It’s part of the human psyche to want to leave a lasting mark on the world. And since ancient times, people have molded their dreams of immortality into monuments and statues, palaces, and cities. Often, the results have been spectacular, as in the following examples.
1. The Eiffel Tower
When it opened in 1889, Paris’s Eiffel Tower, designed by Gustave Eiffel, had the distinction of being the tallest man-made structure in the world. Now it’s simply one of the most beautiful. This iron monument’s stairs and elevators take several million people each year to its viewing platforms; the highest is about 915 feet above the ground. There, the views of the Parisian streets and the River Seine are breathtaking.
2. The Taj Mahal
In Agra, India stands the world’s grandest mausoleum. The Taj Mahal is a marble palace with a gigantic central dome and an elevation of 561 feet. The Taj Mahal, lavish inside and out, was named after Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife of Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan ordered the erection of this monument to honor his wife’s memory. It took more than twenty years – from approximately 1632 to 1653 – to finish the job.
3. The Colosseum
Rome’s Colosseum is history’s greatest amphitheater. Built between 70 and 80 AD, it was where gladiators battled, hunters struck down ferocious animals, and ancient myths were acted out, to the gasps and screams of as many as 80,000 spectators. Today, the Colosseum is a major tourist attraction, and it’s where the Catholic Church initiates an annual Good Friday procession.
4. The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only wonder among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing. Completed circa 2560 BCE, the Great Pyramid once towered at 481 feet. Over the centuries, however, natural forces have shaved its height, and today it’s only about 455 feet tall. Even so, this tomb for the Pharaoh Khufu still has the power to mystify. How did the Egyptians construct such an enduring monument?
5. The Great Wall of China
Many astounding facts about the Great Wall of China are common knowledge. It’s more than 4,000 miles long and runs roughly east to west, from Shanhaiguan to Lop Nur. The Chinese built it to keep out foreign invaders. Construction began in the 400s BCE and ended in the 1500s AD. However, contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall cannot be viewed by the naked eye from space.
6. Angkor Wat
Cambodia’s Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious site. This collection of temples is 500 acres in size, and bursting with exquisitely-detailed carvings. In the 1100s, the Khmer built Angkor Wat in the thick of the jungle. In the 1300s, they left the area for reasons unknown, and the jungle reclaimed the territory. But then, in 1861, a naturalist from France happened upon the site. The restoration was soon underway.
7. Machu Picchu
Beginning around 1460, the rulers of the Incan civilization lived in Machu Picchu, a site 8,000 feet above sea level in Peru’s Urubamba Valley. A century later, the Spanish conquered the region, and the Incas departed. Hiram Bingham, a historian from the U.S., found the “Lost City of the Incas” in 1911, however, and today these mystical ruins are Peru’s top tourist attraction.
8. Statue of Liberty
A gift from France to the U.S. in 1886 – sculpted by Frédéric Bartholdi – the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet tall. But this green statue looms larger in the American imagination. It’s thrilling to gaze at Lady Liberty and imagine the millions of immigrants who glimpsed this statue and by extension America, for the very first time.
9. Walt Disney World
Florida’s Walt Disney World is a modern city unto itself. This playland, 47 square miles in area, boasts its own fire department, waste management facilities, man-made lakes, and sophisticated transportation system. And then there are the elaborate theme parks, water parks, and resorts – places many children worldwide dream of visiting.