Must-Photograph Monuments Worthy of a Trip

From the Taj Mahal to Angkor Wat, and the Pyramids of Giza to the Statue of Liberty, the world is filled with myriad monuments and temples worthy of photography trips—especially for anyone interested in (for the most part) archaeology, anthropology, and ancient civilizations. Check out this list for must-photograph landmarks around the globe.

Highlights
Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Crowds may swarm upon it daily from sunrise onwards, but exposure hasn’t dulled the impact of the largest religious monument in the world. Commissioned by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century as the centerpiece of the mighty Khmer empire, the structure is inspired by Hindu sacred design and is estimated to have taken around 30 years to build. The biggest surprise upon visiting might be learning that the vast complex of spires, moats, frescoes, cloisters, and balustrades was constructed in such speedy fashion. You won’t be alone while witnessing it, but sunrise over the iconic temple remains one of the essential experiences in Southeast Asia. A return in the afternoon when the camera-toting hordes have dispersed is also advisable.
Dharmapuri, Forest Colony, Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001, India
The Taj Mahal is referred to as “the jewel of Muslim art in India,” by UNESCO in its listing on the World Heritage Site registry. The Mughal ruler Shah Jahan had the truly magnificent white marble mausoleum built in 1632–1648, in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. For its construction, artisans from all over the empire, Central Asia, Iran, were summoned and the final result of their stonework, calligraphy, carvings, gardening, woodwork, and soaring domes remains one of the universally admired masterpieces of world heritage. Allot ample time to tour the site—besides the mausoleum, there is a mosque, a guest house, cloisters, courtyards, gates, and vast gardens. In addition to being stunningly beautiful from afar, the iconic site is evocatively romantic and up-close, the intricate details in its architecture, ornamentation, and history, are revealed.
Mesa Verde, CO, USA
For anyone who believes that truly historic architecture doesn’t exist in the states, Mesa Verde National Park will make you think again. Still standing in the park are cliff dwellings built in 600 CE by the ancestral Pueblo people who once lived in the area. A transformative day trip, Mesa Verde is nearly two hours from Telluride but well worth the drive to see its 5,000 archeological sites, from Cliff Palace (a ranger will guide you on the hike up, which involves climbing ten-foot ladders) to Balcony House (which you’ll enter via a 12-foot tunnel).
New York, NY 10004, USA
One of New York’s most iconic landmarks is also one of America’s: the Statue of Liberty, standing in the middle of New York Harbor as it has since 1885. The statue was famously a gift from France, built to a design by sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and with structural engineering overseen by Gustave Eiffel. The statue was one of the first large-scale curtain wall structures—that is, one where weight is supported by an internal frame and not by the exterior walls. As one of New York’s most visited sights, some tickets sell out far in advance. There are two different levels of tickets: pedestal and crown. Tickets to the pedestal and especially those to the crown are often gone months in advance, so plan accordingly.
2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
The Lincoln Memorial has the hushed and solemn air of a sacred place, and indeed, many of its six million annual visitors behave like pilgrims arriving at a shrine. They linger in the soaring marble space, contemplating the 19-foot tall statue of the seated Lincoln, or silently reading the inscribed words of the Gettysburg Address or his second inaugural address, which famously ends: With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. The legacy of the 16th president and his measured words in times of strife—as well as the monument’s dramatic setting at the end of the National Mall—have made the site the natural gathering place for vigils, protests, and marches through the years since its 1922 dedication, including African-American singer Marian Anderson’s 1939 Easter radio broadcast, and most notably, the 1963 march that culminated in Martin Luther King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France
Nothing is a more powerful symbol of the City of Light than the Eiffel Tower. Designed by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Paris Exposition, it’s one of the world’s most-visited monuments, with nearly 7 million people ascending the 1,062-foot wrought-iron structure each year. Glass elevators spirit you to the top—hardy souls can take the stairs part of way—where in addition to unparalleled panoramic views of Paris, you can toast your arrival with a glass of bubbly at the Champagne bar. Evenings there’s a grand light show: every hour on the hour, the tower sparkles for five minutes with 20,000 bulbs.
Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n, 18009 Granada, Spain
A visit to Granada, Spain isn’t complete without a stop at the Alhambra. The Moorish architecture, robust gardens, and stunning views of Granada combine to make a truly memorable experience. Start your day with a tour of the Generalife Gardens. Take it slow to fully enjoy the blooming flowers and stunning water features at every turn. Make sure to pre-book your tickets to the Alhambra or you may miss out on a visit to the breathtaking Nasrid Palace portion. Tickets are easily purchased through the official Ticketmaster site, where you are able to schedule a morning or afternoon time slot. If you are unable to secure a ticket to The Nasrid Palace you can still purchase a pass to the Generalife Gardens and Alcazaba Fortress, and it’s well worth the time and money.
Piazza del Colosseo, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
No matter how many postcards you’ve seen of Rome’s iconic Colosseum, you just don’t get it until you pass beneath its crumbling arches. Built by Emperor Vespasian in 72 C.E., the huge amphitheater held 50,000 spectators and marked its opening with 100 days of brutal spectacles like gladiator combat and animal fights. The Colosseum was in use for four centuries, and now you can tour the ruins. Walk through the Hypogeum, an intricate series of tunnels and elevators originally used to transport animals, slaves, and gladiators, to the performance above, or take a moonlit tour to have one of the world’s most storied structures all to yourself.
Acropolis, Athens 116 36, Greece
Obviously, you can’t visit Athens without climbing up “the rock” (as locals fondly call the Acropolis) to commune with its crowning glory: the Parthenon. Although visible from most places in the city, getting up close to one of the undisputed masterpieces of Western civilization is an experience that never disappoints. Even on a scorching day, with hundreds of visitors around and the concrete city clamouring for your attention, the impact is profound. The Parthenon has a timeless beauty, striking in its symmetrical simplicity. Other glorious monuments scattered around the slopes include the Erecthion, propped up by the graceful caryatids, and the Temple of Athena Nike. To fully appreciate the complex history of the Acropolis—which has been everything from a Christian church to a mosque to an arsenal and a shanty town over the ages—it’s well worth enlisting the services of a professional guide, or investing in Mary Beard’s wonderful book, The Parthenon. That way you won’t make the same mistake as Shaquille O’Neal; when a reporter asked whether he’d visited the Parthenon during a trip to Greece, O’Neal replied: “I can’t really remember the names of the clubs we went to.”

Top tip: Buy a multi-site ticket that gives you single access to the Acropolis and 10 other archaeological sites and is valid for five days. Go as early, or as late, in the day as you can to avoid the summer heat and crowds.
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Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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