As the cradle of the world’s oldest civilisation, Asia is one of the most exciting continents to visit. It abounds in beautiful destinations and a diverse cultural landscape that has produced many of the most spectacular structures ever built on the planet.
Asia’s ancient man-made wonders have enchanted many. These remarkable feats of engineering and architecture have had captivated many and it is impossible to remain unmoved by these creations. Teeming with history and tradition, many of these man-made attractions are included in the esteemed UNESCO World Heritage list and speak volumes of the continent’s rich cultural heritage.
These ancient wonders of Asia are widely acclaimed among world travellers and are considered bucket list destinations. Below is a list of the greatest man-made structures worth visiting in Asia.
The Great Wall of China
Considered one of the greatest construction marvels in the history of mankind, the Great Wall of China is a meandering string of walls and fortifications that’s more than 3,000 miles long. Touted as the world’s longest wall, this ancient man-made wonder is easily one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world and receives my millions of visitors annually.
Constructed in 1632 at the behest of Shah Jahan, the Taj Mahal is a marble mausoleum that houses the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, the Mughal emperor’s wife. The ivory-white structure, India’s most iconic landmark attraction, is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. Set in Uttar Pradesh, Agra, the Taj Mahal showcases Muslim art and is a classic example of Mughal architecture. Declared one of the 7 New Wonders of the World in 2007, this stunningly beautiful man-made edifice attracts millions of tourists each year.
A highly popular example of rock-cut architecture, the city of Petra is one of Jordan’s top sights. The Arab nation’s largest attraction was once a flourishing commercial hub for the ancient Nabateans, a nomadic tribe exceptionally skilled at trading. The Nabateans were also great engineers and carved a citadel out of Mt. Hor’s rose-coloured sandstone landscape. The stone-walled city was built in such a way that the inhabitants survived the harsh desert environment and even had a complex water delivery and conservation system.
This UNESCO World Heritage-listed site was also one of the filming locations of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Set at an amazing 3,765 metres above sea level, the Potala Palace was the former official residence of the Dalai Lama. Perched on top of craggy hill in Lhasa, the wood-and-stone architectural consists of the White Palace and Red Palace and has more than a thousand rooms. The Red Palace is the religious building where you’ll find dedicated chambers for worshipping Buddha. The Red Palace also houses the remains of eight Dalia Lamas. Below the Red Palace is the White Palace, Potala Palace’s administrative building. It houses the Dalai Lama’s living quarters.
An iconic landmark in the Tibetan capital, Potala Palace is also a World-heritage listed site and a museum that is home to thousands of shrines, statues, and other religious and cultural relics.
Erected in the 12th century CE, the Angkor Wat is a landmark attraction in Siem Reap and rightfully one of Cambodia’s national symbols. Spanning more than 208 hectares, the incredibly beautiful temple complex is the largest religious monument ever built. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat is one of Asia’s most most-visited man-made wonders. It is also considered one of the world’s best tourist attractions.
Another man-made wonder that should be in every traveller’s bucket list is Borobudur Temple. Located in Java, Indonesia, this architectural marvel and UNESCO World Heritage Site is the most popular attraction in the Emerald of the Equator. The largest stupa in the world, Borobudur is also the biggest Buddhist monument on the planet and houses more than 500 statues of Buddha. Built in the 9th century during the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple is an example of Javanese Buddhist architecture. It is believed that it was abandoned due to the rise of Islam’s popularity in Java. In 1814, after centuries of neglect, Borobudur was rediscovered under mounds of volcanic ash.
The awe-inspiring Shwedagon Pagoda is Myanmar’s most revered ancient treasure. Located in Yangon City, this 2,500-year-old religious attraction is one of the most popular pagodas in the world. Perched on top of a small hill, this 99-metre structure is impossible to miss and is easily Myanmar’s most popular piece of architecture. Encased in hundreds of gold plates and adorned with thousands of diamonds, the Shwedagon Pagoda is arguably one of the world’s most captivating man-made wonders.
Banaue Rice Terraces
There may be other rice terraces in the world but the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines remains a cut above the rest due to its size and height. And what makes this true man-made wonder more spectacular, other than the fact that it’s more than 2,000 years old, is that it was carved into the mountains using nothing but hand tools.
Qin’s Terracotta Army
Considered one of the most astounding archaeological finds of the 20th century is the Emperor Qin’s Terracotta Army. The collection of clay-baked sculptures, dating back to the late 3rd century BCE, were discovered on March 1974 by local farmers in Shaanxi Province. These earthen soldiers, horses, and chariots are a form of funerary art and were buried in the pits near Emperor Qin’s mausoleum. It is said that these life-sized creations were supposed to guard the Emperor in the after-life.
Out of the world’s many man-made wonders, one of the most famed is the Hagia Sophia. Located in Instanbul, this wonder started as a basilica before it became a mosque when the Ottoman Empire conquered the city. Beginning 1935, this sacred destination was converted into a museum that attracts tourists from all over the globe.
Plain of Jars
A man-made wonder that continues to mystify and baffle tourists and researchers alike is Laos’ Plain of Jars. One of the most enigmatic attractions in Southeast Asia, if not the whole world, the Plain of Jars is comprised of thousands of heavy stone jars spread all over Central Laos. The jars are made from sandstone and granite and while there are different theories regarding their purpose and origin, the man-made wonder remains cloaked in mystery to this day.
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By: Brendelyn Balaga