Types of wonders

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Grand Prismatic Spring, United States, Wyoming
Grand Prismatic Spring, United States, Wyoming / Ziinkova M. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Table of categories

The list of the categories of world’s wonders currently includes 120 categories in 4 levels. It is not complete so far and will be updated upon the necessity.

Many wonders fit into several categories. One principle though has remained strict – every valuable monument of the world would fit at least into one of these categories.

Geological and meteorological wonders

These wonders have been created by geological, meteorological and astronomical phenomena.

  • Impact craters – detectable scars on the surface of Earth left by a body coming from the outer space. Category includes also meteorites – natural objects from the outer space.
  • Places with meteorological phenomena – locations with unusual meteorological conditions or phenomena.
  • Rock formations – visually and / or scientifically interesting natural rock surfaces. Includes cliffs, gorges, rock stacks, natural arches, monoliths and many other kinds of rock outcrops.
    • Cliffs – outstanding rock surfaces, for most part – vertical or near vertical.
    • Canyons and ravines – outstanding, deep ravines with vertical or very steep cliff faces in both sides of stream.
    • Natural arches – naturally formed rock arches – cliff formations with openings below them.
    • Rock spires – naturally formed tall, thin spires of rocks.
    • Monoliths – very large, monolithic masses of rock which have formed unusual, visually impressive relief forms.
    • Boulders – very large or otherwise unusual boulders.
  • Aeolian formations – outstanding geological formations which have been shaped by the wind.
  • Caves – outstanding natural underground spaces which are large enough for human to enter.
    • Sinkholes – outstanding, large natural depressions or holes.
  • Volcanoes – most interesting volcanoes – openings or ruptures in the Earth’s crust, where hot magma and/or gases are (or were) emitted.
  • Geothermal features – wonders created by geothermal processes – internal heat of Earth.
    • Fumaroles – outstanding fumaroles – openings in the crust of Earth where gases are emitted.
    • Geothermal fields – locations where are concentrated geothermal features – such as geysers, mud pools, fumaroles and others.
    • Geysers – locations where are found hot springs which at more or less regular intervals shoot up a fountain of boiling water and steam.
  • Springs – outstanding springs – natural sites where water, other liquids and/or gases reach the surface of the Earth, including locations under water.
    • Mineral springs – springs whose water contains dissolved substances and can have an altered taste and various other characteristics.
    • Subaquatic springs – springs which leave the ground under water level of another waterbody (sea, larger river, lake).
    • Spring tufa, travertine and other formations – locations where springs have deposited solid sediments travertine, salt and other materials which have formed natural terraces or other interesting formations.
    • Thermal springs – springs which have a significantly higher water temperature than the average yearly temperature of their respective localities.
  • Waterfalls – locations where a river abruptly changes its elevation.
    • Rapids and whirlpools – visually impressive locations, where sections of rivers have steep beds or where in the sea or rivers have formed whirlpools.
  • Lakes and streams – unusual lakes and streams.
  • Glaciers – diverse unusual glaciers.
  • Rare natural materials – locations, where are found rare minerals, rocks and other substances.
    • Gemstone finds – locations, where are found stones of high value, used in adornments, mostly – in jewelry.
  • Geographical extremes – geographical wonders with extreme parameters, e.g. world’s tallest cliff, windiest place.

Biological wonders

These wonders have been created by any of life forms on Earth except for man.

  • Ecosystems – areas with unique, uniform environmental conditions and specific communities of life.
    • Animal colonies – locations where gatherings of large number of animals are permanent or regular.
  • Trees – the most impressive and interesting separate trees of the the world.
  • Fossil finds – locations where are found remains or traces of life forms of outstanding value for science.
    • Early human finds – locations where are found valuable remains or artifacts left by early hominins and humans.
  • Biological extremes – biological wonders with extreme parameters, e.g. world’s tallest tree, northernmost forest.

Man made wonders

Wonders created by man. Major part of these places are tangible (buildings, earthworks, artworks), but sites of legends form a part of intangible heritage.

  • Settlements – locations where permanently or temporary on a regular basis lives or lived a community of people and where are located scientific or art values or special visual qualities.
    • Prehistoric settlements – locations of outstanding prehistoric (before the written history) human settlements.
    • Rural settlements – outstanding smaller settlements outside urban areas.
    • Industrial settlements – outstanding settlements built for the habitation of workers near large industrial sites, e.g. mines, factories.
    • Cities and towns – currently inhabited towns, cities and parts of the cities, which represent a value from the tourist or scientific point of view.
    • Ancient cities and towns – ancient (here – more than 1,500 years old) towns, cities and parts of the cities, which represent a value from the tourist or scientific point of view.
    • Abandoned cities and towns – abandoned towns, cities and parts of the cities, which represent a value from the tourist or scientific point of view.
  • Fortifications – structures which have been built for military or civil defense.
    • Prehistoric fortifications – outstanding prehistoric (before the written history) fortifications.
    • Defensive walls – large scale fortifications which were built to protect larger regions.
    • City walls – walls for the protection of cities, towns and villages.
    • City gates and towers – parts of city walls – outstanding gates, towers of other parts.
    • Fortresses and forts – Fortified buildings or groups of buildings – military installations for the protection of troops.
    • Prisons – unusual sites and buildings which have been used to detain individuals inside.
  • Houses – structures which primarily have been constructed and / or used for human habitation.
    • Castles – outstanding fortified residences, built mainly in medieval times.
    • Palaces, country houses and villas – outstanding residential buildings, built in dense urban environment for rich and/or influential families.
    • Family houses, villas – outstanding, detached or semi-detached residential buildings, used by a single family.
    • Multi apartment houses – outstanding residential buildings, which contain apartments for several families.
    • Hotels and inns – outstanding buildings which have been built to provide lodging, food and drink.
  • Religious architecture – outstanding structures which have been built for worship and/or which serve for religious purposes.
    • Prehistoric and ancient shrines – shrines and other sites of ancient or prehistoric religions and beliefs.
    • Ancient pyramids – pyramid shaped buildings which were built in the ancient cultures as shrines, cult structures and burials for high-ranked officials.
    • Hindu shrines – Hindu shrines and other sites linked to Hinduist religion.
    • Judaism monuments – sacred Jewish sites, including houses of prayer – synagogues.
    • Jain shrines – temples and other sacred sites of Jain religion.
    • Buddhist shrines – Buddhist sacred sites, including temples and monasteries.
    • Churches – buildings where Christians gather and worship God.
    • Christian monasteries – building or complex of buildings where live, work and pray Christian monks or nuns.
    • Islamic shrines – Islamic sites, structures built for Islamic worship.
    • Other contemporary shrines – shrines and structures linked to other contemporary religions.
  • Public buildings – outstanding structures which have been built to provide services for the society.
    • Markets, stores and shops – structures which were built to purchase and sell goods.
    • Government and office buildings – structures which were built to provide premises for administrative institutions.
    • Hospitals and health resorts – buildings which were built for health care, diverse medical facilities and health resorts.
    • Educational buildings – buildings which were built for education institutions.
    • Museums – most interesting and outstanding institutions which collect and explore artifacts of scientific, cultural and historical importance.
    • Libraries – buildings which were built to store collections of information sources, mainly – books.
    • Operas, theatres and concert halls – structures which were built for dramatic and musical performances.
    • Observation towers and spots – structures which were built to provide views on interesting landscape, as well as spots where landscape of special beauty and interest can be seen.
    • Entertainment infrastructure – structures which were built to provide pleasure and delight to audience (except for sports, dramatic and musical performances).
    • Sports infrastructure – most impressive structures built for sports.
  • Transport infrastructure – outstanding structures which were built to facilitate movement of people, animals and goods.
    • Roads and paths – most interesting and unique parts of paths and roads – land-based transport infrastructure between two places.
    • Bridges and overpasses – structures which were built to provide overpass over physical obstacles – water, other roads, valleys etc.
    • Tunnels – structures which were built to provide ounderpass under physical obstacles – mountains, water, dense cities, other roads etc.
    • Canals – man-made water channels, built for water transport.
    • Railways – most interesting and unique sections of railways – ways with rails.
    • Transport stations and depots – buildings built to provide necessary premises for transport services, such as railway stations and airports, railway depots.
    • Lighthouses – structures which were built to assist the navigation of maritime or inland water transport, mainly by light.
    • Spacecraft infrastructure – infrastructure built to provide the launch of spacecraft.
  • Industrial and infrastructure heritage – structures which were constructed to provide technical and production services.
    • Telecommunication structures – structures which have been built for the provision of telecommunications.
    • Energy production infrastructure – structures which have been built for the production of energy.
      • Windmills – windmills and other structures for harnessing of wind power.
      • Hydropower plants and dams – watermills and other structures for harnessing of water power.
    • Water supply structures – structures for extraction and supply of water.
    • Agricultural infrastructure – structures and man-made landscape elements developed for the purpose of cultivation of animals, plants, fungi.
      • Agricultural terraces – man-made step-like landscape elements shaped in order to adjust steep terrain for the needs of agriculture.
      • Irrigation systems – water supply systems for the watering of agricultural areas.
    • Mines and pits – man made excavations which have been made to obtain valuable materials from the ground.
    • Factories and warehouses – buildings which were built to provide premises for industrial production and storage of goods.
    • Scientific infrastructure – structures built to provide premises and other facilities for scientific experiments and scientific research.
      • Astronomical research stations – structures built to provide facilities for astronomical research.
  • Parks and gardens – locations where plants have been planted according to plan to provide enjoyment and also for scientific research of plant communities.
  • Monuments and memorials – most interesting structures which have been built to commemorate some person (including mythological persons) or event.
    • Ancient and prehistoric monuments and memorials – structures which have been built before the Middle Ages to commemorate some person (including mythological persons) or event.
  • Cemeteries – most interesting locations where the remains of deceased people have been interred.
    • Prehistoric and ancient cemeteries – Most interesting locations where the remains of deceased people have been interred before the Middle Ages.
  • Cairns and mounds – man made piles of rocks or heaps of earth or debris. Most of these sites are archaeological monuments.
  • Petroglyphs and rock art – mostly prehistoric man made art on natural materials – mostly on rock surfaces and stones, but sometimes also on living trees.
    • Geoglyphs and alignments – large figures which have been drawn or otherwise formed on flat ground or hill slopes.
    • Prehistoric cave and rock paintings – paintings made by prehistoric man and preserved up to this day.
    • Prehistoric and ancient inscriptions – inscriptions made by prehistoric and ancient man and preserved up to this day. Includes runestones.
  • Rock cut architecture and sculptures – outstanding rock cut architecture and large rock cut sculptures. In order to be included in this category structures should be made of single piece of natural stone without moving this material from its original place.
    • Sculptures and reliefs from live rock – sculptures and reliefs which are carved in live rock.
    • Rock cut tombs and catacombs – man-made excavations which have been made with the purpose to secure long lasting abode for the deceased.
    • Rock cut temples and monasteries – man made underground worship sites, built to facilitate religious contemplation. Most magnificent form of rock cut architecture.
  • Megaliths – structures made of large stones by ancient cultures, without any mortar or cement. In general this does not include structures built by developed and well expressed cultures like the Romans or Maya but rather the more ancient cultures.
  • Sites of legends – folktales which are grounded historically and geographically.
    • Hidden treasure – places where according to different information sources are hidden significant material and/ or cultural values.
    • Ghost sites – places where according to different information sources repeatedly are observed paranormal phenomena, such as apparitions of undead.
    • Places with cryptozoological phenomena – places where on a regular basis can be observed cryptozoological phenomena – apparitions of legendary animals which are considered to be nonexistant.
  • Man made extremes – man made wonders with extreme parameters, e.g. world’s tallest building, oldest city.

Classification of wonders

Each wonder of the world is amazing and unique in its own way – thus the classification of wonders is complex issue. It is not possible to categorize them solely by their genesis, outer looks or by their use.

Bagan, Burma
Bagan / Nicholas Kenrick, / CC BY 2.0

Wondermondo has classified wonders of the world in several ways:

  • Categories – classification by the characteristics and origin of wonders. Currently Wondermondo divides wonders in three large groups with 120 categories.
  • Values – classification by the values which make the wonder unique. Wondermondo outlines nine such values (see below).
  • Location – classification by the geographical location of wonders. Described in the section Countries. All described wonders are also on the world map.
  • Rank – classification by the uniqueness and popularity of wonders.
Morning Glory clouds, Queensland
Morning Glory clouds, Queensland / Mick Petroff, Wikimedia Commons, 11 August 2009, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Values of wonders

Each wonder has certain, unique values which define its importance for science, history, art or just make it visually impressive.

Maletsunyane Falls, Lesotho
Maletsunyane Falls / BagelBelt, Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Wondermondo identifies the following values of wonders:

  • Geology – the site provides valuable knowledge about the geological formation and history of Earth;
  • Biology – site provides valuable knowledge about the organisms, life in general and the history of the development of life;
  • Meteorology – place provides unique knowledge about the climate of Earth and/or represents unusual climatic and atmospheric phenomena;
  • Archaeology – wonder has provided valuable knowledge about the past of humanity;
  • Architecture – place represents unique achievement in the design of structures;
  • History – the site is linked to important historical events or has provided valuable historical knowledge;
  • Art – wonder contains unique artworks;
  • Visual – the site represents exceptionally impressive or unusual sight;
  • Unexplained – wonder is captivating due to unexplained mysteries.

Recommended books

Natural Wonders of the World


Discover Earth’s most beautiful and fascinating natural landmarks. From the spectacular granite domes of Yosemite to the reefs of the Bahama Banks and the ice sheets of the Antarctic, this is an unparalleled survey of the world’s natural treasures.

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders


It’s time to get off the beaten path. Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscura celebrates over 700 of the strangest and most curious places in the world.

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