The 7 wonders of the ancient world

The pyramids in Egypt in the desert with blue skies and clouds

So, what are the 7 wonders of the ancient world?

A habit which I’m sure many of us can relate to, the Greeks liked to make lists! Travellers who explored the area around the Mediterranean sea took note of the ‘7 ancient wonders of the world’, creating the first ever ‘must-see’ list! From the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the statue of Zeus, these wonders all hold a certain kind of mystery. All built for different reasons, comprising of various heights and made from a mixture of materials, they do all have one thing in common. They exist to awe, impress and amaze.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and The Great Pyramid of Giza are among some of the largest structures this world has ever seen. The level of skill, accuracy and engineering gives us a glimpse into what those ancient civilisations were capable of. And we are still just as much in awe of them today. Here’s a look at the original 7 wonders of the world!

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt

This monumental lighthouse stood on the island of Pharos in the harbour of Alexandria, Egypt for an astonishing 1,600 years. Reaching an incredible height of 135 meters, the world’s first lighthouse could once spot ships approaching over 100 meters away. Second only to the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world. Beginning in 290 BCE, it took 20 years to build  and two earthquakes to destroy. At the top of the white marble structure, mirrors reflected the sun during the day and a fire during the night. Ships could see the light at a staggering 35 miles out to sea.

Boats and a castle where the lighthouse of alexandria once stood in Egypt. One of the 7 ancient wonders of the world
Where the Lighthouse of Alexandria once stood in Egypt

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Iraq

Now this one does cause disagreements, as there is technically no proof that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon ever existed. All we have is what we’ve found in books and journals from that time. So whereas the majority believe the Ancient City of Babylon to have once been located in Iraq, some people believe it’s completely fictional. Nevertheless, Babylon has stunned us for years. In a barren, desert land around 600 BCE, the hanging gardens of Babylon were erected alongside the Euphrates river. The gardens themselves were the height of a five story building. It had thick walls made of brick and several tiers of verdant, green plants draping down over the edges. The most impressive thing though, is the skill of engineering for that time. They were able to utilise the river to allow a constant supply of water to the plants.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Turkey

One of the most extravagant tombs built for a partner in the history of existence. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was erected after the death of King Mausolus around 350 BC. His wife (also his sister…) decided to build him the largest tomb the world had seen to honour the best king that had ever lived. The structure lasted quite a bit longer than other 7 ancient wonders of the world, eventually being destroyed from a series of earthquakes around the 13th and 16th century AD. It now lays in complete ruins in what we know as Turkey. The tomb stood at 135 feet tall and was created as a symbol of grandeur for the new city. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was so grand, that the king’s name, Mausolus has now become synonymous with the word mausoleum – meaning tomb.

The Temple of Artemis, Turkey

In Ephesus (what is now Turkey) a temple was erected as a dedication to the goddess Artemis (the goddess of hunting, animals and earthquakes) around 650 BCE. It was decidedly built on marshland in an attempt to keep it safe from earthquakes, however ended up being rebuilt 3 times! The first Temple of Artemis was destroyed in either a flood or a war and was rebuilt to a much larger scale. The second was destroyed in a fire and rebuilt as marble. Eventually being destroyed by the goths after standing for 600 years. The final temple turned out to be 450 feet long, held up by 125 columns!

The ancient city of Ephesus where the temple of Artemis once stood one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world
The ancient city of Ephesus where the temple of Artemis once stood

Colossus of Rhodes, Greece

The gigantic statue of the god Helios stood at 33 meters high (about the same height as the Statue of Liberty), and was made entirely of bronze and bits of iron. Adding to its height was a 2 meter high, marble white platform making it one of the tallest statues in the ancient world. The Colossus of Rhodes was the last of the 7 ancient wonders of the world to be built. Built between 292 BCE and 280 BCE, the statue stood for 56 years before (like most of the other ancient wonders!) being destroyed by an earthquake. Built on the Greek island of Rhodes, The Colossus was created to celebrate the Rhodes’ victory over Cyprus. It was made by melting down bronze and iron from the enemy’s weapons.

Statue of Zeus, Greece

The statue of Zeus in Olympia, Greece was reportedly one of the most beautiful sculptures in the world. The 43 foot tall statue of Zeus was built around 435 BCE and belonged in the temple of Zeus. The sculpture itself was decorated to have skin made from ivory and adorned with a cape made of gold, standing on a thick wooden frame. Ebony and precious stones were also incorporated into the design by the famous sculptor Phidias. The statue of Zeus was later destroyed in the 5th or 6th century AD when the pagan religion was banned.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt

Last but not least, we come to one of the largest structures the world has ever seen. Remarkably, this is the only one of the ancient wonders which still stands today. Built around 2550 BCE, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest pyramid ever built, standing at a crazy 147 meters high. This colossal structure is mysterious to say the least, hiding a world of secrets within its thick walls. Architects and historians from all over the world have been studying, testing and hypothesising these pyramids for years. Trying to figure out how they came to be, why, and what is inside. Yet, we still don’t have definitive answers.

Made from 2.3 million stone blocks  (each weighing 13 tonnes!) it’s incredible that it only took 20 years to build. And with the perfect symmetry, the hidden entrances, the sheer magnitude of it, we are still in awe. What is truly incredible though is that we are still discovering things about the pyramids. Only a few years ago a recent discovery of huge void is still under investigation. But what is it? We can only guess as no one has been able to reach it yet!

4 camels standing in front of the great pyramids of Giza
The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

If you fancy visiting some of these ancient sites to see the locations for the 7 ancient wonders of the world yourself, then take a look at our tours to Egypt and Turkey. All of our tours to Egypt visit the Great Pyramid of Giza, but if there’s a few sites which we don’t cover, why not add on a couple of days after the tour, or if you want a more personalised experience, go tailor-made!

Further reading…

Did you know about the new 7 wonders of the world? Read here to find out more about the modern wonders that you can actually visit!


Roxy is part of the marketing team for Tucan Travel. She has been travelling solo for years, predominantly around Asia, Indonesia and Europe. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

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