Posted by: Johan Normark | June 6, 2009

My Seven Wonders of the World list: Angkor Wat

As mentioned in earlier posts I am not pleased with the new so-called Seven of the Wonders of the World list. My own list is highly subjective but it has some criteria: (1)  the “wonders” must be relatively short term construction projects (although later modifications can be allowed); (2) they must be single buildings (not whole sites); (3) they must be preindustrial (date to before the emergence of powerful machines, etc.); (4) and I must have visited them (which means that a lot of spectacular cathedrals, palaces, temples, etc. cannot be included). I have decided to keep Taj Mahal and the Khufu pyramid. Colosseum could have been included in the list, but it is not my favourite Roman building as is shown below.

This is the list (in order of presentation):

  1. Pyramid of Khufu (Giza, Egypt)
  2. Taj Mahal (Agra, India)
  3. Angkor Wat (Angkor, Cambodia)
  4. Temple of Heaven (Beijing, China)
  5. Pantheon (Rome, Italy)
  6. Borobudur (Yogjakarta, Indonesia)
  7. Temple of Inscriptions (Palenque, Mexico)

I present the first of my five other (architectural) Wonders of the World in this post. It was a tight competition between two temples at Angkor in Cambodia (the Bayon temple and Ankor Wat). I finally decided for Angkor Wat, originally a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu and built during the reign of Suryavarman II (1113-ca 1150). Some believe that Angkor Wat was his funery temple. It was later turned into a Buddhist temple. I visited Angkor in April 2007.

The first picture is taken from a balloon from where the whole temple complex can be seen. At the center is a temple mountain representing Mount Meru (home of the gods) surrounded by galleries. The whole temple and its outer wall (1024 x 802 m) is located within a 190 m wide moat representing the ocean surrounding the world. Angkor Wat is oriented to the west (other temples at Angkor are oriented to the east).

Angkor 2

In the center stands a quincunx of towers that symbolizes the five peaks of Mount Meru. They are shaped like lotus buds. The central tower is 65 m above the ground and originally housed a statue of Vishnu.

Angkor 3

Angkor has extensive bas-relief friezes depicting episodes from the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. They are running anti-clockwise in several galleries and pavilions.

Angkor 1

There are mainly three galleries, one higher up than the other, and therefore leading up to the central towers. Like elsewhere, the higher up one moves in this temple complex, the more restricted the access gets. The stairs up to the upper floor from the inner gallery is as steep as any Maya temple.

Angkor 4



  1. Just dropping in from Condron.

    I was happy to note that I was aware of almost every place on your list. I do agree, though that the Pantheon is more intriguing than the Colosseum.

  2. As my list turned out Pantheon is the only building from Europe. I should perhaps have included one more European building and one more from the Americas. But I have mainly travelled in Asia so the list reflect my interests.


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