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25 Epic Stories From The Greatest 10 Man-Made Wonders Of The World

Stories and Illustrations from the Earth’s Most Remarkable Places If the stories from the first wonder of the world—Machu Picchu—make you feel tipsy with intrigue, then we guarantee that by the time you’ve explored reached the Pyramids at the end, you will be roaring drunk with wonderment!

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1 | Machu Picchu


The name derives from the Native South American ‘Quechua’ language meaning old person (machu) and pyramid or mountain (picchu)—it is a place of sacred geography and probably the most familiar icon of the Inca civilisation.

Crown of Inca Land: The First Glimpse by Hiram Bingham

A gripping tale of exploration from 1911—how adventurer Hiram Bingham, expecting nothing more than a few agricultural terraces, scaled precipitous slopes and struggled through dense jungle to first come upon the magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu.

The Salkantay Trek by Dan and Audrey Scott

From the foot of a hulking great glacier, along barren and rocky mountain trails, skimming the fringes of lush, green Peruvian jungle, and up giant Inca staircases—this is the story of our trek to the atmospheric and misty ruins of Machu Picchu.

Lofty Ambitions of the Inca by Heather Pringle

Rising from obscurity to the heights of power, a succession of Andean rulers subdued kingdoms, sculpted mountains, and forged a mighty empire.

The Inka Trail Trek by David and Lori Baxter

Machu Picchu far surpassed our expectations. The city is so vast and so complete it defies imagination. Trekking the holiest segment of the 'Inca Trail' to reach the city at sunrise on the fourth day, we explored many impressive ruins along the way.

The Wonderful Lost City of the Inca by Karen Reis

To get to Machu Picchu there are two ways: the first one is to take a train at Ollantaytambo. The other one is the adventurous way. The Inca Trail is the track the Incas themselves built and it is a four day walk to arrive in Machu Picchu. Of course we chose the adventurous way!

Lotus Sunrise at Angkor Wat by Trey Ratcliff

Deep in the jungles of Cambodia I discovered secret caves and forgotten shrines, enshrouded in roots. There are hundreds of tiny nooks, old broken stone doors, lost hallways, and mysterious carvings peeking out of the overgrowth.

The Wonder of Angkor Wat by Candace Rose Rardon

Sharing the experience of Angkor Wat aglow at sunrise with elbow-jutting, neck-craning crowds was somehow a communal testament to its wonder. Later, as I sketch the temple, birdsong fills the air and there is barely a cloud in sight.

Angkor Wat on Two Wheels by Anna Krahn

It would seem impossible to see something different from the millions of tourists, something untouched. Yet despite the fact that Angkor Wat is Cambodia's most famous tourism destination and as such, receives well over a million visits a year—it can be done.

Alone at Angkor Wat by Jeff Johns

Angkor Wat is the single largest religious complex on Earth and it would take weeks to fully explore its endless ruins. This is the story of how I watched the sunrise, all alone, amongst the temples of Angkor Wat.

3 | Petra


Writing over a century ago, the poet John William Burgon described Petra as, ‘a rose-red city half as old as time’. The newest member of the Wonders of the World family is truly a testament to the ingenuity of the Nabataean people.

The Incredible Lost City of Petra by Ken Kaminesky

When I think back to my trip to Jordan, some of it seems like a dream. Did I really get a chance to see the Lost City of Petra, the newest member of the family of Wonders of the World? Good thing I had a camera with me to prove it, as Petra is one of the most spectacular places on Earth.

Petra — By Day, By Night by Aligail King

Strawberry stone columns nestled between a tear of jagged darkness, clouds of purple-pink dust thrown into spirals, hanging in the heat-soaked air. Petra was both overwhelming and atmospheric, and I felt as though I was uncovering an ancient legend.

The Myth, History, and Mystery of Petra by Shannon O’Donnell

A journey through the passageways and open spaces of Petra, with a close look at the myth and history of the Nabataen civilization and the rise and fall of this ancient city.

Enchantment and Romance by Keith Jenkins

Located deep in the mountains of southern Jordan, Petra is an awe-inspiring monument to mankind's ingenuity and craftsmanship. By night Petra transforms into what must be one of the most magical and romantic places in the world.

Poem For A Rose Tinted City by Claire vd Heever

Deep in the desert of Jordan we roamed, In a rose tinted city named Petra, borne from stone. Three hundred years before Christ it was built, The Nabataeans mastered carving, the heat did nought but wilt.

4 | Taj Mahal


Commonly referred to as the ‘Jewel of India’, the Taj Mahal is an indescribably beautiful and immense mausoleum of white marble built in the 17th century by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife.

Train to the Taj Mahal by Hank Leukart

Surrounded by hordes of frantic travelers, baffled by bureaucratic idiosyncrasies, I attempt to purchase a train ticket to Agra. On the journey, I discover that Indians tend to take pity on clueless Westerners. The next day, at the Taj Mahal, I am entranced by the sunrise and a beautiful French woman.

Discovering the Love Story Behind the Taj Mahal by Leora Novick

The story of eternal love and everlasting despair gave an otherworldly color and whole new perspective to my experience at one of the world's greatest architectural wonders.

After the Taj Mahal by Suzanne Roberts

The day after a trip to India's most famous tourist destination—what's right and what's wrong and what it is that fills the space in between. Later, I will be ashamed that I didn't just pay the extra money and have the boy sew up the tear in my sandal.

A Godly Dance at the Taj Mahal by Trey Ratcliff

Barefoot on cool marble, I watched as the faithful coiled in long lines and snaked their way around the complex, waiting patiently in the 95 degree heat. Later, away from the huddled masses, I wandered into the wilds and outskirts of the Taj Mahal.

5 | Great Wall of China

British antiquary William Stukeley describes the Great Wall in a letter written in 1754 as ‘a considerable figure upon the terrestrial globe’ and is partly responsible for perpetuating the myth that the great wall ‘may be discerned at the Moon’—what can we say, blame the British! Nevertheless, the Great Wall is an impressive architectural feat extending over thirteen thousand miles in total.

The Great Wall at Badaling by Dave and Deb

Blue skies and beauty on a crisp December morning, while exploring the incredible feat of engineering that is the Great Wall of China.

Immensity of the Great Wall by Trey Ratcliff

Walking from tower to tower, looking at the sinuous wall as it snakes over the mountains, I finally found an extremely remote section that is far enough away from civilisation to stay pure. Overgrown with vegetation, the wall has crumbled away in the past thousand years.

6 | The Acropolis


An ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above Athens in Greece. The Parthenon and the other ancient buildings there remain a glorious testimony to the Greek gods and their civilisation—they have stood the test of time for over a millennium.

Closer to the Heavens by Michael Turtle

Up the steep slippery marble stairs you climb, the weight of years of expectation heavy upon you. Then the beauty of the Acropolis finally reveals itself. Up here you feel displaced from the minutiae of everyday life. There is a spirituality here that neither time nor cynicism can destroy.

7 | Easter Island


Located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, the windswept Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. It is famous for its 887 monolithic statues, called ‘Moai’, which were created by the early Rapa Nui people.

Ancient Wonders of Rapa Nui by Irene and Rick Butler

This dot of tranquility, with soft rolling grassy hills, and rugged coasts rising in isolation from turquoise seas left us much to ponder. I need only to close my eyes to be carried on gentle tropical breezes back to the beautiful people of Rapa Nui and the indelible grandeur of the moai.

8 | Hagia Sophia


This beautiful dome has hosted both Ottoman and Byzantium Empires and there is an incredibly rich history in this architectural masterpiece. Yet sometimes being present and appreciating the beauty in front of your eyes is enough.

Haunting Light of Hagia Sophia by Sherry Ott

Golden light reaches into the archways and corridors of this architectural, historical wonder—streaming through windows and from chandeliers. Sometimes things are just beautiful—and you don't have to know why.

Down in the Dungeons by Stephanie Yoder

Exploring behind the scenes at the Colosseum, down in the dungeons, you can imagine how the waiting gladiators would have heard the other fighters thumping overhead and the blood-crazed roar of the crowd.

10 | The Pyramids


The only structure still left standing from the original ‘Ancient Wonders of the World’ list is the Great Pyramid at Giza. It seems that Pharaoh Khufu didn’t like to take any chances—he ordered the construction of the 460 foot pyramid to protect his tomb and ensure a safe journey to the afterlife. Amazingly, it remained the tallest man-made structure on the planet for about 3,800 years.

Impressions of a Trip to Sakkara and Giza by Jen Bianco

No trip to Egypt would be complete without seeing the Pyramids. They are absolutely the one "must see" if you visit the country.

If these stories have left you drunk on wonderment—go ahead and tweet this post, @mentioning any friends who you think would also enjoy these adventurous tales.

A version of this post originally appeared over on the Maptia Blog, and all of the hand-drawn goodness was created by Ella Frances Sanders, now our Illustrator-in-Residence at Maptia.

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