Munnar Tea Plantations

Some of the Best Man-made Sights of the World

Travelling the world brings many personal highlights to mind. Here are some of the best man-made spots that I’ve personally visited, including World Heritage sites, a great European city and stunning views that should not be missed on your backpacking ventures.

Prague Castle Grounds

Walking around this supreme site of Baroque architecture is not only impressive during the day, but at night it is transformed into a world of charismatic European grandeur.

Castle Grounds - Prague

This castle in the Czech Republic is actually the world’s biggest castle complex and contains cathedrals, basilicas, government buildings and supreme architectural flair, all tied together with a ribbon of rustic cobbled streets and vast areas of smoothly-paved squares dotted with sculpture and monument.

One of the most admirable qualities of European cities is an ability to really know how to illuminate important structures after sundown, classically accentuating their form. The great thing about the Prague castle complex is that once the sun has disappeared, so do the vast majority of tourists. Heaven!

Munnar Tea Plantations

These tea-growing behemoths of India seem to stand somewhere between a natural wonder and a man-made marvel, much like the great rice terraces of China that dominate huge expanses of glowing green land in the Orient.

Munnar Tea Plantations - India

Munnar itself is a few hours bus journey from Cochin in the beautiful south Indian state of Kerala, and is often visited by those on sightseeing trips to the Keralan backwaters – another beautiful spot in southern India. But the tea plantations in this region possess something astounding that a purely natural landscape doesn’t – an incredibly beautiful aesthetic human influence (despite the effect on flora and fauna diversity in the area).

Taking a motorbike up to the Top Station encompasses the most fantastic twisty riding route on perfectly smooth tarmac you can imagine. When there, looking down on the ultra-verdant land with its tea leaf emerald shimmer and mingling asphalt snakes is like looking at the fingerprint of mankind’s efforts in one big swooping panorama of biblical topographical proportions. And here’s a challenge: try to make it to the top without stopping to take pictures – it’s impossible.

The Taj Mahal

The Taj is often quoted as being one of the best tourist attractions in the world. I believe it deserves that reputation. The Taj Mahal was built by The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to commemorate his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their fourteenth child in 1631. It took 22 years and 20,000 pairs of hands to build. It is both unfortunate and spectacular just how many people visit the Taj because it’s a kind of spectacle in itself to see the numbers that congregate in one place the way they do. Just try to grab a photo without someone’s head in it – also impossible.

Taj Mahal - India

Dusk is the best time of day to visit this site. The immensity of the Taj Mahal is countered beautifully by its symmetry and grace, standing exactly as wide as it is high, at a neat 55m.

As the sun sets on the partially-translucent marble – sourced from the northern state of Rajasthan – it both absorbs and reflects the ambience of warm pastels and therefore blends miraculously well with its environs in a royally serene way. It truly is an architectural masterpiece. We should thank old Jahan for giving us something to do in Agra, because if you stay a few days you’ll soon realise that there’s not much else going on in this dusty town.

Hong Kong

This Special Administritive Region of China has long been visited for its blend of East and West – a taste of China wrapped thinly in a British layer of prosperity. From ground level Hong Kong titillates the senses. Busy roads, millions of people, the spices and smells of food from around the world, gigantic shopping malls, skyscrapers, it’s all going on. But it’s from above that Hong Kong really shines and is the most breathtaking man-made sight I have ever seen. A sense of mankind’s influence on the world is rarely seen on this kind of scale.

Hong Kong - China

Take the funicular tram up to Victoria Peak – a lookout point where there is, inevitably, another shopping mall, coffee shop and gadget shop. But hold on to your hat as you walk out onto the viewing area as the view is a spectacular one and the wind can pick up from the high vantage point.

The view looks down over Victoria Harbour and both sides of the divide. The International Commerce Centre in West Kowloon, a real beauty of subtle curvature and streamlined bullet-like stature towers above its siblings like the lanky child in class.

Just ensure you do this at night time to get the best sense of this colossal achievement; you’ll have never seen so many lights in one city. Couple that with the surprisingly charming scenery that Hong Kong was built upon, and you’ve a recipe for astonishment.

Huangyao Old Town

Huangyao - China

Huangyao can be found in China’s Guangxi province, and is not likely to be known by many people. With parts of it dating back to 927 B.C., it is essentially a small area of preserved historic buildings and streets set within a slightly more modern casing.

Most easily reached by a four-hour bus journey from Guilin, Huangyao appears at first as an ordinary and slightly scruffy town of little merit. It is not until you reach an entranceway into the old town that you realise a potent old-world charm emanates from within these walls; it’s literally like stepping back through a time portal.

Aged walls, stained and beaten with the passing of dynasties stand fixed to old cobbled paths which wind in and out of a repeating pattern of ancient community dwellings in which inhabitants still remain. Propaganda posters hold on to the scarred walls half-ripped and village folk stare bleakly from the darkened doorways of barren simplicity.

If you travel in search of authenticity and mouth-gaping experiences, then Huangyao is for you.

Whatever you get around to visiting while travelling, you’ll be sure to find your own personal highlights that come to mean the world to you. What are you waiting for? Get out there and create some highlights.