It is amusingly said that life is too short to stuff a mushroom, but it should be long enough to see each of these places, all are easily reachable by air and have a dedicated tourist infrastructure.
The Pyramids at Giza, Egypt
Just outside Cairo, the complex is dedicated to mankind’s preparation for life beyond death, and consists of three main pyramids, the Sphinx, museums and the remains of other burial chambers, temples and associated buildings.
For over 3800 years, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the sole survivor of the “Seven Wonders of the World”, was the tallest man-made structure ever built. It is also near the Valley of the Kings, and not so very far by air from Petra, Mecca, and many Biblical sites.
Across the Mediterranean from Cairo, gently decaying, slowly sinking, romantic Venice is a monument to human ingenuity and entrepreneurialism. The city rises from the lagoon on its base of 118 islands that are linked by bridges and canals, and are also very densely populated. Once a city-state with an empire of its own, sending ambassadors and trade missions to the known world, Venice is now a city of tourism, great art and memories.
Venice is unique in many ways, not least the two modes of transport possible – walking and water. Gondolas, water taxis and vaporetti take everything and everyone around, even the fire brigade.
The Taj Mahal, Agra, India
This is billed as the most amazing declaration of one man’s love for his wife. Some have left impressive memorials in cemeteries or the wider landscape, but Shah Jehan’s project differed in that he brought not just love and enormous wealth to this mausoleum, but all the finest elements of the greatest periods of Muslim architecture and art. In doing so he created one of the world’s most moving and beautiful buildings. Symmetry, proportion, quality of materials and craftsmanship of the highest order created a monument not only to his third wife, but also to the Mughal Empire itself. Like Venice, though, this gem is threatened. Falling water levels may soon undermine its 380-year old timber foundations.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
A modern, ever-changing temple in the desert, dedicated to entertainment in all its forms. The ‘Strip’ is legendary, like the mystique of the founding fathers. Glamour and glitz, superstars and slot machines, Elvis weddings and excess, all help make this one of the modern wonders of the world. Planet Hollywood Las Vegas is representative of the resort hotels that dominate this city in the sand.
Las Vegas can also be the base for a very different kind of tour, taking in the Grand Canyon and experiencing the echoes of pre-Columbian peoples and their culture.
Finally, a lesser-known marvel.
The Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
A stretch of tarmac running 151 miles along the coast between the towns of Torquay and Warrnampool, the road was hand built by unemployed Australian ex-servicemen in the 1920’s. It serves as a memorial to the casualties of Australia’s defining moment, and is also considered a superb drive along a terrific coastline. The route passes the Twelve Apostles; the Southern Ocean, one of the most fearsome seas on the planet, carved these sandstone pinnacles and arches.
Whale watching, surfing and helicopter trips over the Apostles are always available. By basing yourself in Melbourne, tourists can also take advantage of the wineries, mountain sports and the outback in Victoria’s hinterland.