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An everlasting symbol of human endeavor and exemplary ancient architecture, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and only remaining intact member of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. Every year when the great Nile flooded the golden soils of Egypt, Pharaoh Khufu hired several unemployed civilians to contribute to the construction of this mystical structure, a persevering effort that lasted nearly two decades. Appearing to worship the mighty skies, this colossal pyramid rises from the ground to meet its apex at 147 meters (481 feet), and is deemed to be the tallest structure in the world to be built by human hands. While the pyramid is composed of three known chambers, it was originally intended to serve as a tomb for the reigning emperor. The Great Pyramid continues to shine mysteriously under the gaze of the unforgiving sun, a glorious form built of three million limestone blocks, and years of plentiful toil.
A sea of pillars in shades of ochre and red stretch as far as the eye can see in Bryce Canyon. Called hoodoos, these pillars are shaped by eons of wind and water erosion into intriguing shapes that defy logic. The most spectacular formations are located in the Bryce Amphitheater; its castles, steep pink cliffs and towering pillars an expression of nature's stark beauty. At dawn and sunset the amphitheater is awash in a prism of warm hues. Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point and Bryce Point are a photographer's delight, promising breathtaking vistas that soothe the spirit and fire the imagination.
Established in 1980, the Kenai Fjords National Park protects 669,984 acres (271,133 hectares) of the coast of the Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska. The remote and largely inaccessible wilderness preserves one of Alaska's most spectacular swathes of land, where snow-capped mountains descend into lush forests teeming with wildlife. Over 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield, one of the United States' largest, carving the coast into a rippling series of fjords; jagged slivers of the azure water framed by sheer cliffs and speckled with icebergs in myriad shades of green and blue. Bears, coyotes and mountain goats roam the land, while the skies are the domain of over 191 species of birds. Its waters too host a vast variety of marine life, including sea lions, otters and whales. The Exit Glacier is the only one of the park's many that is accessible by road, while more seasoned hikers can venture onto the ice-field with an experienced guide. Most visitors, however, choose to explore the coast aboard a tour boat or fishing charter.
In order to bolster faith during the turbulent years following World War I, the Cristo Redentor, or Christ The Redeemer, was built as a watchful symbol over Mount Corcovado. The Statue stands atop a pedestal, a symbol of spiritual re-awakening that gazes onto the city below. The brainchild of Heitor da Silva Costa and French sculptor Paul Landowski, the statue soars over city limits at a height of 38 meters (125 feet), including its pedestal. The magnificent figurine is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, and features a quiet chapel at the base. With its outstretched arms, the Christ The Redeemer Statue denotes a convergence of olden depictions of Christ (symbolizing the cross), and more modern interpretations that believe it to be a symbol of peace.
The wondrous realm of the majestic redwoods, the Redwood National and State Parks encompass a vast stretch of old-growth forests; a place where humans are dwarfed to lilliputian size by ancient trees that soar to dizzying heights. A dreamy landscape of dense foliage, rugged coasts and lush grasslands, the park is teeming with elk and black bears, while the skies are the domain of the endangered brown pelicans. Standing amid the redwoods is an almost spiritual experience, their leafy heads reaching for the skies in an apparent attempt to peer over the horizon itself. Standing the test of time, several groves of these virgin forests predate the Roman Empire by over 500 years, making these some of the world's oldest and tallest trees. Riddled with hiking trails and speckled with small towns, the Redwood National and State Parks together form an international Biosphere Reserve and are recognized as a World Heritage Site.
For years, the extraordinary lair of the Borobudur Temple lay shrouded under debris of volcanic ash and carpets of vegetation, in a lush expanse in Central Java's Magelang. This 9th Century temple, older than the sacred Angkor Wat in Cambodia, was unearthed from its earthly trappings by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1814, and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 20th Century. Since then, this stellar stone stupa has been a source of awe and wonder for all those who visit it in its tropical-fringed abode. In the midst of a vast clearing, the temple sits on nine layered platforms consisting of six square and three circular bases, at the heart of which is a central dome. From an aerial perspective, the temple bears resemblance to a gloriously blossomed lotus flower, with skilfully layered platforms that symbolize the spiritual journey from desire to nirvana. The temple's most prolific feature however, is the astounding arrangement of 72 stupas that encircle the central dome, each stupa pierced with diamond-shaped perforations through which a statue of the elusive Buddha becomes visible.
The ethereal beauty of the Yellowstone National Park unfolds one panorama at a time - sometimes in visions of raw, rugged alpine features, at other times, in softer landscapes clouded with billowing smoke that emanates from hot springs and geysers. Whatever the sight, there is little that will not mesmerize anyone who traverses the bounds of this 2 million acre-park. Deemed to be the first national park in the world, the depths of Yellowstone were home to early Native Americans for a staggering 11,000 years, before mountain men and trappers ambled up its sheer cliffs and conducted organized explorations. It stretches from the state of Wyoming and spills over the boundaries of both Montana and Idaho, a geographic testament to its profound sprawl. The Old Faithful, a cone geyser, is one of the park's main attractions, while the Yellowstone Lake stretches over a supervolcanic caldera. Speckled with gushing waterfalls, geothermal spots, majestically arched cliffs that cast arresting silhouettes, and an array of nature's vivid colors, the park is an unspoiled terrestrial spectacle.
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, located in the historical city of Sergiyev Posad, is a magnificent monastery and a designated World Heritage site by the United Nations. Established in 1345 by one of Russia's patron saints, Sergius of Radonezh, it stands today as the major center of the Russian Orthodox church and has more than 300 monks residing in it. Spread over a large area, it includes many churches and towers featuring stunning Neoclassical Russian architecture with white washed walls, blue and gold colored domes and exquisite interiors decorated with grand chandeliers, beautifully painted wall frescoes and intricately carved stone carvings. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions around Moscow and is definitely worth the long journey from the city if you are an architecture and history enthusiast.
The world's largest waterfalls system, Iguazú Falls lie within sight of the point where the countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet. Legend has it, a long time ago a deity besotted with a beautiful woman was overcome with wrath when she fled with her lover in a canoe. The deity cut the river to stymie their escape, creating the falls and condemning the lovers to an eternal plunge. The Upper Iguazú River rushes down the steep face of the Devil's Throat, a narrow chasm of sheer rock, tumbling down in a series of cataracts and falls numbering in the hundreds. The tallest of these fall from a height of about 82 meters (269 feet) into the canyon below. A cacophony of rumbles and roars pervades the silence as the river comes crashing down, filling the air with a misty spray sliced by rainbows. A vision of immense beauty, the Iguazú Falls are a majestic display of nature's might; an awe-inspiring sight that attracts thousands to the midst of this monumental curtain of water.
Flanked by the peaks of the Austral Andes in the Santa Cruz province of Argentina, Los Glaciares National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The national park covers a spectacularly icy stretch of around 7,269 square kilometers (2,807 square miles), replete with glaciers and melt-water lakes, many of which are fed by the South Patagonian Ice Field. Rugged peaks rise from a bed of snow, the silence broken only by the distinctive, thunderous crack of icebergs being calved from glaciers. A landscape shorn from ice, the spectacular stretch of white is beautifully nuanced, with glassy pinnacles and swooping frozen waves in shades of blue and green, lending the stark vista some relief. Elsewhere, the scene is sheathed in a soft dusting of snow like a blanket of the finest cottony fluff. Although only 30 percent of the park is clad in ice, the most iconic of its sensational sights is that of the Glaciar Perito Moreno, a daunting wall of frigid blue fronted by the steely waters of Lago Argentino. Guanacos, cougars and the South American gray fox are just a few of the animals that roam the wild and wondrous Los Glaciares National Park.
The volcanic Mount Fuji is Japan's tallest peak as its summit is at a height of 3,776.24 meters (12,389 feet). This ethereal beauty is an icon of Japan's natural and cultural heritage, greatly revered and even deemed sacred as per Shinto beliefs. The near-perfect conical mountain has inspired thousands of paintings, poems and other artwork, its pinnacle dressed in snow for almost five months of the year. Shrines, temples and monasteries line the lower slopes of this active volcano, riddled with lakes, forests and pristine gardens along routes well-traversed by pilgrims. Mount Fuji is also a popular destination for mountaineers, with several attempts made to summit the volcano each year. The most recent eruption was over two centuries ago in 1707, yet the threat of disaster is ever-present. Often draped in a cloak of clouds and bathed in a golden hue at sunset, the otherworldly vision of Mount Fuji is not mired by this choleric side, however.
Sometimes called the necklace that adorns the northeastern Australian coast, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest in the world. It is a collection of more than 3,000 distinct reefs and island fleets, protected by the turquoise waters of the majestic Coral Sea. Together, the Great Barrier Reef was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. Waters run shallow for a large portion of the reef, making the perfect environment for aquatic adventures before the reef dips to a depth of 2,000 meters (6,561 feet). Diving and snorkeling here are like being transported to a different world, where swirling, rainbow-colored corals create a colorful backdrop for so many fish species. The experience is bound to stay for a lifetime.