The 30 Best Man Made Sites in the World

Choosing the 30 best man made sites in the world is quite an undertaking. Much like the 30 best cities in the world or the 30 best islands in the world; there is a ton to consider. As you know, the world is a very big place and then there is the old versus new to consider. What constitutes a great site?
Ahu Tongariki, Moai, Easter Island, Chile
I feel that most people would jump and say something like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben or the Statue of Liberty as those are pretty famous landmarks that everyone knows. Those sites are all great and of course man made but are they one of the 30 best man made sites in the world? Obviously, that depends who you ask but from someone who has been everywhere and seen pretty much everything I had a few other ideas. Although one of those 3 did make the list because of what I call “shock value”.
Mali, Mud Mosque
Shock Value is when you look at something for the first time and your breath is taken away. Shock Value is when you are in the presence of something significantly larger than yourself and it humbles you. Shock Value is when the enormity of the history of a site takes over you and leaves you speechless. Shock Value is the best thing about traveling and seeing the world.
Tigers nest Monaster, Bhutan
Granted, lots of sites have shock value and of course that will be different to different people with varying interests and knowledge. So the following list is based upon my experiences and my travels over the past 15+ years. Here is the criteria I used in selecting the 30 best man made sites in the world.
Petra, Jordan
-I have been to the site at least once and of these 30 I have been to 23 multiple times.

-I only picked one site per country. There are two choices that need to be clarified in this rule. I chose one site in China and one site in Tibet as I consider Tibet to be a separate country. I chose one in Rome, Italy and one in Vatican City as they are separate countries.

-For those who wonder why I limited it to one per country when a country like Egypt, Italy or France could have several each; the reason is to highlight more of the world and incredible sites that people may not know about.

-When I say the Vatican, that refers to the whole place; meaning specifically St. Peter’s Basilica and of course the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. Sydney Harbour refers to the entire thing including the Opera House and Harbour Bridge

-I chose not to include skylines of cities like New York, Hong Kong or Shanghai. All 3 of which I think are amazing but that would take away from the individual sites. The lone sort of exception to this rule is the Las Vegas Strip at night. I had to include it because it is so striking that even after 100 times in Vegas I am still in awe of it.
pyramids, egypt
So without further ado…here are the 30 best man made sites in the world…what do you think?
Dubai skyline
30 Borobudur in Java, Indonesia
29 Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France
28 Old City Sanaa in Sanaa, Yemen
27 Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England
26 Registan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
25 Bagan in Myanmar
24 Polonnaruwa in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
23 Red Square in Moscow, Russia
22 Acropolis in Athens, Greece
21 Teotihuacan near Mexico City, Mexico
20 Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, Singapore
19 Sydney Harbour in Sydney, Australia
18 Prague Main Square in Prague, Czech Republic
17 Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, USA
16 Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
15 The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland
14 Colosseum in Rome, Italy
13 Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes, Peru
12 Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia
11 Tikal in Petin Basin, Guatemala
10 Djenne Mud Mosque in Djenne, Mali
9 Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE
8 Great Wall of China in Eastern China
7 The Vatican in Vatican City
6 Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet
5 Taj Mahal in Agra, India
4 Pyramids at Giza in Cairo, Egypt
3 Petra in Petra, Jordan
2 Moai on Easter Island, Chile
1 Tigers Nest Monastery in Paro Valley, Bhutan

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  1. Looks kids…Big Ben, Parliament!

    I haven’t seen nearly as much as you but I loved seeing Parliament in person-that shocked me!

    • I’m partial to it as well as London was my first ever International visit but after traveling more, I couldn’t rank it above some of the others and I think Stonehenge is cooler because of the mystery and the setting.

  2. I am surprised you don’t have anything from Spain. I would have expected either Sagrada Familia or maybe the Alhambra?

    • I debated Sagrada Familia but the fact that it is perpetually unfinished annoys me and that takes away from some of its glory so to speak. The Alhambra is nice but not spectacular in my book.

  3. I haven’t been to most of these so I really can’t argue with your picks. Fun list and it is good to read your old posts, thanks for linking them. I didn’t realize you were writing your website back in 2007. Good stuff!

  4. Awesome list, Lee. Glad you included Petra so high, that is the most amazing place I have ever been.

  5. Auschwitz?!?! Really…

    • Yes, not because it is spectacular but it does have tremendous shock value and is a very important site. It is man made and not all history is good history and we must remember the past, good and bad.

  6. I’ve visited 16 of these. I like that you put Petra and the moais of Easter Island so high on the list! They truly deserve it.

    Tikal seems to get ignored by so many people, and places like Chichen Itza usually ranks above it. Tikal is the real wonder of the two. I’m glad you agree.

    But I have to say I don’t understand why you included the Christ the Redeemer. Sure it’s a nice statue, but the best part about visiting it is the view of Rio. Maybe it’s more spectacular if you’re religious. I don’t know 🙂

    The photos in this post are really good. Could you include sources please?

    • I totally agree about Tikal as you see in the list; it always drives me nuts when Chichen Itza is ranked higher in many lists-Tikal is special. I have Christ the Redeemer because it is a spectacular site. Not so much for the statue itself but the view from the peak, the view from helicopter above Christo and then the view from the beaches and ity up at it, like Christo is looking over the city are awesome. It’s not the statue itself and I am not religious.

      • I was going to ask you the same thing, too, Lee (RE: Christ the Redeemer). I finally saw this past June, but was not really impressed by it whatsoever. As for the view from Christ the Redeemer, I totally agree with you 100% on that!

  7. Very interesting list with several places I have never heard of. I guess I need to start packing! Thanks for sharing, these lists you’ve been doing lately are fantastic.

  8. Amazing list and my bucket list has just expanded by 26 places! The registan looks really exotic!

  9. Patricia says

    Wow this is very cool. It must have been so difficult to choose what to exclude given your vast traveling experiences. Thanks for sharing this list and keeping me occupied for over an hour today.

  10. I lived in Japan for years. I think there are several wonderful sites in Japan that might be suitable for this list. How about the Great Buddha of Kamakura? Have you been?

    • I have been there Norm and that was actually the site in Japan I was considering using but ultimately chose to leave it off as I don’t think it is the most striking Buddha I have seen and while Japan is a wonderful place I don’t consider it to have a shockingly awesome man made site…although Tokyo is a pretty wild place!

  11. MIchelle says

    I’m surprised Mt. Rushmore did not get an honorary nod 😉

    My list would include the Roman Ruins in Merida, Spain and maybe the Panama canal – not because its particuarly interesting to look at but its quite an feat of human engineering. (I say this as someone who has only been to ten on your list so take my suggestions with a grain of salt).

  12. I’m glad you linked all the places on the list to your previous blog posts, it will make for some fun reading later 🙂 I was surprised to see Auschwitz on your list but after reading your blog post about it with tears in my eyes, I totally get it. Not all history is pretty. Great list, Lee!

  13. I would love it if you would label the photographs above. I’m not familiar with any of those places. Thanks!

  14. Love your list and these beautiful, wonderful parts of the world.
    As I sit here thinking, I’ve only been to seven sites listed, I also think, how cool that I’ve been to seven of the sites listed.
    The temple in Myanmar looks beautiful and reminds me (a little) of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. I think it’s all the gold….

  15. carolann harrop says

    Have you been to Scotland we have amazing breathtaking places, love your site x

  16. 17 out of 30…….mmmmm not bad but still a few to go 😉

  17. I have hit 21 so far. I agree with most of your list. The one I would disagree with is Polonnaruwa in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. I found this underwhelming. What attracted you to this place?

  18. Yes Ive been to 12 of these, I think its very subjective, alot depends on who you go with!, Petra and the Acropolis were great but I would have put them lower, and Stonehenge I found completely underwhelming but I must say some of the ones I havent been to sound fascinating, I guess for as much as their emotional and spiritual impact as their architectural qualities. Also alot depends on how many other people are visiting at the time. Lining up with 5000 other tourists like sheep to enter St Peters diminishes the experience, but if you happen to find a nice hill top Tuscan town that it seems like noone else has visited in a while and can soak up the atmosphere it seems great, even though objectively its not such a top tourist destination. I really liked Westminster Abbey, I guess because of all the famous people buried there, but possibly because we were among the first to visit that day and the guard was pleasant to us! Also I would have put Pompeii on the list

  19. I’ve been to 6/30 of these places: Tikal, Eiffel Tower, Macchu Piccu, Christ the Redeemer, Acropolis, & Las Vegas Strip.

    Been to the Acropolis twice in my life. Whether you view from below in Plaka, from across Finopoulo’s Hill or in person, the fact still remains that the Ancient Greeks managed to build this massive temple with primitive tools. How they did that is beyond me, but only adds to the “shock value” to it.

    Been to the Eiffel Tower four times now, and while it’s “okay,” you can really enhance your experience there if you go to Paris in the winter and try ice skating on the second level! Did that in early 2011!

    Been to Las Vegas five times now, and I agree with you, Lee, that the neon lights at night are quite impressive. But, then again, I feel the same way about Times Square whenever I am in NYC for a weekend trip.

    Tikal is definitely an under appreciated Mayan ruin as you usually hear more about Chichen Itza instead. Personally, I would replace Chichen Itza with Tikal on the “7 Wonders of the World” list. Also a great place to check out if you are a Star Wars fanatic! 😉

    Christ the Redeemer isn’t really all that impressive to be quite honest, and I am not really sure how it made the “7 Wonders of the World” list. The views from there are great, though! Machu Picchu is far more impressive, so I am glad to see if higher on your list! Definitely adds to the “shock value” if you do the Inca Trail hike, and enjoy the sunrise from the Sun Gate.

  20. I LOVE your list and travel blog. Stonehedge was breath taking. I cried because I couldn’t believe I was seeing such an old historic site. Glad to see my home town of Las Vegas made your list. Travel on!

  21. Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

  22. Definitely Pompeii in Italy did it for me!

    I’m surprised dubai isn’t there. Tha man made island in the shape of a palm tree is one of the unique things I’ve ever seen. And soon they’ll have man made islands that are in the shape of the whole world.

  23. Auschwitz, Poland on the list of BEST man made sites? Seriously?

    Yes, I read, the article, I read about your ‘shock value’ but still I’d rather put such concentration camps or any other genocide sites on the lists of ‘most scary’ not the best ones.

  24. Szymon | Znajkraj says

    Lee, I don’t want to be rude, really. I don’t want you to feel bad. But I need to be honest with you.

    It is stupid. This is completely stupid, what you have written. Your point of view and putting Auschwitz on the list make you the guy, who I don’t want ever meet on my travel path.

    I won’t be telling you, what is good, what is bad, and why is that. I just want you to imagine, that you name Auschiwtz “the best” having your parents or grandfathers being murdered there.

    Humiliated. Killed. Murdered.

    God, what the man are you, that you need me to write all this crap :/

  25. Including Auschwitz on the list of the best man made sites in the world is somehow…. cruel. Wrong list, man. Try – the MOST IMPORTANT historic sites in the world.

  26. I would have thrown the Golden Gate Bridge in there. Totally Iconic and incredibly difficult to build anytime let alone 1937. Machu Picchu pretty cool as well.

  27. Truly! humans are very talented.I’m pretty sure, it takes so many years to finished these architectures. Thanks for sharing this glimpse. I love the photos

  28. so awesome place and have so many good things to get fun. these architecture and designs are so gooda and i add these places in my wishlist.

  29. Angkor Wat is my number 1 hands downs!

  30. Dome of the Rock also makes the cut for me!

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