Imagine having unlimited time, unlimited budget, and the whole world to discover and explore. So what are the 10 most beautiful places in the world that you should visit at least once in your life? These are ours.
Angkor Wat: a journey into the soul of Cambodia
The monumental complex of Angkor Wat (Khmer City Temple) is the largest religious complex in the world and represents the cultural and political center of the ancient city of Angkor, capital of the Khmer Empire between the 1113th and 1150th centuries. The site, built between XNUMX and XNUMX at the behest of the sovereign Suryavarman II, represents the highest expression of the Khmer civilization, from which the current Cambodia. Angkor Wat, whose profile also appears on the national flag, is now located near the city of Siem Reap and is part of the Unesco World Heritage Site. The harmony of its structure, a unique combination of architecture and spirituality, can only be compared to Greek and Roman architecture.
Mainly made up of sandstone, the complex has unmistakable ogival towers in the shape of a lotus bud, cruciform terraces and a multitude of devata (or apsara) decorative bas-reliefs depicting stories and legends drawn from the Hindu religion and floral motifs. Dwelling on these decorations and the almost metaphysical order of its architecture turns into a journey within the journey and a call to spirituality. The complex is a huge quadrilateral surrounded by a moat, in the center of which is the actual temple. Three galleries rise towards the central tower with openings, called gopura, at each cardinal point. The internal galleries, called bakan, have a tower at each corner dominated by the central one 65 m high from the ground. In this way the towers of the temple form the typical quincunx which exactly reproduces the profile of the monte Meru, the mountain of the Hindu gods, which in fact has 5 distinct peaks.
Macchu Picchu: the inviolate city of the Incas
The ruins of the millennial city of Macchu Picchu, or Machu Pikchu (old mountain, or peak), included by Unesco in the world heritage and even in the seven wonders of the modern world, leaves you speechless. Archaeological finds suggest that the city of Peru, perhaps used as the summer residence of the emperor and the Inca nobility, was built around 1440 BC by the emperor Pachacutec and remained inhabited until 1532, the year of the violent conquest of Peru by of the Spaniards. The Incas made sure that the invaders never came to their sacred city. Because of this Machu Picchu became almost a legend for the following four centuries, until the American historian Hiram Bingham rediscovered it, almost by chance, in 1911. To visit the complex you have to reach the town of Cheap flights from Aguas Calientes.
A sensation from the Andean Far West assails visitors who have decided to stay the night here and organize the excursion to Macchu Picchu. The more daring, on the other hand, are walking through the fascinating area Inca Trail through the wild vegetation to reach the Intipunku (gateway to the sun in Quechua), the gateway to the site from the mountains. The result, however, is the same. In front of the archaeological site you are almost fascinated as you cross the squares, the temples, the giant blocks of stone interlocked with each other without lime. Powerful and perfect, these inviolate remains reveal at every step ceremonial basins, entirely carved sacred caves, curious trapezoidal windows, the labyrinthine group of prisons with the dark Temple of the Condor and the enigmatic Intihuatana (pole of the sun), the pillar of rock by which the Incas calculated the time and the seasons.
The Great Wall of China: the immortal vestiges of an empire
The feeling in front of these places is always the same. You may have seen it in thousands of different photos, but seeing it with your own eyes is always something profoundly different. The sublime sensation that assails visitors in front of, or rather in the presence of architectural works so magnificent, so symbolically and spiritually powerful that it sweeps away everything else. Feeling small and not being able to take your eyes off there anymore. Whether you see it from satellites or not, what matters is the feeling of observing the Great Wall of China (Chàngcheng in Chinese) live. Born with the name of Wanli Chàngcheng (great wall of 10.000 Lì, where 1 Lì corresponds to approximately 500 m), it is also part of the Unesco heritage and the seven wonders of the modern world. Erected starting from 215 BC at the behest of the emperor Qin Shi Huang - the same as the famous terracotta army of X'ian - the walls had an original length of 8.850 km for a total development of 21.196 km, considering ramifications and natural defenses.
Today more than 6.000 km of walls alone and defense towers. The wall, greatly enlarged by the Ming dynasty in the fourteenth century, it represents the largest military defensive architecture ever built in the world and it can be said broadly that it runs along the northern border, and in the western part, of China. Initially it was built only of beaten earth, stones and wood, before it was reinforced with bricks, lime and stone. The extraordinary extension of the Wall offers a multitude of points and breathtaking views of the surrounding area, but some of the most evocative are undoubtedly those in which the Wall ends in the sea, such as Shanhaiguan, or on the Simatai gorges or near Jinshanling or Beijing.
Monument Valley: the imaginative valley
Between Utah and Arizona, in the United States, there is an extraordinarily powerful place, told, seen, dreamed and, by some, experienced. Along Highway 163, the immense reddish spiers of Monument Valley detach themselves from the infinite backdrop of blue sky and clouds, from the disproportionate vastness in which the myths and ghosts of the American Far West chase each other, exploration, clashes with the Indians, buffalo hunting, the presumption of being able to bend the unknown nature to one's will and desire for revenge, for wealth and for the future. Rock and sand eroded over millennia by wind, climate and rain have drawn these flat spiers, also called butte or mesas (the largest), which tower in this Tribal Park managed by the Navajo Nation Reservation.
In fact, inside the valley still lives a tribe of Navajo Indians who cares that this place will be preserved. From the visitor center it is possible to travel the valley by car or, to enter even more into the dream, on horseback. Slowly, like a cinematic roundup. The spiers have curious names, often suggested by their shape: Mitten and Merrick's butte, Three Sisters, Elephant butte, Camel butte, Rain God mesa, Thunderbird mesa, Sleeping Dragon, Ear of the Wind, Submarine Rock. A long shot, almost infinite in front of the impassivity of nature, like the one perceived by the cinema John Ford’s Point, the vantage point dedicated to the director who more than any other has made Monument Valley become the symbolic scenario of the Far West.
Pamukkale: the white water castle
In the southwestern area of the Turkey, a short distance from the town of Pamukkale is the suggestive site on which stood the ancient city of Hierapolis. This area in ancient times was known as the cotton castle as it was built on the edge of a very rich area of thermal springs covered by a now famous and white layer of limestone and travertine. This place, protected and protected by Unesco, was in danger of disappearing a few decades ago due to very aggressive building projects. Today the water is supplied in a controlled and programmed way, to protect the site from disintegration (the calcium carbonate on the surface is soft and crumbly) and from the formation of algae that would dirty the pure white of its natural pools.
Il Pamukkale thermal site it has thus returned to shine with dazzling and unique reflections, with all their ability to excite visitors, now much more aware, from all over the world. White and sparkling, smoothed by the force of water over thousands of years, the natural pools, arranged in terraced terraces, overflow with waters with beneficial properties at a temperature of about 35 ° C. The calcium hydrocarbonate of which these waters are rich in contact with the air creates the unmistakable sedimentation that gives the pools their almost magical appearance.
The pyramids of Giza: perfection and mystery written in the stars of Egypt
On the edge of the western outskirts of the Cairo, the necropolis of Giza with its amazing pyramids is perhaps one of the few places in the world to have been considered a World Heritage Site even before the foundation of Unesco. It could even be argued that it is not part of the seven wonders of the modern world only for democracy, as it is already part of those of the ancient world and, among these, it is the only one to have reached the present day. The value of this place is inestimable. Among all the traces left by the Egyptians, Giza it is certainly the most absolute and memorable. The pyramid, the tomb of the pharaohs, is a ladder to reach the sky and the corners of it the rays of the sun that descend on the earth. The proportions, the construction technique, the grandeur of the blocks perfectly resting on each other really have something supernatural, so it seems almost natural not to attribute the pyramids to the work of man but to that of some other being in the universe.
La pyramid of Cheops, the largest that has ever been built, stands over the entire area of the necropolis, made up of about twenty different structures, including the pyramid of Chefren, in Micerino, the cemeteries with the mastabe (monumental tombs), the tombs of the Queens like that of Kentkaus, the remains of the village of the artisans who built the whole complex and the always enigmatic Sphinx, the lying lion with the head of a man. The arrangement of the three main pyramids (Cheops, Khafre and Menkaure) is said to exactly reproduce the arrangement of the stars that form Orion's belt. Like a map to read the secrets hidden behind the stars, the pyramids of Giza have not yet finished revealing the great knowledge reached by the Egyptian civilization thousands of years ago.
Petra: the lost city of the Nabataeans
Il archaeological complex of the ancient city of Petra represents a fascinating journey back in time inside a deep gorge, at the end of which opens a valley of monumental funerary temples entirely dug into the desert rock and which until a few decades ago hosted entire families of Bedouins, with their children and their flocks of sheep, very skilled in descending vertical rock walls capable of causing dizziness by exploiting the countless cracks created by atmospheric agents over thousands of years. The rock hewn, sculpted, smoothed by the hand of man and by time has brought to light multicolored veins that shine in the impeccable sun of this rocky desert and which in ancient times gave the city the name of Reqem o Raqmu, la Variopinta. Petra is remembered for having been the capital of the ancient civilization of the Nabataeans, an Arab nomadic tribe contemporary to those mentioned in the Old Testament, which reached its maximum splendor very quickly, once its construction was completed, which took place around the first century BC.
The access road to the complex, preceded by an ancient river bed, is nothing more than a deep gorge carved into the mountain where light and wind are channeled, the Sîq. In the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989), the archaeologist rides this fascinating canyon on horseback, before his shadow stands out against the sun-drowned facade of the Tomb of the Treasury (al-Khasneh), one of the symbolic monuments of Petra and that in the film, instead, guards the Holy Grail. The site is immense but it is worth exploring it far and wide to discover the other extremely significant monuments such as the Royal tombs that occupy the entire facade of a mountain, the enigmatic hill of the Sacrifice (al-Madbah) with the two tall obelisks 6 m also dug into the rock, the Roman theater, the beautiful mosaics of the Byzantine church, the Roman colonnaded road, the Great temple until you reach, after having followed an uphill path, the imposing Tomb of the Monastery (al-Deir), in front of which the slopes open leading to further paths, Bedouin escape routes and viewpoints that seem suspended in the void.
St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican: the apotheosis of the Italian Renaissance
The basilica of San Pietro and the adjoining complex of the Vatican museums they collect the maximum artistic expression that Italy has left to the whole world and to humanity, that is to say that marvel of ingenuity and artistic flair that was the Renaissance. Starting from the very structure of this church, the mother basilica of world Catholicism, the place where the apostle Peter is buried, under the surface inside the Vatican caves. The ambitious project of Pope Julius II, begun in 1506, culminated in the immense dome designed by Michelangelo, under which some of the absolute masterpieces of Italian art are hidden: the Pietà by Michelangelo (1499) and the monumental Baldacchino by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1624-1633), made with the bronze of the Roman pantheon and the four unmistakable twisted columns which directly reflect the temple of Solomon.
Bernini is also the architect, between 1657 and 1667, of the monumental square and the relative colonnade that introduces the basilica, as if it were a long and symbolic embrace. That season of great artistic fervor promoted by Julius II also gave birth to other immense treasures kept in the Vatican museums, the frescoes and works by Giotto, the papal rooms and the apostolic palace, to finish with the place where all this is condensed: The Sistine Chapel with the Last Judgment (1508-1512) and the frescoes on the vault (1535-1541) also made by Michelangelo. The walls of the chapel are certainly no less, embellished with a cycle of frescoes by the greatest Italian artists of the second half of the fifteenth century: from Botticelli to Perugino, from Pinturicchio to Ghirlandaio.
Uluru: just a big stone
Uluru (strange in Aboriginal language), in English Ayers Rock, is an amazing stone. The most famous rock massif of the Australian outback, the flat and wild Australian prairie on which this huge stone stands out like a moloch or totem. The strange energy it emanates reverberates all around. A silent but colorful question. The beauty of Uluru it lies in its ability to change color depending on the time of day and the season. Its intense red color, visible above all at sunrise and sunset, can turn purple, ocher, gold and bronze, just like a magical stone.
Including today by Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Uluru is located 450 km from Alice Springs: a few hundred km further east and would have been in the exact center of Australia. For the aborigines it is a sacred place and it is for this reason that a lot of controversy had recently arisen and now tourists are no longer allowed to climb the monolith in any way. The most beautiful spectacle that Uluru can give to visitors is in fact the one that can be witnessed by reaching it from afar, its color changing uniformly on its surface, almost like a plasma screen. As we get closer and closer, that strange stone becomes gigantic as a child, making the legends and myths of the aborigines more true with every step.
Kruger National Park: walking among the big 5 of the African savannah
Il Kruger national park (Nasionale Krugerwildtuin in Afrikaans language), with its 20.000 square meters, is the largest in South Africa and has always been famous for its walking safaris and for offering the possibility of being able to spot, if lucky, the so-called big 5 five great African mammals par excellence: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. The protected area belongs to the biosphere “Dal Kruger ai Canyon” protected by the Unesco world heritage site. Inhabited by the indigenous tribe of the Bushmen for at least 100 years later expelled by other populations including the Arabs, who already in the XNUMXth century explored the Kruger region to feed the terrible slave trade, only to fall into the hands of the Dutch to starting from the eighteenth century until the discovery of gold, which took place towards the end of the nineteenth century.
A first reserve was born around 1898 paradoxically as a hunting reserve and only in 1926 the English government established the Kruger National Park, which takes its name from the Boer leader Paul Kruger, as a sign of reconciliation - completely symbolic - with the local population, now made up of Dutch settlers (Boers) and indigenous natives. Today in Kruger animals move freely through 6 different ecosystems, each characterized by different types of vegetation: vast savannahs, acacia and sycamore woods, where in addition to the big 5 it is possible to admire zebras, cheetahs, wild dogs, giraffes, hippos, hyenas, warthogs, wildebeest, various species of antelopes such as kudu and impala, crocodiles, numerous species of fish, amphibians and snakes including the black mother, and finally over 500 species of birds, partly migratory and partly sedentary. Walk in the Kruger just allows you to feel the breath of great africa, what anyone who has been there at least once in their life talks about: the earth, the sky and the sun become enormous while we suddenly resize ourselves in front of the vast horizon. Let's go back to human beings.Churches Religious tourism