A Dozen Wonders

What’s the most amazing place you’ve ever seen?

I’ve been thinking about that since visiting Angkor Wat during our recent trip to Southeast Asia. The ancient Cambodian temple complex was extraordinary — worth the journey all by itself.

But was it more extraordinary than, say, the Pyramids? And are timeless wonders like these more compelling than newer landmarks like Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or Christ the Redeemer in Rio, or natural wonders like Mount Everest and the Grand Canyon? 

I’ve visited all of these places and have always resisted ranking them, even though it feels these days like everything is supposed to be ranked, from restaurants to sports stars. In this case, it’s like comparing a rose’s scent to a crisp apple.

The best I can do, fully acknowledging how fortunate I’ve been to travel so widely, is compile a list. Here in alphabetical order is my personal Ancient Dozen places built outside the United States, no more than one per country:

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Its architecture, art and scale are all stunning.

Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico

The temple has aged less noticeably than us since we traveled there.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

I visited years ago, as you can see from the cars and the low-res photo.

Garni and Gaghard, Armenia

Fantastic medieval architecture near Armenia’s capital, Yerevan

Great Wall of China

It’s a tie with Beijing’s Forbidden City, which was also unforgettable.

Luxor, Egypt

Back in 1976, it impressed me even more than the Pyramids.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Jaw-dropping, even though you’ve already seen photos of it

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

The setting. The architecture. The history. They all spoke to us.

Stonehenge, England

The inspiration for many theories — and for Kentucky Stonehenge.

Swayambhou Monastery, Kathmandu, Nepal

As a bonus, the fabulous Durbar Square temples are just across town.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

It’s exquisite, as my parents saw on a trip with us to India and Nepal

Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel

It’s just one of this city’s historical wonders for three great religions. I don’t have my own photo but you’ve certainly seen it — and maybe visited, too.

Champa and I hope to also visit Petra in Jordan and maybe Lalibela in Ethiopia. Where else should we and others go? Please share your feedback and recommendations with a comment!

7 thoughts on “A Dozen Wonders”

    1. Thanks KJ. My friend, Mitch, and I traveled to Arusha, which may be as far as I’ll get in Tanzania. I’ve always admired those who climbed up Kilimanjaro, which has a much lower “success rate” than the trek to Nepal’s Everest base camp, which I’ve done.


  1. Malta! Go to Malta and see the ancient enigmatic ruins of a practically unknown prehistoric civilization, including a multilevel below ground cemetery!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peggy, you surprised me. I would’ve guessed you’d recommend the old city of Sanaa or someplace else in Yemen. But, Malta … hmmm. We’ll now consider that, too.


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