10 must-see landmarks around the world

10 must-see landmarks around the world
PHOTO: Shutterstock

For holidaymakers who have a limited amount of time to explore one destination, a city's popular landmark or a country's renowned world wonder offers a convenient option to experience the most during a short vacation.

TripAdvisor's latest list caters to these travelers.

Dubbed the World Wonder 2015, the list consists of top landmarks around the world worth exploring according to the 2015 Traveler's Choice Awards initiated by TripAdvisor.

The UNESCO World Heritage site Angkor Wat claimed the number one spot, followed by the enigmatic lost city of Machu Picchu and the romantically iconic Taj Mahal. Can you guess which other landmarks made it to the top ten list?

1. Angkor Wat

Located about six kilometers north of Siem Reap in Cambodia, Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th century with up to 30 years of estimated construction time.

A Hindu temple eventually converted to a Buddhist temple and surrounded by a massive 650-foot wide moat, Angkor Wat is considered an architectural masterpiece due to its perfection in composition, balance, proportion, relief and sculpture.

One very impressed visitor from the UK said: "A must see experience in Southeast Asia. Definitely hire a guide and/or tuk tuk because it's a huge complex and you need to pace yourself. Go after 5 p.m. to purchase your ticket, which is then valid that evening as well as the next day to avoid the crowds. If you're up for it, do the early sunrise around 4:45 a.m. departure from your hotel. Stunning."

2. Machu Picchu

Standing 2,430 meters above sea-level, Machu Picchu is embedded within a dramatic landscape at the meeting point between the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin.

Built in the fifteenth century it was abandoned when the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spaniards.

It was not until 1911 that the archaeological complex was made known to the outside world. Highlights include the ruined Temple of the Sun and the Sacred Plaza with its tremendous view across the Urubamba River Valley.

A traveler from Canada said: "Arriving at the sun gate overlooking Machu Picchu late in the afternoon after hiking all day is other worldly. Most of the tourists have left to catch the train back to Cusco. It is stunning to consider the engineering feats needed to build this place at this altitude. Try to come early in the morning or late in the day to see the place with as few people as possible. Well worth the effort. Definitely one of the great wonders of the world."

3. Taj Mahal

Built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is an integrated complex of structures with the white domed marble mausoleum being its most significant component.

For its construction, masons, stone-cutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran.

"What can you say about the Taj that hasn't already been said. Had always wanted to visit from a very young age. Have been twice now and it lived up to my expectations. It can get very crowded. Good to go at sunset if you want some stunning photos," said a reviewer from the UK.

4. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center

Rising majestically from Abu Dhabi, the place serves as the central place of worship for citizens of the emirate. It accommodates more than 40,000 worshipers, 10,000 in the internal areas and 30,000 in the external areas.

Home to the world's largest marble mosaic, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center was founded by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, featuring four minarets and eighty-two domes, representing different Islamic styles.

A visitor coming from the UK said: "I have visited this wonderful Mosque several times. It is totally awesome. Tours are given by local university graduates and are fascinating. Apart from the visual splendor, customs are explained which helps non Muslims or even non religious visitors understand what happens and why things happen. You will need to dress soberly, no shorts or vests for men and the same for ladies, although they are loaned an obiya to cover themselves (fun in itself and a great photo opportunity)."

5. La Sagrada Familia

The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is a work on a grand scale that was begun in 1882 from a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar (1828-1901).

At the end of 1883, Gaudí was commissioned to carry on with the project, a task which he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea.

The church has been a fixture in the city of Barcelona and has always been an expiatory church, which means that since the outset, it has been built from donations. Though still a work in progress, it is already amazingly intricate.

"Probably the number one tourist attraction of Barcelona (there are many more things to see). The design and the light is unique. Don't forget the crypte and order your tickets in advance. If you keep in mind that your entrance fee is used to support the construction, you will not find it too expensive," advised one traveler from the Netherlands.

6. St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica is like no other church you'll see. Its interior is filled with many masterpieces of Renaissance and Baroque art, including Michelangelo's Pietà, the baldachin by Bernini over the main altar, the statue of St. Longinus in the crossing, the tomb of Urban VIII and the bronze cathedral of St. Peter in the apse.

Atop the basilica sits its famous dome, recognizable from across the city. Those who climb a staircase to the top are rewarded with a wonderful view over the piazza, Bernini's enclosing colonnade below and of Rome itself.

A reviewer from the US said: "You could spend a day or days looking at all the art work, studying the history. Having a guide or audio guide would be worth it to understand it all. If you don't have a guide it's still impressive and you can walk away fulfilled. Give yourself time."

7. Milan Cathedral (Duomo)

The Milan Cathedral, which took 582 years to build, is a much-loved symbol of the city and the most exuberant example of Northern Gothic architecture in Italy. The exterior is an upward thrusting collection of pinnacles, elongated statues and buttresses, while the central spire is topped by a gilt statue of the Madonna.

The view from the roof is the main highlight-on a clear day, the Italian Alps are visible.

"We were not prepared for the beauty and size of the Duomo. It was truly amazing and awe inspiring. Be sure to climb the steps (or take the elevator) to the roof. The views are wonderful and seeing the architectural details from that vantage point is great," said one traveler from the US.

8. Alcatraz

From 1934 until 1963, Alcatraz was America's premier maximum-security prison, the final stop for the nation's most incorrigible prisoners. The roster of former inmates includes crime boss Al Capone and kidnapper George Kelly.

Today, Alcatraz is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Among its tourism highlights are a Civil War fortress, the infamous federal prison, a bird sanctuary, the first lighthouse on the West Coast and the birthplace of the American Indian Red Power movement.

One visitor from Italy confessed: "Alcatraz is a great experience you can't miss in San Francisco. The tour usually lasts a couple of hours, but you can stay on the island for as long as you like and catch whatever next boat back to San Francisco. The audio tour is pretty cool, it guides you through the penitentiary and tells the most interesting stories about Alcatraz."

9. Cristo Redentor

Keeping a watchful eye over the people of Rio de Janeiro, the Cristo Redentor statue sits atop Corcovado Mountain, 2,300 feet (700 meters) above the city. The Christ figure on top rises another 100 feet, its arms extending nearly 92 feet from fingertip to fingertip, with a weight of some 700 tons.

In the evening, powerful spotlights illuminate the statue of Christ, making it glow and appear almost to levitate above the darkened peak.

A reviewer from Georgia said: "We made the mistake of not booking our train tickets the day before and as a result, we took the bus to the top. While we initially thought this was a missed opportunity, the bus actually stopped halfway up the mountain, giving us a long distance view of the statue as well as some up close interaction with several small monkeys. After about a half hour at the first platform, we boarded a second bus for the ride to the top. The views did not disappoint, and I agree wholeheartedly with the other reviewers who have said this is a 'must do' in Rio."

10. Golden Gate Bridge

Once called "the bridge that couldn't be built", the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was opened in 1937, crossing the strait of the Golden Gate from San Francisco to the Marin headlands for 1.7 miles.

So, where do you go for the best views? Some believe Alfred Hitchcock had it right when he said that seen from below at Fort Point, the bridge induces a thrilling case of vertigo. Others prefer the lookout at Vista Point in Marin, on the north side of the bridge.

"We hired push bikes and rode across the bridge. Wow! We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather and the view was amazing. Many interesting informative stops just prior to getting to the bridge if you cycle or walk too. Loved it!" said an enthusiastic tourist from Australia.

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