From Cambodia’s Temples of Angkor to the Coliseum in Rome, Lonely Planet Publishes its 500 Best Places on the Planet.
There’s much talk in the travel world this afternoon about Lonely Planet’s grand unveiling of its latest book “Ultimate Travel: The 500 Best Places on the Planet… Ranked”. This new and essential travel guide, billed as “the only bucket list you’ll ever need”, ranks “mega-sights and hidden gems in a definitive wish list of the 500 best places to visit on earth”.
The coveted number one position was awarded to Cambodia’s Temples of Angkor, whilst Australia’s Great Barrier Reef unsurprisingly took the runner-up position. In bronze medal position is Peru’s Macchu Picchu whilst China’s Great Wall, India’s Taj Mahal and the USA’s Grand Canyon occupied fourth, fifth and sixth place respectively.
Other sites to feature in the top 20 include Petra in Jordan, the Galapagos Islands, Iguazú Falls straddling the Brazil-Argentina border, Tikal in Guatemala, Fez’s Medina, the Fiordland National Park in New Zealand and Australia’s Apostles and Museum of Old and New. There are also a number of European touristic hotspots mentioned including the island of Santorini, the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, the British Museum in London, the Coliseum in Rome and two nods to Spain at both ends of the country: the Alhambra in Granada and the Sagrada Família in Barcelona.
Here’s a bit more detail about some of Europe’s most iconic monuments…
Sagrada Família, Barcelona
A stone’s throw from the city centre is Barcelona’s iconic landmark, the Sagrada Família, Spain’s most popular attraction with some three million visitors per year. Amazingly, this awe-inspiring architectural masterpiece is still unfinished despite work starting in 1883, yet visitors can still ascend to the top of the tower for some unbeatable views over the city, or to the crypt beneath the cathedral where Gaudí himself is buried. Unquestionably amazing from every angle, this is an absolute Barcelona essential.
Translated from Arabic as ‘the red’, so named after the rich colour of its façade, Granada’s mighty Alhambra represents the jewel in the crown of Spanish Moorish architecture and one of the country’s top visitor attractions. Built in the 13th and 14th centuries, this incredible, sprawling fortress boasts a wealth of treasures including the fabulous Generalife Gardens, the Alcazaba (citadel), the Patio de los Leones and the Palacios Nazaríes, the central palace complex. An absolute must-see.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Perhaps Istanbul’s most famous monument, the Hagia Sophia (or Ayasofya) served formerly as a Christian church, then as a mosque before becoming a museum in 1935 and home to an unrivalled collection of Byzantine Mosaics. Today a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for almost 500 years the Hagia Sophia was Istanbul’s principal mosque and served as the blueprint for many of the Ottoman mosques that followed, most notably the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, more commonly known as the Blue Mosque.
Possibly the most iconic and impressive ancient monument to symbolise Rome and indeed the Roman Empire, the mighty Coliseum has an illustrious history. Constructed between 72-80 AD and scene of legendary mortal gladiatorial combat, in its heyday this awesome arena seated some 55,000 spectators. Today a shadow of its former glorious self, the Coliseum remains a magnificent sight and rightly tops the polls as Rome’s most famous tourist attraction.