There are some sights that are best seen in person. TripAdvisor polled its users on their favorite landmarks in the 2015 Travelers’ Choice awards. From the infamous Alcatraz Island to the structural wonder that is Machu Piccu, there’s a site to see in every part of the world. Dig into the first ten and start planning your adventure.
Travelers’ Choice #1 Landmark: Angkor Wat
The largest living religious monument in the world is also the #1 Travelers’ Choice Landmark in the world. Angkor Wat in Cambodia is a true wonder, a magnificently mesmerizing ancient temple site built in the 12th century. A Hindu temple eventually converted to a Buddhist temple and surrounded by a massive 650-foot wide moat, Angkor Wat was named a UNESCO World Heritage site and has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on the Cambodian national flag.
Travelers’ Choice #2 Landmark: Machu Picchu
The enigmatic lost city of Machu Picchu, the most famous archaeological site in all of South America, is the #2 Travelers’ Choice Landmark in the world. Machu Picchu has never revealed all of its mysteries, including the secrets of its construction. Highlights include the ruined Temple of the Sun and the Sacred Plaza with its tremendous view across the Urubamba River Valley.
Travelers’ Choice #3 Landmark: Taj Mahal
Considered one of the world’s most iconic landmarks and elected as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal is #3 on the Travelers’ Choice list of top landmarks for 2015. It is a living testament to grandeur, romance and history. Although the Taj Mahal has been photographed time and time again, pictures do no justice to the majesty of this awe-inspiring structure.
Travelers’ Choice #4 Landmark: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center, the #4 2015 Travelers’ Choice Landmark, rises majestically from Abu Dhabi and serves as the central place of worship for citizens of the emirate. The massive white structure can accommodate 40,000 people and is home to the world’s largest marble mosaic. This grand structure was built with white marble imported from 28 different countries, as well as chandeliers from Europe (the world’s most valuable).
Travelers’ Choice #5 Landmark: Basilica of the Sagrada Familia
Its multicolored towers piercing the blue sky, La Sagrada Familia is no doubt the most iconic structure in Barcelona, and it is the #5 landmark in the world. The church has been a fixture in the city since construction commenced in 1882. Though still a work in progress, the church is already amazingly intricate. Impressive stained-glass windows line the main room, and a lift takes visitors up one of the towers to enjoy the breathtaking view.
Travelers’ Choice #6 Landmark: St. Peter’s Basilica
The #6 top landmark in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica is like no other church you’ll see. Visitors will find themselves surrounded by significant artwork. One of the most beautiful pieces is Michelangelo’s marble Pieta. Atop the basilica sits its famous dome, recognizable from across the city. Those who climb a staircase to the top are rewarded with a wonderful view over the piazza, Bernini’s enclosing colonnade below and of Rome itself.
Travelers’ Choice #7 Landmark: Milan Cathedral (Duomo)
The Milan Cathedral, 2015’s #7 World Landmark, is a much-loved symbol of the city and the most exuberant example of Northern Gothic architecture in Italy. The exterior is an upwardly thrusting collection of pinnacles, elongated statues and buttresses, while the central spire is topped by a gilt statue of the Madonna. The view from the roof is the main highlight—on a clear day, the Italian Alps are visible.
Travelers’ Choice #8 Landmark: Alcatraz
For almost 150 years, Alcatraz has given chills to the innocent and cold sweats to the guilty. Having once been a forbidding maximum-security penitentiary, Alcatraz is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is this year’s #8 Travelers’ Choice Landmark. The roster of former Alcatraz inmates includes A-list criminals such as crime boss Al Capone and kidnapper George Kelly. Though it was considered escape-proof, in 1962 the Anglin brothers and Frank Morris infamously floated away on a makeshift raft and were never seen again.
Travelers’ Choice #9 Landmark: Corcovado – Cristo Redentor
Keeping a watchful eye over the people of Rio de Janeiro, the Cristo Redentor statue sits atop Corcovado Mountain, 2,300 feet (700 meters) above the city. It was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and the #9 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Landmark in 2015. On a clear day, the views from the statue’s base are awe-inspiring. At night, Cristo Redentor is lit up and seems to hover over the city as the mountain it stands on disappears in the darkness.
Travelers’ Choice #10 Landmark: Golden Gate Bridge
Introduced in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge is, without question, a world icon and the #10 best Landmark in the world for 2015. So, where do you go for the best views? Some believe Alfred Hitchcock had it right when he said that seen from below at Fort Point, the bridge induces a thrilling case of vertigo. Others prefer the lookout at Vista Point in Marin, on the north side of the bridge. For a look at stunning vistas and a bucket-list experience, take a walk or bicycle ride across the bridge itself.
Travelers’ Choice #11 Landmark: Eiffel Tower
Built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World Fair, held to commemorate the centennial of the Revolution, the Eiffel Tower made headlines as the world’s tallest structure at 1,050 feet (320 meters). This year, the Eiffel Tower is the #11 Travelers’ Choice Landmark in the world, When visiting, be sure to peer at the amazing sight from the ground, then head up to the three levels for the highlight of your visit – the supreme view over Paris.
Travelers’ Choice #12 Landmark: Church of the Savior on Blood
One of the most iconic sights in St. Petersburg, the Church of the Savior on Blood stands out with its multicolored façade and onion domes. Is it any wonder that travelers chose it as the #12 Landmark in the world for 2015? The interior, designed by some of the era’s most popular Russian artists, features more than 7,500 square meters of mosaic tiles covering the walls and ceilings. Don’t miss the large icon of St. Alexander Nevsky.
Travelers’ Choice #13 Landmark: Notre Dame Cathedral
The Notre Dame Cathedral is not only a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, it’s also the #13 Travelers Choice Landmark for 2015. The cathedral’s immense interior, a marvel of medieval engineering, holds over 6,000 people and boasts spectacular rose windows. Notre Dame is regarded as a sublime architectural achievement. The interior is dominated by a 7,800-pipe organ that was once restored. Although, the organ does not currently work properly, it is still an amazing sight to see!
Travelers’ Choice #14 Landmark: The Alhambra
The Alhambra is not only Spain’s greatest architectural treasure, but also one of the world’s wonders. Moorish poets called it “a pearl set in emeralds,” referring to the natural surroundings. The austere exterior reveals a wonderland of musical fountains, cunningly devised gardens and finely carved palaces. This is exactly why travelers chose it as the #14 top landmark to see in 2015.
Travelers’ Choice #15 Landmark: Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)
The Hagia Sophia Museum and Church (or Aya Sofya) is considered one of Istanbul’s most beautiful buildings and the most important Byzantine structure in the world. Created in 532 AD, in the reign of Emperor Justinian I, it was the world’s largest cathedral for almost a thousand years. TripAdvisor’s #15 World Landmark is a soaring sequence of domes, arches and minarets, with a focus on the huge central dome, which seems to float unsupported.
This feature originally appeared in TripAdvisor.