The list of the original 7 wonders of the world dates back over 2000 years. They were the most notable man-made structures known to the Ancient Greeks, and were listed in early poems and guidebooks. Today, only one of the original 7 wonders still exists, but the concept lives on.
The Colossus of Rhodes by 16th-century Dutch artist Maarten van Heemskerck.
Origins of the 7 Wonders
“What, there were guidebooks and tourists in antiquity?” I hear you ask.
There were indeed tourists travelling through the Ancient Hellenic World over 2000 years ago. Although they didn't carry copies of the Lonely Planet, they might have read Antipater of Sidon. He had a way with words, that fellow, and one of my favourite passages is –
“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.”— Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58
That's definitely a lot more inspiring than ‘the cheapest place to find a hostel', right? So, what were the original 7 wonders of the world then?
A Brief History Lesson
After Alexander the Great had gone storming through Europe and the Middle East beating up everyone in his path, a new empire emerged.
We know it today as either the Macedonian Empire, or the Empire of Alexander the Great. Not that he lived long enough to enjoy it, as he died at 32 years of age.
By Yair Haklai (Own work), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7860791
After his death, Hellenic culture and political control over the conquered areas was maintained for a number of years before the Romans rocked up and it all went horribly wrong.
During this time though, lots of curious and adventurous people decided to take a look around the new Hellenic world. As people do, they came up with lists of what they thought were the best bits.
Here is what they considered to be the 7 wonders.
A collage of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World as depicted by 16th-century Dutch artist Maarten van Heemskerck.
The original 7 wonders of the world
- Great Pyramid of Giza – This still exists, although it looks a bit tatty compared to when it was first built by the Ancient Egyptians. Or aliens. Whatever.
- Hanging Gardens of Babylon – Thought to have been in modern day Iraq, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were perhaps one of the first experiments in urban gardening.
- Statue of Zeus at Olympia – A giant, seated statue of Zeus constructed from timber, ivory, and gold. The Statue of Zeus was thought to have been destroyed between the 2nd and 4th century AD. The Ancient Site of Olympia is still there of course, and is a wonderful place to visit.
- Temple of Artemis at Ephesus – Located in modern day Turkey, it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. After the Goths hit it in AD268, the locals obviously thought it was a waste of time rebuilding, and left it destroyed. Some materials are thought to have been used in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
- Mausoleum at Halicarnassus – Built in 350BC, the Mausoleum was also located in modern day Turkey. This one did quite well surviving through the ages, but was eventually destroyed by earthquakes. In the 1400s only the foundations remained.
- Colossus of Rhodes – Standing the same height as the Statue of Liberty, The Colossus of Rhodes was a bronze statue completed in 280 BC. Unfortunately, if you build tall things in an area that gets hit by earthquakes, they don't last very long. It came tumbling down in 226 BC, and was later melted for scrap metal.
- Lighthouse of Alexandria – Located in modern day Egypt, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the tallest structures in the Ancient Hellenic World. Guess what happened to it though? Yes, that's right, an earthquake. Today, you can go diving to see the remains of the lighthouse.
More Lists Than Wonders?
As you might have noticed, 6 out of the 7 ancient wonders of the world are no longer there.
Since that time, countless other 7 wonders lists have been made, including modern wonders, and natural wonders.
Having been fortunate enough to have visited a few different places around the world over the years, I thought I would come up with my own list.
Here then, are my personal 7 wonders of the world, based on places I have visited myself.
My Personal 7 Wonders Of The World
Machu Picchu – There is something undeniably special about Machu Picchu. The combination of mountains, clouds, and harmonious stone construction was very peaceful. I visited this archaeological site as part of a backpacking trip around South America.
The Pyramids – I had wanted to visit the pyramids ever since I can remember. When I did, the most impressive pyramid for me was not one of the ‘Great Pyramids', but Zoser's (Djoser's) Pyramid. I visited the pyramids in Egypt when cycling from England to Cape Town.
Angkor Wat Temples – This is a huge temple and archaeological complex in Cambodia. Originally the heart of the Khmer empire, the true extent to its size is still not known. I visited Angkor Wat as part of a backpacking trip around Asia.
Easter Island – Famous for its mysterious stone statues, Easter Island is a hard place to reach! I managed to visit there when I was travelling through South America by flying out from Chile. Who is that other statue standing in front of them?
Stonehenge – Whilst we are on the subject of huge stone things, what is Stonehenge all about? Answers on a postcard please (or the comments box). Sorry, no photos of this one.
Teotihuacan – Mexico has an almost embarrassing wealth of fantastic archaeological sites. For me though, one that always sticks in my mind is Teotihuacan.
Meteora – The final one on my list of 7 wonders is Meteora in Greece. As I now live in Greece, I would get in trouble for not mentioning at least one wonder from there!
In some ways it is similar to Machu Picchu in that there is a harmonious balance between man-made constructions and beautiful natural surroundings. If you plan to visit, you might be interested in the best places to stay near Meteora in Greece.
Your 7 Wonders Of The World
This is your turn! Please leave a list of your own personal 7 wonders of the world as seen with your own eyes in the comments box below. I would love to hear where you have been, so that I can start planning my next trip!
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Great list. I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids and the Sphinx. On my list I would have to include the Obelisk of Axum in Ethiopia, and the Lalibela Church of St. George, Machu Picchu, Great mosque of Djenne in Mali, Ellora temple in India, the Great Wall of China and the Borobudur temple in Indonesia. There are many more on my list, but this is just seven of the ones that I love.
John Morris says
Beautiful shot of Meteora – I’ve not yet visited Greece, and look forward to an opportunity to explore the country. There is so much history and beauty to explore there!
Erika Bisbocci says
It is so hard to pick a top seven. I’ve been to five of the seven modern wonders (missing Christ and the Taj Mahal) and would definitely have to say that they are all very deserving. But then again, so are a lot of other places! I’d love to your top seven, particularly Easter Island.
Reading the beginning of your article I remembered school and high-school classes and the wonders we discovered then. Then I remembered a campaign from a few years ago from my country, Romania, where a famous newspaper asked Romanians to pick 7 wonders of our country. it was fun 🙂
Looking at your list I see many monuments that I’d also include. Actually, I’d say that it is hard to just pick 7!
Great post. Love a little history lesson. I was just in Mostar, Bosnia, and visited the now deserted park built in the 1960s with elaborate gardens with cascading water, thought to be inspired by the Hanging Gardens. I might have to swap out Stonehenge for the Great Wall of China too though. Just don’t love Stonehenge.
Did you ever watch The Today Show? Matt Lauer used to do this series once a year where he’d travel to some remote place on the planet. I’ve been dying to visit Easter Island ever since I saw that and that was probably 15 years or so ago. Jealous that you’ve been there!
I’ve been to Meteora and it is STUNNING!!! One of my favorite places in Greece. Good roundup some of them I didn’t know the history/background of.
I visited 4 out of your 7 personal wonders – they were great places although I’m a little bit surprised by Teotihuacan – I liked other archeological sites in Mexico better 😉
Dave Briggs says
I think the scale of Teotihuacan made me consider it as more of a wonder than the other sites in Mexico…. Not that they are not amazing of course!
Oh so many wonders ! And I wonder when & how will visit all of them! One lifetime isn’t enough to see the whole world.
I remember having a book as a kid with the wonders of the ancient world. It was one of my favourite reads and I couldn’t believe why some didn’t still exist. My favourite, for now, is the Pyramids of Giza.
TRY the elephanta island off Mumbai. Its something to visit!
Dave Briggs says
I have visited there, and it was amazing!
This is a lovely article! Here are my 7 wonders of the world:
1. Machu Picchu
3. Cappadocia caves
4. Sagrada familia
5. Milan cathedral
7. The Acropolis
Bonus – The Shard 🙂