Wonders of the World that aren’t worth the hype
Plus our top 10 to replace them
Travelers are obsessed with Wonders of the World, but many are not what they’re made out to be from afar. Here are the Wonders of the World to avoid, and our list of the top 10 that should be Wonders of the World.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Italian tourist attraction may be a great oddity, but the Leaning Tower of Pisa just isn’t deserving of Wonder of the World status. The freestanding bell tower is famous for leaning, due to the soft ground upon which it was built. In other words, the building is famous for being an architectural failure.
Nevertheless, Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa has been on a few Wonders of the World lists — namely those that have to do with structures built during the Middle Ages. And sure, the tower is a nice tourist attraction. But a Wonder of the World? That’s pushing it.
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon no longer exist. Thus, it begs the question: Should the Hanging Gardens have been a Wonder of the World at all? They’ve been described as a remarkable feat of engineering, yet there’s still no definitive proof the gardens ever existed.
Three theories have been suggested to account for the lack of archaeological evidence. One of these is the gardens could have been mythical, or they could have been destroyed entirely. But why would anyone want to destroy them if they were so wonderful to begin with? That seems suspicious.
Let’s call Stonehenge what it really is: a big pile of rocks. Not only is the tourist trap often crowded, but it isn’t nearly as picturesque as other landmarks around the world. Sure, the site has a vaguely interesting story. But why spend your vacation traveling to a remote part of the United Kingdom just to see this?
If you’re going on vacation in the U.K., there are plenty of more interesting sights to see and cities to visit. The Giant’s Causeway, Cliffs of Moher, and even Big Ben are arguably better tourist attractions, and cities like London, Belfast, and Dublin have a variety of things to do that are more interesting than a pile of rocks.
Easily one of the most overrated tourist attractions in the world, the Colosseum just doesn’t pack enough punch to warrant the crowds, petty theft, and other negatives that come with being a world-famous monument. It’s definitely an important part of world history, and it’s conveniently located in Rome, but the Colosseum just isn’t that impressive anymore.
The Colosseum is officially one of the New7Wonders of the World, but some would argue it doesn’t deserve to make the list. Several other similar amphitheaters still remain in Italy today, so while the Colosseum is the largest (and most impressive) of the bunch, it isn’t unique enough to warrant a trip across the world.
Lighthouse of Alexandria
Since when does a lighthouse deserve to be a Wonder of the World? Sure, Egypt’s Lighthouse of Alexandria is an ancient Wonder of the World, so it was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world during the time it still existed. But by today’s standards, that lighthouse probably wouldn’t stand out to a massive cruise liner.
The now-extinct monument only stood about 330 feet tall, which makes it shorter than most of today’s typical office buildings. What’s so impressive about that? Even in its heyday, it’s worth questioning why the Lighthouse of Alexandria was ever named a Wonder of the World.
Polar ice caps
Believe it or not, the polar ice caps are considered a Wonder of the World. USA Today released their list of the “New Seven Wonders” in 2006, and the polar ice caps somehow made the cut. Maybe it was a tribute to the complex beauty of the Arctic and Antarctic, maybe it was a publicity stunt; either way, it seemed like a swing and a miss.
No one’s disputing the beauty of the polar ice caps, but it seems like a stretch to call them a Wonder of the World. About 10% of the world is comprised of ice caps, so where exactly should a tourist go to see them? Ice caps are beautiful, but they don’t seem to fit the standard of Wonder of the World.
What’s so grand about the Grand Canyon? Hey, maybe that’s just me. After all, the natural wonder was voted by USA Today readers as an eighth addition to the magazine’s “New Seven Wonders” list in 2006. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful and majestic natural wonders in the world, and it’s even considered holy by some.
Still, the Grand Canyon’s uniqueness doesn’t extend beyond its ancient origins. The southwest United States is full of incredible sights, including (but not limited to) Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, and Bryce Canyon national parks. Wonder of the World status seems a bit rich for the Grand Canyon, considering all the beauty surrounding it.
It only fits that Mount Everest would be considered a Wonder of the World. After all, it seems every tall building in the world becomes a Wonder of the World at some point or another. But in this case, does the Nepali mountain really fit? It’s perhaps best known for being nearly impossible to summit — and, in a way, responsible for several deaths as a result.
Everest made CNN’s “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” list not because it is beautiful and accessible, but because it is tall. In the world of tourism, that doesn’t feel like enough of a reason for the world’s tallest mountain to be considered a Wonder of the World — let alone a landmark people should want to visit.
Best known for the large number of endemic species which inhabit them, Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands check the boxes when it comes to historical importance and natural beauty. But there’s more to being one of the Wonders of the World than checking a couple of boxes.
It seems rash to hand out Wonder of the World status to a group of islands just because Charles Darwin went there. The Galápagos Islands may be one of CEDAM International’s “Seven Wonders of the Underwater World,” but most tourists would rather spend a week in Hawaii.
One of the New7Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is one landmark that actually has a very legitimate case to make it as a Wonder of the World. It boasts historical and cultural significance, natural beauty, and several other redeeming qualities. But Peru’s Machu Picchu faces one major problem.
Every year, rumors circle that Machu Picchu will close to the public. And while those rumors aren’t true, they aren’t unfounded. Since the site became a Wonder of the World, tourists have flocked to Peru to see it for themselves. Authorities are still working to deal with the crowding, damage, and other problems that come with big crowds.
The Panama Canal was one of the longest and most difficult engineering projects to ever be conducted, but is it really worth Wonder of the World consideration? In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers named the canal one of its “Seven Wonders of the Modern World.”
And as impressive as the canal is … does anyone really want to see it? Maybe it’s fun to go through the canal on a cruise ship in the middle of a vacation, but that doesn’t mean it should be one of the Wonders of the World! Are we just giving awards out to everything these days?
Another one of the New7Wonders of Nature, the Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s most important resources and beautiful places. But due to rampant deforestation, violence, and the sheer concept of 2.7 million square miles being a Wonder of the World, it’s hard to justify the Amazon as a top tourism destination.
The Amazon’s inclusion on the New7Wonders list feels like a gesture toward the importance of preserving the rainforest — which isn’t wrong, but it doesn’t seem to be a testament to the destination being a place everybody needs to see at one point in their lives.
Yes, you read that right. The internet is apparently a Wonder of the World. The selection came as part of USA Today’s 2006 list of the “New Seven Wonders,” in collaboration with the television show Good Morning America.
People can’t (literally) visit the internet, so why make it a Wonder of the World? Sure, it’s impressive that the internet exists. But the decision to name it a Wonder of the World just seems silly. Why not give it to an actual tourist destination?
The ancient Mayan pyramid Chichén Itzá was named one of the New7Wonders of the World in 2007. And at first glance, it seems to check all the boxes. But is Mexico’s Chichén Itzá a Wonder of the World that everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime? Most people would probably say no.
As with many tourist sites, Chichén Itzá can tend to have massive crowds and inconsiderate tourists who break the site’s rules. Now, people are no longer permitted to climb the pyramid. All in all, Chichén Itzá is a great tourism destination, but it falls just short of Wonder of the World status in our book.
Named one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1994, CN Tower was the world’s tallest tower until 2009. The Canadian landmark towers over the downtown Toronto skyline and has come to define the city. But the question remains: Should it be a Wonder of the World?
CN Tower is an impressive feat of architecture, and its status as the world’s tallest tower gave it an advantage years ago. But new, taller towers and buildings have rendered Toronto’s landmark insignificant. As Ricky Bobby would say, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
Old City of Jerusalem
Easily one of the most important historical sites in the western world, the Old City of Jerusalem is sacred to a number of religions. Members of several faiths take it upon themselves to see Jerusalem at least once in their lives. But recently, making that trip has been harder and harder.
Crime, violence, and conflict between groups has made the Old City of Jerusalem not only a place that’s unsafe, but somewhere many travel experts will recommend you avoid seeing (at least for now). Until it becomes safer, it’s hard to imagine Jerusalem could be considered a Wonder of the World.
One of the strangest and most obscure Wonders of the World happens to be the Channel Tunnel, which connects France and the United Kingdom with an underwater highway (or should we call it a low-way?).
No one will dispute that this tunnel has made life a lot easier for many Europeans, but come on — does the tunnel really deserve Wonder of the World status? There are plenty of people around the world who don’t even know it exists!
Empire State Building
A staple of the New York skyline, and even American culture to some extents, the Empire State Building is surprisingly a Wonder of the World. The American Society of Civil Engineers added the building to its list of “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” in 1994. However, a lot has changed since then.
Decades later, the Empire State Building is neither the tallest nor the most famous building in its own city — those titles belong to One World Trade Center. That’s not to say the Empire State Building isn’t a good tourist attraction; it just should not be considered a Wonder of the World.
Great Barrier Reef
The world’s oceans are some of the most beautiful places on Earth. In particular, the Pacific features the world’s largest coral reef system: the Great Barrier Reef. It is not only one of CNN’s “Seven Natural Wonders of the World,” but also one of CEDAM International’s “Seven Wonders of the Underwater World.”
Still, what exactly constitutes a Wonder of the World? The Great Barrier Reef is massive, so tourists have to figure out which part is the best to see. It may be a beautiful place to visit, but it still isn’t exactly a can’t-miss tourist destination.
One of more than 17,000 islands that comprise the Republic of Indonesia, Komodo might not seem like anything special at first glance. But there’s a reason it was named one of the New7Wonders of Nature. The island is home to the largest lizard on the planet: the Komodo dragon.
But these days, people can go to a zoo to see a Komodo dragon. It seems a bit unreasonable to travel all the way across the world just to see a lizard in its natural habitat. Should Komodo, or any of these Wonders of the World, maintain that status? We say no. Read on for our top 10 alternatives!
1. Great Pyramids of Giza
Finally, a Wonder of the World that people got right. The Great Pyramids of Giza are not only one of the most important historic landmarks on the planet, but they’re also a beautiful sight to see. To many, making the distant trek to Egypt is worth the view.
The pyramids are the only surviving ancient Wonder of the World. That’s a major testament to how impressive they are as an architectural feat, considering how long ago they were built. The world of tourism would not be the same without the pyramids. That’s why they’re a Wonder of the World.
2. Great Wall of China
One of the New7Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China is a magnificent wall that stretches for more than 13,000 miles across China. The ancient fortification system was mostly built during the Ming dynasty, and it has since become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world.
The wall plays a major role in Chinese history, it’s a beautiful sight to see in every season, and it is big enough that overcrowding is virtually never an issue. China’s Great Wall is without a doubt deserving of Wonder of the World status.
3. Taj Mahal
Another monument that deserves Wonder of the World status is India’s Taj Mahal. The beautiful mausoleum is a tribute to the late Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahān. Built in the mid-1600s, the Taj Mahal is still standing today.
Every travel enthusiast wants to make a trip to the Taj Mahal at some point in their lifetime. It’s one of the world’s most beautiful sites, and tourism would not be the same without it. The Taj Mahal is a deserving Wonder of the World, so it’s no surprise it was voted one of the New7Wonders of the World.
This is another one that the New7Wonders of the World got right. Jordan’s Petra is one of the most fascinating historical sites in the world. The ancient city became famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system, and it’s become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East over the years.
Petra checks all the boxes you’d want to check in a great vacation destination. It’s not universally popular enough to have massive overcrowding, it has major historical and cultural significance, and it is definitely a sight for sore eyes. Petra is an easy choice for any Wonder of the World list.
5. Great Sphinx of Giza
It feels cruel that the Pyramids are universally heralded as Wonders of the World while the Great Sphinx of Giza gets treated as a sideshow. Were this statue not built immediately next to the Pyramids, there’s a good chance it would be a Wonder of the World in its own right.
The ancient statue still stands today, and it’s the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt. That’s a pretty impressive feat considering the country’s history, and it’s even more of a reason to honor the Sphinx with the Wonder of the World status it deserves.
6. Christ the Redeemer
In the summer of 2016, sports fans around the world were treated to picturesque views of the Christ the Redeemer statue and Harbor of Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic Games. The statue earned Wonder of the World status when it was named one of the New7Wonders of the World, and for good reason.
The harbor itself is so beautiful that it was named one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World,” so it makes sense that a gorgeous statue that boasts incredible views of the harbor deserves Wonder of the World status. The landmark gets crowded, but the view makes it well worth it.
7. Burj Khalifa
Lists that feature Wonders of the World almost always shoot for the biggest and tallest landmarks around the world. The Empire State Building, CN Tower, and many other “largest structures” have been named Wonders of the World, so why not give Burj Khalifa the recognition it deserves?
The massive skyscraper highlights the beautiful Dubai skyline, giving it all the more reason to be a Wonder of the World. Not only is it the world’s tallest building, but it’s a beautiful one — and it’s in one of the world’s fastest-growing cities. This pick feels like a no-brainer.
8. Table Mountain
The only of the New7Wonders of Nature to make this top 10, Table Mountain should be an easy choice for any Wonder of the World list. The beautiful mountain towers over the city of Cape Town, South Africa, and has contributed to the city’s rapidly growing tourism industry.
Words cannot describe the sheer beauty of Table Mountain and the views it provides. The mountain takes a little over an hour to hike, but there is also a gondola that transports passengers from the bottom of the hill to the peak. Cape Town — and the world of tourism — would not be the same without this incredibly unique wonder.
9. Angkor Wat
It’s a major surprise that Angkor Wat hasn’t received Wonder of the World status. The world’s largest religious monument is located in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and highlights one of the world’s most stunning temple complexes. It’s beautiful, it has historical significance, and it’s in a great location.
The temple has received recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it has still yet to be named a Wonder of the World. But who knows, maybe this story will convince someone higher up on the totem pole to give Angkor Wat a longer look.
10. Eiffel Tower
It may not be the tallest tower in the world, but it’s definitely the most popular. The Eiffel Tower absolutely deserves Wonder of the World status: It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and it gives spectacular views of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
Visitors do have to deal with long lines, but the options to take an elevator to the top of the tower or walk halfway up for breathtaking views are well worth the crowding. The world would not be the same without the Eiffel Tower, so it naturally should be considered a Wonder of the World.