Undoubtedly, we’ve all heard of the Wonders of the World, the most glorious and memorable landmarks that our civilization had to offer. They’ve been celebrated the world over for their feats of engineering and the human ingenuity it took to accomplish them.
Classically there have been 7 Wonders of the World, including: The Colossus of Rhodes, Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Lighthouse of Alexandria, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus Statue of Zeus at Olympia and Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. This list, compiled by Philo of Byzantium in 225 BC has stood the test of time and is now considered definitive. Sadly, only the Great Pyramid of Giza still exists today.
At Live and Invest Overseas we appreciate the classics but know that there is always more to be discovered and celebrated in the world. In that spirit here is a list of our 13 Alternative Wonders of the World, which you should definitely consider visiting.
Empire State Building
New York City, USA
The current most photographed building in the world was built in just 11 months and completed in May 1931 and was the world’s tallest building until 1970.
The building has been the setting to a number of films most famously perhaps King Kong.
The observation deck attracts around 4 million visitors a year. While most people take the elevator to the observation deck there is an annual footrace which has been held every year since 1978.
The building only became profitable in the 1950s mainly due to money from tourists. This supplemented the rent received from tenants who had offices.
The building is home to most of New York’s commercial broadcast stations. The spire from which the stations broadcast was originally constructed to be a mooring mast for airships to dock onto. However high winds made this unfeasible and so the plan was abandoned.
There is also talk that he spire was added on to make sure the Chrysler Building did not become the world’s tallest. The Chrysler Building was being constructed at the same time as the Empire State.
The building is so large it actually has its own zip code, 10118. At midnight the buildings lights are turned off to prevent migratory birds from crashing into the side of it.
Panama City, Panama
The 77km stretch of artificial waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean is one of the engineering wonders of the world. Work on the canal was started by France in 1881 but engineering problems and the high death rate of workers caused by tropical diseases put a halt to the work. The work was completed by the U.S. in 1914. They managed to eliminate all of the disease carrying mosquitoes and come up with the necessary engineering solutions.
The Panama Canal has 3 locks which are needed to raise the ships 85 feet above sea level to pass through Gatun Lake. It takes ships around 10 hours to pass through the Panama Canal and around 2 weeks to sail around South America. In addition to the extra time it takes sail around Cape Horn the waters there are known to be some of the most dangerous in the world.
The average toll for a ship to travel the canal is $54,000 and the record fee paid is $375,600 by ‘The Norwegian Pearl’ an enormous cruise ship capable of holding 2394 passengers. Richard Halliburton, the legendary American adventurer who wrote went missing trying to sail a Chinese junk across the Pacific Ocean, paid the lowest toll in the Canals history, 36 cents to swim across.
The Panama Canal makes about $2 billion a year and costs $600 million to run. In 2016 the Panama treasury made just over $1 billion dollars from the canal.
Named after engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the tower was actually co designed by Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier. The tower was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, considered to be the starting point of the French revolution. It served as the entrance to the Paris exhibition and was scheduled to remain in Paris for only 20 years.
In the 1960s there was nearly an agreement for the Eiffel tower to move to Montreal, Canada for the Universal Exhibition but this plan was also scrapped.
Fittingly for a building located in the city of light, the Eiffel tower has 20,000 lightbulbs which light up the tower on the hour for 5 minutes until 1am. The lights are actually considered an artwork in itself. Taking pictures of the tower at night are only legal if you contact the Societe Nouvelle d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel. You are unlikely to be arrested for breaking this particular law, but don’t say you haven’t been warned! Today the tower averages nearly 7 million visitors a year.
The name Red Square is not related to the color of the buildings but actually derives from the Old Russian. Translated as Beautiful Square and it is the source from which the city of Moscow flows.
The square consists of Saint Basil Cathedral, the Kremlin, the Lenin Mausoleum, the State Museum and the Kazan Cathedral. The Kremlin has been the seat of the Russian government since the 1917 revolution and is an imposing building sitting on the meeting point of the Neglina and Moskva Rivers. It is the largest active fortress in Europe!
The red square is home to two of Russia’s more unusual artifacts. There is the biggest bell in the world, the Tsar Bell. The 100,000 kg bell served as a church for a short time with the broken side functioning as a door. The due to the broken side, the bell has never been in working order and never rung. Red Square is also home to the Tsar Cannon, a 40—ton weapon fired only once.
The prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England consists of a ring of standing stones each weighing around 25 tons. It is believed they were constructed in ancient times, thousands of years before the dawn of history, at about 3000 BC.
Nobody knows how the stones were transported over 150 miles to Stonehenge. This is just one of the many mysteries surrounding Stonehenge and why it was built. In the distant past, before the stones were placed the location was an ancient hunting ground. Perhaps Stonehenge was built to commemorate this? We know that Stonehenge has been used as a burial ground and also a place to celebrate winter and summer solstices.
Intriguingly, the acoustics of Stonehenge are unique and offer a cathedral like resonance. Hitting the rocks can produce a sound which carries across vast distances.
It is likely that the role of Stonehenge changed over the centuries and that more than one of these theories is correct.
The Maya ruins based in the Yucatan Peninsula are some of the most visited tourist destinations in Mexico. Dating from around 700 AD the famous pyramid was used as an observatory to track the movements of the stars. The Mayan astronomers were very accurate with their astrological observations. In fact when the Spanish arrived over a thousand years later, their astrology was still not as accurate as the Maya method.
Other buildings at the site include the Temple of Chac Mool, the Hall of the Thousand Pillars, the excellently named Temple of Thousand Warriors and Playing Field of the Prisoners. Chichen Itza also features the best preserved great ball court in Mexico. These huge paved arenas have stone hoops attached high on the walls and ominous carvings of decapitated players adorn the sides.
Some of the pyramids have a layer of mica from Brazil over 2000 miles away. The best time to visit is during the autumn or spring equinox. As the sun sets, a shadow is cast onto the stairway which creates the effect of a giant snake moving down the temple. The huge snakes head statues at the bottom of the temple add to the effect.
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is a palace complex in Beijing, China. It is the best preserved example of an imperial palace to be found in China. It the largest ancient palatial structure in the world and the largest surviving wooden structure in China.
The building was constructed in accordance with The Book of Changes. This is an ancient Chinese texts which promotes the union of human being and the nature. The symmetrical design and 8 gates of the palace represent the ideals of the book architecturally.
Originally the seat of the Ming Dynasty, the building is so spectacular that it has been used by every ruling family since including Anglo-French forces during the Opium Wars.
An estimated 14 million visitors come here every year and it is especially busy on Chinese public holidays. If you are taking a connecting flight through Beijing you can take advantage of the 72-hour Visa-free Transit Policy and visit the Forbidden City.
The museum in the Forbidden City contains over 1 million pieces of art and other artefacts and is the foremost museum in China. Book a guided tour to get the most from your visit.
Sydney Opera House
One of the most striking and recognizable buildings in the world the Sydney Opera House has an interesting history. The design for the building was decided by a competition created for architects to send in their drawings. The entry from eventual winner, Jorn Utzorn was originally rejected and only found after architect Eero Saarinen, unhappy with the nominated buildings, went through some of the rejected designs. It is reputed that Utzorn’s winning design was actually found in the bin!
The Opera House is built on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbor. Construction started in 1959 and the it was finally opened in 1973. The budget was originally an optimistic $7 million which had swollen to over $100 million by the time construction was finished. Most of the shortfall was gifted to the Opera House by the State Lottery.
It is home to the largest mechanical organ in the world and contains a staggering 10,244 pipes. In 2016 a plan costing $200 million was announced to improve the acoustics of the venue.
Also known as the Flavian Amphitheater and later named after the statue of Colossus which is located nearby, the Colosseum is located in central Rome, Italy.
The Colosseum was built to host many of the legendary Roman pastimes and also epic festivals, which could last over 3 months. The Colosseum hosted gladiatorial contests, chariot races and public executions.
Sea battles were even said to have been held here. These were created by removing the wooden floors and flooding the basements. Known as ‘naumachia’ which is Greek for naval battle, these were especially bloody affairs. Prisoners of war played the role of the (under armed) enemy and the well-equipped Roman legions happily slaughtered them in reenactments of battles past.
These days the Colosseum is popular for more relaxed pursuits such as tourism and botany.
Christ the Redeemer
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The towering Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ was designed by a French sculptor named Paul Landowski. Originally funded by local Catholics who were concerned about what they perceived to be a growing “godlessness” in the Rio area, construction lasted for 1922 to 1931.
Made from reinforced concrete, the statue weighs 635 tons and is 30 meters high. The arms span 28 meters and the Christ stands on an 8 meter pedestal. Needless to say it is the largest Art Deco statue in the world.
The structure is made of reinforced concrete which is lined with soapstone tiles. The inspiration for the tiles came from a fountain in Paris’s Champs Elysees. The concrete was considered too rough and ugly on its own so small tiles were used to cover the curves of the statue and add refinement.
Due to its height and the tropical climate of Brazil, the statue is often struck by lightning and needs repairing. The soapstone used for the first tiles is from a Brazilian mine which has ran dry. Future maintenance will be have to be made using a darker color stone meaning Christ The Redeemer is going to change color in future.
Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
The towers lie about 230 km northwest of the capital and form a representation of the universe. Angkor Wat is actually the largest religious building in the world, and the grounds are spread over a range of about 250 square miles. Make sure to allow plenty of time when you visit!
Famed for the intricate detail and architectural genius, around half of all tourists who go to Cambodia visit Angkor Wat.
Curiously, for a religious building Angkor Wat faces to the west which is associated with death in the Hindu culture. Every other Hindu building faces East.
The reasons for this are unclear. One school of thought is that Angkor Wat could actually be a tomb. To support this theory it is cited that the ‘bas-reliefs’ or script, carved into the wall, goes in a counter clockwise direction. This ties in with the fact that at funeral rites the words are also read backwards.
Another theory is as follows. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu, whereas most temples are dedicated to the other gods. Vishnu is the supreme ruler who all others sit and face. Seeing as the other Gods face east, Vishnu faces left to look at them.
Mount Everest is around 60 million years old and the earth’s highest peak. It is located in the Himalayas on the international border between China and Nepal. In 1999 the height was measured at 8850 meters. The mountain sits on tectonic plates which are actually squeezing together and pushing Everest higher. However the rate of growth is approximately 4mm per year so the record books won’t have to be updated too often.
Interestingly Everest is not actually the world’s tallest mountain. Mauna Kea in Hawaii is about 1km taller but a considerable amount of this mountain is beneath the ocean.
Everest is spectacular and definitely one to visit but heading to the summit probably isn’t the best idea. One in ten climbs to the summit ends in death and it is estimated that there are as many as 250 dead bodies on the mountain. A trip to one of the two Everest base camps might be a better idea. The trek takes around 2 weeks and provides an excellent view of the peak. It is challenging but definitely reachable goal.
And there you have it, the 13 alternative wonders of the world. Do you have any others that could have made the list? Drop me a comment below and I’ll be sure to check them out.