For those that are afraid of heights, these amazing structures on cliffs might make you nauseous. For the rest of us, however, this article might just give you a few more names to add on to your bucket list. From art to settlements on cliffs and mountains, you’ll find everything here.
1. Bandiagra Escarpment:
Home to the Dogon people since the 15th century, the Bandiagra Escarpment settlement in Mali, it served as protection from invaders and maintained their traditional culture. Unfortunately, the culture that fostered the precarious stone settlements is taking a battering from the tourist industry. A huge majority of Mali’s visitors go to see the Dogon settlements, and many local artifacts are stolen and sold for profit. Economic and environmental pressures are now driving the native settlers away from the apparent comfort of their steep dwellings to the nearby plains below.
2. Sky Caves of Nepal:
In Nepal, close to the Himalayas, is a gorge that in certain parts makes the Grand Canyon look like a ditch. The walls of the gorge have more than 10,000 caves, many of them nearly 50 meters (over 150 ft) from the ground. Around 800 years old, some are stacked eight or nine stories high, and they can only be reached by scaling the fragile rock face with mountaineering equipment. The caves once belonged to the Mustang civilization and were a thriving settlement on the trade route between Tibet and India. The Mustang, were scholars, artists, and very talented diggers, and they flourished for centuries. No one knows why the caves were built or how they were accessed. Yet researchers and explorers have found intricately painted Buddhist murals, ancient texts, and skeletons, suggesting the caves were used for religious reasons. The caves also have manuscripts from Bön, the Tibetan religion that dominated before Buddhism.
3. Madara River:
On a steep cliff in Bulgaria, 23 meters (75 ft) above the ground, is a carving of rider and dog spearing a lion. UNESCO describes it as the only one of its kind and lists it as a world heritage site. It dates as far back as the start of the 8th Century, representing the recognition of Bulgaria by the Byzantine Empire. The cliff is about 100 meters (330 ft) tall, leaving the rider visible across a huge distance. It’s famous in Bulgaria and was voted as the symbol to represent the nation on the Euro, should they opt to join the currency. Inscriptions on each side of the rider also provide the earliest written information on Bulgarian history, so it’s perhaps no surprise that it’s become the country’s foremost national symbol. And yet despite how celebrated the carving is as a symbol, no one knows for certain who the rider is supposed to be.
4. Predjama Castle:
There are many ways to make your castle impenetrable, and building it on the side of a 123-meter (400 ft) cliff is one of the more effective ones. Predjama Castle in Slovenia almost seems to be stuck on to the front of the limestone face that bears it. A fair bit of it is housed in a large natural cave. The castle as it’s seen today was largely constructed in the 15th century, when it housed the infamous the robber baron Erazem Lueger. Lueger made the mistake of killing a relative of Fredrick III, the Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick sent his forces to besiege Predjama, and Luger was forced to hole up for a year and a day. The troops outside the castle weren’t aware that a secret passage linked the castle to a nearby cave, and Lueger used it to keep himself supplied. The forces bribed a servant to signal them when the baron was going to be in the castle’s weakest spot—the outhouse. When Lueger made a visit to relieve himself, he was killed by a single cannon shot through the wall.
5. The Neptune Of Monterosso Al Mare:
The village of Monterosso al Mare, in Italy, is home to Villa Pastine, whose stone terrace juts over the edge of a large cliff. The terrace is held in place by a massive 14-meter (45 ft) tall statue, Il Gigante, as locals call it, is a statue of Neptune, the Sea God, created at the beginning of 20th century as a lavish decoration of Villa Pastine.. Monterosso del Mare is probably the largest of the Cinque Terre villages in Italy. Since its founding in early 13th century, the village functioned as a cultural and political centre of the region and its status required proper protection. Until today, the intricate and very efficient system of fortifications prevails; these were originally built to ward off pirates. Sadly, the statue took a battering during the World Wars, losing both arms and the trident it held.
6. The Maijishan Grottoes:
On the sheer cliff that marks the southwest side of Maiji Mountain, people have labored for centuries carving niches and caves, giving rise to what is known today as the Maiji Caves. Inside the caves are clay statues, whose heights vary from 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) to 15 meters (over 49 feet). Besides 194 Buddhist caves and niches, containing more than 7, 200 clay statues, there are also murals of over 1, 300 square meters (about 1, 555 square yards) in the Maiji Caves as well. These statues are works of art that reflect ancient craftsmanship and dedication to the Buddhist ideal. Rarely can one find caves and statues carved over sheer cliffs in China, and this is one of the most distinguishing features of Maiji Caves. Being carved on the cliff, these caves are connected by plank roads that hang precariously along the face of the cliff. Visitors can only reach each cave by using these plank roads, which offers a breathtaking experience.
7. Saint Michael Of The Needle:
The Chapel of St Michael d'Aiguilhe is a fascinating little pilgrimage chapel perched atop a needle (aiguilhe) of rock in Le Puy-en-Velay, Auvergne. Jutting out dramatically towards heaven, the rock needle has been a sacred place for thousands of years: a prehistoric dolmen was built there and the Romans dedicated it to Mercury before the Christians built a chapel to St. Michael. Near the base of the rock is the 12th-century Chapel of St. Clair, which has an octagonal plan and exterior mosaic decoration. One of the two doorways has an ancient carved lintel showing the phases of the moon.
8. Guoliang Tunnel:
Before the 1st of May 1977 the only hope of making it to the small village on the other side of the Taihang Mountains was to follow along a rock footpath. In 1972 workers began a five-year process of creating this winding 1200-meter long tunnel, spanning 4 meters wide and 5 meters high. Wear and tear over the years has caused this tunnel to become uneven, and the view from the thirty plus windows will make your journey on this road even scarier. The Guoliang tunnel is another addition to most dangerous and complicated roads to travel. Dubbed as “the road that does not tolerate any mistakes”, most accidents in the tunnel are primarily caused by the neglect of the traveller. Nonetheless, it is an extremely scenic route and is a key destination on the Chinese tourism map.
Al Hajjarah surrounds and crowns the top of a hill. Yemeni vernacular architecture is a very prevalent part of the houses, buildings, and structures. This village was started at around the 12th century. Huge blocks of pure stone were put together to form an uninterrupted series. Granaries were commonplace, making the ability to store large amounts of food for long periods an easy possibility. There are also cisterns, which are large water reservoirs. This made it possible for the village to survive sieges and the periods in between when they had to stay within the village for long periods. The buildings are colorful and decorated with loud colors. Many say this is to keep the flies away, and it works well to do just that.
10. Sichuan Coffins:
People sometimes will go that extra mile to honor their dead, the Pyramids are one example, and just like it are the Sichuan Hanging coffins. In China, there are places where dozens of coffins line steep cliffs. Some of the coffins sit on beams of wood that are hammered into the mountainside. Others have been placed in specially dug caves. All are at least 10 meters (33 ft) above the ground, with some as high as 130 meters (427 ft) up the cliff walls. The coffins were resting places for the Bo, an ethnic group that dominated the area for millennia, until they were massacred by the Imperial Army of the Ming Dynasty, before the 17th century. The coffins weigh around 200 kilograms (440 lbs), and no-one knows how they got there. Speculation is that the Bo lowered them using ropes from above, or built mounds of earth to allow them to reach the necessary heights.