Seven Wonders Of The World

Are The Seven Wonders Of The World Truly That Wonderful?

Part II: Heading east from Europe to Asia

With the vote cast in 2007 on the New Seven Wonders of the World, the question is whether the winners of this controversial contest deserve your backpacking buck. (See Part I for the winners in Latin America.)

Colosseum – Rome, Italy

Colosseum

As you exit the metro, the Colosseum seems to slap you in face, but its obtrusiveness is not unwelcome. This elliptical amphitheater was the largest of its kind built by the Romans (dating back to 72AD) with a capacity of 50,000 and takes pride of place in the center of the city. Inspired by Russell Crowe or not, you can’t help but stand in awe at the idea of the gladiatorial battles that went on here.

With all of this on offer, why wouldn’t you want to go? Answer – the crowds. The Colosseum sees millions of visitors annually, so getting in can be a drag with separate ticket and entry queues stretching on for hours. However, there is a sneaky trick that could help you beat the rush. Not many people seem to realise (and shhhh, don’t tell them) that you can buy your ticket at the Roman Forum, the lesser sight near the Colosseum with a fraction of the queues. If you go there later in the day (and we’re talking after a long, late lunch), you should be able to slip in without much of a wait. Heroic victory claimed! Stay until dusk to see the site lit up.

Great Wall of China – People’s Republic of China

Great Wall Of China

This shockingly long wall is undeniably an impressively feat and sight. At almost 9,000 kilometers long there is never any real end to your walk on the wall, just a series of markers; but that doesn’t detract from planting your feet on this piece of ancient history which dates back as far as the 5thCentury BC.

There are many sections to visit, so check which area you will visit if you book a tour because some sections are more popular and tourist littered than others. Great Wall Of ChinaMy recommendation is to try Mutianyu not just for the early morning chance to get a photo without anyone else in it (true), but for the exhilarating toboggan-style slide to get you to the bottom. I shouldn’t say it, but ignore the wardens, those babies are best when they’re fast!

Don’t be disappointed if the sky is foggy the day you visit. Almost every day is like that in China and you could be waiting another 5,000 years to be guaranteed a clear sky. But whatever you do, don’t coincide your visit with Golden Week when the entire nation is on holiday and treks to this popular site. Your visit will feel like the tail end of a concert without the entertainment.

Petra – Ma’an Governorate, Jordan

Petra

Seeing Petra was a little difficult at first because my eye were watering from the 50JD entry fee (just under £50). That is more than double the 21JD a year ago! Ok, so you get a ‘free’ five minute horse ride (tips on top, of course), but seriously…51JD?

Admittedly, the site is colossal and extends way beyond the famous image of the rose coloured façade of the Treasury that draws most people to Petra. And you should definitely trek or make a donkey suffer taking you up the steep, rocky path to see the Monastery, another example of the rare rose colouring that seems to take on life when it meets the sun.

With the sprawl of this site you can get significant reductions for multiple days of entry, but without the archaeology gene within, you’re unlikely to want to spend more than a day at Petra. So, for the average traveller, this New Seven Wonder is by far and away the least value in terms of giving you bang for your buck.

Whether you do visit or not will be a matter of personal preference and affordability. For me, I had more fun sipping an expensive but much more rewarding beer in the 1st Century Cave Bar at the entrance, reputed to be the oldest bar in the world.

Taj Mahal – Agra, India

Taj Mahal

The key to getting the best out of your visit to the Taj Mahal is to plan the timing of your trip. And that timing is not monsoon, when I visited. I quickly realised it is only possible to see the Taj at sunrise and sunset if there is real sun, not just a dim glow hidden behind an impenetrable wall of clouds. And the gleam of this white marble mausoleum needs…yep, sun.

But English-style sky aside, the building is magnificent, breathtaking, all those great descriptions and could well make ‘the sun and moon shed tears from their eyes’…if basked in sunlight. And then there is the enthralling tale of the Taj which was built in the 1600s by Shah Jahan in memory of his wife’s death. Jahan was overthrown by his son and spent his last days imprisoned in Agra Fort looking out at the Taj. He was later buried with his wife inside the tomb but it is not really the happiest ending.

For an alternative view of the Taj cross the river where the tourists are ant-like and you can take in the scene without the buzz of the other visitors.

Deciding whether the New Seven Wonders are truly wonderful is a matter of personal preference [and if you have been to any of them we’d love to hear your views].

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