The votes are in and the winners of the New Seven Wonders of the World search have been decided. Barry Oliver presents the best tour options
SYDNEY Opera House didn’t make the grade but it was in good company: neither did France’s Eiffel Tower, Greece’s Acropolis or Britain’s Stonehenge. More than a few feathers were ruffled when a non-profit foundation last month announced the New Seven Wonders of the World, products of human ingenuity, at a glittering ceremony in Benfica, Portugal.
The poll was the brainchild of Swiss filmmaker and museum curator Bernard Weber to ‘‘ protect humankind’s heritage across the globe’’. Organisers claim more than 100 million votes were cast worldwide, mostly online. The seven wonders are equal, with no ranking.
The Greek scholars who created the original list more than 2000 years ago are no doubt turning in their graves.
Here are the latest wonders and how to get there (flights extra unless stated).
PETRA, JORDAN (9BC-AD40)
PETRA, on the edge of the Arabian Desert, was the glittering capital of the Nabataean empire of King Aretas IV. The Nabataeans were masters of water technology and provided the city with great tunnel constructions and water chambers. The site includes a 4000-seat theatre modelled on Greek-Roman prototypes and the El-Deir Monastery, with its 42m-high Hellenistic facade.
Getting there: Tempo Holidays’ six-night Jordan Experience, from $1520 a person, includes three nights at Petra with transportation by private vehicle, local guide and some meals. More: 1300 558 987; www.tempoholidays.com.
Imaginative Traveller’s four-day Petra Excursion is from $615 a person, which includes transfers from Amman airport and accommodation. More: 1300 135 088; www.imaginative-traveller.com.au.
CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO (before AD800)
CHICHEN Itza, in the Yucatan Peninsula, was once at the heart of the Mayan civilisation. Visitors today can still see many well-preserved stone buildings: the pyramid of Kukulkan, the Temple of Chac Mool, the Hall of the Thousand Pillars and the Playing Field of the Prisoners. The pyramid was the last, some say greatest, of the Mayan temples.
Getting there: Peregrine’s 15-day Mexico in Depth tour, starting in Mexico City and finishing in Cancun, includes a visit to the ruins of Chichen Itza. From $2595 a person, including tour leader, breakfasts and sightseeing. Regular departures year round. More: 1300 854 500; www.peregrineadventures.com.au.
Adventure World has a range of Mexico packages, from six to 23 days, that include tours of Chichen Itza. The six-day Haciendas of Mexico trip, for instance, costs from $1410 and includes a day at Chichen Itza with a guide. Breakfasts, some lunches and transfers included. More: 1300 363 055; www.adventureworld.com.au.
MACHU PICCHU, PERU (1460-70)
MACHU Picchu, often referred to as the Lost City of the Incas, sits 2430m up a mountain in the Andes. The fortress, 80km northwest of Cuzco, was forgotten for three centuries after being abandoned (possibly because of smallpox) but was discovered in 1911 by US archeologist Hiram Bingham, who wrote a best-selling book about it.
Getting there: South Australia-based Far Horizons has an escorted tour departing Sydney on September 12 next year that will visit Machu Picchu by helicopter. The 24-day trip will include all seven wonders. Prices have yet to be released but about $30,000. More: 1800 083 141; www.farhorizons.com.au.
Explore’s 14-day Heights of Machu Picchu tour begins and ends in Lima and includes a five-day trek to the mountain city. Departures to April next year. From $2581 plus local payment of $US320 ($410), with some meals, all local transport, support staff such as porters and local guides. More: 1300 363 055; www.adventureworld.com.au.
TAJ MAHAL, INDIA (1630)
THREE million visitors a year flock to Agra’s immense mausoleum constructed of white marble and standing in formally laid out walled gardens. It was built on the orders of Mogul emperor Shah Jahan to honour his wife. Bankruptcy followed and the emperor ended up in jail, where it’s said he could glimpse this labour of love through his cell window.
Getting there: India specialist Ram World Travel in Sydney includes Agra in a number of tours listed in its Incredible India brochure. The company will also tailor-make itineraries according to requirements. More: (02) 9262 1661; www.ramworldtravels.com.
Travel Indochina visits the Taj Mahal on its 17-day Ancient India tour, which also covers Varanasi, Khajuraho, Bandhavgarh National Park and Pushkar. From $4999 a person, departing Delhi. More: 1300 365 355; wwww.travelindochina.com.au.
CHRIST THE REDEEMER, BRAZIL (1931)
THIS 38m-tall statue of Jesus is the youngest wonder. It weighs 700 tonnes and is located at the peak of the Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking Rio. It took five years to construct and was designed by Brazilian Heitor da Silva Costa and created by French sculptor Paul Landowski.
Getting there: Flight Centre has a 20-day South America tour that ends with a visit to Corcovado Mountain. Other highlights include the Iguazu Falls and the world’s largest freshwater wetlands, the Pantanal. From $2530, plus a local payment of $US350 and a local flight charge of $80. Includes most breakfasts. More: 131 600; www.flightcentre.com.au.
GAP Adventures has a 15-day trip from Rio that includes a visit to the Christ the Redeemer statue. The Wonders of Brazil costs from $1630 and includes local transport and some meals. There are departures all year. More: 1300 363 055; www.adventureworld.com.au.
GREAT WALL OF CHINA (220BC)
BUILT to keep out invaders from other parts of Asia (no, not rabbits), the wall is a must-see for visitors to the country. It’s the world’s longest man-made structure at 6400km (and nearly 7.5m high in places), stretching from the Shanghai Pass in the east to Lop Nur in the west. Building began more than 2000 years ago and it took about 300 years to complete. Contrary to rumour, astronauts say it can’t be seen from the moon.
Getting there: Helen Wong’s Tours runs a 12-day China Discovery trip that combines four days in Beijing, including a visit to the Great Wall, with Shanghai and Xi’an (with its terracotta warriors). From $3595 ex Australia. More: 1300 788 328; www.helenwongstours.com.
Travel Indochina’s 10-day Small Group Journey Highlights of China visits the Great Wall (followed by a feast of Peking duck) as well as Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai and Zhujiajiao. From $2595 a person, with breakfasts and guides. More: 1300 365 355; wwww.travelindochina.com.au.
COLOSSEUM, ITALY (AD70-82)
THIS great amphitheatre in the centre of the city celebrates the glory of the Roman Empire. It hosted all manner of gory gladiatorial games designed to delight spectators. Its construction concept still stands up: virtually every sports stadium today bears the imprint of the Colosseum’s original design.
Getting there: Flight Centre’s nine-day Southern Italy tour begins with a visit to the Colosseum. It also includes lazing on the beach at Sorrento and wandering through the ruins at Pompeii. From $1395 a person plus a local payment of j100 ($172). More: 131 600; www.flightcentre.com.au.
Abercrombie & Kent’s eight-day Inside Italy tour spends two nights in Rome, including a visit to the Colosseum. From $5150 a person. More: 1300 851 800; www.abercrombiekent.com.au.
Monumental masonry: The Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, main picture; left, from top, the Colosseum in Rome; Taj Mahal; Chichen Itza in Mexico; right, from top, statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro; the rose-red city of Petra
New invaders: Tourists flock to walk part of the 6400km-long Great Wall of China