The world is a vast and amazing place, with countless wonders to see and experience. Many wonders are part of the natural structure of the earth, many are man-made wonders that have stood the test of time and continue to impress us to this day. From breathtaking waterfalls to towering structures to tropical islands stock full of unique wildlife, the world is full of countless wonders that will amaze you.
Many people have their own bucket list - a list of places to see and things to do before you "kick the bucket". Here are ten of the incredible world wonders that should be on your bucket list.
10 Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is a group of stunning waterfalls that lie between the Canada/US border between Ontario and New York. The largest and most impressive part is known as the Horseshoe Falls, due to its shape, and it lies on the Canadian side. The second largest is the American Falls, which lies entirely on the American side. Lastly, the lesser-known part of this group is called the Bridal Veil Falls, which is also on the American side, just separated from the American Falls by Luna Island.
This area draws countless tourists all year long, who come to marvel at the beautiful falls. As such, Canada has built up quite a tourist area along the coastline, with Clifton Hill being full of many tourist attractions and fun places to experience.
9 Stonehenge, England
The myths and legends that encircle Stonehenge have kept tourists coming in droves to see the mystical standing stones. There is much folklore surrounding these stones, and it is suspected that they date back to between 3,000 BC to 2,000 BC, according to archeologists.
While the purpose of Stonehenge is not clearly known, nor how the people back then managed to drag and erect these massive stones, it is suspected that Stonehenge's primary purpose was as a burial ground. There are also certain stones that seem to be in line with the winter and summer solstices, and they therefore come with a wide range of stories and folklore in an attempt to explain their meaning. One thing is for certain though, regardless of the purpose behind Stonehenge, it continues to be an impressive world wonder today.
8 Great Wall of China
Having stood on the Great Wall of China and observed its entirety, it is possible to say that this structure is one of the most impressive man-made structures in the world. The sheer length and size of it is incredible. Constructed as early as the 7th century BC, the Great Wall was built in northern China to protect against invading nomadic tribes from Mongolia.
The Great Wall also helped to monitor trade routes along the Silk Road, and it helped to control the immigration and emigration of its citizens. While the exact measurement of the Wall is somewhat uncertain, due to various factors like natural defensive barriers like mountains and rivers, the approximate length of the Wall is just over 13,000 miles long.
7 Machu Picchu, Peru
Tucked away, high up in the Andes mountains of Peru, lies the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu, evidence of the Inca Empire. In 1532, when the Spanish conquistadors invaded, the Inca fled to this area to escape. When it was discovered in 1956 by explorer Hiram Bingham III, it was believed to be the Lost City of the Inca. This was proven wrong after Bingham's death, when they discovered the real lost city of Vilcabamba, located 50 miles west of Machu Picchu.
This amazing engineering feat can be experienced in person if you're willing to pay the hefty entrance fee, plus the various bus tickets required to make the 2,000-foot-high slope. Visitors are limited now, in an attempt to preserve the site, so plan ahead accordingly.
6 Terracotta Army, China
Another impressive site best seen in person is the incredible Terracotta Army, located in Xi'an, China. In the 1970's, this army was discovered by a group of local farmers, who contacted archeologist Zhao Kangmin to come and take a look. It was Zhao who collected the first few fragments of pottery and began piecing them together, finishing three days later with two terracotta soldiers standing 1.78m tall.
These soldiers, it turns out, were part of an army estimated to be 8,000 strong. This army was constructed by China's first Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, a ruthless emperor who feared many enemies may come to hurt him, even in the afterlife. To protect himself, he had this massive army built within his tomb, complete with chariots, horses, and weapons. To this day, only about 1,000 soldiers have been unearthed, and Qin's tomb remains sealed as well.
5 Grand Canyon, USA
The Grand Canyon is a breathtaking sight to see, with its cliffs and canyons reminding visitors just how small we really are. The towering ravines are daunting to travel around, and the stunning landscape is incredibly unique, carved out by the Colorado River. The Grand Canyon is about 280 miles long and up to 18 miles wide at its largest parts.
Scientists say that over 2 billion years of Earth's geological history can be seen within these layered stones, and they estimate that the Colorado River began cutting through this area approximately 5 or 6 million years ago. The area, now a popular tourist site, has been inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years, several tribes seeing this amazing landscape as a holy land. It is easy to see why!
4 Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Without trying to sound like a complete pessimist, you should plan to visit this incredible world wonder before it's gone completely. As the world's largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef is home to thousands of species of aquatic plants and animals. It covers an area of approximately 133,000 square miles, and is made up of 2,900 individual reefs and over 900 islands.
Recent studies have shown that over half of the coral in the reef is dead now, due to various factors, such as climate change, run-off, pollution, tourism, and coral bleaching as a result of warming ocean temperatures. While there are considerable conservation efforts at work now to preserve what is left of the reef, scientists worry that it may perhaps be too late. Hopefully they are wrong, and the beautiful reef will continue to be a home for marine life for years to come.
3 Victoria Falls, Africa
Another spectacular waterfall is Victoria Falls, located on the Zambezi River at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. While it is not classified as the tallest nor the widest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is a wonder due to its impressive combined width of 1,708 metres. In comparison, Victoria Falls is over twice the height of Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of the Horseshoe Falls, the largest falls that make up Niagara Falls.
Described by the Kololo tribe that resided in the area around the 1800s "as 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' - 'The Smoke That Thunders' (source), the sheer size and force of these falls bring countless tourists to see it every year. It is known as the largest curtain of falling water in the world, and it is easy to see why.
2 Aurora Borealis
Aurora Borealis, also known as polar lights or northern lights are breathtaking light shows that take place near the Earth's two poles. In the north, we refer to them as Aurora Borealis, and in the south, they are referred to as Aurora Australis. While they are many different colors, the most prominent color seen is light green and light pink. The colors dance across the sky almost magically, and they are an incredible sight to be seen.
The Auroras occur because of gas particles in the Earth's atmosphere colliding with charged particles that are released from the Sun's atmosphere. These particles are able to enter the Earth's atmosphere through holes in the magnetic fields. At both poles, the magnetic fields are weaker, and therefore allow more of the Sun's charged particles to enter the atmosphere and create the beautiful light show we all come to enjoy.
1 Galápagos Islands
The stunning landscape and unique wildlife of the Galápagos Islands make visitors feel as though they have entered a completely different world. A province of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands lie about 1,000km off the coast of Ecuador, on either side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean.
A volcanic archipelago, the islands are home to a vast array of marine life that many scientists feel are a perfect example of evolution. The volcanic activity in the area and the sheer isolation of the islands have caused many different types of species to thrive there, including the land iguana, red-lipped batfish, and giant tortoise, all of which were the inspiration to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution after his visit to the islands in 1835.