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The 50 wonders of the world – and how to explore them

Incredible landmarks you won't want to miss

Only one of the original seven wonders of the world remains, but there are many more awe-inspiring places that astound and delight us. From captivating ancient cities, medieval cathedrals and modern architectural gems, to biodiverse volcanic craters, thundering waterfalls and the world’s oldest landforms, loveEXPLORING ranks the top 50 must-see wonders. Click through the slideshow above to see our list.

50. Forbidden City (Palace Museum), Beijing, China

For five centuries under the Ming and Qing dynasties, ordinary Chinese people were banned from even approaching the walls of the Imperial Palace, hence its better-known name. Today, the palace at the heart of the city welcomes visitors. Spread over 250 acres it’s a huge complex, grand in scale with well-preserved buildings. Inside there are objects and artifacts from thousands of years of Chinese history.

50. Forbidden City (Palace Museum), Beijing, China

There are nearly 9,000 rooms to explore at this UNESCO World Heritage Site and you could easily spend the day here. Most hotels can arrange an English speaking guide and help you book tickets in advance, as there is now a daily limit of 80,000 visitors. Ticket prices vary according to the season too, from $5.80 (£4.40) to $8.70 (£6.70).

49. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

The world's most famous wrought iron structure and symbol of Paris soars confidently above the elegant city. It's hard to believe that what's now one of the most photographed landmarks in the world was only meant to be a temporary structure when it opened for the World Exhibition in 1889. Many locals loathed it to begin with but it's now the most-visited monument in the world that you have to pay for. It welcomes around seven million visitors each year.

49. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

You simply can't visit Paris without admiring or scaling this landmark. The views from the top are phenomenal, of course, but for the best skyline views you really need the Eiffel Tower in it. To capture top shots, head up Tour Montparnasse, which has the city's highest viewing platform. Place du Trocadero is a magnificent vantage point to gaze on the tower during the nightly light shows. Explore more of Paris with our handy guide.

48. Burj Khalifa, Dubai

A true wonder of the modern age, the world's tallest building soars above the desert metropolis of Dubai. At a ground-breaking 2,717-feet-high, it dwarfs the surrounding skyscrapers. The Burj lays claim to many other records too: being the tallest free-standing structure and having the most number of stories (160) in the world among them. Its striking design was inspired by minarets and a desert flower.

48. Burj Khalifa, Dubai

To get a sense of the Burj Khalifa's scale, ascend to one of the two observation decks. There's a two-story one on the 124th and 125th floors, or keep going up to the world's highest observation deck on the 148th floor. Those with a head for heights can enjoy fine dining as they gaze across the city and desert at its restaurant At.mosphere on the 122nd floor. Or stick to the tower's base to gaze upwards at the steel-and-glass behemoth and watch the Dubai Fountain dance. Read our guide to Dubai for more to see in the city.

47. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Startlingly beautiful, this patchwork of lakes shimmers in varying shades of green, blue and turquoise. Connected by waterfalls and cascades, and surrounded by thick woodland, they're a sight to behold. You'll find the phenomenally pretty lakes between Zagreb and Zadar. Not surprisingly, the national park has become one of the country's top tourist destinations.

47. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

If you're astute enough to visit during a quiet part of the day, soak in the serenity of the watery wonderland as you stroll along the boardwalk. It will take you past the 16 dazzling terraced lakes and the many waterfalls. There are several different trails you can follow around the park, but for the highest waterfalls, head to the end of the Lower Lakes where the Plitvica river cascades.

46. Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

Austria is awash with lavish gilded palaces that hint at a bygone era and none more so than the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. The Baroque masterpiece was the summer residence of the Habsburg emperors from the 18th century to 1918. UNESCO added the palace and its grand gardens to its World Heritage List in 1996 and it's now Austria's most-visited site.

46. Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

The work of Austrian architect, Fischer von Erlach, the sprawling palace houses many priceless treasures that belonged to Austria's longest reigning royal family. Inside, admire its intricately painted ceilings, enormous mirror and glittering crystal chandeliers. Outside, stroll around more than 400 acres of manicured gardens with their trickling fountains and ornate sculptures. There's even a vineyard.

45. Matterhorn, Switzerland and Italy

This imposing mountain that straddles the Swiss-Italian border isn't the tallest but it's the most mesmerizing peak in the Alps and one of Europe's most beautiful natural spectacles. Meaning "peak in the meadows" in German, its distinctive pyramid-shaped summit is nearly 15,000-foot-tall and a magnet for mountaineers (there's no cable car to its summit).

45. Matterhorn, Switzerland and Italy

There are many prime viewing points to contemplate the raw beauty of the craggy peak, including an observation platform at Gornergrat. You can catch Europe's highest open-air cog railway up to the viewpoint from Zermatt station. For an even dreamier view, head to the lakes of Stellisee and Riffelsee where you can see the mighty Matterhorn reflected in the mirror-like waters.

44. Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand

With soaring snow-capped mountains, dazzling waters and lush rainforest, the majesty of New Zealand's Fiordland National Park gives Norway some stiff competition. The jewel in this magical region in the island's southwest corner is Milford Sound, one of the 14 fiords. Rudyard Kipling was onto something when he called it the "eighth wonder of the world”.

44. Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand

A popular way to visit Milford Sound and explore its amazing landscape is by following the 33-mile Milford Track. The multi-day hike follows an ancient Maori path but it can be tackled in shorter stretches. Chartering the waters on a cruise is a fantastic way to admire its serene beauty too and you'll pass right alongside some of its crashing waterfalls.

43. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, US

One of America's most iconic structures, the Golden Gate Bridge is the world's most photogenic bridge. Construction on the ambitious project began in 1933 and took four years to complete, with significant loss of life among the workforce. Its 4,200-foot-long suspension span made it the longest bridge in the world until 1964. Its characteristic International Orange color was chosen to ensure visibility in the notoriously foggy Bay Area.

43. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, US

The commanding bridge, which is 746-foot-high, can be seen from many points in San Francisco and over on the Marin County side. There are official viewpoints on both the north and south sides of the bridge too, with free parking. While most people drive over the structure, one of the best ways to see it in all its glory and the incredible bay views is on a bike ride over to pretty bayside town Sausalito. Catch the ferry back to admire the bridge from the water. Find out more about beautiful bridges around the world here.

42. Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

Witness nature at its most awe-inspiring from these towering cliffs on the west coast of Ireland. Reaching heights of up to 702 foot, these are some of the tallest cliffs in Europe and definitely the most majestic, as are the panoramas you get from the cliff edge: the crashing Atlantic ocean, surreal sea stacks and dramatic Irish skies.

42. Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

Take the Doolin Cliff Walk to soak in the spectacular clifftop scenery that characterizes this stretch of County Clare's coast and breathe in the fresh sea air. You'll see many seabirds as you wander. Head to 19th-century O'Brien's Tower for one of the best vantage points – you can survey An Branán Mór sea stack and the Aran Islands from here. The best way to appreciate the sheer scale of the mammoth cliffs is by taking a boat trip beneath them.

41. Niagara Falls, Canada and US

This geological wonder that marks the border between New York and Ontario in Canada is the world's most famous waterfall. While it's not the tallest or widest, Niagara Falls is a mightily impressive sight. It stands 167-foot-high with a water flow of over two million liters of water per second. In fact, it consists of three waterfalls on the Niagara River: Horseshoe Falls (or Canadian Falls), American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

41. Niagara Falls, Canada and US

A popular way to see the falls in the US is on the Maids of the Mist boat trip through the Niagara Gorge. Or, get right up to the water's edge at the base of the gorge on a stroll along the riverside boardwalk on the Canadian side. Open between March and November, it passes along the very edge of the falls' white water with several viewing platforms along the way. Stay at the lovely Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario to discover more of the region's wonders such as the delicious wines. Discover more of the world's most impressive waterfalls here.

40. Geirangerfjord, Norway

When it comes to natural beauty, Norway has been blessed with more than its fair share of spectacular landscapes including its myriad beguiling fjords. With its deep blue waters, tumbling waterfalls and vertiginous green slopes, the UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord in western Norway is the most famously photogenic of them all.

40. Geirangerfjord, Norway

Hop on a ferry to meander around this idyllic fjord and glide past some if its plunging waterfalls. You can also kayak or raft around the deep waters or follow one of the many hiking trails around its cliffs. For soaring views over the dramatic landscape, drive up to Geiranger Skywalk – this viewing platform is Europe's highest fjord view from a road.

39. The Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

The Golden Temple is one of India's most holy and humbling sites, and among the world's most beautiful places of worship. The 16th-century gilded temple appears to float above the Amrit Sarovar (reflective pool), shimmering majestically in the holy water. Thousands of people make the pilgrimage to this extraordinary and surprisingly serene place of worship in Punjab each year.

39. The Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

The Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Temple, is the most revered site for Sikhs. Its inner sanctum houses the original copy of the holy book Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the words of which are recited daily from before dawn until around 10.30pm. All faiths are welcome at the gurudwara, which has four entrances to symbolize that people from all directions and walks of life can enter. The vast langar hall (community kitchen) serves free food, cooked and served by volunteers.

38. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia and Peru

Ethereal Lake Titicaca is South America's largest lake and the highest navigable one in the world at 2,506 feet above sea level. Straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia, its startlingly blue waters are a truly spectacular sight against the bright sky and snow-capped Andes. The lake is incredibly sacred too: the ancient Incas believed it was the birthplace of the sun.

38. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia and Peru

The largest of Titicaca's islands, Isla del Sol, on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca is a highlight to visit in the area. Catch a ferry from Copacabana to follow some of its scenic hiking trails. Be aware that the altitude can make hiking tough going. The artificial floating islands – home to the Uros people – are an incredible sight too. Wherever you are on this magical stretch of water, the sunsets over Lake Titicaca are mind-blowing.

37. Winter Palace, St Petersburg, Russia

An absolute masterpiece of Russian Baroque architecture, the Winter Palace has to be seen to be believed. The lavish former residence of the Tsars in St Petersburg is now home to the Hermitage Museum and stuffed with incredible treasures. Sitting on the banks of the Neva River, several different palaces were built in the 18th century, but the gleaming building that sits here today was built by Baroque architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli from 1754-62.

37. Winter Palace, St Petersburg, Russia

Admire its intricately decorated facade, including the parapets which are festooned with countless statues and vases, then head inside to ogle at the historic and extravagant State Rooms on the first floor. You'll need days to even touch on some of the artistic treasures on display in the Hermitage's vast collection. The palace is arguably even more beautiful at night when its lights twinkle and its grandiose reflection dances on the river.

36. Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain

Framed by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the Alhambra Palace is a Moorish masterpiece and one of Europe's most stunning monuments. Looming above the gorgeous Andalucian town of Granada, the Nasrid sultans ruled what was the last Spanish Muslim kingdom from this lavish royal palace for 250 years. They finally fell to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1492.

36. Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain

Book tickets well in advance to make sure you get to explore the many wonders of this extraordinary palace and fortress. It's made up of three parts: the Casa Real (the royal palace), the Alcazaba (old fortress) and the dreamy summer palace Generalife. Leave plenty of time to explore the lush Generalife gardens with their abundant flowers and water features. The tower in the Alcazaba also has stunning views across the old quarter of the city with its whitewashed houses and narrow winding lanes.

35. The Golden Temple of Dambulla, Sri Lanka

The largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, Dambulla is crammed with countless vivid murals and precious golden statues of Buddha. Constructed in the 1st century AD and inhabited by monks and hermits over the centuries, it has been a sacred pilgrimage site for a staggering 22 centuries.

35. The Golden Temple of Dambulla, Sri Lanka

Skip the rather tacky modern temple at the bottom of the steps and climb up to enter Sri Lanka's most ancient and atmospheric site. You'll be amazed by the richness of the cave paintings and the number of Buddha statues that lie within. The views from the top are pretty spectacular too.

34. Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

Cologne's magnificent twin-spired cathedral, known as the Kölner Dom, is Germany's largest Gothic church. Once the world's tallest building, it took more than seven centuries to construct this ecclesiastical masterpiece. Work on the cathedral began in 1248 and was not completed until 1880, but it was worth the wait.

34. Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

Kölner Dom was the city's only significant landmark to survive the Second World War and designated a World Heritage site in 1996. The cathedral's most striking features are its imposing dual spires, stained glass murals and its relics. It contains the bones of several saints, including what's said to be the remains of the three wise men. You could spend hours ogling at the gargoyle-encrusted exterior alone. Climb up the southern spire for stirring views of the city and Rhine.

33. The Lake District, Cumbria, UK

Lofty fells, lakes, tarns, forests and waterfalls, this spellbinding landscape in the northwest of England is arguably the country's most stunning and dramatic natural attraction. Its extraordinary beauty has captivated and inspired many renowned artists and literary greats. The 885-square-mile Lake District National Park was awarded UNESCO world heritage status in 2017.

33. The Lake District, Cumbria, UK

With an incredible network of trails, this is prime hiking country. Attempt to scale England's highest peak Scafell Pike. Go boating on the longest lake in England, Windermere, take a steamer cruise around Coniston or take a dip from the pebbled beaches of Buttermere or Grasmere. On dry land, you can visit Beatrix Potter's and William Wordsworth's homes. The photogenic region is also stuffed with cozy country pubs and Michelin-starred restaurants.

32. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Known as Mosi-oa-Tunya ("the smoke that thunders") in the local language, this thundering curtain of water on the Zambia and Zimbabwe border is classed as the largest waterfall in the world, based on its width. It's a whopping 5,604-foot wide and 354-foot long, a striking reminder of the power of nature.

32. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

There are many ways to admire the remarkable falls: follow trails along the cliffs, set off on a sunset steam train ride along Victoria Falls Bridge or take to the skies aboard a helicopter. Those brave enough can take a dip in the Devil's Pool, a little pocket of water on the edge of the abyss, or go white-water rafting at its foot when the water levels are lower. To see the falls at their most powerful, visit between January and April.

31. Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

It's hardly surprising that this surreal rock formation on the coast of Antrim in Northern Ireland is steeped in magical legends. The curious, near-perfect hexagonal columns are a marvel of nature. According to local legend, the causeway was built by Irish giant Finn MacCool so he could cross over to Scotland to confront his rival Benandonner. However, scientists would have it that the basalt "steps" were caused by intense volcanic activity some 50 to 60 million years ago.

31. Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Either way, there's no denying the extraordinary and unique beauty of these 40,000 interconnected basalt pillars that tumble into the Atlantic. Appreciate them from afar then head down to hop across them. Look out for the Grand Causeway, the largest of three rock outcrops. A great way to explore Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Giant's Causeway Cliff-top Experience – a five-mile guided clifftop walk from Dunseverick Castle to the stones.

30. St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

One of the largest churches in the word and the cradle of Catholicism, this impressive Renaissance church is an awe-inspiring sight whatever your religious persuasion. The centerpiece of the papal enclave of Vatican City, it's said to have been built upon the burial site of Saint Peter, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ and the first Pope.

30. St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

The Vatican's dazzling church is most famous for its riches including the enormous painted dome, a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance era designed by Michelangelo. It is the tallest dome in the world and you can climb it for soaring views over Saint Peter's square and beyond. Other treasures include exquisite and priceless works of art by Italian masters Raphael, Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini. Find out what else Rome has to offer with our guide.

29. Statue of Liberty, New York, US

A symbol of freedom and a beacon of hope, the colossal torch-bearing figure that looms over New York Harbor is one of the world's most recognized statues. The copper structure was designed by sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel as a gift to the United States from the people of France in 1886. Representing the Roman goddess Libertas, she holds a torch and a tablet inscribed with the date of the American Declaration of Independence.

29. Statue of Liberty, New York, US

One of the new wonders of the world, the Statue of Liberty is a striking feature on Manhattan's mesmerizing skyline, standing at over 305-foot tall. It is visited by around 3.5 million people every year. Most people take a ferry to Liberty Island to do a tour and climb the 354 steps to the statue's summit for sensational city views. Or save your dollars and hop on the free Staten Island Ferry for brilliant views of the neoclassical statue with Manhattan as a backdrop. Read our guide to New York for more sightseeing tips.

28. Kyoto, Japan

Japan's ancient capital, Kyoto, is a seriously stunning place to discover Japan's rich history and witness age-old traditions that still endure. A city of ornate temples, sacred shrines, well-preserved historic neighborhoods and classical gardens, it's full of some of the country's best cultural gems. It's especially alluring during the cherry blossom season in spring and when the fall leaves blaze.

28. Kyoto, Japan

The former ancient capital of Japan has myriad attractions but among its most well-known sights are 11th-century Byodo-in Temple (pictured), the golden Kinkakuji Temple, the 1,300-year-old shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha and the famous bamboo groves of riverside district Arashiyama. Visit the gorgeous Gion district, famous for geisha and its traditional machiya (townhouse). Be sure to go for a nocturnal wander along the narrow lantern-lit laneways of Pontochoa too.

27. Bagan, Myanmar

Cast your eye across the ancient city of Bagan and be spellbound by its otherworldly beauty and history. An incredible number of temples, palaces, pagodas and monasteries lie cheek-by-jowl along the Irrawaddy River. In fact, Bagan has the most concentrated area of Buddhist religious structures in the world and each one has its own unique charm and history.

27. Bagan, Myanmar

While it's beautiful throughout the day, the sight of the stone spires of Bagan glowing as the sun rises and sets is incredibly moving. Drifting over the fertile plains of the Irrawaddy Delta on a hot air balloon is a particularly magical way to see and appreciate the scale of the site. On the ground, visit Gawdawpalin Temple, Dhammayangyi Temple and Ananda Pahto, which are among the largest and best preserved.

26. Angel Falls, Venezuela

At 3,212-foot high, these plunging waters in the east of Venezuela make up the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. The astonishing sight is one of many within the equally arresting Canaima National Park, a vast expanse of untamed jungle that's characterized by distinctive table-top mountains and crashing waterfalls.

26. Angel Falls, Venezuela

The remote location of Angel Falls only adds to their wonder. Unless you're up for an intrepid jungle expedition, the only way to see the torrent is by taking a flight over the top or by joining a guided boat ride up the Churun river to gaze up at their magnitude from below. Either option is equally incredible. To see the thundering spectacle in its prime, visit during the wet season – May to November – when the falls and river are at their most voluminous.

25. Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an, China

The enigmatic army of 2,200-year-old terracotta figures are China's greatest archaeological treasures and one of the country's most astounding sights. The 8,000 life-size soldiers and horses were discovered in 1974, lying buried in vast underground chambers near the tomb of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. They were built in 210 BC to guard the emperor's sprawling mausoleum, which is the biggest burial site on Earth.

25. Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an, China

Just on the outskirts of Xi'an, the model army is made out of fired clay. The figures are strikingly lifelike and each one highly individual. It's thought that each warrior looks like the workman who created him. Go to the complex with a knowledgeable guide to get the most out of a visit to this vast, busy and at times overwhelming site.

24. Grand Canyon, Arizona, US

There's a good reason that 6.25 million people visited this cavernous multi-colored canyon in Arizona in 2017. The gaping chasm is one of nature's truly epic sights. Carved out by the Colorado River over millions of years, the Grand Canyon measures 277 miles in length and reaches widths of up to 18 miles wide.

24. Grand Canyon, Arizona, US

Gazing down at the mighty Colorado river from the canyon's towering multi-layered cliffs or from the air is quite an experience. So too is ogling upwards as you travel by raft along this imposing section of the river. Keen hikers can follow the 23-mile Rim-to-Rim trail from the quieter north rim to the south to truly immerse themselves in the splendors of North America's greatest natural wonder. However you explore it, visit outside of the summer months to avoid the deadly heat.

23. Taj Mahal, Agra, India

One of the world's most beautiful buildings and India's most famous monument, the white marble mausoleum has become symbolic of enduring love. It was built in the 1630s by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. An exquisite example of Islamic architecture, it took about 22 years to complete with a workforce of around 20,000 people.

23. Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Prepare to have your breath taken away as you step through an archway and see the Taj Mahal for the first time. It's enormous and the fine detail of its decoration astounding. To gaze on the gleaming monument before the masses arrive, make sure you're on site by daybreak. The sunset is a splendid time to see it in all its poignant glory, but can be busy.

22. Moai, Easter Island, Chile

Far-flung Easter Island – the remotest inhabited island on Earth – is a remarkable place, made even more so by its mysterious moai. These giant stone-carved heads and torsos stand stoically on sites around the volcanic island. It's widely thought, but not known for certain, that they were carved by the Rapa Nui people in deference to important ancestors. Nearly 900 moai were carved and erected across the island between the 11th and 14th centuries.

22. Moai, Easter Island, Chile

Join guided treks by locals around the many archaeological sites to learn about the islanders' far-reaching culture and traditions. The towering moai that loom above Anakena Beach are spectacular, as is the Rano Raraku quarry. The volcanic crater was where the stones were sourced for almost all of the moai and hundreds of statues, in various stages of completion, remain. The Father Sebastián Englert Anthropological Museum is also a must-see to learn more about this intriguing civilization.

21. The Great Temple at Abu Simbel, Nubia, Egypt

Painstakingly chipped into a mountainside, this imposing temple was completed in 1265 BC to commemorate the victory of Ramesses II and his queen Nefertari in the Battle of Kadesh. Set in the deep south of Egypt, near the border with Sudan, it is most famous for its 65-foot high depictions of the powerful pharaoh. The gigantic leader sits sternly on his throne and flanks the entrance to the Great Temple.

21. The Great Temple at Abu Simbel, Nubia, Egypt

The mighty rock-hewn temple lay forgotten until it was rediscovered by Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1813. Incredibly, the Great Temple and a smaller one dedicated to the queen were meticulously dismantled and moved to higher ground in the 1960s to save them from flooding after the Aswan High Dam was built. Due to its remote location and the current climate in Egypt, you'll get to absorb the majesty of the monument in relative peace.

20. Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia

The imposing beauty and spiritual significance of this mammoth monolith, which thrusts out of the red dirt in the desolate center of Australia, is unnerving. Surrounded by the Red Centre's untamed wilderness as far as the eye can see, there's something truly primeval about the ancient sandstone boulder. It's a hugely sacred site for Anangu Aboriginals – the custodians of the land – and one of the natural wonders of the world.

20. Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia

Climbing the rock is now forbidden but visitors can get a sense of its extraordinary beauty and energy by following the dirt track that circumnavigates its base. Pack plenty of water for the three-and-half-hour hike. If budget allows, take to the skies on a helicopter tour to take in Uluru's scale from above, and that of the vast national park that surrounds it. You'll also get to swoop over the wondrous soaring rock domes of nearby Kata Tjuta.

19. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

This vast and ancient volcanic caldera in Tanzania's stunning Crater Highlands region is a spectacular sight. It's the world's largest inactive, intact and unfilled caldera. Surrounded by steep escarpment walls, the vast grasslands below are home to an extraordinary range of fauna and flora. Set within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for having one of Africa's richest and diverse concentration of mammals.

19. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Head off on a game drive around the remarkable sunken landscape, whose grasslands cover around 100 square miles, to feel the power of nature. You'll likely to encounter some of its inhabitants – all of the Big Five live here and lots more besides. It's the best place in Tanzania to see the critically endangered black rhino and vibrant-hued flamingos on the waters of Lake Magadi is one of many unforgettable scenes.

18. Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa's flat-topped mountain is one of the most famous and admired peaks in the world. It's also one of the most ancient at over 260 million years old. Now part of a national park, it is also home to incredible array of flora and fauna including endemic species such as the Table Mountain ghost frog and a whopping 1,470 flower species.

18. Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

The landmark that towers over Cape Town and sits at the tip of Africa is considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world. Discover why by following one of the 350 hiking trails to get up close to this incredible landform and its bounty of botanical sights. Make it up to summit for the most awe-inspiring views of Cape Town, its beautiful bays and the Atlantic Ocean. You can catch the cable car up or hike it. Discover more stunning mountains you don't have to climb here.

17. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

This towering Gothic basilica in Barcelona has become a symbol of the avant-garde city. The Sagrada Familia is one of many architectural gems in the city but it's the most mesmerizing and intriguing. Antoni Gaudí began work on his masterpiece in 1882 and is only due for completion in 2026, the centenary of his death. Read more about Gaudí's Barcelona here.

17. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

The unfinished masterpiece of the famed Catalan architect is Barcelona's most-visited tourist site, so expect huge queues. Buy tickets in advance and opt for fast track to speed things up (read here for more insider travel hacks for the world's iconic attractions). Gaudí oversaw the intricate cathedral's construction until June 1926, when he was hit by a tram and died. He was buried in a chapel in the Sagrada Familia's crypt.

16. Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Whether you're religious or not, the sight of a 92-foot Christ rising above Rio de Janeiro's magical mountainous landscape with outstretched arms can't fail to stir you. The largest Art Deco statue in the world, the iconic monument was the brainchild of a priest in the 1850s but wasn't built until the 1920s. Dedicated in 1931, the concrete Christ has surveyed the city from the top of the forest-clad Corcovado mountain ever since.

16. Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The commanding landmark has become a symbol of Brazil and is one of its most-visited sights. Catch the tram or taxi up to climb the stairs. Soak in the monument and enjoy the heavenly views. Don't expect a contemplative moment though, the viewing platform is always heaving with visitors. Another fantastic spot to admire it in all its glory is from the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain. You can catch a cable car up.

15. Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico

The mysterious Mayan site of Chichén Itzá was central to the ancient civilization between 750 and 1200 AD. The rich and intricate complex of stepped pyramids, temples, columned arcades and other stone structures is understandably the most popular tourist destination on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and one of the seven new wonders of the world. It provides many clues into the country's fascinating past.

15. Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico

The most iconic structure in the archaeological complex is the magnificent 78-foot-high Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo. It was created as a physical calendar with 365 steps – one for each day of the year. It aligns with the sun so perfectly that on the spring and summer equinox, a shadow creates the illusion of a serpent slithering down the steps. If you can't visit for this, stick around any evening to see the spectacular ancient ruins dramatized by a sound-and-light show.

14. Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia

The deepest lake in the world and one of the clearest too, Lake Baikal in the depths of Siberia is a place that compels superlatives. Known as the pearl of Siberia, its icy waters plunge down an astonishing 5,387 foot into the Earth. It's bigger by volume than all the Great Lakes of America combined. You could stack three Empire State Buildings on top of the other and still not reach the surface. Its mysterious waters are also home to creatures that can't be found anywhere else on the planet.

14. Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia

Whether you gaze on its glistening waters in the summer or see its expanse freeze solid in winter, there's no denying the otherworldly beauty of this immense body of water. There are several hiking paths to follow around its shores and various beaches where you can brave the chilly waters for a swim (it freezes from December to April each year). Local legend has it that a dip in the ancient lake will lengthen your life.

13. Venice, Italy

There's nowhere in the world quite like Venice. This dreamy historic city – built on 100 islands across a lagoon – has captivated travelers for centuries. Losing yourself in this most romantic of enclaves to discover its picturesque waterways, ornate architecture, cobbled alleys, elegant piazzi and elaborate bridges is an absolute must.

13. Venice, Italy

The enchanting city is stuffed with architectural wonders including the Doge's Palace, St Mark's Square, and countless exquisite churches and palaces. Each one is bursting with priceless artistic gems. Despite feeling as you've strolled into a Canaletto painting, Venice is a real and vibrant city that retains a distinct Venetian culture and strong traditions. It doesn't take much to wander off the beaten track and get away from the hordes.

12. Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia's famous lost jungle city is among the most incredible and largest archaeological sites on Earth. The majestic temples and monuments of Angkor were built between the 9th and 14th centuries, when the Khmer civilization was at the height of its power. The largest and most famous temple in the sprawling complex is the breathtaking Angkor Wat.

12. Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia

As well as Angkor Wat, the beautiful Bayon temple and evocative jungle-strangled Ta Prohm are must-sees. Exploring the tumbled ruins of these ancient structures of the Khmer empire may no longer be an intrepid experience, as tourists flood in, but it's still an incredible place. It is possible to lose the crowds by enlisting a good local guide who'll take you to some picturesque but peaceful spots.

11. Patagonia, Argentina and Chile

A rugged landscape of jagged peaks, shimmering lakes, ancient forests and vast glaciers, Patagonia captures the imagination and has an irresistible appeal for adventurers. The three sharp granite towers that rise bewitchingly 6,000 feet are one of the vast national park's most striking landmarks. Known as Torres del Paine, they were created over 12 million years ago

11. Patagonia, Argentina and Chile

To discover the majesty of this wild part of the world, you'll need a good few weeks at least. Start in Chile's Torres del Paine national park to admire the Torres and Lake Pehoe on a hike. You could tackle the famous W trek or take on more manageable bite-sized chunks. Cross the border into Argentina's part of Patagonia and end an incredible adventure exploring the extraordinary Perito Moreno glacier.

10. Pompeii, Campania, Italy

This world wonder was lost for almost 1,700 years after Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 and its deathly debris engulfed the Roman city and its ill-fated inhabitants. Pompeii, near the modern day city of Naples, is arguably the most significant Roman ruin in the world and a truly remarkable place to wander around. It's absolutely up there when it comes to must-see-in-your-lifetime sights.

10. Pompeii, Campania, Italy

You can really sense what life must have been like in the 1st century AD as you tread along the city's excavated streets and step into its amazingly preserved villas, workshops, brothels and amphitheater. The well-preserved colorful frescoes are astounding too. One of the most poignant places is the Garden of the Fugitives, where you can see plaster reproductions of 13 Pompeians and a dog whose bodies were entombed in mud and ash until the excavations in the 1800s.

9. Old Jerusalem

With some of the world's most revered monuments of faith and significant archaeological treasures, Jerusalem astonishes at every turn. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited metropolises in the world and hugely sacred to three of the world's great religions. Among its most important sights are the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

9. Old Jerusalem

The city is a wonderful place to roam around and simply marvel at its centuries-old buildings and streets. The Tower of David citadel (pictured) was first used as a palace of Herod the Great and now holds the fascinating Museum of the History of Jerusalem. Other must-sees are the City of David, the oldest part of this ancient city and an incredible archaeological complex. Be sure to visit the vast Israel Museum too and be wowed by its remarkable collection of cultural treasures. Read our full guide to Jerusalem here.

8. Mount Everest, the Himalayas, Nepal

One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the stature and hostile beauty of the planet's most iconic mountain is bewitching. Everest has become a pinnacle of human endurance, luring people to attempt to conquer its treacherous slopes every year. The highest mountain in the world, it is over 60 million years old and it grows about a half inch taller every year.

8. Mount Everest, the Himalayas, Nepal

You don't need to conquer this giant of nature to appreciate its wondrous beauty. There are numerous easy treks around the Everest region where you can gaze on the ancient landform and discover more of Nepal's incredible natural assets. Visit in March or April and blooming rhododendron trees blaze across the foothills too.

7. Great Wall of China, China

A magnificent feat of construction, the Great Wall winds for thousands of miles in sections from Shanhaiguan on China's east coast to Jiayuguan in the west. While it's nonsense that it can be seen from space, its scale is extraordinary. Most of the wall that still exists today was built during the Ming dynasty, when watchtowers and fortresses were added to strengthen its defence. Some of its best-preserved sections can be found snaking across hilltops north of Beijing.

7. Great Wall of China, China

The only way to get a sense of the ancient fortification's epic scale and history is by walking along it. Some of the stretches are an easy trip from Beijing but are understandably busy. Mutianyu, a little further away, is less crowded, wider and more spectacular with its watchtowers rising on the hillsides, providing magnificent outlooks. While in Jinshanling you can see a part of the wall that retains original features, including many watchtowers and poetry inscriptions.

6. Petra, Jordan

The startling beauty of the ancient hand-hewn sandstone city of Petra cannot be overestimated. Established in 213 BC, it was once the capital city of the Arab Nabateans who were famed for their skill at carving buildings into rocks. Despite now being firmly on the tourist trail, this age-old wonder remains astonishing.

6. Petra, Jordan

You enter the kingdom through the Siq – a long and narrow gorge that twists and turns through the rock for nearly a mile before leaving you in front of Petra's most famous and exquisite building. Carved into the facing rock wall, Al-Khazneh (or the Treasury) is extraordinarily beautiful. Make the trek up the rocky path and steps to the hilltop Monastery – Al Deir – too. It's well worth it for the spectacular views of the age-old city and its desert surrounds.

5. Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK

The prehistoric monument is Britain's most incredible wonder and arguably the most mystical rock formation in the world. Set just outside of Salisbury, Wiltshire, one of the UK's most historic towns, it was built in several stages. An early henge monument was built about 5,000 years ago, with the stone circle erected around 2500 BC. The as-yet-unsolved mystery of how the giant stones came to be transported to the Salisbury Plains only adds to its intrigue.

5. Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK

The site now forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site with nearby Avebury's prehistoric remains. The best way to get a feel for the historic landscape and the majesty of the enormous stones is to wander around them. The new visitor center is excellent and you can step inside replica Neolithic homes, complete with axes, pottery and other artifacts, to imagine what life would have been like for the builders of the epic site.

4. The Acropolis, Athens, Greece

It's almost impossible to take your eyes off the rocky outcrop that looms above the sprawl of Athens and has dominated the city for millennia. The arresting ancient mound has several incredible classical ruins, but the Parthenon on its highest reaches is its most iconic structure. The classical temple, a symbol of the origins of democracy, was built in the 5th century BC and dedicated to the goddess Athena.

4. The Acropolis, Athens, Greece

You can spend at least a day exploring the sacred rock and its magnificent marble temples. As well as the Parthenon, the summit is home to the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaia, among other ruins. Head into The New Acropolis Museum to discover more about the spectacular citadel. It's stuffed with fascinating treasures from the various civilizations that have occupied the hill. Read our full guide to Athens here.

3. The Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt

Egypt is arguably the world's richest treasure trove of ancient monuments. The construction that awe and intrigue us the most are the mighty pyramids of Giza. These monumental tombs are the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that have survived the test of time. Rising out of the desert on the edge of sprawling Cairo, the structure's sheer scale and feat of engineering is overwhelming.

3. The Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt

Built between 2580-2560 BC under the orders of Pharaoh Khufu, the Great Pyramid is 481-foot high. Amazingly, it remained the world's tallest man-made structure until St Paul's Cathedral was built more than 35 centuries later. You can clamber inside some of the internal passages of the pyramids to get even more of a sense of the scale of these ancient wonders. The mysterious Sphinx – with its pharaoh head and lion body – is a wonder in its own right.

2. Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

Located off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on the planet. It is composed of over 2,900 individual reef and covers an incredible 135,000 square miles, making it bigger than the UK, Holland and Switzerland put together. It's so enormous, in fact, that it can be seen from outer space.

2. Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

Despite environmental concerns, the ancient reef is absolutely teeming with marine creatures – around 10% of the world's total fish species can be found just within the Great Barrier Reef. It's also home to 30 species of whales, dolphins, porpoises and dugongs. The adventures you can have in this stunning underwater world are unlimited: sail around it, dive into it, snorkel above it or fly over it. You can also stay in the lap of luxury on some of its islands – it has 900 in total.

1. Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Peru

Most people who ascend to the ancient Inca city on a remote mountain ridge in Cuzco Valley are in awe of the spectacular sight. The most significant archaeological site in South America, it's thought the emperor Pachacutec built the spectacular citadel in the clouds in the 15th century, although its mysteries abound. Despite the crowds of tourist, we at loveEXPLORING rate Machu Picchu as the world's most mesmerizing sight.

1. Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Peru

When it comes to visiting Machu Picchu, the journey is half the experience. You can either hike up or take the train. The famous Inca Trail takes four days and leads trekkers through yet more stunning landscapes and other pre-Columbian ruins (although altitude sickness is a real concern). The easiest way to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu is to take the train to Aguas Calientes. It promises a spectacular 3.5-hour ride up the ravishing rainforest-clad mountains.

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