25 famous landmarks you must see (at least!) once in a lifetime

We rarely think about travel destinations without thinking about iconic landmarks in each place. Whether it is the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Statue of Liberty in New York or nature’s wonders like the Grand Canyon or Mount Fuji, every place has something that makes us dream of being there to witness it. Take a look at 25 famous landmarks all over the world that will inspire your next travel adventure!

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Machu Picchu | Photo: Victor Rodriguez

1. Machu Picchu in Peru

A remarkable symbol of the Inca civilization Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the most important historic landmark in South America. This monumental 15th-century citadel sits between dizzying Andes mountains blanketed by lush vegetation 2430 meters above sea level in Peru’s Cusco region. The Lost City of Incas only revealed itself to the world in the early 20th century – the Spanish colonizers never discovered it. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. To visit, you will first need to travel to Aguas Calientes, a town approximately 9 kilometres from the famous site. From there you can either take a bus or trek up the mountain. Depending on your walking speed, the trek is at least 2 hours, but note that it is semi-difficult and quite steep, although the fruits of your labour will be well worth it. Due to high demand and visit limitations, booking in advance is non-negotiable.

2. The Statue of Liberty, New York, USA

A symbol that many instantly associate with the United States and New York City, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. The tarnished Lady Liberty has been watching over the Big Apple for over a century from her home on New York’s Liberty Island. The colossal statue was gifted to America by the people of France. It marks the friendship between the two countries and celebrates 100 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed. Notably, Lady Liberty holds the declaration in one hand and a gold-covered torch in the other. Did you know that the spikes in her crown stand for the seven oceans and continents of the world? To visit the Statue of Liberty, buy tickets in advance – the ferry from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan will take you to Liberty and Ellis islands. On Liberty Island, you get an unobstructed view of Manhattan and its famous buildings and sites: the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, the Manhattan Bridge, etc.

New York | Photo: Alejandro Barba

NYC | Photo: Omar López

3. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Can you hear the chansons? We’re travelling to France! The capital city Paris has long been a symbol of romance, and the city’s main character, the Eiffel Tower, may have something to do with it. This iconic landmark is the top-most visited site in Europe, and since being erected in 1889, more than 250 million people from all over the world have travelled to see it. Auguste Eiffel designed this majestic structure for the 1889 World Fair, and it was never intended to be permanent. Luckily, it was never scrapped. To visit the viewing platform, make a reservation beforehand – note that the sunset hours in summer are most in-demand, so plan ahead. After dark, there’s also a light show every hour that turns the tower into a dazzling spectacle.

4. Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Any famous landmark list would not be complete without the popular tourist attraction in India – the Taj Mahal. Majestically sitting on the south bank of Yamuna River in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a symbol of love. Completed in 1648, this white marble mausoleum houses the tomb of emperor Shah Jahan’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The ornate building is an exceptional example of Muslim art in India. Consequently, it was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The best times to visit are during the early morning hours or around the sunset. This way, you might be able to skip the daytime heat and large visitor crowds. To reach the Taj Mahal, you can travel from New Delhi to Agra by plane or train.

Agra | Photo: Julian Yu

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Majestically sitting on the south bank of Yamuna River in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a symbol of love

5. The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

One of history’s greats, the Roman Empire, is considered the longest-standing empire in recorded history. And as with any great empire, its remnants are equally noteworthy. Rome‘s majestic amphitheatre, the Colosseum, in its glory days, could accommodate over 50 thousand spectators. And as far as historic sites go, the Colosseum may just be as impressive to a modern-day visitor as it was to Romans in the times of the empire. When visiting the Colosseum, you can tour the underground tunnels and dungeons that once held gladiators and animal hordes that would fight to entertain the Romans. You can also take the Arena Floor tour that gives you a first-hand experience of what it was like to enter the arena from a gladiator’s point of view. For a more immersive experience, book the Colosseum VR tour and skip the lines to enter.

Rome | Photo: Joshua Earle

6. Great Wall of China, Beijing, China

When you learn that the Great Wall of China was built to protect the lands from nomadic invaders, it makes sense. After all, it’s a series of fortifications. What makes this historic landmark so epic, however, is when you realize the setting and magnitude of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built more than two thousand years ago, the Great Wall of China measures over 21 thousand kilometres in length over a jagged green landscape with spectacular views. The most well-preserved and renovated parts of the wall are near Beijing, while more rural parts have fallen into decay and are slowly disappearing. The best time to visit is in springtime and autumn to avoid the sweltering summer heat and humidity.

7. The Pyramids of Giza and The Sphinx, Egypt

A marvel from ancient times, the Giza pyramid complex, also known as the Giza necropolis, is a remarkable place and truly one of the most famous landmarks of all time. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that remain to this day – a great feat considering the complex is more than 4000 years old. The Sphinx of Giza is an inseparable part of the complex and a renowned symbol of Egypt. It resembles the mythical creature sphinx with a human head and a lion’s body. Standing in the scorching sun and often harsh desert winds, the pyramids are actually right on the doorstep of Cairo, making them very easy to visit but beware of the tourist traps. The best time to visit is between autumn and spring, when the temperatures are more tolerable.

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt | Photo: Fynn Schmidt

8. Mount Fuji, Honshu Island, Japan

When we think of famous landmarks, our minds automatically go to man-made structures around the globe. Some exceptions are the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park in the United States, and Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, which are all-natural wonders. And then, of course, there is Mount Fuji in Japan. Its iconic white snowy peak and picturesque silhouette are unmistakable. Japan’s highest mountain, which is actually an active stratovolcano, is located on Honshu Island and can be seen from many places, including Tokyo. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can consider climbing to the top – several hundred thousand people climb it each year. Alternatively, why not explore the Fuji Five Lakes region, which offers stunning vistas of the famous sacred mountain. Note that the weather in Japan is somewhat similar to that in Europe – the country enjoys all four seasons, so the best time to visit is between spring and late autumn.

9. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA

One of the most iconic bridges in the Western hemisphere and the whole world, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is also the most photographed one. More than 10 million people visit each year to see this Art Deco-style bridge up close as it stretches over the Golden Gait strain – an entry point to San Francisco Bay. The bridge itself is quite epic, but the stunning surroundings add an extra layer of awe once you see it up close. If you’re an early riser, you can get a unique view by visiting in the early morning hours when the bridge is shrouded in fog. The best places to see it are at the north-end lookout at Marin’s Vista Point, or you could head to Baker Beach or the Lands End lookout. The best time to visit is from August to October when the weather is less misty than in the early summer.

San Francisco | Photo: Brian Chorski

10. Christ The Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

While it may be a religious symbol, you don’t have to be a believer to find Rio de Janeiro’s colossal Christ the Redeemer landmark statue awe-worthy. Perched on top of Mount Corcovado, the 38-meter tall embodiment of Christianity’s central figure stands watching over Brazil’s second-most populated city. Completed in 1931, Christ the Redeemer is the largest Art Deco statue in the world. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike all the way up to the epic statue, but you can also take the tram, which offers beautiful views. If you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy lower temperatures, make sure to go in the early morning or late afternoon. The best time to visit Rio is between December and March if you want to enjoy the festival season. To head to the beaches, you can go in the shoulder season, which runs from April to October. Note that the low season runs between May and September.

11. Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

One of the most famous landmarks in the land down under has to be the Sydney Opera House. The iconic building is a 20th-century architecture marvel at the very heart of Sydney Harbour. The widely-photographed building was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, and it resembles the sails of a sailboat – a perfect fit for its location! While the name suggests that it’s just an opera house, it is, in fact, a multi-venue performing arts centre with more than 40 performances staged each week. The best time to visit Sydney is either in the high season between December and February or during the shoulder season – either March through May or September through November.

Sydney Opera House, Sydney | Photo: Jesse Hammer

Sydney | Photo: Jordy Chapman

12. Moai on Easter Island, Chile

Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is a Polynesian island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. While it belongs to Chile, it lies approximately 3700 kilometres to the east. Its mystical pull has very little to do with its remote location but more with what can be found on this tiny piece of land in the middle of nowhere. The world-renowned moai are huge human-like statues carved by the Rapa Nui people. What makes them so shrouded in mystery is the strange proportions – enormous heads with distinct noses, large chins, and forward-facing foreheads. The statues can be found scattered throughout the island. Easter Island is a real treat for eco-friendly travel, allowing you to enjoy the rugged natural beauty. In 2018, however, the island’s mayor announced that they would be reducing the number of tourists permitted on the island, and the length of stay was reduced from 90 to 30 days.

13. Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

The largest religious monument in the world and Cambodia’s national symbol Angkor Wat is the heart and soul of this Southeast Asian country. Cambodians take immense pride in its stunning representation of the Khmer civilization. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was created to represent Mount Meru, a divine five-peak mountain present in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Intricate details make this place unmistakable with anywhere else. The best time to visit this epic temple is in the dry season, which runs from November through March. For an epic experience, book one of the sunrise tours to see the temple gleaming against the red and pink morning sky.

Angkor Wat, Krong Siem Reap | Photo: Vicky T.

14. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, South Dakota, USA

In the very heart of the country lies one of America’s most famous landmarks – the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Carved in the mountain the four faces of influential American presidents overlook the Black Hills National Forest. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln each represent significant phases for the US: birth, growth, development, and preservation of the nation. Initially, the idea was to create a monument that would attract tourists to South Dakota. It took about 4 years from idea to approval from the Congress, and carving began in 1927. It took 14 years to complete. One of the best times to see the 18-metre high heads is at sunrise – golden light illuminates the mountain in red and golden hues. And from May through to September the mountain is also lit up during the night.

15. Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

Contrary to popular belief, the Leaning Tower of Pisa – one of Italy’s famous landmarks – didn’t shift off the vertical over hundreds of years. While it certainly got worse over the years, turns out the famous freestanding bell tower was already leaning when it was unveiled in 1372 after almost two centuries of being built. The leaning was caused by weak subsoil under the tower, but in the 1990s the tower underwent major stabilisation. Nowadays, you can not only take a slightly tacky picture pretending to hold the tower but also visit the tower’s viewing platform. Note that only a little over 40 people are allowed in at a time so if you want to visit, make sure to book a ticket online.

Pisa | Photo: Francisco Martinez Clavel

16. The Acropolis, Athens, Greece

The most recognizable landmark in Greece, and a hugely important historic site in the Western world, the Acropolis and the glorious Parthenon on top is an awe-inspiring sight visible from almost anywhere in the city of Athens. The famous monument dates back to the fifth century BC, but archeologists have found that the hill was inhabited even in prehistoric times. On the southern side of the hill, you’ll find a museum that has both stunning architecture as well as remarkable art. The Acropolis and the museum are connected by a pedestrian promenade which is not just a favourite for tourists but also for locals – this is a wonderful place to catch the sunset from.

17. La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Gaudi’s famous La Sagrada Familia is, without a doubt, one of the most prominent symbols and iconic buildings in Barcelona. Pope Benedict XVI made it a basilica in 2010, and despite it being forever under construction – for over 140 years – La Sagrada Familia receives several million visitors each year. This makes it the most famous unfinished landmark in the world. Intricate details, ornaments, and a highly unique architectural signature distinguish this basilica from any other. It is stunning during the day and even more magical at night. To visit, you’ll want to book the tickets in advance. By booking through the official website or app, you’re avoiding tour operator commissions and are contributing to the construction. Note that not all tickets include tower visits, so make sure to double-check that.

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona | Photo: Enrico Perini

Photo: Chema Photo

18. Petra, Wadi Musa, Jordan

A remarkable ancient city in a desert landscape, Petra in southern Jordan is not just a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also a landmark that was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Once an affluent capital, Petra still looks magnificent even today despite the winds that keep shaping its surrounding landscape. While it could stand nature’s touch, it’s starting to be threatened by humans – Petra is often mentioned as one of the most endangered historic sites in the world. This means that responsible travel is a must. It’s a good idea to travel in the off-season (from December to February). You may need an extra layer of clothes but you’ll be able to enjoy this landmark place without the crowds.

19. Ha Long Bay, Ha Long, Vietnam

An epic natural wonder and Vietnam’s most iconic landmark, Ha Long Bay is a turquoise and emerald green paradise with more than 1600 islands and islets, and tall limestone pillars that look surreal and otherworldly. To enjoy this unique place, you’ll have to book one of the available cruises that take you into the very heart of the bay. These cruises range from luxury overnight cruises to day cruises or kayaking tours if you’re feeling adventurous. If you want to treat yourself, book a luxury cruise with excellent amenities – enjoy sunset views in the bay from a comfortable lounger. The best time to visit this dreamy place is in November when the weather will spoil you with blue skies and balmy temperatures.

Halong Bay Vietnam

Halong Bay | Photo: Ammie Ngo

Vietnam | Photo: Giau Tran

20. Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England

Surrounded by myth and mystery, Stonehenge is an ancient wonder still enchanting visitors today. Dating back at least 5000 years, the iconic stone circle in Salisbury Plain is one of the most famous landmarks in England. The monolithic stones form two circles, and in the middle, there’s a horseshoe formation of stones with a great altar stone in the very middle. Over thousands of years, this place of ritual has attracted pilgrims, worshipers, and philosophers, among others. To visit this one-of-a-kind prehistoric marvel, you can take a train from London Waterloo to Salisbury – trains run every half hour and take one and a half hours. From there you can take a Stonehenge Tour bus that will take you nine miles to the landmark.

21. The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

The most wonderful example of Moorish architecture and one of the most popular Spanish landmarks, the Alhambra charms anyone who sets eyes on this unique landmark in Granada. Perched on top of a hill, the fortress, castle, palace, and garden complex is truly kingly. Ornate decorations and absolute attention to detail are masterfully mixed in with straight geometric lines that are signature of any fortification. This iconic landmark attracts several thousand visitors each day and more than 2 million every year. You can book your visit up to a year in advance, and the entry fee for the whole day is surprisingly affordable – the general admission ticket is only 14 euros. You can also book a nighttime ticket to view the palace and its glorious gardens lit up in golden hues.

Alhambra, Granada | Photo: Dimitry B

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One of the most popular Spanish landmarks, the Alhambra charms anyone who sets eyes on this unique landmark in Granada

22. The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

When in Rome, you have to visit the Vatican City even if you’re not there for its religious appeal. The grandiose headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church houses some of the world’s most spectacular works of art by Michelangelo, da Vinci, Raphael, and many more. Make sure to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, or the Vatican Gardens for a bit of greenery. This is a place that makes heads turn and you’re guaranteed to leave with a pocketful of stunning pictures and memories. Entry to Vatican City itself is free, and you can book tickets for museums via the official Vatican website.

23. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia

The largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is an absolute draw for visitors from all over the world. From adventure seekers to natural wonder appreciators, this impressive landmark is guaranteed to impress anyone. Since the falls are located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, you can easily book a tour from either the Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe or the Maramba town in Zambia. For a memorable thrill, you can book the rafting experience down the grand rapids.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe | Photo: Datingjungle

Victoria Falls | Photo: Jason Zhao

24. Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria is among the most famous castles in the world. The 19th-century Romanesque revival-style castle feels like straight out of a fairytale. Perhaps that’s why Disney’s creators drew inspiration from this real-life castle to draw the castle seen in Sleeping Beauty. The castle was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria, and in many ways, it represents his attempts to achieve grandiosity. What makes the castle so epic is the fact it is perched on a hill in stunning surroundings of Alpine foothills. While visiting the castle, you can also go on a hike and see the fierce waterfall near the castle as well as the Alpsee lake.

25. The Grand Canyon, Arizona, The United States

An otherworldly experience right in the heart of America – the Grand Canyon is both the largest and longest canyon in the world. This natural formation was created thanks to the Colorado River that forcefully carved its way through Arizona’s landscapes 5 to 6 million years ago. Whether you stop here just to get a glimpse of this natural wonder or decide to stay for longer (there are fantastic trekking and camping options available), you’re guaranteed to leave with memories for a lifetime. The top-most visited places are the North Rim and South Rim, and you’ll have to purchase an entrance pass to visit this national park.

HERO Japan

Japan | Photo: David Edelstein

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