New 7 Wonders of the World

by Kids Discover

Will Wonders Never Cease!

From ancient antiquity to the modern era, people who love architecture, travel, and the “art of the awesome” have been celebrating (and re-celebrating) the Seven Wonders of the World.

7 Ancient Wonders

Being a traveler was rough in Ancient Greece. For starters, there were no cars, trains, or planes. Most travelers got around by walking, riding mules, on ox-drawn carts, or taking ships powered by oars. But the hard conditions didn’t stop them. Just like people today, the Ancient Greeks liked to travel to new places and see and do cool things.

Starting about 2,500 years ago, travel writers in Ancient Greece started making lists of the seven must-see “sights” in the Mediterranean world. The most awe-inspiring of them went down in history as the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.”

The Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens — two of the world’s most celebrated cultural monuments — offer a glimpse into the rich history of Ancient Greece. The Acropolis was also one of 14 nominees to become one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World.” (Anastasios71/ Shutterstock)

The list of Ancient Wonders included amazing artistic and architectural monuments like the Colossus of Rhodes, a 100-foot-high statue of the Greek Titan Helios, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, a 400-foot-high tower that guided ships into Egypt’s largest port. The other five were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and the Great Pyramid of Giza.

But if you want to see any of these Ancient Wonders today, you’re pretty much out of luck. Six of the seven have been destroyed by earthquakes, floods, and fires. The sole survivor is the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Built around 2560 B.C. as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, the Great Pyramid is part of the Giza Necropolis (City of the Dead), a group of several pyramids and tombs. Originally reaching 481 feet in height, the Great Pyramid was constructed by skilled artisans, using 2.3 million blocks of limestone, each weighing 2.5 tons. (Heavy!) The ancient pyramid complex is right on the edge of modern-day Giza, which has a population of 3.2 million. (Takepicsforfun/ Shutterstock)

The Last of the 7 Ancient Wonders: Built around 2560 B.C. as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, the Great Pyramid is part of the Giza Necropolis (City of the Dead), a group of several pyramids and tombs. Originally reaching 481 feet in height, the Great Pyramid was constructed by skilled artisans, using 2.3 million blocks of limestone, each weighing 2.5 tons. (Heavy!) The ancient pyramid complex is right on the edge of modern-day Giza, which has a population of 3.2 million.

New Wonders

Since the Ancient Greeks first created the concept of the Seven Wonders of the World, people who love list-making have been writing their own versions. Usually the lists are created by an individual or a panel of experts, but a few years ago a man named Bernard Weber decided to make a new list of Seven Wonders based on a public poll.

The Sydney Opera House, opened in 1973 , was one of the official “New 7 Wonders of the World” finalists. The Opera House was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2007. (Chester Tugwell/ Shutterstock)

Bernard Weber was born in Switzerland and had traveled to nearly every nation on Earth. He wanted more people to know about the amazing monuments he had seen. So he asked people all around the world to vote for their favorites on a website he created. (There was also text-message and call-in voting.) People in some countries—like Brazil and Peru—were very enthusiastic about voting. They really wanted their monuments to win! In the end, more than 10 million votes were cast, and the “New 7 Wonders” were chosen. The winners were announced on July 7, 2007—that’s 7/7/7.

The Eiffel Tower, another of the 14 finalists, was built in 1889 and served as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. It has since become a cultural symbol for the country of France and is one of the most-visited paid monuments in the world. (Jean-Edouard Rozey/ Shutterstock)

Also a finalist to become one of the New 7 Wonders was The Kremlin in Russia, a historic complex in the center of Moscow and home to the President of the Russian Federation. Part of the Kremlin is the colorful Saint Basil’s Cathedral, originally known as Trinity Church and later Trinity Cathedral. (Popova Valeriya/ Shutterstock)

Not all of the “new” wonders are actually all that new. In fact, some are pretty ancient. But new or old, they are all spectacular, and intrepid travelers can visit every single one. Check out the Lucky Seven below!

Coliseum, Italy

The Coliseum in Rome is a stunning ruin—the remains of a gigantic stadium. Built in the capital of the Roman Empire, it could hold 50,000 spectators. Opened in A.D. 80 and used as a stadium for nearly 500 years, the Coliseum hosted brutal competitions for the “entertainment” of the Roman citizens. Gladiators wearing armor were pitted against one another in fights to the death. Specially trained gladiators, called beast fighters, would sometimes fight wild animals, such as lions, tigers, bears, or elephants. The floor of the arena was actually covered with sand to soak up the blood of the combatants.

Although no one knows who the architect was, the Coliseum was a triumph of engineering. Made of stone blocks, concrete (which the Romans had just invented), bricks, and iron clamps, the oval-shaped Coliseum was 615 feet long, 510 feet wide, and 157 feet tall. There were four floors of seating, and each of the first three floors had 80 arches separated by half-columns. On the first floor, the columns were Doric; on the second, they were Ionic; and on the third, they were Corinthian. While the first floor arches were used as entryways for spectators (each numbered with Roman numerals from I through LXXX), the upper arches housed statues of the Roman gods and emperors made of marble, bronze, and gold. Lit by torchlight at night, the Coliseum must have been an overwhelming sight.

Although the statues are long gone, a large section of the outer wall survives today, preserving almost half of the original arched entryways to the Coliseum. During the Middle Ages, large chunks of stone were removed from the Coliseum to build churches and other buildings in Rome. (R. Nagy/ Shutterstock)

Great Wall, China

Leaders in Ancient China were always worried about being invaded by their enemies to the north. So around 500 B.C., a few Chinese states started building defensive walls. When these Chinese states were unified in 221 B.C., Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered that the existing walls be joined. That was the beginning of the Great Wall of China.

Building the Great Wall wasn’t easy. It took hundreds of thousands of workers, soldiers, and prisoners more than 2,000 years to build and re-build the wall that stands today. Stretching for about 4,000 miles from the Pacific Ocean at Shanhai Pass to Jiayu Pass in central China, the Great Wall is an average of 33 feet high and 15 feet wide. Some sections were constructed of large limestone and granite blocks. Others were made from bricks. Still others were built from wood and dirt. The workers along the wall’s route used the best materials they could find nearby. They even sometimes used a mixture of sticky rice and egg whites to make the mortar that held the stones and bricks together.

The Great Wall winds through a variety of terrains, including steep, mountainous hills. It is lined with watchtowers from which soldiers at one time kept an eye out for invading armies. Today, parts of the Wall are major tourist attractions. (Kool99/ Shutterstock)

A spectacular sunset at the Great Wall of China. (Akva/ Shutterstock)

Chichen Itza, Mexico

At its peak from about A.D. 800 to 1200, Chichen Itza was a military, cultural, and religious center for the Mayan, Toltec, and Itza people—all who influenced its architecture and life. For hundreds of years, the elite of Chichen Itza ruled the Yucatan Peninsula. By around A.D. 1250, however, civil war among the different peoples had taken its toll, and the powerful city of Chichen Itza had fallen into decline.

Today, the city of Chichen Itza is a haunting ruin and archaeological site. Located just 100 miles inland from the beach resorts on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Chichen Itza attracts 1.2 million visitors each year. Among its features are wide abandoned avenues, a stunning stepped pyramid, several temples, an ancient ball court, and stone masks of the long-nosed Mayan rain god Chaac carved into structures around the site.

The most significant building at Chichen Itza is El Castillo de la Serpiente Emplumada, the Castle of the Feathered Snake. Many cultures in ancient Central America worshipped a deity called Quetzalcoatl, or Kukulkan, the feathered snake, who could take both human and animal form. El Castillo is a 75-foot-tall pyramid, with steps leading to the top on four sides. A pair of huge stone serpents greets climbers on one side. And on the equinox in both fall and spring, an undulating combination of light and shadow falls on that side of the pyramid, creating the impression of a huge snake wiggling its way down the stairs. (F9Photos/ Shutterstock)

The serpents at the base of El Castillo de la Serpiente Emplumada. (Holbox/ Shutterstock)

Taj Mahal, India

In 1631, the city of Agra in northern India was the capital of the wealthy Mughal Empire, which ranged across most of modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. That year the Mughal emperor, whose name was Shah Jahan, suffered a terrible tragedy. His wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died unexpectedly. Shah Jahan was full of grief. To honor Mumtaz Mahal, he ordered that an enormous tomb be built—a tomb so elaborate and so richly adorned that it was more like a palace.

The Taj Mahal complex took 22 years to build. Construction materials were brought to the site with the help of over 1,000 hard-working elephants. The complex includes a vast formal garden, a monumental entry gate, a mosque, and the tomb itself made of dazzling white marble. A giant onion-shaped dome sits atop the tomb, rising 144 feet high over the wide arches of its base. (Turtix/ Shutterstock)

The Taj Mahal is celebrated both for its grandeur when viewed from a distance and the exquisite artistry and detail seen from close up. It is this combination of grand and fine details that earns the Taj Mahal the description, “Poetry in Stone.” (Dirk Ott/ Shutterstock)

Inside and out, intricate designs, patterns, and calligraphy were carved and inlaid into the Taj Mahal’s marble walls. Forty different kinds of precious and semi-precious stones originally adorned these inlays, though many of these gems have since been looted. (Alexey Fateev/ Shutterstock)

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu was a remote Inca city located nearly 8,000 feet above sea level in the mountaintops of Peru. It was built around A.D. 1450 when the Inca Empire was expanding its power.

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1532—led by Francisco Pizarro—they destroyed most Inca cities. However, Machu Picchu high up in the Andes Mountains remained untouched. The conquistadors didn’t even know the city was there. When the residents of Machu Picchu mysteriously abandoned the area a few years later—no one knows exactly why—the temples, tombs, and agricultural terraces were left intact.

After its abandonment, Machu Picchu’s structures were soon swallowed and covered over by jungle vegetation. In 1911, Machu Picchu was rediscovered by archaeologist Hiram Bingham, and has since become both an important archaeological site and a tourist destination.

Visitors to Machu Picchu arrive by bus on dramatically winding mountain roads. The ruins include over 140 buildings and numerous stone stairways and terraces. The Incas were master stone workers. Many of the structures are built of precisely cut stones fitted together without any mortar. (Yuqun/ Shutterstock)

Petra, Jordan

From about 100 B.C. to A.D. 300, Petra was a bustling center of trade along the silk and spice roads at the heart of the Middle Eastern world. Camel caravans carried cloth, spices, and incense through this rocky desert refuge on their way to the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, Arabia, and beyond. Influenced by all the peoples and cultures they interacted with, the wealthy inhabitants of Petra—an Arab people known as the Nabateans—created beautiful art, statues, pottery, and architecture. An oasis of fruit trees was irrigated by their clever water supply system

But the fortunes of Petra were not destined to last. Already fading as a commercial center due to the rise of the Roman Empire and the demise of overland trade in favor of sea routes, Petra went into decline following a series of severe earthquakes starting in A.D. 363 that damaged many of its structures, including the all-important water supply system.

Today, Petra is a ghost city. What makes it a Wonder are its beautiful buildings, tombs, and amphitheater, which are all literally carved in stone right into the rocky red hillsides. One of the most amazing structures that survives is “Al Khazneh,” or “The Treasury.” The artisans of Petra carved this grand structure out of a soft sandstone cliff. Its elegant exterior includes twelve columns, sculptures of eagles, reliefs of numerous ancient mythological characters such as Medusa, friezes of flowers and leaves, and other fine details. The interior of the Treasury is a simple square room, but its walls of stone echo with the secrets of Petra’s age-old inhabitants. (Nickolay Vinokurov/ Shutterstock)

A narrow passageway—called “The Siq”—leads through red sandstone to the city of Petra. The Siq is said to be “wide enough for two camels.” (Vitalii Nesterchuk/ Shutterstock)

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil

The newest of the New Wonders, this 124-foot-high statue was built between 1926 and 1931 on rainforest-covered Corcovado Mountain, overlooking Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. To get to the statue, visitors take a 20-minute-long “cog-wheel” train ride through the Tijuca forest to the top of 2,329-foot-high peak. From there, they can walk up 220 steps or take a combination of panoramic elevators and escalators to the statue’s base.

From atop Corcovado Mountain, visitors get a stunning view of Sugarloaf Mountain, the tropical beaches of Rio, curving Guanabara Bay, and the city itself—which has a population of 10 million. (Mangostock/ Shutterstock)

Weighing 1.4 million pounds, Christ the Redeemer is made of reinforced concrete and covered with a layer of soapstone tiles. The Art Deco design is simple and streamlined, and the open arms are meant as a symbol of peace. (Fanny Reno/ Shutterstock)

In 2008, the statue was struck by lightning, causing damage to the tiles on the head and fingers. Repairs were made and new lightning rods were installed to help protect the statue from future strikes.

Written by Margaret Mittelbach.