Machu Picchu and Grand Canyon tie as top travel icon

Exclusive: in an earlier round, New York took on Paris in a knife-edge battle between the Statue of Liberty (51%) and the Eiffel Tower (49%)

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 08 April 2020 11:30 BST
Machu Picchu came in joint first
Machu Picchu came in joint first (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu and Arizona’s Grand Canyon have tied for the top spot in an online poll conducted by The Independent to find the world’s top travel icon.

While the coronavirus pandemic has put paid to meaningful travel, frustrated globetrotters have been choosing the most outstanding location on earth.

Sixteen prospective winners were selected by The Independent for the Twitter tournament, which involved a first round and knock-out stages.

In Group A, India’s Taj Mahal finished comfortably ahead of the Eiffel Tower, with 41 and 34 per cent respectively.

Sydney Harbour Bridge (23 per cent) was knocked out – along with the London Eye, which garnered only 3 per cent.

Machu Picchu was hardly a resounding winner of Group B, with 40 per cent – ahead of the Leaning Tower of Pisa on 24 per cent, the Treasury at Petra (19) and Angkor Wat (17).

The Grand Canyon was a more convincing victor in Group C, with 44 per cent of the total, putting it well clear of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio (24 per cent). Two much more ancient wonders – the Acropolis in Athens and Stonehenge – fared badly, with 19 and 13 per cent respectively.

Group D’s result suggested the Statue of Liberty would be hard to beat; it was the only icon to get more than half the vote in the initial round, with 53 per cent. Edinburgh Castle clung on for a quarter-final place with 21 per cent score, the lowest of any qualifier.

Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro gained more than twice as many votes (18 per cent) than the world’s highest building – Dubai’s Burj Khalifa at 8 per cent, but both were knocked out.

The first quarter-final saw India pitted against Scotland. The Taj Mahal won almost twice as many votes (66 per cent) as Edinburgh Castle (34).

Next, New York took on Paris in a knife-edge battle between the Statue of Liberty (51 per cent) and the Eiffel Tower (49). Both tall pointy things were manufactured in France and used the engineering genius of Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel.

The third quarter-final was an all-South American affair. In a battle between Incas (represented by Machu Picchu) and Christians (Christ the Redeemer), Peru came out well ahead of Brazil: 59 to 41 per cent.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa bowed in shame after losing 21:79 to the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon kept up its dominance in the first semi-final, seeing off the Taj Mahal with a 55:45 share of the popular vote.

The second was much closer, with Machu Picchu edging out the Statue of Liberty 52:48 to prevent an all-American final.

The losers went on to the third-place final, which was won by the Taj Mahal.

Dead heat: both tourist attractions drew votes at a rate of 14.5 per minute
Dead heat: both tourist attractions drew votes at a rate of 14.5 per minute

During the 30-minute final vote, the Grand Canyon held a narrow lead for almost all the half-hour. But a handful of last-ditch votes saw Machu Picchu draw level. Both attracted rates at an average of 14.5 per minute, finishing with 435 each.

A subsequent poll for the world’s greatest human travel icon was won by the TV adventurer and Monty Python star, Michael Palin. He triumphed by a wide margin over Marco Polo, Thomas Cook and the co-founder of Lonely Planet travel guides, Maureen Wheeler.

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