On the Rocks: World's Cliff-Hanging Wonders
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Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine
This ornate castle stands atop a cliff 130 feet high, on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine. Built between 1911 and 1912, the neo-Gothic structure offers great views of the Black Sea. And while the castle may look a little shaky there on the edge of Aurora Cliff, don’t be fooled -- the castle was strong enough to withstand a 7-magnitude earthquake in 1927.
Italy’s Amalfi Coast is home to several towns -- and the village of Positano is arguably its star attraction. Situated on a steep, rocky slope, the town is dotted with colorful stucco buildings that enliven the Mediterranean scene.
Taktshang Monastery, Bhutan
At a dizzying 3,000 feet above Bhutan’s upper Paro Valley, Taktshang Monastery is the most famous Buddhist Himalayan monastery in the South Asian country. It was built in 1692, with subsequent restorations in 1958 and 2005.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
On a rocky hill above the German village of Hohenschwangau stands Neuschwanstein Castle. The 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace was commissioned by the king of the German state of Bavaria Ludwig II. At an elevation of 2,620 feet, the palace offers amazing views of the Alpine foothills to the south and hilly terrain to the north.
Bonifacio, Corsica, France
On the southwest tip of the French island of Corsica you’ll find Bonifacio. This ancient fortress town was established in the 12th century by the Republic of Genoa to thwart invasion by the Moors. Here’s a view of the Bonifacio fortress, perched on a limestone plateau overlooking the harbor of the same name.
Oia Village, Santorini, Greece
Small white houses dot the rocky hillside of the Greek village Oia, overlooking the Aegean Sea. The porous volcanic rock upon which the houses stand are the result of a volcanic eruption that occurred during the Minoan period -- about 3,500 years ago.
Holy Monastery of Varlaam, Greece
Perched on a cliff 1,224 feet above central Greece’s Meteora Valley, the Greek Orthodox Holy Monastery of Varlaam stands in tribute to faith -- and engineering precision. Built on natural sandstone rock pillars in 1541, Varlaam is one of 6 similarly constructed monasteries in the region.
Castellfollit de la Roca, Catalonia, Spain
The Spanish town of Castellfollit de la Roca is situated on a rocky precipice -- over 164 feet high and more than half a mile long. The eye-catching terrain is a result of volcanic eruptions that took place thousands of years ago. Once solidified, the lava became the hard rock basalt upon which the town resides today.
Dar Al Hajar, Yemen
This stone mansion -- known as the “Rock Palace” -- served as a summer retreat for the imam of Yemen in the 1930s (in his day, the country’s equivalent of a president or king). Intricately built on a towering rock, the 5-story structure dates back to 1786. The upper level was added in the 1930s.
Al Deir Monastery, Petra, Jordan
The rock-cut architecture of Petra, Jordan, stretches back to the 6th century B.C., yet it remained unknown to the Western world until 1812. Since then, the “rose-red city half as old as time,” as an 1845 poem described it, has become an enviable tourist destination -- described by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top places to see before you die. Among Petra’s sites is the Al Deir monastery, pictured here.
Neemrana Fort-Palace, Rajasthan, India
Nestled in the foothills of the Aravili mountain range in western India is Neemrana Fort Palace. The 25-acre fort was built in the 15th century, then converted into a luxury hotel about 25 years ago -- with gardens, a pool and an amphitheater on its sweeping grounds.
Xuankong Monastery, China
Built -- amazingly -- more than 1,500 years ago, the Xuankong Monastery stands more than 246 feet high, on a precipice in China’s Shaxi province. Its remarkable endurance over a millennium is a result of oak crossbeams fitted into holes chiseled into the rock.
Perched on the rocky islet of Mont-Saint-Michel (less than a mile from the Normandy coast) is this 13th-century, Gothic-style Benedictine abbey. Its eye-catching location stands in technical and artistic triumph: For centuries, the abbey’s bay location has been subject to some of the strongest tides in Europe, as high as 39 feet.
Popa Taungkalat Monastery, Burma
At more than 2,417 feet high, the vast volcanic plug of Taung Kalat in central Burma is home to this Buddhist monastery. At the top of the summit, enjoy a panoramic view: the ancient Burmese city of Bagan to the south, a conical peak to the north.
Hearst Castle, California
At an altitude of 1,600 feet, you’ll find the Hearst Castle in Sam Simeon, CA. The mansion was built in this area of coastal California over a 28-year-period for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. He nicknamed the estate “La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Hill”) -- you can see why with dramatic views of the surrounding Santa Lucia Mountains and nearby Pacific Ocean.
Hanging Houses, Cuenca, Spain
Tucked into a mountain valley at 8,000 feet you’ll find Cuenca. The town’s most amazing sight is Las Casas Colgadas, or "overhanging houses" -- a row of 14th-century homes a nail-biting distance from Huécar river canyon.