Meenakshi Temple

7 Lesser-Known World Wonders

Travel is personal – your experiences are unique to you, and simply put, only you can decide on what your definition of a world wonder might be.

Whilst the UNESCO lists are great for getting ideas, they simply cannot encompass all the wonders our world has to offer. That’s why we’ve compiled our own list, from Sri Lanka to Ethiopia.

Here are 7 of our favourite lesser-known world wonders, which we think deserve a bit more recognition.

Latvia's Beautiful Rundale Palace

Rundale Palace

Rundale Palace

Inexplicably overlooked, Rundale Palace is one of the grandest baroque palaces in Europe. In its chequered past, it’s held many positions, including Napoleonic hospital, First World War German stronghold and even a school.

Now, this absolute architectural masterpiece is a museum thanks to millions of Euros of restoration work. The stunning landscape gardens, with French-inspired rose gardens, fountains and perfectly pruned hedgerows, are a delight.

Visit Rundale Palace on our Discover the Baltics tour.

Ethiopia’s Rock-Hewn Churches

Ethiopian Church

Step inside a wonder of a lost, ancient world. Away from the heat of the day, inside cool tunnels cut into the rocky, rusted-red hillsides of Lalibela in Ethiopia, you’ll find yourself fascinated by the architectural masterpiece of medieval Christianity that somehow, very few people know even exists.

These are the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, where places of worship have been cut from the very rock and white-robed monks walk with stately grace.

Visit the rock-hewn churches on our Ethiopia in Depth tour.

Southern India’s Incredible Temple 

Meenakshi temple

Meenakshi temple

Who could fail to be intrigued by a huge, sprawling temple dedicated to a triple-breasted warrior goddess? If you’re wondering what to expect, then try to envisage nine huge gopurams towering more than 50 metres overhead, a brash, colourful jumble of tangled limbs of demon and deity alike, in a joyful cacophony of sculpture.

This is a vibrant place. Waft aside the heavy cloak of incense as you enter the 6-hectare temple complex and take in the sheer scale of the ambition that comes with this temple, considered by many to be the pinnacle of southern Indian architecture. The Taj Mahal may steal the headlines, but Meenakshi temple will steal your heart.

Visit Meenakshi temple on our South India Explored tour.

Sri Lanka’s Ancient Rock Fortress

Rock of Sigiriya

Rock of Sigiriya 

Sigiriya remains one of Sri Lanka’s most distinctive sights: an ancient rock fortress and pleasure palace, perched 200 metres high atop a huge rock column born of volcanic eruptions with nothing but a long wiggle of stairs to take you there.

On the plateau an array of stories await you as Sigirya tells you the stories of its many incarnations - as a pleasure palace, decorated with frescoes of nude women and some of the world’s oldest landscaped gardens and pools; as a Buddhist monastery to pause and meditate with views out over the lush jungle; and as a fortress adorned with a ferocious carving of a lion.

Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress on our Discover Sri Lanka tour.

Ancient China's Terracotta Army

Terracotta Warriors

Terracotta Warriors

Many consider the pyramids at Giza the ultimate in ancient burials, but the thousands of Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, China, are enough to rival any display of power and wealth.

Undoubtedly one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, the army is a surreal but impressive sight. Thousands of soldiers, hundreds of chariots and horses, generals and even acrobats and musicians all make up part of this huge clay necropolis believed to be an incredible 98 kilometres squared.

Visit the Terracotta Warriors on our Imperial China & Yangtze River Cruise tour.

Cappadocia's Fairy Chimneys, Turkey

Cappadocia fairy chimneys

Cappadocia fairy chimneys

Southern Turkey’s weird and wonderful Cappadocia is one of the most whimsically beautiful rock formations you’ll ever see. The elements have created a landscape that’s truly enchanting, with flutes and funnels sculpted by the wind and rain in a rich, honey-almond coloured stone with an aura so magical that they’re often referred to as the Fairy Chimneys.

Tucked away in these rocks you’ll find caves that were once hideaways for monks on the run, a series of unique cave hotels you can spend the night and a whole underground city that once thrived here. For a bird’s eye view, you can’t beat a hot air balloon at sunrise.

Visit Cappadocia fairy chimneys on our Highlights of Turkey tour.

Colombia's Eerie Salt Cathedral 

Salt Cathedral at Zipaquira

A Roman Catholic cathedral, 200 metres below the surface of the ground, with white saline walls illuminated ethereal shades of blue and purple – this truly is a lesser-known world wonder.

The Salt Cathedral at Zipaquira is constructed within the hollowed-out belly of an old salt mine, and it feels like the inside of a beast with the huge, cavernous rooms held up by wooden structures that look strangely like whale ribs. People have been excavating the valuable commodity of salt from these hills since the 5th century.

Visit the Salt Cathedral at Zipaquira on our Discover Colombia tour.

 

Visit the Lesser-Known Wonders

Ethiopia in Depth

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Ethiopian orthodox church at dawn, Addis Ababa

Journey along Ethiopia's magnificent northern circuit, including Tigrai.

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Discover Sri Lanka

199 reviews

Spend two weeks exploring the delights of this diverse and inspiring island

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15 Days from $2,049 USD
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Discover Sri Lanka - Premium

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Spend two weeks exploring the delights of Sri Lanka, a diverse and inspiring island

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South India Explored

58 reviews

A fascinating journey through India's tropical south

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20 Days from $2,799 USD
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Highlights of Turkey

42 reviews
Hot air balloon flying over rock landscape at Cappadocia, Turkey

Visit some of Western civilisation's most iconic sites in Turkey

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Discover the Baltics

39 reviews
Trakai Castle aerial view, Lithuania

Visit three countries in twelve days, through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

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12 Days from $1,799 USD
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Discover Colombia

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Discover Colombia's natural beauty and cultural heritage

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