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Wondrous facts... about the new Seven Wonders

When all but one of the original Seven Wonders of the World remains in existence, it seems about time to decide on some new ones.

This was the thought of Bernard Weber and the Swiss foundation that together ran a campaign to create a fresh top seven, based on a worldwide poll that saw over 100 million people cast their votes. The results were announced to loud applause from some corners and heckles from others who lost out.

The monuments that made the final cut are all landmarks that many of us will recognise in an instant and hardly need an introduction. You might even feel you know these places without ever having visited them. So here are some fascinating facts, figures and truths about each that may make you think again.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India
  • Known for its luminous ivory-white marble, it’s in fact the vivid, offsetting colours of its setting that make this exquisite, mid 17th-century mausoleum shine, from the red sandstone paths and verdant gardens to the changing hues of the sunset and sunrise playing on the stonework.
  • 1,000 elephants were used in the transfer of materials around the site while some 20,000 highly skilled craftsmen completed the building work and decoration.
  • The four minarets that encase the complex are constructed slightly away from the main plinth and lean a little outwards to avoid the destruction of the mausoleum if one were to collapse.
  • One of the two mosques is unused as it doesn’t point towards Mecca, but was necessary in order to complete the perfect symmetry of the complex.
  • The sarcophagi of Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, for whom the mausoleum was built, are in fact false tombs. Their remains lie in a lower chamber.

A number of our group tours to India visit the Taj Mahal, including The Grand Tour of India

The Great Wall of China
  • Calling it The Great Wall is a bit of a misnomer as it is fact many walls, layering up into two, three or four walls in some sections and descending into little more than rubble in others.
  • An archaeological survey carried out by the Chinese State Administration of Cultural Heritage puts the length of all uncovered sections of the wall at around 21,000km, or approximately 13,000 miles.
  • The wall dates back some 2,000 years, added to and extended through successive dynasties. The Great Wall as we think of it are the most recent sections but there are lengths of it that are little more than an eroded mound of soil.
  • The wall is indeed a great manmade construction but not so great that it can be seen from the moon, or even from space at any great distance. Numerous astronauts have disproved this claim.
  • Previously unknown sections of The Great Wall, hidden by sandstorms, have been discovered as recently as 2009 and 2015 with the help of GPS devices and infrared technology.

All of our group tours to China visit sections of The Great Wall. To find out more, click here.

Chichén Itzá, Mexico
  • Chichén Itzá is well known as an important Mayan site, occupied from around 600 - 1200 AD. Nevertheless, unlike other Mayan cities, some of the most famous monuments here show a style more in keeping with the Toltec Empire. Debate continues as to where this influence came from, whether through trade or invasion.
  • The El Castillo pyramid is known to have a strange acoustic effect called the Chichén Itzá It can be heard if you clap your hands at the base of the staircase. The echo created around the tiered steps sounds like the call of the quetzal bird. We don’t know for sure if the temple was actually built in such a way to create this sound.
  • As well as strange sounds, there are also peculiar shadows. On the Temple of Kukulkan, the rippling shadow of a serpent forms at the spring and autumn equinoxes. It rolls down the side of the temple to meet with the stone statue of the Mayan serpent god Kukulkan at the bottom.
  • Like a Russian doll, the Kukulkan pyramid has two smaller Mayan pyramids hidden within it. Pyramids may have been built like this when one started to deteriorate or at the request of a new ruler.
  • A trip to Chichén Itzá isn’t for the faint hearted. Gruesome practices were played out here including human sacrifices in a nearby sink hole that was considered sacred and decapitation of those who lost in games in the Great Ball Court, which were then displayed on the tzompantli, or skull platform.

Join our group tour Highlights of Mexico for a guided tour of Chichén Itzá and many other fascinating historical sites around the country.

Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Built on a mountain top which is in turn located above two fault lines, the walls of this 15th-century, Incan citadel have survived because the stones were cut to fit perfectly, without the use of mortar, leaving space for wiggle room when an earthquake hits.
  • The Incas didn’t use animals, iron tools or wheels to construct this site. They moved blocks of stone weighing up to 50 pounds up the mountainside, probably through sheer manpower alone.
  • The citadel is built across 600 terraces to stop the buildings from sliding away down the mountainside. Another incredible piece of engineering was the water supply system, which extended about 1km.
  • The reason behind the construction of Machu Picchu remains a mystery. It was a place sacred to the Incas, but could it have also been a royal retreat? A mysterious, giant, carved rock also points to it possibly being a place for astronomical observations.
  • Little tracks lead off into the undergrowth from the main ruins, suggesting that there may still be more to this city than meets the eye.

All our group tours to Peru and beyond include an overnight stay close to Machu Picchu to allow for maximum time to discover the site. Explore the wide variety of tours we offer here.

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • The most modern of the New Seven Wonders, this iconic statue was completed in 1931 and is the largest Art Deco style statue in the world, reaching a height of 38 metres and spanning 28 metres, from fingertip to fingertip.
  • The interior of the statue is made with reinforced concrete while the exterior is lined with over 6 million soapstone tiles. The female volunteers who worked on these tiles often added personal messages to the back before they were sent to be used on the statue.
  • Lightning strikes the statue on average four times a year. Storms and their intensity are increasing so the structure and lightening conductors have to be regularly reviewed. In 2014 a finger of the statue was damaged by lightning and took weeks to repair at a cost of $500,000.
  • The quarry where the soapstone originated from has run dry so it’s becoming harder and harder to faithfully restore the statue with the correct coloured stone.
  • You can get married at the foot of Christ the Redeemer in a small chapel that was consecrated in 2006. As the bride, be prepared to arrive by cog train, followed by an elevator and escalator ride!

All our group tours to Brazil and beyond include a stay in Rio de Janeiro with a visit to the statue of Christ the Redeemer. To find out more, click here.

Petra, Jordan
  • A civilisation of up to 30,000 survived here in the desert from 400BC to 106AD thanks to a phenomenal irrigation system. A channel, which drops just 12 feet over the course of a whole mile, carried water through the entrance passageway to the city while subterranean cisterns stored water for periods of drought.
  • This Nabatean citadel was aligned with solar patterns. They worshipped the sun and built their sacred places to look towards events such as the solstice.
  • The beautiful façades of the Treasury and Monastery, hewn out of the sandstone rock face, were achieved by carving from the top down; a remarkable feat of engineering and artistry.
  • The Treasury, Petra’s most famed structure, was so named because legend had it that the treasure of an Egyptian pharaoh was hidden in the top urn on the façade. You can see bullet marks apparently made by locals trying to free the treasure inside.
  • The excavated site seems vast but only about 15% of the city has thus far been uncovered.

All our group tours to Jordan include a visit to Petra with plenty of time to explore this remarkable site. To find out more, click here.

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
  • One of the greatest feats of engineering in the Roman world, this magnificent amphitheatre was built in only 10 years (70-80 BC) using the manpower of 60,000 Jewish slaves.
  • A few statistics to appreciate its size: it has over 80 entrances, could accommodate 50,000 spectators and had 36 trap doors across the arena floor for surprise entrances.
  • Apart from games, gladiatorial combat and wild animal hunts, it’s possible that naumachia, recreations of naval battles, were also held here when the arena was flooded with water.
  • It’s estimated that a million wild animals were killed altogether, with 9,000 slaughtered in the opening games alone. Species went into severe decline while others were wiped out.
  • Crowd control was through a complex seating system with people arranged in order of class and citizenship.

Visit the Colosseum on a short break to Rome with Cox & Kings, including scheduled flights, private transfers to and from the airport, and accommodation in a choice of superior hotels. For more details please visit our website here.

For further details on any of the above, please call one of our specialist travel consultants or complete our tailor-made request form and one of our experts will get back to you to help you plan an itinerary.