Friday 11 Jan, 2008

Wonders never cease


Over the course of human history (or at least since the 5th century B.C.), people have been fascinated by lists—especially lists of wonderful sites.

The Histories of Herodotus first made reference to a list of seven wonders in the 5th century B.C., and the legendary Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
dates back to the 2nd century B.C. Only one survives today: the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Seven Wonders list endures today as the gold standard of ancient sites.
(By the way, check out this virtual satellite tour of the ancient wonders.)

Last year, the private, nonprofit New Open World Corporation attempted to update the list and determine the New 7 Wonders of the World. The list, conducted through a worldwide popularity poll, includes: the Pyramid at Chichén Itzá (Mexico), Christ Redeemer (Brazil), the Roman Colosseum (Italy), the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu (Peru), Petra (Jordan) and the Taj Mahal (India). The Pyramids of Giza were granted honorary status.

Seven, of course, is a nice number, but it can’t capture the multitude of magnificent destinations. We need a bigger list, a more comprehensive list that accounts for more wonderful places around the world. That brings me to perhaps my favorite travel list: the Hillman Wonders of the World.

Compiled by travel writer Howard Hillman since 1968, the Hillman Wonders of the World lists the top 100 wonders—from the Pyramids of Egypt (#1) to Portofino (#100). The rankings—and even the inclusion or exclusion of favorite places—are sure to fuel debate, but it is a great compilation of wonderful sites. Hillman even tracks the top 1,000 wonders—but that’s a list for another day.

It’s hard not to look at the top-100 checklist and immediately start X’ing off the places you’ve been (I count a mere 13 myself). That got me thinking about the readers of Following the Equator: How many of the Hillman Wonders have you been to? How many wonders have we seen collectively? Who’s been to Easter Island (#28) or Mount Everest (#46) or Neuschwanstein Castle (#97)?

Comment below with a wonder or two, and let’s see how many we can check off. Is it possible that we as a group have seen
all 100—even the Serengeti Migration (#4)? Let us know, too, how many wonders you’ve seen, but try to refrain from listing all of your wonders at once—just to give everyone a chance to claim a wonder.

I’ll start our checklist by checking off two easy ones that happen to be two of my favorites: the Colosseum of Rome (#30) and the Eiffel Tower (#86). Now it’s your turn …