The Seven Wonders Of The 21st Century


Wonder is nourishment for the soul. We are the only animal on earth, as far as we know, that can be moved to tears by a sunset, that marvels at the stars at night, that feels awe, and humility, at the achievements of our past. Wonder defines us as human beings.

Of the original Seven Wonders of the World, only the Great Pyramids of Giza remain. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Temple of Artemis, the Colossus of Rhodes have all faded to dust and memory. These, instead, are seven wonders for our time. They are the Acropolis of our day, the Stonehenge of now. Which also means they can be seen firsthand. And so they should. Because the real magic of wonder is not in the thing itself, but in the fact that the more you look for wonder in the world the more the wonder of the world becomes a part of you.



Mosquito Bay is the best place in the world to see one of nature’s most fascinating spectacles: bioluminescence. Located on the isle of Vieques, off the eastern coast of the main island, this sheltered inlet is home to a special kind of plankton, called dinoflagellates, which emit a blue-green light when agitated. On their own, they’re barely perceptible. But here in Bio Bay, as it’s also known, there are enough to hold the Guinness World Record for the brightest bioluminescence ever recorded. That’s incredibly rare. While the phenomenon occurs spontaneously around the globe, there are only six places on the planet where it does so regularly. Of those, Mosquito Bay is by far the brightest. Come and see waves shimmer like disco lights or sparks trail from your fingers like the tail of a comet. At night, when its easiest to see, it’s like floating in liquid stars.


Son Doong is the largest cave on the planet. Located deep in the jungles of Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park, in Vietnam, the largest chamber measures 600-feet high, 300-feet wide and more than 2.5-miles long. You could fit an entire New York City block inside, skyscrapers and all. A Boeing 747 could soar through it and not so much as dent its wings. It’s so massive, in fact, that it has its own weather system. Clouds gather around colossal natural skylights, 300-feet across, which pour beams of light into the darkness inside. And where that light shines, life springs up: a rich subterranean jungle filled with rare plants, milky white insects and hanging vines that creep around enormous stalactites and stalagmites. There’s even a troop of monkeys – surely, the only ones on the planet to make their home underground, rather than in the trees. Only a handful of tourists are allowed in each year, part of a five day expedition that includes two nights camping out in Son Doong itself. What they see is a landscape unlike anywhere else on Earth, a gargantuan lost world hidden beneath the ground.


The Barringer Meteor Crater is the best-preserved meteor impact site on the planet and it’s an unsettling place. Some 50,000 years ago, a 300,000 tonne rock burned through the atmosphere, striking the Earth with a force 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima. The ground melted instantly, leaving a hole 550-feet deep and almost a mile in diameter that can still be seen to this day. It’s like seeing the moment of impact frozen in time and you can still feel the power. But it’s inspiring too. Barringer’s Crater was the first impact site conclusively proven to have been caused by a meteor. It changed the way we think about the stars, the planet an perhaps even ourselves. Looking across the rim of Barringer’s Crater is like facing the unfathomable forces of the universet makes you feel small yet part of something incomprehensibly bigger than yourself.


The Marianna Trench is the deepest part of all the world’s oceans. At its lowest depth, known as Challenger Deep, the sea floor is a staggering 35,787-feet beneath the surface. Look down at the land from an airplane window: that’s how deep it is. If you were to drop Mount Everest inside it, the summit wouldn’t even break the waves. There are many wonders inside: strange creatures that glow in the dark and have never been seen before, thermal vents that may hold the clue to the origins of life on Earth. But, in truth, we know almost nothing about it. Fewer people have visited these depths than stood on the surface of the moon. The oceans are, perhaps, the last great frontier on Earth and now you can be part of that adventure too. Deep sea tourism is on the ascent. It’s now possible for ordinary non-divers to explore hitherto impossible depths, from a few hundred feet to more than two-miles down, where the bones of the Titanic lie. Who knows what you might find?

tourism is on the ascent. It’s now possible for ordinary non-divers to explore hitherto impossible depths, from a few hundred feet to more than two-miles down, where the bones of the Titanic lie. Who knows what you might find?

See it: The Caribbean island of Curacao has private submarine tours to a depth of 1,000-feet, or splash out and sign on for an deep sea expedition to explore the world’s most famous shipwreck, The Titanic.


The Don Sheldon Amphitheatre, a near-perfect semicircle of jagged snow-swept peaks surrounding the Ruth Glacier, is one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in America. But you’ve probably never heard of it before. Located deep in the back country of Denali National Park, for years it was inaccessible to all but a few hardy mountaineers. Now, a new luxury lodge, Sheldon Chalet, has opened on a nunatak, or rocky outcrop, in the middle of it all, meaning that now even the most cold-adverse adventurers can now enjoy the view. Named after the legendary Alaskan aviator, Don Sheldon, who first scouted this spot more than 50 ago, the amphitheater is flanked on one side by the 20,308-foot-high east face of Denali – the tallest summit in America –and the Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier on the other, sheer 5,000-foot cliffs framed by an enormous band of sparkling white ice. Forget Yosemite and the Grand Canyon: you’ll share that view with thousands. Here, it’s just you, the mountains and the sound of your jaw dropping to the floor.


NASA has just announced plans to allow regular tourist visits to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020. That’s a huge deal. The ISS is not just the largest and most complex machine ever flown in space. It’s also our first real colony in the stars. Think about it. November 2nd, 2020, will mark two decades that the ISS has been continuously inhabited. That’s remarkable: human beings have been orbiting the planet every 90-minutes, every single day, for the last 20 years. But even more remarkable is the fact that we did it together. The ISS was not built by one single country, but by a family of nations working together. And it’s still crewed that way too. In a very real way, it’s our first true planetary achievement. It may not be cheap to visit (expect to pay more than one million dollars for the trip) but it’s a view that might just change your life. Astronauts, on returning home from space, report, almost without exception, a profound, almost spiritual, realization of the fragility and beauty of our planet. One day, just maybe, you’ll be able to see that view too.


The ancient Mayans were a remarkable people. Without the wheel, or advanced tools of any kind, they managed to build vast stone cities in the middle of one of the densest jungles on Earth. Chichen Itza and Tulum, in Mexico, are perhaps the most famous sites, but today they are a crush of souvenir stalls and mass-market tourism. Caracol is different. Located in the rainforests of western Belize, this enormous 30 square mile site is utterly undeveloped, free of crowds (less than a dozen people visit per day) and, because of that, perhaps, the most authentic way to experience the mystery and magic of the ancient Mayans today. There are thousands of individual ruins to explore, but the most impressive is Caana, the Sky Palace, a 143-foot pyramid where the king of this Tollan, or great city, once lived. Climb to the top and the view is the same as it would have been more than 1,500-years ago: no tourists, no souvenir stalls, just jungle and stone pyramids as far as the eye can see.

And there you have it. Socrates said: 'Wisdom begins in wonder.' Studies show that the awe induces deeper levels of cognitive processing; it boosts empathy and helps us connect with the world around us in meaningful ways. Art and science are borne from it. Wonder is more than just a good feeling; it is a seed from which our greatest treasures grow.


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