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Travel icons travel guide

There are some wonders of the world you really do have to see before you die – here's Wanderlust's take on 10 travel icons

There are some sites you just have to see before you die – architectural masterpieces and geological marvels that, even though they are visited by truckloads of travellers each year, are still so splendid they’re worth battling the crowds for.

Their names alone get your feet itching: the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, Peru; Kilimanjaro – the world’s tallest free-standing volcano; the desert city of Petra, Jordan; the marvel-in-marble minarets of India’s Taj Mahal. Then there’s the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat… Spots this iconic are to the travel world what Elvis was to music, Pelé to football. We’re talking the royal family of tourist attractions.

These sights are all famous for a reason. Peru’s mist-swirled Inca stronghold, Machu Picchu, is the ultimate lost city – best seen from the Sun Gate after you’ve completed the awesome four-day Inca Trail. The Grand Canyon is the world’s largest gorge, and assumes a different character as the light shifts during the day. Egypt’s Pyramids boggle the mind, as they have scientists for millennia – they’ve been around for thousands of years yet still no one knows exactly how they were built.

A trip to a travel icon needs some planning. Many tour operators will offer to take you there so you need to ask plenty of questions to ensure the best experience: which company gives the porters on Kilimanjaro the fairest deal? Which has inside knowledge of Cambodia’s Angkorian temples, so you avoid some of the crowds? Which uses Aboriginal guides to show you an alternative view of Uluru (Ayers Rock)?

Also, for the best possible interaction with a travel icon, try to get some insider information. Be prepared to get up early to beat the crowds, look for opportunities to stay after hours (did you know you can stay in one of the watch towers of the Great Wall of China?) and look for similar alternatives (perhaps the Choquequirao Inca trek instead of Machu Picchu?).

From the unique wildlife of the Galápagos Islands to the shifting sands of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert, the world is full of wonders. Prepare to be blown away.

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