It’s a mark of our addiction to technology that no sooner have we stepped off the plane in a foreign land, we’re reflexively whipping out our cameras or smartphones to snap a photograph. Not necessarily a treasured token of our holiday; oh, no, but a fleeting upload, a temporary profile pic, an image that announces to the world—or our contacts, at least—where we are at just that moment.
Sometimes no caption is necessary, and the backdrop alone reveals which locale we have chosen to inhabit. Whether it’s a natural landmark like Ayers Rock in Australia, or the emerald behemoth of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, no one’s going to ask: “Where did you take that photo, then?”. Of course, there’s an endless supply of such sites in the world: if you’re a Facebook user, the odds are you’ve tagged yourself in just such a portrait. We’ve selected a few of the more popular sites, in the foreground of which travellers like to grin, gurn and strike a pose. Say “cheese”!
Gondola cruise in Venice
If you’re going to go to the trouble of visiting Venice—one of the world’s most distinctive and iconic cities—you’ll be powerless to deny the inner urge to jump on a gondola and cruise those famous building-flanked waterways. You’ll also prove powerless to stop someone—OK, that someone is usually just following your instructions—taking a picture of you. At this point you can affect an air of nonchalance (“I hang out on the Grand Canal all the time, what of it?”), dreamy ecstasy, giddy excitement…oh, it’s up to you how you look! Lushly furnished with crushed velvet seats and Persian rugs, this canal cruise proves that unforgettable rides have nothing to do with speed.
Bosh: that’s how it’s done. “Selfies” commissioned before monumental tombs in ancient lands are always rewarding, and frequently hilarious. No one’s going to query how you’ve come to be so sunburned when you slap this Polaroid on their desk at work on Monday morning. Ah, what a shame it is that such an act never happens any more; in any case, post it to Facebook or Twitter, or email it to your envious friends back home and watch as they drool. Incidentally, if you are planning to visit this haunting necropolis—not just to snap an epic pic but to marvel at its bounty of treasures—you’ll be glad to know there are well over 100 pyramids to see.
Toppling the Leaning Tower of Pisa
It’s patently absurd to think we could hold up this looming campanile of marble and steel, but there’s one thing no-one can deny: it makes a damn good photo! Indeed, to stand in front of this iconic edifice and not pretend to be Atlas, casually bearing its weight, would be truly ridiculous. The eponymous town that spreads out beyond Cathedral Square is a charming one, replete with historic churches, grand Tuscan palazzos and a clutch of museums. In no other quarter of the city, though, can a picture depict the fun you’re having like the one illustrated above. God help you if that building actually topples on your watch!
Don’t even think about visiting the Taj Mahal and not documenting the occasion with a photo. Stewards patrolling the opulent mausoleum regard it with such reverence that those seen not to be enjoying themselves are forcibly ejected from the site. I’m joking, of course. This white domed marble masterpiece is easily among the world’s most recognisable buildings, and celebrates its 30th year as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013. Built in the 17th century, the fabled palace, and its many minarets, is best enjoyed at sunrise. It opens to the public at first light on every day bar Friday, when it sits blazing in majestic solitude. Wondrous.
Looking for the perfect backdrop? You’ve found it. One of the seven wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is just about as good as it gets. The sheer immensity of the landscape is something that will take your breath away. Sun-drenched volcanic plains, steep rockfaces, the mighty Colorado River: words don’t do it justice. This particular snap was taken at a spot called Cedar Ridge, after a day’s hike into the canyon. Not a bad view, and it bears the hallmark of all great travel pics: one can instantly tell where it was taken. Heroic poses are recommended.