Initially, a list was drawn up to identify the most spectacular monuments, both architectural and artistic, created by man in the ancient Greek period.
The Greeks are the ones who decided to classify these 7 works, the number 7 meaning perfection and fullness, which are all found in the Mediterranean basin and in Mesopotamia.
The 7 Wonders of Antiquity
The 7 Wonders of Antiquity included:
- The statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece)
- The Colossus of Rhodes (Greece)
- The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Turkey)
- The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum (Turkey)
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Iraq)
- The Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt)
- The Great Pyramid of Giza in Memphis (Egypt)
To this day, only the pyramids that have survived remain. If you want to read my tips and tricks on this subject, check out my article on Egypt!
Here is a video of the reconstruction of the wonders of Antiquity :
Fans of Game of Thrones may have noticed that George R.R. Martin was inspired by the Colossus of Rhodes for the titan of his city of Braavos!
The 7 New Wonders of the World
Since only the pyramids remained, a campaign was conducted in the early 2000s to establish a new list of the 7 wonders.
A vote was held among a list of 200 structures to designate the new 7 wonders of the world.
In 2007, they were unveiled as follows:
- Chichén Itzá (Mexico)
- Machu Picchu (Peru)
- The statue of Christ the Redeemer (Brazil)
- The Colosseum in Rome (Italy)
- The Taj Mahal (India)
- The Great Wall of China (China)
On the Yucatán peninsula, you can discover the vast archaeological complex of Chichén Itzá. It is one of the most remarkable Mayan sites in Central America.
According to myths, the main pyramid of El Castillo served as an astronomical observatory and the Maya used it as a solar calendar.
At the spring and autumn equinoxes, one can see the shadow of a snake going up and down the stairs of the pyramid.
The price of an entrance ticket to the site is 539 MXN for an adult (about $33 CAD). Children under 13 years of age can visit free of charge.
How to get there
The site is located 200 km and about 3 hours drive from the city of Cancun and the resorts of the Riviera Maya.
If you are staying at an all-inclusive hotel, the easiest way to visit Chichen Itza is to take a day trip offered by your hotel or to book on Viator.com.
Hotels sell “all-inclusive” packages including tickets, transportation, guide, meals, etc. These prices are approximately $100-130 CAD per adult. The hotels sell the tours in US dollars. After asking the price in Mexican pesos and converting it, it was more convenient to pay directly in US dollars.
To get to the site independently, I suggest you rent a car if your accommodation is in Cancún/Riviera Maya.
There are also public buses (ADO and Oriente) that go directly to Cancún, but it takes about 4 hours per trip. It may be difficult to get there and back in a day, but it is definitely doable.
Another option is to take a collectivo, a shared taxi, from a nearby affordable city like Valladolid (30-40 minutes from the site).
Valladolid is a Pueblo Mágico (magical city) and a very welcoming place. There is also a cenote in the heart of the city that is great for relaxing and jumping in! The ADO and Oriente buses will take you from Valladolid to Cancún.
The cost of Marriott hotels is not very high in Cancún. This is a great place to earn elite nights while earning 5x points with the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card!
Here are a few reviews of some of these hotels:
As for airfare, there are direct flights from Montreal with Air Canada that should cost between 12,500 and 17,500 Aeroplan points per one-way trip.
However, if you’re targeting a busy period, you’ll need a lot more points.
- The site opens at 8am while the tourist buses arrive around 9-10am.
- Bring an umbrella, there is not much shade on the site and the sun is quite intense, especially in the middle of the day.
- The equinoxes have a great significance on this site, you will have the privilege to attend the phenomenon.
Of all the seven wonders of the world, this one is probably my favourite because this place offers extraordinary views and panoramas.
These spectacular ruins would have been those of a city founded at the height of the Inca Empire, in the 1400s.
When we talk about Machu Picchu, a specific image comes to mind: ruins with a mountain in the background.
In fact, Machu Picchu refers to the mountain where the ruins of the city are located. The mountain behind is called Huayna Picchu and it is possible to climb to the top of it.
The views from the summit give us a sense of grandeur and freedom. I LOVED having that different perspective of the ruins. I highly recommend it.
The most beautiful view of the whole of Machu Picchu is from the Sun Gate. However, only hikers can access the Sun Gate at sunrise.
To get a similar view without doing the Inca Trail, there is a platform that offers a similar view; when you enter the site, you have to turn left and climb up until you are stopped! It’s worth it to be very early in the morning!
The price of an entrance ticket to the site is 152 SOL for an adult (about 50 $CAD). Children under 18 years old will have to pay 70 SOL.
How to get there
The nearest airport and gateway is in Cusco. This city is located at a high altitude and it is advisable to spend 1 to 2 days there to acclimatize.
Once you are comfortable in Cusco, you will have no problem with Machu Picchu which is located at a lower altitude.
From Cusco, you will have to go to Aguas Calientes which is at the foot of Machu Picchu; by train or by taking the famous Inca Trail through the Sacred Valley.
Air Canada Rouge provides direct flights between Montreal and Lima. You will need between 30,000 and 60,000 points for a one-way economy flight.
Another option would be to partner with United through IAH or EWR as the number of points required will be less susceptible to market fluctuations despite the stopover. Then, you will have to take an internal flight or an overnight bus to Cusco.
Hotels are quite expensive in Aguas Calientes. My advice is simply to find a hotel that is within your budget and use reward points to reduce the cost.
A credit card with no conversion fee, such as the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®, came in very handy in Peru, as I was able to pay for everything from hotels to tickets to Machu Picchu!
The train ride is on Perurail or Incarail in 3h30-4h. The trains are very comfortable.
The cost of the train ticket is dynamic and varies between US$50 and US$100 for a one-way trip. There are also more luxurious options that include gourmet meals, entertainment, guided tours, etc.
The easiest route is to San Pedro station. This one is located in the heart of Cusco. Since this is not always available, there is also the Poroy station which is 13 km (20-30 minutes) from Cusco and is well served by taxis and a local bus.
The Machu Picchu station in Aguas Calientes is 8km from the ruins; a bus will take you to the entrance of the site for US$24 round trip. It is also possible to walk up if you are very fit!
The Inca Trail
This well known hike is for those who want the ultimate experience! On the fourth and final day of the trek, we rise in the early morning hours to reach the Sun Gate just in time to see the first rays of the sun break through the mountains and illuminate the site.
You should plan 4 days and 3 nights for this adventure. On the other hand, walking these 40 km is quite demanding because there is a big difference in altitude on most of the way. That being said, there are a lot of people starting this hike and you’ll probably be walking in line, especially if you’re in high season.
It is also possible to walk only part of the route in one day (11 km, 5-6 hours). This one also ends at the Sun Gate, but it will be in the afternoon since we have to follow the train schedule and disembark at a specific point for the hike.
In order to make the trek, you must get one of the 500 permits per day from an authorized operator. It is not possible to do it independently and it is necessary to plan well in advance (6-7 months). I recommend G Adventures as they are extremely experienced in traveling to Peru and specifically the Inca Trail.
The dry season coincides with the high season for visiting Peru. While it is best not to hike in the rain, the heat can be overwhelming and the trail will be at capacity every day.
- Buy your Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu tickets in advance. Only 2,500 and 400 people (respectively) are allowed to visit each day.
- The Inca Trail is closed in February for safety reasons (rainy season) and maintenance.
- There is no minimum age to do the Inca Trail, but operators have their own policies.
- The permits for the Inca Trail are associated with your passport number; a verification is made. If you change your passport in the meantime, you must inform your operator.
- For stamp collectors, there is a station at the entrance.
The statue of Christ the Redeemer
With his wide open arms, he symbolizes the very welcoming character of Brazilians. He also dominates and watches over his city from the top of Corcovado Mountain.
The statue is very impressive at 83 meters high, but what inspired me the most was the panoramic view of the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro.
Personally, I spent less than an hour at the top… only to take my pictures of the statue and the landscape. This time was more than enough, unlike the other wonders that need to be visited in more depth.
The price of an entrance ticket to the site is R$71-88 for an adult depending on the season (about 17-22 CAD). Children between the ages of 5 and 11 will be charged R$54.
For more details on the must-see places in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil, here is Valerie’s beautiful article and Caroline’s one on Sao Paulo.
How to get there
Unlike Machu Picchu which requires a little more planning, public transport or a simple inexpensive Uber will get you to the top.
From Montreal we have a direct flight to Sao Paulo, but there is no Star Alliance flight between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. You will need to purchase another ticket for this internal flight. If you want to fly directly to Rio de Janeiro on the same ticket with your Aeroplan points, you can do so with United through Houston.
The JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro is located on Atlantica Avenue, directly on Copacabana Beach. This is a category 5 hotel, so you can use your free night certificate!
- There is a much greater chance of fog in the summer (between November and March), so you may not be able to see the Christ statue.
- Do not walk up the mountain for safety reasons.
This vast Roman amphitheatre could accommodate up to 50,000 spectators who came to watch the gladiatorial fights and shows.
Built during the 1st century, this great building is still considered the symbol of the Roman Empire at its peak.
There are three sections that can be visited
- the arena: the main attraction and the stage for fights and shows
- the basement: where the equipment and animals were kept and where the gladiators waited for their turn
- the upper level: a panoramic view of the amphitheatre and a view of the adjacent Forum.
I particularly enjoyed visiting the underground tunnels and trying to understand the logistics behind the battles and shows.
In my opinion, this is the most interesting part of the visit.
The price of an entrance ticket to the site, as well as to the Roman Forum, is €16 for an adult (about $24 CAD) and €22 to access all three sections.
How to get there
This Wonder is located in the heart of Rome, just get to the Colosseo station on the B metro line. The entrance is a few minutes walk from the station.
Air Canada and Air Transat offer direct flights from Montreal. The value of a ticket paid in cash must always be calculated in relation to a ticket paid in Aeroplan points, but especially for flights to Europe.
Depending on the season and the specials, it may be much better to pay for your flight in cash and then apply reward points to the purchase.
- Buy your tickets in advance on the following official websites.
- Choose your ticket carefully according to what you want to visit.
- If you want to take an organized tour to get more explanations or not to have to queue, the best value for money is sold by the official Coopculture website.
The city of Petra is a city with hundreds of buildings carved into the rock, whose layers vary from pink to dark brown to red.
From the entrance to the site, you will have to walk about 1.5 km through a rather narrow gorge to reach the Treasury (the Khazneh) which seems to appear suddenly after the last bend.
What an experience worthy of Indiana Jones! Indeed, the Treasure was used as a backdrop for the final scene of the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The Treasury is the best preserved monument in Petra as it is sheltered from the sandy winds.
There are many views and nooks and crannies to discover, I advise you to spend at least 3 days to visit it.
How to get there
Jordan, being a small country, has only two airports: Amman and Aqaba. Petra is about 3 hours drive from both airports.
As Petra is the main destination for travelers in Jordan, there are several ways to get there easily, whether by public or private transport.
We took a private taxi because we wanted to make a stop at the Dead Sea. It was on the way and we wanted to stop there for a few hours.
I had taken advantage of the option to add a stopover to my Aeroplan trip to combine Jordan and Egypt on one ticket. You can add a stopover for only 5,000 points: YUL-CAI (stop)-AMM.
The Marriott Hotel in Petra (category 4) is another great place to use your Marriott points or a certificate.
Another popular itinerary is to combine a visit to Petra and the Dead Sea with a trip to Israel. Indeed, there are many 2 or 3 day trips that are organized from Jerusalem. However, this will be much more expensive.
- Don’t forget to take off your sunglasses, the magic of Petra lies in the colours of the rock that change according to the light that shines on them.
- Canadians require a visa to enter Jordan. It can be obtained on arrival by air or at a land border crossing. The cost of the visa is $65 USD.
Emperor Jahan’s love for his wife really had no limits. He contracted twenty thousand men over two decades to build this monument.
The Taj Mahal is a veritable mausoleum that was erected in honor of his wife, who died giving birth to their 14th child.
It is the most famous building in India and one of the most photographed monuments in the world. Some of the rooftop hotels and restaurants have great views for panoramic photos.
The best times for photos are at sunrise and sunset and when it is illuminated by the full moon.
It is possible to book full moon tours of the Taj Mahal from 2 days before to 2 days after the full moon. I haven’t done it, but I hear it’s spectacular.
The entrance fee to the site is 1100Rs(20$CAD) and it is free for children under 14 years old.
How to get there
The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, a city about 200 km from New Delhi. The train is very convenient for the New Delhi-Agra connection; the journey can be made in just 2 hours.
The cost of this trip is only Rs 465 ($9 CAD) in the air-conditioned car of the fast train! There are many different trains (local, fast, etc.) and classes (standing, seat, air-conditioned, deluxe with meals, etc.), but the prices are very affordable, no matter which ticket you buy.
Once you arrive at the Agra train station, a simple taxi or rickshaw can take you to the gates of the Taj Mahal.
It is also possible to go there by taxi; it takes 3h30-4h to get there from New Delhi.
For accommodation, I highly recommendITC Mughal, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Agra, a luxurious 5-star hotel that will cost you 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or less (category 3). It is a 20-minute walk from the Taj Mahal.
See our previously published reports on India:
- The Taj Mahal is closed on Friday.
- It is forbidden to eat at the Taj Mahal.
- Tripods are not allowed and will be confiscated at the entrance.
- The Mehtab Bagh Park offers a beautiful view of the back of the Taj Mahal.
- It is excessively hot (up to 45C) between April and June and I recommend avoiding the monsoon between July and September.
- Canadians require a visa to enter India. It is now possible to get an electronic visa for $25 USD here.
The Great Wall of China
A symbol of Imperial China, most sections of the Great Wall were built during the Ming Dynasty. Initially built as a defence system, the wall also served as a border post to collect taxes on the Silk Road trade.
Several sections are open to tourists. I suggest you visit the Mutianyu section or the Badaling section.
The Mutianyu Wall is beautiful, but there are fewer means of transportation to get there and less traffic. I found the experience much more authentic.
The Badaling section is much more popular as it is easily accessible by public transport from Beijing (by bus or train).
Badaling is also well preserved and larger, but the crowds can be very dense, especially since most organized tours choose this section.
The interesting thing about Badaling is that you can really see the grandeur of the Great Wall; at the top, there is enough space to accommodate up to 10 soldiers in width.
How to get there
You will need private transportation or a taxi to get to Mutianyu. It is also possible to make part of the journey by public transport, but you will have to change buses or taxis.
Badaling is much more accessible from Beijing:
- by bus (1h30) with bus #877 from Deshengmen or tourist bus #1 from Qianmen
- by fast train (25-35 mins), from Beijing North Railway Station to New Badaling Railway Station.
If you have a long layover in Beijing (which happened to me often with Air China), the Airport Express goes to Dongzhimen station where you can take the #2 subway line to Jishuitan station to catch bus #877.
It takes at least 10 hours if you want to visit the Great Wall by yourself or 5 hours if you go with an organized tour.
Many tour agencies are waiting patiently for tourists to leave the secure area of Beijing airport.
Both sections have a cable car to go up. In Mutianyu, you can even go down the slide!
In Beijing, all Marriott hotels are hotels in category 5 or lower. So you can treat yourself to high-end hotels like the St. Regis, JW Marriott or Ritz-Carlton at 35,000 points or with your free night certificate!
- Canadians need a visa to visit China
- It is possible to have a transit visa on arrival to visit Beijing (between 24 hours and 7 days) under certain conditions.
- Avoid Badaling during public holidays, especially during the Chinese New Year period.
These are all very touristy places, but a good way to save money on this project is definitely to earn Aeroplan points and Marriott Bonvoy points.
I know that there are hundreds of other equally impressive structures, but this was my first bucket list.
Of course, this list will grow infinitely longer over time!
And you, are you a bucket list person? 😉
If you have more specific questions about these destinations, you can reach me through the Milesopedia community. To follow my adventures on my Instagram account wanderingaline, it’s here!