World Wonders 2

Taj Mahal and Yamuna River, Agra, India

The Taj Mahal river view, Agra, India. Photo by Steve Evans.

Ancient Wonders in the Modern World 2

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

The marble memorial to Shah Jahan’s wife, finished in 1653, is justly famous for the exquisite general design but also for fine semiprecious stone inlay work. The Taj is on the banks of a river in a tranquil, pastoral setting.

Close by, the Red Fort is also interesting, and if you are a dedicated ancient architecture freak then the Moghul built Fatehpur Sikri, a few hours drive from the Taj, is worth the trip.

200km/125mls from Delhi makes a tiresome day trip and unfair to the sights so stay over at least a night if possible.

Best weather: October-March. Avoid: the summer (extreme heat)

Luxor, Egypt

Luxor Temple, Luxor, Egypt

Luxor Temple, Luxor, Egypt. Photo by Omar Shawki.

Various stunning temple complexes and monuments on both sides of the River Nile, including the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Temple of Hatsepshut, Luxor Temple and loads more make this area one of the top wonders of the world.

Train or fly to Luxor from Cairo, car travel through middle Egypt is not permitted . Stay at least three nights at Luxor, but preferably not on a boat! They’re noisy, smelly and pollute the Nile – unless boat management have arranged power hook-ups with local authorities.

The west bank of Luxor is less developed and thus closer to real Egypt. There is a bridge across the Nile now and smaller hotels in the west might suit independent travellers. And after hot and sticky high culture Red Sea beaches, snorkelling and sensational diving are pretty close.

Best: January- April, October, November. Avoid: July, August (extreme heat).

Chichen Itza Castillo pyramid, Yucatan, Mexico

Chichen Itza’s Castillo pyramid, Mexico

Ruined 5thC Maya city, featuring the prettiest pyramid in the world and other stunning buildings, monuments and carvings. 1 day is not enough for Chichen.

It’s well worth overnighting at the nearby town (or at the lovely Mayaland hotel if you can afford it) to avoid the 10. 30am tourist rush from Merida(120kms away).

Merida is a pleasant colonial town with an excellent free local music scene nightly and easy access to another good ancient site, Uxmal, while the terrific beaches of the ‘Maya Riviera’, such as Tulum, Playa del Carmen and even Cancun are just a few hours drive.

A few hundred kilometres away in Chiapas state is another great site shrouded by jungle, Palenque. And if you yearn for wannabe wonders still half buried in the jungle, go from Palenque to Bonampak and Yaxchilan.

Best weather: November-April. Avoid: May-October (rains)

Bhaktapur, Kathmandu valley, Nepal

Bhaktapur temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Bhaktapur, Nepal

A superbly restored medieval town (courtesy of UNESCO), saturated with monuments and carvings, some very rude but wonderful! Bhaktapur needs a couple of days at least.

The rest of the Khatmandu valley, especially the town of Khatmandu, also offers amazing monuments and sights while the Himalayas are just on the horizon. If you don’t have time to travel India, Nepal will give the flexible tourist a taste of India.

Best weather: October, November, February, March. Avoid: July-September (rains).

Temple of the Great Jaguar in Tikal, Guatemala

Temple of the Great Jaguar in Tikal, Guatemala. Photo by Dennis Jarvis

Tikal is the largest Mayan pyramid group, still fighting off the jungle and surrounded by wildlife, especially birds and raucous howler monkeys in a 370 sq. km national park.

Fly to Flores and stay there or at El Remate, or best of all head for Tikal, (45km away) and stay overnight at the site if you can, to really capture the spirit of the place after dark and at dawn.

Antigua city, Lake Atitlan and Chichicastenango, though not exactly wonders, are colourful and interesting while you’re in Guatemala.

Best weather: November-May. Avoid: June-October (rains).

Great Wall, China

The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling.

The Great Wall of China. Photo by Craig Nagy.

The longest wonder of the world by far and the only man-made object visible from space. For convenience and crowds, climb the Great Wall at Badalang 70km/45 miles NW from Beijing, where there is also the fairly interesting Great Wall Museum and Ming Tombs en route; for solitude climb it at Huanghua, 60km north of Beijing.

Beijing city is also, of course, full of wonderful sights old and new including the Forbidden Palace, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and the super-modern ‘Duck Egg’ National Opera House.

Best: April-July, September, October. Avoid: winter (extreme cold).

For more World Wonders…

The Best World Wonders by month