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Between the 17th and 20th Centuries, Robben Island was synonymous with isolation, variously used as a prison, leper colony and asylum. Through the course of its history, this small island off the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, South Africa was also employed as a post office, military outpost and port for ships visiting Table Bay. However, the island is most renowned as the site of the maximum security prison for political prisoners opened in 1961 to detain the leaders of the anti-apartheid revolution. The most notable of the island's inmates is Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years of his 27-year sentence at Robben Island. Other former inmates include Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma, both of whom went on to be elected presidents of the country following the fall of apartheid in 1990. Robben Island is now a museum that preserves the legacy of the island; a symbol of the triumph of democracy over racism, inequality and discrimination. Besides the imposing edifice of the maximum security prison, the island also encompasses the crumbling ruins of the military fort, the lepers’ church, a small lighthouse and the tomb of Hadije Kramat - a place of pilgrimage. A World Heritage Site, Robben Island attracts thousands of visitors each year. Guided tours are led by former inmates who offer a rare glimpse into the lives of those incarcerated at Robben Island.
The walls of the Prague Castle encompass a whopping 70,000 square meters (750,000 square feet) within their embrace, making this the largest ancient castle in the world. Shaped over 13 centuries, the origins of the castle go back to 870 CE when the Church of the Virgin Mary was built. Former residence of the kings of Bohemia, Roman Emperors and the Presidents of Czechoslovakia, the regal abode is rife with historic treasures, man-made marvels and artistic triumphs. A mélange of architectural styles that spans the ages, the castle is an inspiring sight to behold; a monumental, visual chronicle of the march of time and the prevalent trends of each era. Of special interest is the St. Vitus Cathedral boasting vibrant stained glass windows and the tomb of St. John of Nepomuk.
Named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu is a survivor of the Spanish conquest; a secret closely guarded by the locals until American historian, Hiram Bingham, unveiled his discovery to the world in 1911. Believed to have been constructed in the 15th Century, the Inca estate sits on the summit of a bluff, surrounded by a dramatic landscape of plunging ravines, towering mountains, and lofty pinnacles that lend the scene an enchanting aura. A mesmerizing tableau of palaces, temples and grand abodes, the origins of Machu Picchu remain unclear even today as historians struggle to uncover the secrets it holds. Although inundated with visitors from across the globe who throng these majestic ruins by the thousands, Machu Picchu retains an air of mystery and isolation from the urban sprawl of the present era; a city that is frozen in time, its streets and facades rife with the echoes of the Inca Empire. Today, it is the most recognizable of the continent's archaeological wonders, a vast complex of ruins amid the luxuriant wilderness of Peru's Cusco Region.
Probably the most famous prehistoric stone monuments of the western world, the Stonehenge is hardly the largest or the most magnificent, yet it has occupied the thoughts and dreams of millions and filled bookshelves with theories of what it was meant for and why it was built. A neolithic monument of unknown origin, the Stonehenge is made up of a collection of over 160 stones, each approximately 4.1 meters (13 feet) high and weighing up to 25 tons. In the early morning or the evening, the Stonehenge recaptures its ancient magic, bathed in the soft, golden hues of the sun; an ancient monument of mammoth blocks of stone that simply defies explanation. Begun around 5000 years ago, the Stonehenge was constructed in phases from stone transported from far-off locales, dressed and fitted on site. Shrouded in an aura of mystery that has inspired a rich heritage of legends and folklore, the story behind the Stonehenge remains a secret closely guarded by the passage of time.
A serpentine belt of fortifications snake through the nation's undulating terrain, stretching from the eastern corridors of Chinese territory to the extreme west for more than 20,000 kilometers (12,427 miles). Truly as great as its lofty plaudits, the Great Wall of China can be traced to the 7th Century BCE, when independent kingdoms constructed distinctive walls to keep out marauding nomads. China's first emperor linked many of these walls during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE), and it underwent several renovations in the later centuries. Built along the rolling ridges of steep mountains, it offers spectacular, largely awe-inspiring views, a gargantuan structure that is undoubtedly one of humankind's greatest architectural achievements. The Great Wall is best enjoyed in sections, and some of the more popular visiting sites include Badaling , Mutianyu , Simatai and Huanghuacheng. Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the grandiose form of this monumental stockade is even rumored to be visible from space.
One of China's best preserved historical monuments and the world's largest ancient palace, the Forbidden City is Beijing's crowning glory. Isolated from the rest of the city by the Tongzi River, the crimson walls and embellished roofs of the palatial complex rise against the backdrop of modern-day Beijing like a vision from the country's regal past. Construction of the sprawling complex was completed in 1420, serving as the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties for over five centuries. This UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses a staggering 980 individual structures, with rooms that contain priceless artifacts and relics that span the ages, demonstrating the impeccable skill of the local artists and the opulent tastes of the royal family. The complex itself is the epitome of Chinese architecture and landscape design, a world unto itself of bewitching beauty. The complex is divided into two parts, the Inner Court where the King lived alongside the royal household, and the Outer Court where he performed his administrative duties. Now home to the Palace Museum, the Forbidden City's riches and treasures are open for all to see and experience the depth of the country's cultural heritage.
Of all Egypt's monuments, none is as majestic and haunting as the Great Sphinx. It was named as such by the Greeks, because of its physical similarity to a mythical creature with a lion's body and woman's head who devoured passers-by unable to answer her riddle. Arabs know it as Abu el-Hol (Father of Terror). Carved out of a limestone outcropping in front of the Giza Pyramids, the Sphinx is 50 x 20 meters (165 x 65 feet) high. Conventional archaeologists attribute its construction to the Fourth Dynasty pharaoh Khafre (who built one of the three pyramids behind it), but others suggest it may be much older. The nose and beard were later believed to be shot off by Mameluke troops who used the Sphinx for target practice. Visitors cannot climb on the monument, but there is a viewing platform accessible through the granite mortuary temple to one side.
Route 66 was commissioned in 1926 and was finished just before World War II. Although no longer a designated highway, parts of the original route still exist, with many efforts to restore and maintain sections of this historic road carried out to preserve its heritage. A number of attractions and sites along this byway are testaments to the culture and traditions which dominate America's landscape, painting an evocative picture of its history. Explore the remnants of a number of time-honored establishments and sites spanning several states, regaling visitors with their old-world charm and historic nuances.
A place where the fantasy world of Walt Disney is brought to life, this mammoth resort is a magical adventure waiting to happen. From the futuristic globe of the Spaceship Earth and the thrilling rides of Disney's Hollywood Studios to France, Japan, Germany, Morocco and Italy Pavilions, Walt Disney World encompasses the farthest reaches of the earth and a fanciful stretch of boundless imagination. After the incredible success of Disneyland in Southern California in the 1950s, Walt Disney decided to expand his empire with the purchase of 27,443 acres (11,106 hectares) of land near Orlando, Florida in 1965. Although Walt Disney himself died in 1966, his vision was realized when Walt Disney World opened to global anticipation and unparalleled excitement in 1972. Since opening, the park has expanded to include four separate theme parks - the original Magic Kingdom with its iconic fairytale castle, alongside Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom. There are also several water parks, themed hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, fireworks shows and endless opportunities for fun!
Cloaked in an aura of mystery, Teotihuacan, with its majestic pyramidal structures, ritualistic monuments, evocative pictographs and sacred altars is a stellar structure rising out of a long-gone Mayan past. This pre-urban center stands beautifully intact in its pre-Columbian glory, a lost city built somewhere around 100 BCE. At its peak, Teotihuacan was deemed to be the largest city to exist in the Western Hemisphere, spanning an area of nearly 21 square kilometers (8 square miles), not far away from Mexico City. While no one knows who built the city, one theory dictates that an exodus that followed a volcanic eruption lead several Mayans to the Teotihuacan Valley, who built the present-day Teotihuacan. The Avenue of the Dead, the ancient city's main thoroughfare, holds some of its largest structures, from sacrificial tables like the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, among others. Discovered by the Aztecs, Teotihuacan was worshiped as 'The City of Gods'.
The largest collection of contemporary art in the country is housed inside this vast modernist Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Renowned works by Pablo Picasso, Gustav Klimt and Salvador Dali are contrasted with the less familiar but equally interesting works by Israeli artists such as Yehudit Sasportas, Igael Tumarkin and Raffi Lavie. Of special note is the permanent collection of Italian Renaissance and Dutch portraits from the 15th and 16th Centuries in specially lit surroundings. An impressive sculpture garden offers an unrivaled aesthetic experience, complete with a stunning Italian floor mosaic.
Few of the earth's natural processes match the might of a volcano - blazing fountains of molten earth and liquid fire that thrust mountains from the sea while retracing shores and drowning islands in a single sweep. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the few places in the world where this violently majestic phenomenon can be witnessed first hand. Home to two of the world's most active volcanoes - Mauna Loa and Kilauea - vociferous eruptions with fiery streams of molten lava spewing from the lofty hulks of these volcanic mounts are regular events. Mauna Loa is also renowned as the world's largest mount, its summit at a height of 56,000 feet (17,000 meters) above the seafloor. Volcanic deserts with glowing embers, steaming craters, lava tubes, and lush forests teeming with life tell the tale of the islands of Hawaii, their dramatic origins, natural heritage and human ancestry.