From castles to cities, forests to cliffs, and sea to shining sea, there are a myriad of people, places, and things to discover on this list. Some are man-made, while others are naturally occurring; read on to see if your favorite landmarks made the list!
1. The Grand Canyon (Winner)
Arizona, United States
President Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world.” The views throughout its 1,904 square miles are unparalleled and incomparable. The dry climate has well-preserved fossils and five of the seven life zones are present in this one park. From hiking to white water rafting, fishing, and biking, there are as many things to do, learn, and see as there are acres in this beautiful natural wonder of the world.
Pro Tip: While the South Rim is open year-round, the North Rim is usually closed December to June each year because of the harsher winter conditions. Make sure to check the NPS website for up-to-date reopening information. For more insider information, check out what Grand Canyon Park Rangers recommend before planning your trip.
2. Niagara Falls
New York, United States/Ontario, Canada
Did you know that Niagara Falls is home to not one, but three waterfalls? They sit at the end of the Niagara Gorge, with Horseshoe Falls being the largest and most recognizable. Sitting at 167 feet high, the falls see millions of visitors each year. You can access them from Ontario, Canada, or Niagara Falls State Park in Upstate New York. There are a plethora of ways to access the moisture and views of the falls. From the Canadian side, there’s an elevator that can take you down behind Horseshoe Falls, a cliffside park with a multi-story boardwalk and amazing views, and of course, the boat rides. The U.S. side boasts an observation tower, a unique dining experience, and you guessed it, more boat rides.
Pro Tip: While the falls are accessible and open year-round, the best time to visit is June through August. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are typically the best days to visit as weekends are much more busy.
3. Cliffs Of Moher
Republic Of Ireland
For all the beauty there is to enjoy on the beautiful island of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher is one of the most popular sights to behold. With views worthy of the silver screen, the cliffs are part of a UNESCO Global Geopark, a special protection area for birds and wildlife. Take in the views by land, air, and sea. Hours vary by the time of year you choose to visit and tickets are required for most visitors. From walks and birdwatching to shopping and dining, your time will be very well spent.
There are two beautiful walks to choose from: the Coastal Walk North (approximately 5 miles) and the Coastal Walk South (approximately 3.5 miles). Remember to leave no trace and dress for being seaside as weather conditions can change suddenly and drastically.
4. Eiffel Tower
There was a time when I would visit la Tour Eiffel each night on Google Earth before going to bed to satisfy my young wanderlust. Standing regally at approximately 905 feet, the Eiffel Tower was originally built for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. It took 2 years, 2 months, and 5 days to build. The tower was supposed to be torn down after only 20 years, but a radio antenna was installed on top, and it was too valuable as a radio transmission tower to be destroyed.
Pro Tip: There are numerous accessibility options for exploring the grounds. Full access has you explore the top level first, then work your way down to the lower floors.
5. Neuschwanstein Castle
Some may recognize this Romanesque Revival castle as Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s castle as well as King Stefan’s castle from Sleeping Beauty. Built in the 19th Century, Neuschwanstein Castle is nestled in southeastern Germany. It means “New Swan Stone.” Because of a forced alliance with Prussia, Ludwig II was no longer a sovereign ruler. He commissioned this castle as a kingdom where he could reign as king once more.
Pro Tip: The castle is undergoing major restorations that are slated to be completed in the spring of 2024, so some of the castle is currently inaccessible. The staff has put together informational videos about the rooms that are being restored so that you can still enjoy them digitally.
6. Statue Of Liberty
New York City, United States
The Statue of Liberty is the second landmark from the National Park Service on our favorites list. Lady Liberty was a gift of friendship from the people of France and was built there first to be dismantled and reassembled in New York City. The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was finally unveiled to roughly a million people on October 28, 1886.
Pro Tip: There is only one officially sanctioned way to visit both Ellis and Liberty Islands, and advance reservations are highly recommended as access is limited.
Athens, Greece, is known as the birthplace of democracy and is home to oh so many incredible ruins. One of the best-known ruins is the Acropolis. Acropolis in Greek means “High City” and sitting atop said high city are several ancient buildings, including the Parthenon. Fun fact, my husband proposed to me at the foot of the Acropolis in 2009, a moment I will never forget. It was there that we learned the rule that visitors shouldn’t dance, jump, or be disrespectful on centuries-old religious sites.
It may be the off-season for the Greek Islands, but the best time to visit is in winter. Temps are lower, crowds are smaller, and entrance fees are half-price. If you happen to visit near Christmas, the tree in Syntagma Square is beautiful!
8. Angkor Wat
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is considered the world’s largest religious structure according to the Guinness Book of World Records, spanning about 400 acres. It was originally built and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu but has slowly transformed into a Buddhist temple over the years. Not unlike most tourist attractions and landmarks, the pandemic had a drastic effect on visitors. While open again, crowds are much smaller than years before.
9. Petra Archaeological Park
Petra Archaeological Park is considered by many to be one of the new seven wonders of the world, and our readers can’t get enough of it! The site is half-built and half-carved into the rose-red cliffs of southern Jordan. There was a span of 500 years that the city sat undiscovered, as access to the city runs through the Siq, a narrow gorge that opens right up to the treasury. There are quite a few other trails to explore that range in difficulty from easy to hard and showcase the various ruins as well as the beautiful and unique rock layers unearthed by the ancient stoneworkers.
Pro Tip: It is recommended to allow for 3 days to see as much of the grounds as possible. And, take care when booking your trip as only licensed professionals are allowed to give tours and talks.
10. Machu Picchu
There are a lot of unknowns about Machu Picchu. But, most historians believe that the ancient city of the Inca was erected in the 1450s, only to be abandoned a century later as a result of the Spanish conquest.
Pro Tip: Getting here takes a train or a multi-day trek through the mountains. After a short stint of closure, Machu Picchu re-opened on February 15, 2023.
11. The Vatican
Vatican City/Rome, Italy
The Vatican resides in a city-state completely surrounded by Rome and is a sovereign territory of the Holy See. The Vatican is basically the most popular attraction in all of Rome, despite technically not being a part of the city. With sites such as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, it’s no surprise why this small micro-state is so popular among tourists. Be prepared for long lines and lots of walking.
12. The Colosseum
When in Rome, it just makes sense to visit the Colosseum, originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre. Most important to note about the architecture of the columns is that they were made in three of the major styles of the time: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.
Also of note is the hypogeum, the underground area comprised of 80 different tunnels and passageways that connected the barracks, as well as a private access tunnel for the emperor. This was not in the original design of the Colosseum and also made it impossible to flood.
Alhambra is a palace — which happens to be the most notable and “best-preserved palace in the historic Islamic world” — and fortress tucked in the Sierra Nevada on the Iberian Peninsula. The expansive complex covers about 26 acres and has multiple structures, including the Nasrid Palaces. As you can imagine, tickets are in high demand and advance reservations are required.
14. Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is a marble mausoleum that was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who passed away giving birth to their 14th child. He was buried next to her upon his passing, thus making Taj Mahal the romantic symbol of India.
Pro Tip: Tickets are required to visit the grounds. Five nights a month, there are full-moon viewings of the Taj Mahal (two nights before the full moon, the night of the full moon, and two nights following the full moon).
England, United Kingdom
Coming in at 13 feet high, the Welsh sandstones known as Stonehenge were built in three stages. We may never know why this monument was built to begin with, nor the methods used to create the structure. It has been purported that it was used as an astronomical observatory or a religious site and that the stones came from as far as 240 miles away. While a million visitors make the trek each year, it’s plain to see that this marvel is quite the sight to behold.