over the city.

In Portugese, this iconic monument is known as Cristo Redentor. The original design of the Christ the Redeemer statue was born by a man named Oswald. He designed it to have a globe in one hand and stand over a pedestal symbolizing the world but the design was not agreed upon. Another proposal for a monument was prepared and made in 1921 by the archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro. He organized an event named Seman de Monumento ("Monument Week") in hopes of attracting donations, which were attained mainly by Brazilian Catholics who readily awaited a design decision for an effigy.

Christ the Redeemer was designed by a French sculptor by the name of Paul Landowski and a local engineer named Heitor da Silva Costa was chosen to supervise the entire construction. The statue was built not out of steel but from reinforced concrete as that was considered a more suitable material for the cross-shaped statue. The outer layers of the idol were constructed from a mosaic of soapstone because of the materials" known resistance to extreme weather and also due to its malleability. The Corcovado Railway was the only way to haul the large pieces of the statue to the crown of the mountain and thus was used as an important aide in the project.

Christ the Redeemer was built between 1926 and 1931 and after some time there was also a chapel built at the base of the mountain to house 150 visitors. The monument was inaugurated on October 12, 1931 in an extravagant and grand commemoration. The lighting was to be one of the highlights of the ceremony, which was to be switched on by Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi from his yacht in Naples. The signal strength was largely affected by poor weather conditions and the lighting had to be switched on manually by workers at Corcovado. In Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Christ the Redeemer can be accessed by the 2.4 meter Corcovado Rack railway that has the capacity to hold 360 passengers every hour. The trip by rail is approximately 20 minutes and leaves the base each half hour. The view from the train is alluring, leaving those traveling the mountain in keen anticipation of what is yet to come. The busiest time to visit is Easter and the Christmas season. From the road or the train terminal Christ the Redeemer statue is reached by 222 steps. For those not wishing to make the arduous trek up the mountain, reaching the statue is possible by escalators and elevators. In Rio de Janeiro Brazil Christ the Redeemer remains one of the most beloved year-round tourist attractions. Some say the best time to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue is late afternoon or evening when you can enjoy the splendor of the setting sun while taking in one of the most important landmarks in the world.

 

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the world's iconic attractions, and there is little that can be said about the Great Wall that has not been stated over and over again throughout the wall's more than 2,000 -year history. Construction of the Great Wall started in 221 BC to defend the Middle Kingdom from Mongol soldiers. But many of the sections were already in place, built by a series of independent kingdoms stretched across the land, from Shanhaiguan on the east coast to Jiayuguan in the Gobi Desert—Emperor Qin Shihuang merely oversaw the joining of these walls.

The first chapter in the history of the Great Wall of China ended in 207 BC, when the last of the over 6 billion cubic feet of compacted earth was set into place. The Great Wall was only moderately effective in carrying out its purpose, even after it was faced with bricks and stones. Its real value came in the way it eased transportation throughout the land, acting as a kind of elevated thruway, equipment, goods and passengers could more easily traverse the arduous mountainous wilderness that enveloped the Great Wall.

As strange as it seems now, before a Great Wall of China tour was a prerequisite on any trip to the country, many of the sections fell into disrepair as time passed and the import of the towering structure lessened as marauding nomads dispersed into the annals of time. The history of the Great Wall of China, and its return to significance was actually the work of the tourist industry - now there are plenty of popular sites where the day tripper can behold one of the most famous landmarks in the world.

Badaling, Mutianyu, and Simatai are the most popular spots to being a Great Wall of China tour. The closest to Beijing, where most travelers are approaching from is Badaling, about 40 miles northwest of the capital. Here is certainly the most popular spot for tour guides and those giving the Great Wall a cursory glance. Here you will find a glut of souvenir shops, cheesy restaurants and any number of other tourist traps, but for those who want to keep their transportation simple and convenient, this is the best place to learn the history of the Great Wall of China - the Great Wall Museum is also here.

Mutianyu is not much better. Over 50 miles from Beijing, you will find a similar tourist-driven atmosphere at Mutianyu, though the wall is far more complex than in Badaling, as you will find a number of fascinating guard towers and some of the best views along any section of the wall.

Experienced travelers know that near the small town of Gubeikou, the remains at Simatai are one of the best places to get an unfettered and more authentic look at the Great Wall of China. Watchtowers line the walls, haphazardly winging their way across the landscape. The only problem with Simatai is that it is a much more rigorous hike to view the Wall - the terrain ranges from sharp inclines to steep dropoffs almost without warning, so it is certainly not for the beginning hiker. But those that make the trip to Simatai are sure to be rewarded with the best views in all of China..

Of course, there are plenty of different places to start your own Great Wall of China tour. Other significant places are Juyong Pass and Jinshanling and Huanghua, the last one long considered to be the best preserved section of the wall in the vicinity of Beijing.

 

Machu Picchu

If you were to sit down to make a list of the top tourist destinations in all the world, you would undoubtedly have to include Machu Picchu. The journey of a lifetime, a dream travel destination, one of the top archaeological sites on the planet. These are just a few of the possible ways to describe Machu Picchu Peru. Try as you might, you could never justify it in words, and as amazing as it looks in photographs, there is simply no match for seeing it in person. Machu Picchu tourism is one of Peru's proudest industries, and thankfully the country sees fit to share its crown jewel with anyone who is fortunate enough to make the trip. Whatever your expectations for Machu Picchu Peru are, they are sure to be blown away when you finally get there, as nothing can truly prepare you for its intoxicating power. Set at around 8,000 feet in the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is a special place that demands your attention. Once it has you snared in its web of intrigue, you are pretty much helpless to fight it. Plan a trip to Machu Picchu, and you will not only be treating yourself to an adventure with few rivals, but you will also become quite the envy of your peers.

Before you get to Machu Picchu Peru, it helps to learn at least a little bit about it before you go. You can find an article about the history of Machu Picchu in this guide, which should help you gain insight into its days as a Inca city for the elite. Since approximately 95% of the Incan population lived in and around the Andes Mountains, cities like Machu Picchu were generally reserved for those of a more rich and noble blood. The city probably saw around 500 citizens at its zenith, and while it still remains a mystery as to how and why it actual fell, war, smallpox, and Spanish invasion are all plausible theories. While the Spanish managed to capture and control the majority of Inca Empire settlements, including nearby Cusco, Machu Picchu's well-hidden location kept the Spanish from ever finding it. Had the Spanish found Machu Picchu when they arrived in the 1500's, Machu Picchu tourism as we know it probably would not exist. The impressive ruins might have been lost to the world, much as they were for hundreds of years.

Machu Picchu was probably built around the year 1450 AD, and it only thrived for approximately 100 years. Once abandoned, the site survived only within the knowledge of locals who knew about its existence. Machu Picchu would live in lore until its rediscovery in 1911. Hiram Bingham, a Yale archaeologist and academic, was exploring the area when he found the ruins with the help of a local farmer. Coincidently, Bingham also found thousands of Inca artifacts upon his discovery of the ruins, over 4,000 of which he exported. Conflict as to who should have the rights to the Inca artifacts have led Yale and Peru to agree for their return home, where they will eventually be housed at a museum in Cusco. Due to the fact that it had remained in obscurity for hundreds of years, Machu Picchu has been preserved and appears today much like it would have during its heyday. Among the most impressive characteristics of Machu Picchu is the technique that was employed to build it. It is still a general mystery as to how the Inca managed to move the large rocks that they used to construct the city, especially when you consider how it is perched almost precariously over the Urubamba River valley. You will likely stand in awe upon examining how these rocks were so expertly joined without the use of cement or mortar. Much like the surviving city walls in Cusco and Ollantaytambo, the rocks of Machu Picchu were painstakingly carved until they perfectly fit the stones around them.

Machu Picchu tourism peaks from June to August, and if you are visiting during these months, you can expect to share the site with about 3,000 other visitors. The cost to enter is under $50, and if you are interested in hiring a guide, it is a great way to gain insight into what you are looking at. Most people who visit Machu Picchu Peru come by way of train from Cusco. The train has 3 different levels of train service, and the trip takes about 3-4 hours. The views of the Urubamba River and Andes Mountains along the way are priceless. If you want to go in style, you might consider booking the Hiram Bingham-class trip, which costs around $500. It includes entry into Machu Picchu, as well as a guide and a gourmet meal each way. The train eventually takes you to the town of Aguas Calientes, which is the general base town for Machu Picchu tourism. Aguas Calientes is a good place to meet other tourists, and it has a nice selection of hostels and hotels. If you have room in the budget, staying at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge is surely the way to go. Though it costs more than $600 for one night in a standard room, you have the kind of access to the ruins that you could only dream about. After all, getting to Machu Picchu before all the other visitors arrive is an experience like no other. The Sanctuary Lodge is the only hotel at Machu Picchu, and while rooms don't have a view of the ruins, they do boast dramatic glimpses of the surrounding mountains.

If you want to hike along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, there are two general options for excursions, one lasting two days, and the other lasting four days. The trails begin near the town of Ollantaytambo, and the train stops along the way if you want to stop here to view the city's own impressive Inca ruins. Travel agencies in Cusco offer one-day package trips that include train transportation and usually a guide and an arranged lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge. These one-day tours cost around $100 and are good for those who don't have a lot of time. Once you arrive at the town of Aguas Calientes, you can walk up to the ruins, though you might save your energy for climbing Huayna Picchu once you get there. You can also take the bus, which costs around $15 round trip. These buses go all day, usually starting at 6:30 am and stopping at dusk. Before or after your trip up to the ruins, you can dine at one of the small and friendly Aguas Calientes restaurants. Once you are at the site, the only place to eat is the Sanctuary Lodge, which has a pricy, but convenient buffet

 

Rome Colosseum

The Roman Colosseum is a tremendous amphitheater, the embodiment of both the grandeur and cruelty of the great Roman Empire. Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum hosted spectacular games that included gladiator exhibitions, fights between animals, prisoner executions and - strangely enough - naval battles. Untold thousands of humans and animals met their ends within one of the most popular attractions in Rome.

Located just east of the entrance to the Roman Forum, the swarms of tourists and honking of cars (who use the Colosseum's circular structure as one of the world's most intimidating traffic circles) make the Roman Colosseum hard to miss. It is a staple of any sightseeing journey through the busy streets of Rome, and a ticket to view its grandeur can often be bought in conjunction with a tour of nearby Palatine Hill.

The Colosseum's name is derived from a bronze colossus of Nero that once stood nearby, though it disappeared sometime during the Middle Ages and has largely been forgotten. Construction was begun by Emperor Vespasian and completed by his sons in the late first century. The arena floor was covered with sand to soak up the blood shed by those humans and animals unlucky enough to find themselves in its center. Its elliptical shape kept the players from retreating to a corner and allowed the spectators to be closer to the action than a circular arena would allow - the design of the Colosseum in Rome has influenced nearly every modern venue.

Seating was divided into different sections. The first level of seating was restricted for Roman senators and included the emperor's private box. The section above the podium was for lower Roman aristocrats. The third level was divided itself into three sections. The best of these seats was reserved for wealthy citizens, the upper part for the poor and a third, wooden section was left for lower-class women. The Roman Colosseum incorporated a number of passageways that opened into a tier of seats so that the entire structure - one of the largest tourist attractions in Rome even then - could fill in 15 minutes, and be evacuated even quicker.

A day of festivities at the roman Colosseum usually opened with a series of wild animal matches. Tigers, lions, elephants and even giraffes would fight each other, or humans, or both. Midday brought the morbid spectacle of public executions before the main event: the Gladiator matches. Depending on the day's structure, however, sometimes these events would be combined into one long, chaotic battle.

Eventually, Christian leaders ensured that humans were no longer executed within the Colosseum's great walls, though the building was still used for animal hunts until around 524. Four major earthquakes took their toll on the structure though, and by the Middle Ages the Colosseum in Rome had been fully converted into a military fortress, before finally being relegated to existing as the world's largest rock quarry.

During the Baroque age the marble that originally covered the facade was redistributed by the ruling Roman families who used it as a source of marble for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica and their private Palazzis, a fate that also befell the equally monstrous Circus Maximus located on the other side of Palatine Hill.

In the eighteenth century, Pope Benedict XIV eventually ended the use of the Colosseum in Rome as a giant quarry. He promptly consecrated it and installed the Stations of the Cross, declaring it sanctified by the blood of many Christian martyrs who were (inaccurately, as it turns out) thought to have perished there.

Overshadowing the ruins of the Roman Forum, overshadowing the Pantheon, overshadowing every other attraction in the city, the Roman Colosseum will forever remind visitors of an inhumane past, when thirst for blood could bring crowds from miles away and nothing was more thrilling than the taking of a life.

 

Taj Mahal

For many visitors to this spectacular monument, the Taj Mahal India represents a symbol of romance and eternal love.

The Taj Mahal is considered one of the finest examples of Muslim architecture in the world and is universally admired. Images of the Taj Mahal temple are instantly recognizable. Regarded as one of the modern wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal reflects this accolade as being a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Taj Mahal at first glance looks like some computer generated image from a movie. Its magnificent graying white marble and symmetrical architecture, look's surreal and far to stunning to be real. You really do have to see it to believe it.

Situated on the bank of the Yamuna River in Agra India, the Taj Mahal is set amongst a magnificent backdrop offering views from many different perspectives. The Taj Mahal India is best visited more than once in a day. Both sunrise and sunset offer the most dramatic and picturesque time to visit as the white marble stone slowly becomes bathed the golden yellow sun taking on a strange pink tinged look before fading once again into the Agra India night. While the Taj Mahal temple can be visited any time of the year, it is best seen in time with the seasonal climate of Agra India. October-March brings the most stable weather.

Taj Mahal history records that the monument was constructed between 1631-1653 taking 22 years between conception and completion. It is estimated that over 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants were used to transport the marble stone work and carry out the build. Built in the 17th Century, the Taj Mahal Agra was built in honor of the Prince Shah Jahan's third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their 14th child. Although myths surround the construction of the monument, insights into Taj Mahal history confirm that the creation of the monument was solely intended as an act of love by Prince Jahan to his late wife.

Central to the Taj Mahal temple is the tomb which stands central on top of a square plinth. At each corner of the base, stand's four large minarets 40 meters tall. The entire monument is symmetrical. The central tomb is entered through an arched doorway and topped by a large dome. On each corner are 4 smaller domes that act to emphasize the central main dome. The centre dome is topped by a spire encompassing a half moon to reflect its Islamic heritage. Housed inside the central building is the false sarcophagus of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jaham although their actual graves are in a plain crypt beneath the inner chamber. Adorning the marble stone work of the main arch (iwan) and side arches (pishtaq) to the central tomb are elaborate inscriptions. Much of the decorative calligraphy found throughout the Taj Mahal India reflects passages from the holy Qur'an.

The monument is set amongst a well primed garden with raised pathways and sunken water features reflecting spectacularly the image of the Taj Mahal Agra. Visitors can walk the grounds freely.

An entrance fee is levied for entry into the complex. The actual entrance to the complex itself is through a red sandstone walled mosque which serves as a good spot for some scenic photographs.

Tourists from all over the world come to marvel at this magnificent site, discovering the romantic Taj Mahal history behind the monument and leaving in awe of the Taj Mahal Agra monument. It proves an unforgettable sight.

 

Petra Jordan

Continually voted the top attraction in Jordan, the “lost city” of Petra is often referred to as one of the ancient wonders of the world.

Petra Jordan is by far the best known tourist attraction in Jordan and is considered a national treasure. Now a UNESCO World heritage site, one of the ancient wonders of the world is located 3 hours south of Amman.

Established sometime around 6th Century BC the city of Petra Jordan was the capital of the Nabataeans. The city acted as an important economic crossroads for Persian and western Arabian trade routes. In particular, it was a key route for the importation and exportation of silk and spices between China, India, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.

Sometime after the 14th Century this centre piece of the Nabataean dynasty was abandoned and forgotten by the western world. It was not until 1812 that a Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt re-discovered it.

Petra tours entering the location of the city have to pass through 1 km of a winding narrow gorge or Siq. As you journey through soaring vertical cliffs on either side dwarfs the Siq visitors. After weaving through the sheer pink tinged rock faces you finally glimpse the Al-Khazneh (treasury), the entrance to which has been carved into a sheer rock face. This intricately carved facade is believed to have been built in the 1st Century to house the tomb of a Nabataean King.

The Petra site reached new heights of fame when it featured in a 1989 Hollywood film, Indiana Jones and the last Crusade starring Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. Petra tours by night offer a uniquely magical experience as 2000 burning candles lead visitors through the underground rooms to the treasury.

A particularly charming way to visit the site is by a horse drawn cart. Special permits are issued for an extra fee from the visitor centre at the entrance to the 1 km gorge to enable you the experience. To add an even more exciting dynamic to Petra vacations, once inside the historic site you can rent a donkey or camel to do the walking for you. Both come with handlers and take specially designated routes throughout this inspiring attraction in Jordan. Although you can easily walk the 1 km route with the humid and hot temperatures resting your weary legs proves a good option.

Petra Jordan is continually voted one of the wonders of the world by visitors and is best visited in either early to mid morning or late afternoon. During this time, the sun’s position enhances the natural colors of the rocks, giving it a warm glow and offering the perfect time to take photographs.

Inside the site, artists from the local town of Wadi Musa and a close by Bedouin settlement sell handicrafts including pottery and jewelery.

Sitting pretty high above the Petra valley is the Ad-Deir Monastery which is accessible by a steep climb up 800 odd steps and is well worth the effort. Up here is also a 3000 seat Roman styled theatre.

In addition to the main attraction, there are scores of intricately carved out tombs littered throughout the Petra Jordan valley. Incorporating time into Petra tours to visit the archaeological museum and Nabataean history museum will add depth to Petra vacations and your visit to Petra Jordan, with a fascinating insight into its past through a colorful array of archaeological finds.

With fascinating rock formations and Roman temples and sacrificial alters, Petra vacations demand at least a few days of your time to fully explore this popular attraction in Jordan.

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