Landmarks, large icons of landscapes, evoke something in people. They draw us to them.
These are the monuments of history. This is the list of monuments that have, for centuries and millennia, always enchanted and inspired us.
Eifel Tower, France
In the 19th century world expos become a popular way for countries to showcase industry. The Eifel Tower was the world’s tallest structure when it was constructed for the 1889 World Fair, and today, attracts more tourists than any other paid tourist attraction in the world.
At the time it was built, many Parisians thought it ugly, or worried that it was unstable, and many wanted it disassembled. War saved the Eifel Tower, for its value as radio transmitter and receiver.
Today it is one of the most recognisable icons in the world, an icon of French culture, which has contributed to making France the most popular tourist destination in the world.
Great Wall, China
Those who built the Great Wall of China to keep people out, might be frustrated to hear that it now attracts around ten million visitors per year. The first walls in China, built between the 8th and 5th centuries, are mostly gone. The wall that remains today is a relic of the Ming Era, which was built to keep Mongolian hordes out during the 14th century.
Despite a length of 8,850 km, the Great Wall is only about six to five metres wide. It is a myth that you can see it with the naked eye from space: the best way to check it out is by flying into Beijing and taking an hour bus ride to the popular Badaling.
The Romans built the Colosseum to attract spectators, and they’ve done a good job. The amphitheatre hosted gladiator fights, animal hunts, naval battles (they used to flood it … legit) and other shows of spectacle for audiences of up to 65,000 in ancient Rome. In addition, the Colosseum has served as a church, cemetery, castle and fort and has survived fire, robbery and earthquakes.
Today the Colosseum receives millions of annual tourists despite (or maybe thanks to) the lack of blood sport.
For a long time, Egypt was isolated by boarders of desert and ocean. This resulted in a peace that allowed the Egyptians to develop a culture marked by invention in writing, medicine and architecture, which has mystified outsiders for millennia.
The world’s first historian, Herodotus, spoke of Egypt, though he probably never visited himself (yeah, he was that guy). The completion of the Suez Canal in the 19th century made Egypt an accessible destination for European tourists and the mystery of the ancient pyramids made it popular.
The most famous Egyptian pyramid, the Great Pyramid of Giza, was completed in 2650 BCE, and remained the tallest building in the world for 3,800 years.
Grand Canyon, USA
Planet Earth has been making great stuff since before human beings were even invented.
Parts of the Grand Canyon have existed for 70 million years, but 80 per cent of the canyon is only 6 million years old, which is short in terms of canyon digging. Around 1200 BCE the Ancient Pueblo people emerged, the first known visitors and inhabitants. These days, five million people visit the canyon annually, making it one of the most visited natural sites in the world.
Mt Everest, Nepal
Nepal’s geography is defined by challenging terrain. The typography of the Himalayas meant that Nepal was never conquered by foreign forces, and that some parts of this country have been unreachable by humans until recent history.
For most of its 60-million-year history, the peak of Mount Everest was unvisited by any living thing. Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit in May 1953, and stimulated international interest in trekking in Nepal. This excitement has peaked and troughed but has been rising steadily following the peace after the Nepalese Civil War.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Myth says that the islands in Halong Bay were created by dragons to protect the Vietnamese from invaders. This held true during the Vietnam War, when one grotto was used as hospital for the injured.
The tall, stone guardians of the bay, who have been watching the area for 300 million years, have recently seen a boom in visitors. Floating markets and boat tours of the caves attract 5.5 million tourists annually. People come to be a part of a surreal landscape that feels like it should only exist in dreams and legends.
The top of Uluru is higher than the tip of the Eifel Tower and the base is buried 2.5 km underground. It is a lonely iceberg, that has been floating in the desert for 600 million years. This is an important site for the traditional landowners, the Aṉangu people. Despite its isolation, millions of people have been drawn to behold this monolith in the desert.