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World of wonders

From majestic ruins to lost cities, the world is home to many extraordinary man-made creations that’ll make for an awe-inspiring family adventure, discovers Jessica Pyers.

Taj Mahal, India
This monument is India’s most prized jewel and the epitome of Mughal art and love. It is not a palace, as most often thought, but a tomb built in honour of the beloved wife of Emperor Shah Jahan, who passed away giving birth to their 14th child. It’ll be love at first sight for all the family when you spy the pure white marble Taj, take in its refined elegance and marvel at the delicate craftsmanship of 20,000 men. Children find the sheer scale and symmetry of the monument mesmerising, and a good idea is to give them a camera and follow them as they roam the grounds, capturing memories from every angle. Don’t forget to take in the majestic view from across the Yamuna River. On The Go Tours has a great reputation for family-friendly Taj Mahal trips, which also include a visit to the famed Agra Fort. |

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
Overlooking the bustling city of Rio de Janeiro from the highest peak of Corcovado Mountain, Christ the Redeemer is not only an almighty landmark, but it offers staggering panoramic views of Brazil’s second largest city, too. Constructed between 1922 and 1931, the statue is a towering 30 metres tall (not including its eight-metre pedestal) with an arm span that stretches 28 metres wide, entirely made of reinforced concrete and soapstone. Book your family on a Rdj4u Full Day City Tour and enjoy a Cosme Velho cog train ride through the lush Tijuca Rain Forest, right to the statue’s incredible mountain-top vantage point. It also includes a cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain where you’ll discover the ultimate viewing platform for watching the sunset over Copacabana Beach. All the while you’ll be basking in the city’s vibrant culture. | 

Machu Picchu, Peru
Perched 2430 metres above sea level on a mountain ridge in Peru, the Inca city of Machu Picchu is remarkably intact, and the journey to reach it is half the fun. If your family isn’t up for hiking the full 42-kilometre trail, there are alternatives that will let you hop on a train and disembark to hike the last few hours of the route. The Lost City of the Incas is as mythical as it sounds, delivering myriad granite passageways and rooms to explore and decipher. The region has a number of other exhilarating exploits, including mountain biking in the sacred Urubamba valley, whitewater rafting on the Urubamba River and exploring the nearby city of Cusco and its traditional villages and markets. Based in Cusco, tour operator Best Andes Travel offers trekking options for all fitness levels and ages. |


Hot Tip: It takes a few days to acclimatise to the trail’s altitude, so spend a few days in Cusco before making your way to Machu Picchu. Tourists can only visit the site with a tour, and due to its burgeoning popularity, visitors are advised to book months in advance.

Petra, Jordan
If your family loves Indiana Jones, then the historic city of Petra is sure to inspire some vivid re-enactments of the Last Crusade’s climatic finale at the iconic Al Khazneh. Located amid rugged desert canyons and carved directly into the vibrant red sandstone cliffs of Jordan, the mysterious city of Petra certainly is enthralling. Even those that aren’t Indi fans will be convinced it is the sacred site of the Holy Grail! There are plenty of peculiar sites to uncover: the Siq which is an impressive entrance that leads through a dark, narrow gorge to the Treasury; the mountain-top altars where ritual sacrifices were made and the remarkable landscape of Wadi Rum. For a unique swimming experience, try floating with rocks on your stomach in the nearby Dead Sea. Combining local knowledge and international standards, Petra Nights Tours are a great way to see all the unique sights of Jordan. Don’t be deceived by the name; they have a range of comprehensive day tours, too. |


Hot Tip: Head to the Treasury early to beat the crowds (and get the best photos).

Great Wall of China, China
Renowned as the longest structure ever built by humans, the Great Wall runs across the historical northern border of China. Its vast wall line is made up of sections of wall, trenches and natural defensive barriers, measuring an astonishing 8850 kilometres... An archaeological survey even suggests that the entire wall – with all of its branches – measures over 21,000 kilometres! There are eight official locations open to visitors in Beijing. Skip the crowds at the popular Badaling stretch of wall and enjoy a less crowded segment, like the well-preserved section at Mutianyu. Children (and parents) will love taking a tour that ends with an exhilarating toboggan ride down the wall. Great Wall Hiking is a great tour option for holidays and offers fantastic group and private excursions. The local tour guides delve into fascinating stories of China’s long history, while setting a pace that’ll suit legs both great and small. |


Hot Tip: For a different perspective of the sight, visit at night to watch almost three kilometres of the wall.

Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Situated in the Mexican state of Yucatán, the ruins of Chichén Itzá are an intriguing insight into the Mayan way of life. The sacred city will be immediately captivating, with a multitude of architectural styles found in its stepped pyramids, temples and columned arcades. Its Temple of Kukulkan has 365 steps – one for each day of the year – revealing a devised 365-day calendar that proves the accuracy of Mayan astronomy. Like that isn’t mind-boggling enough, twice a year on the spring and autumn equinoxes, a snake-like shadow descends the steps to join a stone serpent head at the base of the structure. Kids will also love the ancient ball court, where players would have hit a five-kilo ball through high, stone scoring hoops in the wall... losers were put to death!  

Colosseum, Italy
Gladiatorial battles, animal hunts, a majestic arena – the Colosseum certainly provides a wondrous glimpse into entertainment in ancient Rome. With an estimated capacity of up to 80,000 spectators, the three-storey structure is the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire... and is still the biggest in the world. More than 100,000 cubic metres of travertine stone were used to build the extravagant exterior of the site. Dark Rome’s Colosseum for Kids Family Tour will revive these archaic stones with entrancing stories of heroic warriors and gladiatorial contests. Other tour highlights include being able to skip the (often long) line, audio head sets, visual aids and re-enactments, and a ‘best gladiator’ prize up for grabs at the end. |


Fun Fact: The Colosseum gets its modern name from the colossal statue of Nero (Colossus) that once stood outside.

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