Everyone has talked about how great it is, you have been planning and looking forward to it, you can’t wait to finally see it and then it happens. You get to the greatest tourist attraction the world has ever known, you take a look around, scratch your head and wonder what the big deal is. We have all been there, standing in line to get into some place only to wish we had skipped it. Although there are plenty of places that might disappoint, we have compiled a list of tourist attractions that live up to the hype and are totally worth visiting.
10. The Alhambra -Granada, Spain
The Alhambra fortress and palace complex in Granada is one of Spain’s main tourist attractions and well worth the visit. Construction began in the 9th century with a small fort but it was the years between 1333-1391 that the Alhambra was expanded and is what much of what visitors can admire today. The Patio of Lions is probably the most famous place at the Alhambra. Aptly named for the twelve lions around the fountain. The white marble fountain sits in the middle of the patio which is rectangular and surrounded by a gallery supported by 124 white marble columns. The Alcazaba, a fortress, is the oldest part of the Alhambra and one of the places with the best views of the city can be found in the gardens near the entrance. The number of visitors is limited daily with certain time slots given to you to visit some of the palaces. Even if you have a ticket you should plan to arrive early. One thing is for certain, you won’t regret having visited.
9. Palace of Versailles, France
From the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI Versailles was the principal residence of the French King. The opulent castle has 250 acres of manicured lawns, gardens and fountains. The hall of mirrors, containing over 300 mirrors, reflect the gardens through the 17 arched windows. You can walk the halls where French history’s famous and infamous once lived, partied and ruled the country. People like Madame Pompadour, mistress and confidant of King Louis XV, Madame Du Barry, Marie Antoinette and even Napoleon. The palace has five chapels, over 1,200 fireplaces and 67 staircases. Created in the 17th century Versailles contains Europe’s largest palace garden, an impressive site in itself with trees, flowers, status, fountains and walking paths. For a glimpse of France during the ages of Kings, courts and extravagance Versailles is certainly the place and won’t disappoint.
8. Sơn Doòng Cave, Vietnam
If you are willing to walk 10 km through a dense forest on a small path then ascend down a cliff you can be one of the few people in modern times to have ever seen the largest cave in the world. Formed over a million years ago, the cave was discovered in modern times by a local man in 1990. The path through the jungle was so dense he could not remember how to find it again until he rediscovered it in 2008. Since that time the cave has been partially explored and discovered to be over five kilometers long with sections reaching 200 meters high and contains waterfalls, flowing rivers and an abundance of wildlife. Explorers attempted to measure a lake inside the cave but the rope they used only extended 200 meters so a final depth could not be determined. A five day, four night tour will set you back around $4,000 and be led by experienced cave experts.
7. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History -Washington DC, USA
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is one of several museums that make up what is known as The Smithsonian. Opened in 1910 the museum houses over 125 million natural science specimens and artifacts. An estimated 7 million people visit the museum each year. The main building contains 325,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space. Exhibitions include meteorites and fossils, animal specimens, some extinct like the Tasmanian Tiger, stone figures from Easter Island and so much more. You have heard of the Hope Diamond? Well it is on display here as well. The blue diamond has a storied history and owners have included King George IV of England and King Louis XIV of France. The museum is open 364 days a year only closing on Christmas day and the best part is admission is free.
6. Vatican City -Rome, Italy
Vatican City is a city state surrounded by Rome and the headquarters of the Catholic Church. You don’t have to be Catholic or even religious to appreciate all this city has to offer. At just over 100 acres Vatican City attracts millions of visitors and religious pilgrims each year. Visitors to Vatican City enter through St Peters Square and line up to visit the Vatican museums. Visitors can view the Raphael Rooms where Raphael painted frescoes covering four rooms, St Peters Basilica, Greek and Roman antiquities and of course the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s ceiling and altar frescoes and painting from other masters have been restored and now visitors can see the masterpieces better than before. There are many tour companies offering guided tours but the best way to visit is to take a personal tour. A personal tour guide give you a more personalized experience and deviate from the tour schedule so you can see things when the other tours aren’t there yet.
5. Ohrid, Macedonia
Lake Ohrid is one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes and sits on the border of Macedonia and Albania in the Balkan peninsula . The lake, almost 19 miles long and over 9 miles wide, is a favorite destination in the region and home of the Ohrid trout. The Macedonian side of the lake has several towns along a 20 mile stretch of road worth visiting and spending a few days or even a week at. The town of Ohrid itself is a fabulous place to visit. The city of Ohrid traces its roots to the pre – Slavic period and attracts people from all over the world. Known as the Balkan Jerusalem, at one time Ohrid had 365 churches and was the religious center of Macedonia. One of the best examples is the St John Kaneo Church which is one of the most photographed churches in the world. The Tsar Samuels Fortress sits prominently on a hill overlooking the town where cobble stone streets wind through the city. Small shops, sidewalk cafés nearby archeological excavations and the monastery of St Naum are worth visiting also.
4. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The Temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is considered the largest religious monument in the world. Built in the first half of the 12th century it took an estimated 30 years to construct. Angkor Wat is actually one monument within the Angkor group of temples. There are 41 monuments and temples within the complex with Angkor Wat being the most famous and important. Angkor Wat covers 500 acres and has a moat with a long sandstone causeway crossing it. Galleries consisting of Bas reliefs and pavilions stretching over the temple make it an imposing site. Visitors to Angkor Wat are never underwhelmed by the site and the entire archeological site of Angkor, stretching over 400 km, can take days to fully explore and appreciate the wonders. A major cultural, religious and historical site, Angkor Wat should be on your list of places to visit.
3. Koyasan, Japan
Listed as a World Heritage Site, Koyasan is an active center of Shingon Buddhism. Located 2 hours by train from Tokyo, at the top of Mount Koya, the area is a complex of Buddhist temples, halls and pagodas. More than 100 temples form this religious city. Visitors enter the city through the magnificent 25 meter high Dai-mon Gate where two statues of guardian gods stand on either side. Each morning the chief priest and monks of the temple hold services, chanting Buddhist sutras. Visitors to the area can stay at over 50 of the temples where monks will prepare your room and serve vegetarian dishes. Temple lodging, known as Shukubo, is popular in Japan and Koyasan is the best place to get the entire experience. During your stay you can rent one of the 25 bicycles available to explore the city.
2. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The largest living structure on the planet stretching 2300 km, The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space. If that doesn’t impress you then you are really hard to please. Consisting of 600 types of corals, over 1600 types of fish, 133 varieties of sharks and manta rays and over 30 species of whales and dolphins, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the worlds most treasured eco systems. Visitors to the reef can enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling to get up close to the corals and marine life or take a cruise along the most scenic parts of the reef. Other activities include hot air balloon tours and helicopter tours of the area. The nearby Daintree Rainforest is a popular attractions as well as white water rafting on the Russel and Barron Rivers. Whether you want to lay on a sandy beach and go swimming, get up close to the marine life, do something adventurous on the rivers or learn to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef has it all.
1. Disney World -Orlando, Florida
What? Disney World you say? Absolutely. What once was thought of as a kids theme park has evolved into a mecca of family and adult fun. Let’s look at some facts about Disney World. Disney World Resorts is actually several parks consisting of The Magic Kingdom, Epcot World, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. At over 30,000 acres it is about the size of San Francisco. Over 48 million people visit the resort each year. It’s not just for kids. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival features celebrity chefs, mixology seminars, craft beers and wines from around the world. Some of the resorts run by Disney are geared more for adults than others with upscale dining, spas and gold courses. Stay at the Disney Yacht Club where you can dine on mouthwatering steaks at the Yachtsman Steak House and take a boat ride to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. With everything to offer it is possible to spend a couple of weeks and still not come close to doing everything.