Traveling is ever more expensive and dangerous these days. However, TV, film and the Internet have made it practically useless now: we have pictures and people telling us what these exotic places are like. We can live vicariously through the lucky few rather than spend the money or take the risk ourselves. Indeed, it’s a Golden Age for the hermetic.
In case the curious but agoraphobic or their more adventurous cousins find themselves on this page, consider this quiz as a geographical guide around the world. There are places for those who love city or rural life. There are places for those who like to ski and those who like to swim. Most importantly, each of these locations are prime spots to take banal Instagram pictures.
We had to exclude certain obvious tourist attractions—specifically ones that give away their location (the Sydney Opera House, Red Square, The Great Wall of China, London Tower/Bridge, Easter Island, the Springfield Tire Fire, etc.); most of these tourist traps are known the world over, but that doesn’t mean all the questions on this quiz are gimmes. That’s not to say there aren’t gimmes on this quiz (there are several, but some are more gimme than others).
Christ the Redeemer
I love the Art Deco style. It stems from my lifelong obsession with Batman: The Animated Series, but the Christ the Redeemer statue is nice too, I guess. Created over eight years, the 100-foot soapstone giant was finished in 1931, consecrated in 2006 and became one of the New Wonders of the World in 2007. The statue has become increasingly popular, causing the local government to take steps to make it easier for worshippers to access it. Since 2010, elevators and escalators have made the ascent much simpler and the crowds greater.
In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history lived a strange race of people: the Druids. No one knows who they were or what they were doing, but their legacy remains hewn into the living rock of Stonehenge. Stonehenge! Where the demons dwell. Where the banshees live (and they do live well). Stonehenge—where a man's a man, and the children dance to the Pipes of Pan. Stonehenge! 'Tis a magic place Where the moon doth rise with a dragon's face Stonehenge! Where the virgins lie and the prayers of devils fill the midnight sky!
Yes, an easy one. Easily one of the most beloved, easily recognized and most difficult to spell museums in the world, the Louvre is a piece of art in its own right. Originally a fortress, it’s also likely the safest museum in the world. It would take too long to go through its acquisitions, but, yes, this is where the Mona Lisa is housed. The museum has a number of satellite branches now—including Abu Dhabi and, controversially, Iran—but we’re asking for the location of the original (and still the best) Louvre.
Spanning two countries, the Iguazu Falls are the largest waterfall system on the planet. Iguazu is a rather perfect name, as it roughly translated to “Big Water.” The falls are divided and leveled while the unique look of the fractured rockface is due to cooling lava flow that happened sometime back when the world was new. As most natural wonders do, the Falls have a tragic creation myth centered on an angry deity and a love gone wrong.
Often confused with Kilamanjaro, Everest is the tallest mountain and boasts the tallest point (29,029 feet) on planet Earth. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first of a select few to ever reach the summit. Rolex commemorated the achievement by making the Explorer model for him, as he was wearing a Rolex at the time of his ascent and the company was financing his climb anyway. Since 1953, nearly 400 people have died attempting to scale Everest. No watches for them.
I never much cared for heights. It’s a mile-long drop from the Canyon’s summit to the ground. Lots of time to meditate on that brilliant decision. Some days, a thick mist obfuscates the divide of the Canyon, forming and undulating like clouds, providing a dizzying feeling of even greater altitude. The air quality, however, is quite good. Very refreshing. Also, check out Havasu Falls in the Canyon proper. Its hidden beauty and crystal blue waters are the kind of splendor Delores Abernathy would appreciate.
Cliffs of Moher
I still don’t care much for heights. Rather than a mile drop, this one is “only” about 500 feet. Of course, the difference between those two is fairly negligible in a fall. I’m sure Mankind felt that way as he was tossed from the top of the Hell in a Cell. Anyway, these sea cliffs and the nearby Moher Tower are a tribute to an Old-World beauty that this country has maintained. Erosion and the salted air have clearly had its way with both the cliffs and the tower but seeing both still remain stolid is somehow reassuring. Very cold out there, however. Even in the summer.
Though it might be a cliché to seek out the Space Needle, even long-time residents like Doctor Frasier Crane have to admit it’s a thing of then-futuristic but still impressive architecture. I can’t help but prefer the similarly-styled Chemosphere house from Body Double; love that Brian De Palma (even if that means accepting The Black Dahlia and The Untouchables as a sad part of his oeuvre). Anyway, back to the Space Needle; please stop dropping pennies from the top of it. There’s an amazing and endlessly panoramic view to look at, as well as a perfectly serviceable diner.
This is not to be confused with the upscale Italian restaurant in New Jersey called Nuovo Vesuvio, or the Bay Ridge pizzeria. The looming and ominous volcano presides above several cities and is famous for one of the biggest geographical oopsies in history; Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, launching gas, rock, lava, fire and ash 20 miles into the sky and with more than 100,000 times the power of the atomic bomb. Several settlements including Herculaneum and Pompeii (hint, hint) were destroyed. Well, it freed up real estate if nothing else.
A trip to England demands a stop at Buckingham Palace, the ornate seat of British royalty for generations. While presenting simple as a mansion, it is viewed as a symbol of power to the natives and has only been open to public tours since 1993. The Palace has, as is British tradition, maintained its own tradition. It is home to many English artifacts and much of the original design has remained unaltered. The Palace boasts over 700 individual rooms, enough housing for all of Henry VIII’s illegitimate children.
This, of course, is not to be confused with the grotto at the Playboy Mansion or the Roman pool at Hearst Castle. Rather, the Jeita Grotto is a natural grotto and is likely less of a health hazard than the manmade one at Playboy. For those interested, the grotto is home to the world’s largest stalactite formation and some of the cleanest water in the world. The cave has been altered to accommodate tourists without compromising the natural beauty of the area or contaminating the rivers, which still provide water to millions of people each day.
I’ll be honest: I chose this entry because Machu Picchu is fun to say. This Incan citadel is, however, historically significant, and, given its amazing view, perfectly placed. It was built around 1450 but abandoned a century later when the Spanish invaded (I learned that from Apocalypto). Machu Picchu has always been a source of excited conjecture and mythologizing due to scant information about it and the admittedly difficult process it is to make it out there. The ruins are still being studied today, though access to it may soon conclude for tourists due to worries about the structure.
Okay, yes, this is an easy one. Anybody who’s anybody knows who Jimmy Buffett is and knows where the Taj Mahal is located (the structure not the singer). It is such an architectural achievement and monument to love that it is the best-known structure in the massive country that created it. The intricately carved white marble and gemstone laden complex is the final resting place of Mumtaz Mahal—the favorite wife of Shah Jahan. It took 20,000 artisans and the modern equivalent of $827 million to complete the structure.
Well, we discussed the Incas, now here are some Mayans (this is a major hint). The Chichen Itza is mythologized as much as Machu Picchu. Both sites are still being explored and excavated, though it seems unlikely that either place is willing to give up its secrets. It’s probably better that way. After all, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. Chichen Itza’s mixed design style is largely accepted as a result of cultural diffusion. It is, in fact, formerly a city, and not a tomb as popularly believed.
They sure don’t make them like they used to. Thousands of years old and the Colosseum is still standing and is open to tourists. Sadly, it no longer hosts gladiatorial bouts or feature lions eating enemies of the state; nor is this the same coliseum where Kirk and Spock fought in “Amok Time” (despite the erroneous claims of several noted historians). While all of the fun stuff is gone now, tourism would go through the structure’s non-existent roof if the government started having criminals fight to the death again.
The Petra Monastery
There must have been some kind of secret contest between ancient royalties involving whom could have the coolest tomb. The Rose-Red City is one of the coolest. It takes about a day just to get over to the tomb, which was carved into the rockface at the bottom of a gorge. That confirms it: this is indeed the coolest. Anyway, it has survived for over 2,000 years. Sadly, many of the aesthetic structures have fallen over time, but the primary building is still well preserved, thousands of years after anyone stopped caring about those buried within.
For years, my friend Fez claimed to have a girlfriend living near Niagara Falls. Literally, this went on for years. He wasn’t fooling anyone, but it just went on forever. It was embarrassing, but we all knew he was hiding a secret and wasn’t comfortable with it yet. Anyway, yeah, the second of three waterfalls—what? I like them—on this quiz is a bit of a contentious one. It seems many people get confused as to where Niagara Falls technically resides. Answer the question and see what happens.
The Great Pyramid of Giza
One of the engineering marvels of the Old World and on of the great Wonders of the World (including Andre the Giant), the pyramids, specifically the Great Pyramid of Giza, is a magnificent feat of. 3000 years later and modern engineers still cannot figure out how it was carved, transported and erected (besides the slave labor, of course). Each of the 2 million stone blocks used in Giza’s creation weighed between 2 and 60 tons. That would’ve taken quite a few Andre the Giants to achieve. And god knows how many beers to sate him.
No, this waterfall is not named after a woman’s struggles with alcoholism or vertigo. The “Victoria” is a westernization of the indigenous name: Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “The smoke that thunders.” The meaning is clear: the force of the waterfall’s spray strikes the ground like thunder and the resultant upward splashing mist looks like smoke. This is the largest waterfall in the world and an incredibly popular (but difficult to navigate and potential dangerous) tourist locale; so much so that it can only be viewed and swam in under supervision during business hours.
Ahh, the highest point in Athens and home of the Parthenon. The Acropolis still (mostly) stands today and should be preserved for what it means to civilization as a whole: ground zero for the Golden Age of human philosophy and cultural development. The Acropolis is also home to many brutal wars, central to coup d'états and the scene for many betrayals and invasions. But let’s deal with that another time. For now, let’s just bask in the beauty and sturdiness of prelapsarian architecture and take solace in knowing we now have indoor plumbing.
Empire State Building
Being used as a major plot device in An Affair to Remember turned the Empire State Building into an exceedingly tall monument to growing national success into something of an American answer to the Eiffel Tower. Many marriage proposals are made up there. Many movies and shows have taken the cue and made the building a major part in romantic comedies. This is, of course, despite the fact that it is incredibly windy all the time up there because, well, it’s a very tall building. The romanticizing of the building is admittedly strange given how austere and indifferent the building actually is.
Despite popular misconception, America did once have a King. Sadly, in this case, once the king died there was not another one for whom we hoped to long live. The King’s (ahem) throne was found on the palatial grounds of Graceland. That king’s name? Elvis Presley, of course. Getting this question wrong should be a crime against humanity, treated as a capital offense, and adjudicated accordingly. Graceland’s style was—I’m being kind here—eclectic. The King has been laid to rest in the estate, which remain manicured and well taken care of. Fans from all over the world flock there daily.
Hey, it’s discount Times Square! This exceedingly busy and difficult to navigate section of England provides major shopping and entertainment venues and well-maintained traditional English architecture. Indeed, whatever was destroyed in the Blitzkrieg or by the IRA was build back up exactly as before, brick for brick. That’s the British stiff upper lip, all right. Piccadilly is a notable place within a notable place within a notable place. When there’s a culture as old as this one, there’s something historic every few feet. There could be a fifty-question quiz just on iconic English structures alone.
We Americans never do anything small. When we wanted to commemorate presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, we carved giant visages worthy of worship into ever-resistant but eventually bested granite and it only took fourteen years. Sure, the task was nigh impossible due to the location and spatial difficulties—not to mention the unforgiving winters and summers—but it got done. It has since become an impeccable piece of Americana (aside from the time General Zod defaced it).
La Sagrada Familia
Some of the oldest, strongest and best designed structures in the world are churches. Europe is littered with these ornate, beautiful yet imposing cathedrals. The abstract design of the La Sagrada Familia literally feels like something out of the Bible; the stone face of the church appears to smolder and melt in front of our eyes as it looms forward from its pulled-back secondary attachments. Construction on the church began in 1870 and is likely to conclude in 2026.
Now, I was never one for cold climates, but even I can appreciate the untouched beauty of the frost-tipped Mount Fuji. It’s especially beautiful when seeing it aglow in early morning or early evening light. From a distance, the slope doesn’t seem to high, but once closer, the scale of the 12,000-foot summit is clear. Again, scaling mountains isn’t exactly my thing, but there are nearby hot springs, which definitely sounds nice. Maybe some warm sake, hot toddy or hot buttered rum. Or morphine.
The Guggenheim museum itself is a work of art since it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (though noted architect George Costanza worked on the expansion building in 1992). The museum found itself to be controversial from even before it opened; concerns about its spiraling and nearly windowless design, to the way it actually displayed its paintings were major points of contention, with dozens of notable artists petitioning to have the design changed or for their art not to be featured in it. Short version: they were wrong, Wright was right.
The small town of Ubud offers untouched, pastoral beauty with rice fields and grasslands that may as well come out of a painting they’re so perfect. With its many Hindu shrines and New Age healers, it also offers a chance to unwind spiritually. Of course, if inner peace isn’t selling enough tickets, the beachfront area is one long party and the nearby restaurants are some of the best in the world. There’s something for everyone in Ubud.
Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty is actually made of copper; her greenish presentation comes from the exposure to saltwater. Originally gifted to the United States by France as a symbol of friendship, the Statue of Liberty has become a symbol for arriving immigrants coming through Ellis island. It is now more of a tourist trap than anything else. The island is easy enough to get to on its own, but to gain access to the museum or tour inside the statue requires reservations. Also, due to maintenance and security purposes, the crown and the torch may not be accessible.
Usually, when someone says something is “cozy,” it’s a synonym for small. Here, in Matterhorn, this enclaved town is small, yes, but it is cozy (meaning intimate). Often confused with the Alps (where James Bond hung out in Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Matterhorn does indeed offer the same chilly scenic beauty and winter sports at an even higher altitude than the Alps. Of course, like all beautiful things, the intimate Matterhorn resort town comes at a price as steep as its highest point.
From 1782 to 1925, the Grand Palace was, well, the grand palace and seat of power in for this country. That the structure has survived as long as it has and has yet to see any major renovation speaks volumes not only about the care and respect its citizens have for their history but also of the quality of work that went into the creation of the Palace itself. The sprawling complex screams out royalty but does not carry the same vanity that other noblemen adorned their homes in. The palace now has become a beloved tourist attraction, but one with a dress code.
Due to recent events, tourists can only appreciate this icon from afar. Considering, however, that it is light by 20,000 bulbs and rigged with bright beacons that can be seen up to 50 miles away, the distance isn’t so bad. The Eiffel Tower has become a symbol of romanticism in the already romanticized country of France. Many syrupy films have used the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop for characters to meet, affirm or reaffirm their loves. Many real-life proposals have taken place there as well; might as well steal from the classics.
Victoria Harbour is the busiest port in its entire country. The area is a study in that mixed visual lexicons. Victoria has both a vast, open shore immediately adjacent to a glittering cityscape with an east-meets-west design to it. The best view comes from cheap ferry rides that cross the shore and allow an expansive view of both the water and the city. The best rides are in the evening when seasonally themed and synchronized light and music shows erupt across the skyscrapers.
Yeah, getting to this place is going to be a schlep to get to, but it’ll be worth it. Of course, if it’s unaffordable, just pop in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and watch Tom Cruise and co. run around the city. He even, at one point, scales the Burj Khalifa—the tallest building in the world. The building itself is the gem of the city, a futuristic centerpiece in a city that looks the way Rome would in Star Trek.
Times Square might be the most traveled tourist location on Earth. Along with the Las Vegas strip, it’s almost among the brightest (though slightly less gaudy). I’ve lived a 45-minute train ride away from Times Square my entire life; it is indeed jam-packed day and night (roughly from 8AM to 3AM). The lights are never turned off. The foot-traffic is the East Coast answer to LA’s famous gridlock. Everything is more expensive; every business is packed with people. The area itself sees around 50 million tourists annually.