You don’t need to be a world traveller to have heard something labelled as the ’8th Wonder of the World!’ But the more you travel, the more of these ubiquitous 8th Wonders you seem to run into.
I’ve had the luck of visiting at least four places that share this namesake. They were all wonderful indeed. It got me thinking though, just how many 8th Wonders of the World are there? I mean, there is no official title, so I could call myself the 8th Wonder of the World if I wanted to.
My friend Google quickly presented me with more than 22 such places in only a few minutes. Filtering through the 8th Wonders I’ve seen and the ones presented by Google and others, here is my attempt at listing the most impressive places that have been unofficially deemed 8th Wonders of the World. (But are officially on my list of worthwhile travel experiences.)
8th Wonder #1: The Wonderful Grand Canyon, USA
I had heard from many photographers and travellers over the years that the Grand Canyon was over-hyped. They didn’t enjoy it as much as they had expected. The most common complaint was that it was too crowded and too hot. Sure, if you go in July or August I can imagine that to be the case, even more so if you drive yourself instead of take the free shuttles around the south rim.
I visited in early May, before the long weekend. The weather was in the 90s during the day but dipped near freezing at night. No crowds around and I was the only person on some of the trails I hiked. A few workers commented that it was the best week of the year to visit. Clear skies and great views of the rim and canyon greeted me each day, while the roadways were clear to stop and take pictures of the landscapes and wildlife too.
I won’t say I enjoyed it more than Bryce Canyon for photography and scenery, but I can say this whole area of the US deserves to be an 8th Wonder of the World.
8th Wonder #2: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
This is the world’s largest unbroken volcanic caldera in the entire world. It also happens to be smack in the middle of prime big mammal territory in Africa.
More than 25,000 animals call this crater home, which is like an oasis for many of them. Lions here have it easy – plenty of antelopes, wildebeest and zebras. Life is so good in the crater that many of the animals here don’t even have to migrate with the changing seasons.
Rhinos and hippos and elephants are all found here as well. So are flamingos and hyenas. For any wildlife lover, a trip down into the crater is a wonderful experience, easily worthy of the 8th Wonder of the World title.
8th Wonder #3: The Ancient Wonders of Angkor, Cambodia
Not far from the backpacker friendly town of Siem Reap lie the ruins of Angkor. These are the largest Hindu temple ruins in the entire world, built roughly 900 years ago.
To enjoy the large complex as much as possible, you can ride a bicycle through the ruins. A moment that is on many bucket lists is to get up early and watch the sun rise above the most famous of Angkor buildings – Angkor Wat.
Spiritually strong, the mix of ancient wonder, slowly being reclaimed by the jungle, is a special travel experience to say the least.
8th Wonder #4 – The Towering Wonder of Milford Sound, New Zealand
I enjoyed kayaking to Milford Sound, keeping an eye out for seals and wildlife along the way. Locals often say that Doubtful Sound is the more impressive place to visit, but when you’re here, it is hard to think anything else could be more impressive. Soaring fjord walls, capped with snow, guide you along this lush landscape.
Waterfalls plummet from the peaks, in this wet – and wonderful – part of the world. If not an 8th Wonder of the World, surely a top wonder of New Zealand.
8th Wonder #5 – The Religious Wonders of Lalibela, Ethiopia
Sacred churches, built out of rock. Not by placing stones together to form walls, but by literally digging out the ground!
You really need to visit Lalibela and see the rock churches yourself to fully appreciate the human effort involved in creating them. These 13 monolithic churches are divided into three groups, and include the largest monolithic church in the world.
Quite possibly the most impressive religious wonder in the world.
8th Wonder #6 – The Lion Rock Wonder of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Sigiriya is often called the Lion Rock. Once, a giant carved lion appeared at the foot of the staircase to the top of this rock, but it has since broken and only the lion ‘paws’ remain.
An interesting history of battles and a strategic vantage point from the rock, make Sigiriya an important landmark in Sri Lanka. But when you add the impressive rock art, a curious ‘mirror wall’ and expansive, carefully excavated gardens to the nearby lands, it becomes even more.
8th Wonder #7 – The Warrior Wonder of the Terracotta Army, China
What makes the Terracotta Army extra special is that they remained undiscovered until less than 40 years ago! Despite being built more than 2000 years ago, this army remained hidden for thousands of years.
You can almost imagine them coming to life as well, perhaps because everything was built life-size – horses, chariots, acrobats, musicians and more than 8000 warriors! Kind of creepy? Yes. Kind of cool? Absolutely.
8th Wonder #8 – The Mysterious Moai Wonders of Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island has always fascinated me. So much mystery still surrounds this island. Once home to a thriving population, civilization quickly crumbled turned the island into a barren, inhospitable wasteland.
The people living here once carved huge Moai statues from quarries, but at some time there was a change in beliefs, the Moai were toppled and the Bird Man Cult came into existence.
It is the kind of story that is perfect for blockbuster movies. Unfortunately we don’t fully know exactly why things changed. We don’t know the entire reason why the Moai were created or why the islanders didn’t see that deforestation of their island would lead to their starvation.
Mysteries surrounded by more mysteries is what makes Easter Island a worthy wonder.
8th Wonder #9 – Somewhere you have been…
What do you think? Do any of these ‘Wonders’ hold their own against the 7 Wonders of the World? What would be your choice for 8th Wonder of the World?