Earth is covered with a lot of incredible natural wonders, they are awe inspiring and, at the same time, terrifying. They make us realise the insignificance of ourselves amongst not only this vast planet, but also the much vaster Universe. But the human race have attempted to fight back against these scary creations of nature with structures, sculptures and landmarks that demonstrate man's ability to build and innovate. Okay, maybe that last statement is just wishful thinking, the main purpose of these incredible structures is usually for whoever ordered their construction to demonstrate their power to other people, rather than nature. Whatever their reasoning, they are certainly impressive, and eye-catching enough for them to have become national icons that are recognised through the world.
6. The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is, unsurprisingly, located in China. The wall is built from the east, in Shanhaiguan, to the west, Lop Lake, along the historical boundaries of China in order to protect the Chinese Empire from military invasion. There are archaeological records that a wall along these borders begun construction as early as 7th century BC, but the majority of today's Great Wall is from the Ming dynasty. This stretch of wall from the Ming era measures a huge 5,500 miles across and is built from a variety of materials, including compacted earth, stones, wood, and bricks. In addition to the man-made wall, parts of nature such as rivers, mountains and valleys are in essence a part of the wall. Despite the fact the Great Wall of China is the largest tourist attraction in China, large portions of the structure are in severe disrepair due to vandalism, erosion and low maintenance. However the tourist hotspots such as those near Beijing and the end of the wall (where, in a surreal image, the Great Wall simply stops as it enters 3 feet of shallow water at the coast) are heavily protected from vandalism and constantly maintained and repaired.
An interesting fact about the Great Wall of China is that the common 'fact' that is can be seen from the Moon/space is actually a myth. A high definition camera can pick up the Great Wall from just outside of Earth's atmosphere, but the naked eye cannot.
5. The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the trio of pyramids located in the Giza Necropolis. Construction of these pyramids was ordered by Pharaoh Khufu, the largest for himself and the 2 smaller ones for his wives. The Great Pyramid of Giza was completed at around 2,560 BC, making it 4,574 years old at the time of writing! This ancient landmark is also the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one that is still largely intact. This longevity is due to the extreme care that the Egyptian labourers worked with, not only was this structure massively ambitious, but it was also executed to a very high standard of accuracy considering the lack of technology. The Great Pyramid of Giza was made using a variety of materials, some of which had to be transported up to 500 miles to the site, and much confusion surrounds how the Egyptians actually managed to transport and lift such incredibly heavy stones without the aid of modern technology, or even pulley systems. Due to the huge nature of the task, the Great Pyramid of Giza employed a peak workforce of up to 40,000 skilled and manual labourers and by the time of completion it stood 146 metres (481 feet) tall, claiming the title of tallest man made structure on Earth. The Great Pyramid held this title for nearly 4,000 years before the spire on Lincoln Cathedral stole it's title.
4. Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is a performing arts centre located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Resting close to other spectacular features such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Royal Botanical Gardens, the whole location makes for a breathtaking sight. The Sydney Opera House is famed for it's unique architecture, which came from the mind of Jorn Utzon after he won a competition for his design of the Opera House. Whilst the Sydney Opera House cost $102 million, 14 times over it's original budget, and was finally opened in 1973, 10 years overdue, it was most definitely worth it, as it has become one of the most iconic structures on the planet. It has also paid for itself many times over, with over 7 million people visiting the site each year, with 300,000 taking part in the guided tour. Because of it's status as national icon, the Sydney Opera House was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
3. Christ The Redeemer
Located at the peak of the Corcovado Mountain, Christ The Redeemer is a statue of Jesus Christ that overlooks Rio de Janeiro in Brazil from 700 metres (2,300 feet) above the vast city. Standing at a total height of 38 metres, with an arm span of 28 metres, Christ The Redeemer was erected as a symbol of Brazilian Christianity, and has since become the most famous icon for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil that attracts millions of visitors every year.
2. Statue Of Liberty
United States of America
Located on Liberty Island in the middle of New York Harbor, Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty stands as an icon of freedom within the United States of America. The Statue of Liberty was built in France and shipped the the United States as a gift from the people of France, when it arrived it was constructed and erected, and finally unveiled in 1886. The unveiling of the iconic symbol resulted in the first of the now famous New York 'ticker-tape parades'. The Statue of Liberty depicts a robed woman, who represents Livertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. However, despite it's huge tourist interest, the Statue of Liberty was closed amid security concerns immediately after the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. The pedestal was reopened in 2004, but the statue itself stayed closed to the public until 2009.
1. The Eiffel Tower
La Tour Eiffel, as it is known in France, is the most recognisable and iconic landmark on Earth. Located on Champ de Mars in Paris, the iron lattice tower is named after Gustave Eiffel, the owner of the company which designed and built the legendary structure. Standing at an impressive 324 metres (1,063 feet) tall, it is the tallest structure in Paris (2nd tallest in France). It also lays claim to the title of most visited paid attraction in the world, with nearly 7 million people per year paying to ascend the Eiffel Tower and cast their eyes upon staggering panoramic views of the city of romance, Paris. This vast annual figure means that the Eiffel Tower has been visited over 250 million times in total.
Whilst it has now been surpassed many times over, La Tour Eiffel held the title of tallest man-made structure on Earth for 41 years, before being triumphed by the Chrysler Building. Despite it staggering height, the Eiffel Tower was constructed in 1889 in under two years thanks to the simplicity of it's engineering. Despite it being a relative dwarf in comparison to the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, the Eiffel Tower still stands tall and proud over Paris, dominating the cityscape and being instantly recognisable worldwide.
These structures were designed and built by men in wildly different eras in the age of humans, but every one of them is instantly recognisable, iconic to the country they're located, and a symbol of past and present power. Whether a mind-boggling feat of engineering, such as the Pyramid of Giza, a gift, such as the Statue of Liberty, or a display of power and paranoia, like the Great Wall of China, these structures are those that everyone strives to see. Also, in (almost) a complete coincidence, I have covered all six inhabited continents in this list, showing that there is an iconic structure waiting for you wherever you go (providing you stay away from Antarctica).