The Seven Wonders of the World

Everyone has heard of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Colossus of Rhodes, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Four of these wonders were destroyed by earthquake, two by fire, and just one, the Great Pyramid of Giza, is still standing. So I’ve seen that, of course, and I’ve been to the sites of all the other ancient wonders except for Alexandria.

Two in Egypt, two in Turkey (Halicarnassus is modern day Bodrum), two in Greece and one in modern day Iraq. No-one at the Babylon archaeological site is able to identify a position for the Hanging Gardens and there is even doubt, amongst scholars, as to whether they actually existed.

The First Travel Bucket List

Whatever, I’m still on the theme of travel goals and I'm excited, as this was the first Travel Bucket List, devised by the ancient Greeks, after Alexander the Great began to open up the east, in the fourth century BC. The list of ‘sights’, rather than wonders, began to emerge at the end of the second century BC. Even then, the writers, most notably Antpater, strongly debated which monuments should be included, though the contents are generally very similar.

The argument over what should be in or out continued over the centuries, with later, more religious additions. In the sixth century, an offering of a more spiritual Seven Wonders was compiled by St. Gregory of Tours. It included the Temple of Solomon, the Pharos of Alexandria, and Noah's Ark(!). I'm wondering if these early lists were actually intended to be achievable

The New Seven Wonders of the World

Today’s bucket lists are far more complicated and encompassing. We have the whole world to consider (maybe even beyond our globe). In 2007, The New Seven Wonders of the World appeared, the result of an initiative by a Swiss foundation, offering online voters a selection of 200 existing monuments. The winning seven were: The Great Wall of China, Petra (in Jordan), the Statue of Christ the Redeemer (in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Machu Picchu (Peru), Chichen Itza (Yucatán, Mexico), the Colosseum (Rome, Italy) and the Taj Mahal (Agra, India.)

The Great Pyramid of Giza, the only one of the traditional Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing, was not one of the winners, but it was added as an 'honorary candidate'. So much for democracy. I’m not unhappy with the list - in the sense  that I've  ticked them all off. But there is something about other people's lists. Sometimes they just seem so arbitrary. Is this still a list of ancients or relative ancients?  If so, why is the Brazilian Statue on it? I didn't find it that exciting. Rio and the harbour yes. The statue not so much. And its horribly crowded.

And if we are staying with ancient what about Angkor Wat or the Temple at Baalbek? Or the Acropolis? Or the other temples in Egypt, for that matter - such as Karnak? 

Seven Wonders of the Modern World

How about going modern? In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers compiled a list of Seven Wonders of the Modern World: The Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France (longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world), the CN Tower, Toronto, Canada (tallest freestanding structure in the world from 1976 to 2007), the Empire State Building, New York City, (tallest building in the world from 1931 to 1970 and first building with 100+ stories), the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, the Itaipu Dam, on the Paraná River, on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, the Netherlands North Sea Protection Works (Delta and Zuiderzee Works) and the Panama Canal.

It's a worthy list, but that was 30 years ago, so I suppose it depends, again on your definitions of time. I’m sure there have been many permutations since. There must be a lot of overlap between this and My List of Favourite Buildings.  And there's a plethora of other lists of wonders. Some mix natural and man made nominations.

The New Seven Wonders of Nature

Similarly to the other lists of wonders, there is no consensus on a list of seven natural wonders of the world, and there has been debate over how large such a list should be. One list of natural wonders was compiled by CNN, in 1997: the Aurora, in the Earth's high-latitude regions (I saw it in Greenland and Norway), the Grand Canyon (Arizona, United States), the Great Barrier Reef (off the coast of Queensland, Australia), the Harbour of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mount Everest, on the border of Nepal and China, the Parícutin Volcano (aargh, I haven’t seen that one, except maybe from the air), Michoacán, Mexico and Victoria Falls, (on the Zambezi River, the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe).

I'm vaguely  happy with all of these. Some of the items are the biggest - some selections are more subjective.  The Northern Lights is definitely a bucket list event, but there are other atmospheric phenomena that are amazing. Rainbows anyone?  The Parícutin Volcano is apparently special, as it the newest volcano on earth, a cinder volcano shooting out of the ground, rapidly and dramatically, in 1943. The problem is that is now motionless. It's more fun to watch the original video. If you want a classically stunning volcano it's hard to beat Fuji. Or Mayon in the Philippines, or one of the immaculate cones in Chile.

Then, in 2011, the same Swiss foundation as above, came up with the New Seven Wonders of Nature: Iguazu Falls (on the border between Argentina and Brazil), Hạ Long Bay in Vietnam), Jeju Island in South Korea), Puerto Princesa Underground River (in Palawan, Philippines), Table Mountain (Cape Town, South Africa), Komodo Island in Indonesia) and the Amazon Rainforest. Incredibly, there is no overlap at all. Not even the same waterfalls. And I’ve seen all those except the river in the Philippines, even though I lived there for a year. (I got quite close.)

New Seven Wonders Cities

Still more lists emanated from the Swiss organised vote. New Seven Wonders Cities: Durban, South Africa (Really?), Vigan (Philippines), Havana (Cuba), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Beirut (Lebanon), Doha (Qatar), La Paz (Bolivia). I’m sorry, but that’s a weird collection. I think I’ll do my own - read it here; List of Best Cities.

New Seven Wonders Underwater

The New Seven Wonders Underwater roll of honour originated with marine scientists and was more protection orientated: Palau, Belize Barrier Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Deep-sea hydrothermal vents (worldwide), Galápagos Islands, Ecuador, Lake Baikal, Russia, Northern Red Sea, bordered by Saudi Arabia and Yemen on the eastern shore, and Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti on the western shore. I can't argue with most of that, though I think having deep sea vents is beyond ambitious, bucket list wise. These are, in essence, hot springs, or geysers, on the ocean floor. The deepest are in the Cayman Trench, which goes down to 7686 metres.

The Seven Natural Wonders of the UK

There are plenty more worldwide lists and it’s an ongoing and often heated debate. The next trend is to think local. Many countries have got in on the act by  devising their very own list of wonders. According to Wikipedia, the UK has a list of Natural Wonders, compiled by the Royal Geographical Society, in 2021. There are four wonders in England (Wastwater, Dovedale, The Needles and The Jurassic Coast), one in Northern Ireland (the Giant's Causeway), one in Scotland (Loch Coruisk and the Cuillins) and one in Wales (Pistyll Rhaeadr). The last one is a skinny 73 metre waterfall, in Wales, that I have never heard of before. This shows how contentious these lists are. I think I will have to do my own UK list too.

So I had better stop there. But before I go:

  • What is your Bucket List of World Wonders?
  • And, to help me and others, what would be your list of Seven Wonders (natural or otherwise) in your own country?

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