History Stories

Want to visit the original Seven Wonders of the World? Unfortunately you can’t, because only one of them exists anymore.

The original list—sometimes called The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—comes from a 225 B.C.E. work by Philo of Byzantium called On The Seven Wonders. The only site still standing is the Great Pyramid of Giza. All the others are lost or destroyed: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (or were they in Nineveh?), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes (which inspired the Statue of Liberty) and the Lighthouse at Alexandria.

Since at least the 19th century, people have suggested new wonders, or brought attention to a site by calling it “the eighth wonder of the world.” President Teddy Roosevelt supposedly said California’s Burney Falls was the eighth wonder, a detail still noted on its website. In a nod to its use as a marketing trope, the 1933 film King Kong even shows the great ape being hawked as the eighth wonder of the world. 

Here’s a list of other eight other sites that have been dubbed the eighth wonder.

1. Pink and White Terraces, New Zealand

Wonders of the World: The Pink & White Terraces

The historic terraces on opposite sides of Lake Rotomahana on New Zealand’s North Island once represent the largest formations of silica sinter (a version of quartz) in the world. On one side, the terraces were pink. On the other, they were white. In the early 1880s, these natural terraces were a popular tourist destination, and supposedly known as the eighth wonder of the world.

These shimmering marvels were “lost” in 1886 when a volcanic eruption covered them. In 2017, researchers claimed in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand that the terraces had survived and were simply buried by the explosion. But the next year, other researchers argued in the same journal that the white terraces had been destroyed, and that although the pink terraces were partially-intact, they were sitting at the bottom of Lake Rotomahana where no one can see them.

There is, however, still an eighth wonder in New Zealand you can see today: the South Island’s Milford Sound, which the British writer Rudyard Kipling supposedly dubbed the eighth wonder of the world in the 1890s.

2. Terra-Cotta Army, China

Wonders of the World: Terra-Cotta Warriors

For the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, artists designed thousands of life-size terra-cotta statues of soldiers, horses and chariots to accompany him into the afterlife. In 1974, workers outside the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province discovered some of these third-century B.C.E. statues while trying to dig a well. Since then, a select group of these statues have appeared in museums around the world.

The army is considered an artistic marvel. When crafting the soldiers out of terra-cotta, or fired clay, ancient artisans gave them distinct facial features (and different types of beards and mustaches). The high level of craftsmanship on such a large scale has led many news and travel sites to describe it as the eighth wonder of the world; and in 1987, UNESCO designated the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor as a World Heritage site.

3. Banaue Rice Terraces, The Philippines

Wonders of the World: Banaue Rice Terraces

More than 2,000 years ago, the Ifugao people carved a series of rice terraces onto the mountains of Banaue, a region on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The terraces resemble steps stretching across 4,000 square miles of mountainside, and were part of a system of irrigation that the Ifugao people used to grow rice.

Tourism promoters have been calling the rice terraces the eighth wonder of the world at least as far back as 1979, when The New York Times repeated the description in a travel article (old Filipino government websites have also used the term). In 1995, UNESCO selected some of the terraces for the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras World Heritage site. Major restoration and conservation efforts in the 2000s helped preserve this site and promote sustainable tourism.

4. Borobudur, Indonesia

Wonders of the World: Borobudur

Borobudur is a massive Buddhist temple in Central Java, Indonesia, built by the Shailendra Dynasty in the eighth and ninth centuries. A volcanic explosion around the year 1000 buried the monument in volcanic ash, and it remained buried until workers began restoring it in the 20th century The monument is built kind of like a pyramid with three separate layers, representing the three spheres in Buddhist cosmology.

The first restoration occurred between 1907 to 1911. In the 1970s, UNESCO helped restore it again, and this second restoration was completed by 1983. Since its restoration, various news and travel outlets have described Borobudur as the eighth wonder of the world, or claimed Indonesians consider it the eighth wonder. In 1991, UNESCO designated the Borobudur Temple Compounds as a World Heritage site.

5. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Wonders of the World: Angkor Wat

In the early 12th century, the Khmer empire built an enormous monument at its capital of Angkor. That monument, called Angkor Wat, was originally a Hindu temple. By the end of the century it had transitioned into a Buddhist temple, and remained so for several centuries. Today, the monument in Siem Reap Province is one of Cambodia’s most significant archaeological monuments. The larger Angkor area containing the temple has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992.

Some travel websites have dubbed Angkor Wat the eighth wonder; and in 2007, it was one of 21 finalists for a New Seven Wonders of the World list. The New7Wonders Foundation in Switzerland came up with the list by tallying over 100 million votes from around the world. The seven sites selected were Machu Picchu in Peru, the Taj Mahal in India, the Colosseum in Rome, the Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer statue and Chichén Itzá in Mexico.

6. Citadelle Laferrière, Haiti

Wonders of the World: Citadelle Laferrière

A more recent wonder is the Citadelle Laferrière, a fortress built atop Haiti’s Bonnet a L’Eveque mountain in 1820. Construction began on the citadel after the Haitian Revolution, the first successful rebellion of enslaved people against European colonizers. After the revolution, Haiti built the citadel to serve as a military fortress if ever the French returned to enslave Haitians again.

This citadel has been a tourist destination since at least the early 20th century. In 1937, The New York Times somewhat confusingly reported it was “sometimes rated among the ten wonders of the world” (now we’re up to ten?). More conventionally, travel, tourism and news outlets have claimed Haitians refer to the Citadelle Laferrière as the eighth wonder of the world. It is a part of National History Park, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.

7. Aswan High Dam, Egypt

Wonders of the World: Aswan High Dam

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union partnered with Egypt (then known as the United Arab Republic) to build the Aswan High Dam across the Nile. At a ceremony to mark the first stage of the dam’s completion in 1964, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev boasted that it would be the “eighth wonder” of the world.

Its completion in 1970 marked the first time in history that humans could control the Nile’s annual floods, but environmentalists warn of its environmental impacts. Historically, these floods created fertile soil at the Nile Delta. Since the dam’s completion, soil fertility in this area has declined.

8. Pikeville Cut-Through, United States

Wonders of the World: Pikeville Cut-Through

The cut-through highway in Pikeville, Kentucky is another project that promoters tried to sell as the eighth wonder of the world before it was even built. Back in 1970, three years before construction even began, The New York Times reported that “local boosters” claimed it would be the eighth wonder.

It may not really be the eighth wonder (as nothing on this list actually is), but it is an engineering marvel. Workers moved 18 million cubic yards of earth during its construction, making it one of the largest earth-removal projects in U.S. history. Diverting highway traffic around the town helped with traffic congestion; and by diverting coal trucks in particular, it made the downtown area healthier and safer.

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