Over two thousand years ago, writers began compiling a list of the Seven Wonders of the World. These included the iconic Colossus of Rhodes and the splendid Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.

However, since only one of these sites is still standing (the Great Pyramid of Giza), in 2001, a Swiss foundation launched a new project to revitalise the list. People worldwide were asked to choose between 200 existing monuments – including the Acropolis of Athens and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Finally, in 2007, the results were announced after millions of votes. Below, we take a look at each of these magnificent places.

1. The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

Stretching 2,500 miles across China’s northern border, the Great Wall is one of the most ambitious and spectacular building projects ever.

Before 221 BCE, China consisted of several independent states. However, after a ruthless campaign, Zhao Zheng, leader of the most powerful state of Qin, conquered the others and created a unified China.

Once he ascended to become Qin Shi Huang (China’s ‘First Sovereign Emperor’), one of Zheng’s early orders was to send one of his generals north. The general’s mission was to join the existing walls, forts, and castles along China’s border to protect them from invaders, officially beginning the construction of a single Great Wall.

The project continued throughout the millennia until the 17th century, with some of the most impressive work happening during the rule of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 CE).

Though many will say that the Great Wall is the only man-made structure visible from space, this is a myth. You can’t see the wall from a low orbit without some sort of magnification. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most awe-inspiring feats of human engineering, attracting millions of visitors each year.

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  • 2. The Colosseum

    The Colosseum

    The Romans are celebrated for their grand, elaborate, and ancient architectural feats, but none more so than The Colosseum.

    Construction began between 70 and 72 CE. It was ordered by Emperor Vespasian, who came to power after the civil wars, following the death of the tyrant Nero. By building a public amphitheatre on the grounds of Nero’s grand palace (giving the space back to the people), Vespasian signalled an end to the extravagance of the old regime, and placed a renewed focus on the Roman people.

    But Vespasian would never see the magnificent structure’s completion because it wasn’t finished until after he died in 80 CE. To celebrate its opening, Vespasian’s son and then-emperor, Titus, put on 100 days of gladiatorial games. In addition to these bloody contests, the Colosseum hosted various spectacles over the years, such as plays and re-enactments of famous battles.

    When constructed, the Colosseum was truly an architectural masterpiece. Unlike most amphitheatres of the time, which were built into the side of hills, the Colosseum was completely freestanding. A huge retractable awning even shaded spectators’ eyes from the sun, which used a complex pulley system and required hundreds of sailors to operate.

    As their interest in gladiatorial games dwindled and the Roman Empire declined, the Colosseum fell into disrepair. Gradually, it began to crumble due to neglect, earthquakes, and lightning strikes. Despite this, it’s remained standing for nearly 2,000 years – a testament to its ingenious design. Today, millions of people head to Rome each year to see it for themselves.

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    3. Chichén Itzá

    Chichén Itzá

    Before Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Americas, the Mayans flourished as one of the region’s greatest civilisations. Though their origins remain largely unknown, experts say they emerged sometime before 2,000 BCE and reached the height of power around the sixth century CE.

    In addition to religious rituals like bloodletting and human sacrifice, the Mayans were known for their artistic prowess, impressive agricultural practices, and grand cities – the most famous being Chichén Itzá.

    Located 120 miles south of Cancun, on Southern Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Chichén Itzá was once home to around 35,000 people. It was first settled around the sixth century CE due to the sacred natural wells nearby (known as cenotes or chenes), which provided residents with water.

    While Chichén Itzá began declining long before the days of European colonialists, there was still a community living there when the Spanish arrived in 1526 – though they later abandoned it.

    Today, the ruins of Chichén Itzá are one of the best-preserved archaeological sites around the globe. The centrepiece of the city is El Castillo – a towering pyramid. Also called the Temple of Kukulkan, after the Mayan feathered serpent deity, it stands at 24 metres tall with four staircases converging at the temple on top. There are 365 steps, one for each day of the year.

    During the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow appears along the northern stairs of El Castillo. It looks like the giant, slithering body of a snake and ends with a head carved from stone. There’s also a court – used to play an ancient ball game called ollama – and a variety of other impressive buildings, including an observatory.

    While it’s still an active archaeological site, Chichén Itzá draws many visitors each year, with tours running from popular beach resorts like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

    4. The Taj Mahal

    The Taj Mahal

    Just one look at the Taj Mahal is enough to cast aside doubts about its place on this list. This shimmering, palatial structure – with its dizzying towers and intricate marble embellishments – is the jewel of India. But the Taj Mahal is more than just a jaw-dropping building; it’s a monument to love with a fascinating history.

    When his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during childbirth in 1612, the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, ordered the construction of the giant mausoleum complex to memorialise his beloved. The main building took 16 years to build, with extras, like the gateway, mosque, and courtyard, being added in the years that followed.

    The project is said to have involved 20,000 masons, carvers, and artists from all over the Mughal Empire. It’s also rumoured that Shah Jahan planned to build an equally grand mausoleum for himself across the Yamuna River. This would be made of black marble and connected to the Taj Mahal by a bridge – forever immortalising the couple’s bond.

    Whether these plans were real or not, Shah Jahan didn’t get to see them through because he was deposed by his son in 1658 and imprisoned in the nearby Red Fort. However, the ex-emperor was allowed a view of the Taj Mahal from his cell window until the day he died. It’s a must-visit for anyone travelling to India.

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    5. Christ the Redeemer

    Christ the Redeemer

    Perched atop Mount Corcovado, the immense statue of Christ the Redeemer looms over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

    It’s far from the tallest statue in the world – that title goes to India’s Statue of Unity. In fact, Christ the Redeemer isn’t even the tallest statue of Jesus. However, it is the largest Art-Deco sculpture in the world, and its iconic pose, breathtaking location, and role as a symbol of Christianity have earned it a spot on the list of New World Wonders.

    Completed in 1931 (making it the youngest entry on the list), the colossus stands 30 metres tall and is made from reinforced concrete and an outer coating of soapstone tiles.

    Due to its position on top of Mount Corcovado, which was chosen so it could be seen from pretty much anywhere in Rio, the statue is regularly struck by lighting. While lighting rods divert much of the force, it occasionally suffers minor damage.

    For example, two fingers and the head needed repairs after an electrical storm in 2014. In fact, there are some fantastic photographs showing the strikes, which you can find on The Guardian website.

    Visitors used to trudge up 220 steps at the final leg of the journey to reach Christ the Redeemer. But now, you can catch a ride up on one of the lifts and escalators.