Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
Standing as the largest man-made structures for almost 4,000 years, the Egyptian pyramids at Giza — in addition to serving as rather impressive graves — include a number of temple complexes. The only Wonder of the Ancient World that remains intact, the Great Pyramid rises more than 140 metres and contains millions of limestone and granite blocks, some of which were transported from hundreds of kilometres away.
Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan
These religious centres are not only holy, they’re strikingly beautiful as well.
Situated perilously high up on the side of a cliff in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, Tiger’s Nest — properly known as the Taktsang Palphug Monastery — is one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites, and a pilgrimage place for the Bhutanese people. Built in 1692, it sits on the spot where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the eighth century
Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
Keeping watch over one of the world’s most dramatic cities, the 38-metre, 635-tonne Christ the Redeemer statue has stretched his arms out to Rio de Janeiro since its completion in 1931. The world’s largest Art Deco statue, this symbol of peace stands prominently atop the 700-metre Corcovado, and is visible from almost anywhere in town.
Mount Olympus, Greece
The tallest mountain in Greece and one of the most prominent in Europe, Mount Olympus boasts 52 separate peaks, the highest reaching almost 3,000 metres in altitude. It’s also the mythological home of Twelve Olympian gods, who ascended after defeating the Titans, and serves as the setting for a great number of legends and stories in Greek mythology.
Mount Kailash, Tibet
This Tibetan peak is considered sacred by four different religions — Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Bönn. Tantric Buddhists believe it to be the home of Buddha Demchok, while Hindus see it as the residence of Lord Shiva, the destroyer, and his wife Parvati. Pilgrims of both these religions make the trek to this 6,600-metre mountain, traversing the 52-kilometre circular path in a clockwise direction — often in a single day.
Molokai sea cliffs, Hawaii
The 1000-metre-tall sea cliffs on the small Hawaiian Island of Molokai stand as the highest in the world, and the Kalaupapa Peninsula that sits in their shadow is regarded as holy ground by Catholics worldwide. The spot has, for decades, been home to dozens of sufferers of leprosy, now known as Hansen’s Disease, who were cared for by Father Damien and Mother Marianne, both of whom have since been canonized by the Vatican.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is to this day still shrouded in mystery. Indisputably Incan and voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, this stunning spot near Peru’s Sacred Valley may have been built around 1450 as a royal retreat, a temple for the “Virgins of the Sun,” or to honour a sacred landscape.
Mount of Olives, Israel
Revered by all branches of Christianity, this hill — which indeed does sprout with olive trees — is within sight of the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. While it is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament of the Bible, the Mount’s fame stems from its association with Jesus Christ — as the place where he prayed before his crucifixion and where he ascended to heaven after his resurrection.
Seda Monastery, China
Seda Monastery in Western Sichuan, China is the world’s largest school for Tibetan Buddhism. The school began after the Cultural Revolution in 1980 and is home to more than 10,000 monks and nuns – although there can be as many as 40,000 visiting there at one time.