Fortifications can take various shapes, from grand castles to ancient walls. While we’ve covered various types on Paste previously, this week’s Bucket List focuses on forts by the truest definition. From Florida to Finland, these seven fortifications have weathered the years and withstood many attacks. Once important in protecting their given locations, today they remain preserved, open to the public and serve the new purpose of sharing the pieces of history they helped protect.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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Fort Jefferson sits stately on small island in the Florida Keys and was built with the primary purpose of protecting shipping lanes in the Gulf Coast, specifically in the area known as Dry Tortugas National Park. The coastal fortress took nearly three decades to build throughout the 1800s, but was never fully completed. It reportedly contains more than 16 million bricks and remains the largest brick masonry structure in both North and South America, as well as one of the largest forts in the United States. Today the fort remains open to visitors via ferry from Key West. In addition to touring Fort Jefferson, some of the country's best reefs lie in the waters of the national park surrounding the fort and snorkeling is permitted.
Photo by Jenni Konrad, CC BY-NC 2.0
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India is home to countless fortifications and Mehrangarh Fort is one of its best. Perched on a cliff more than 400 feet over Jodphur, the fort's red sandstone appears all the more striking against the blue facades that surround it below and the desert skies that blanket it from above. Dubbed the Citadel of the Sun, Mehrangarh is equally stunning from afar as it is in its up close details. Built in the mid-1400s, this giant fort's outer walls contain seven gates and surround multiple palaces, a temple, as well as a modern-day museum. The beauty of Mehrangarh Fort is both in its intricate details and colossal size. In addition to exploring it on foot, you can get the aerial perspective via the Flying Fox zip lines, a six-part tour over and around the fort.
Photo by Feng Zhong, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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The Fortifications of Rhodes helped earn this small Greek town, the largest active medieval town in all of Europe, UNESCO World Heritage status. The fortifications date back to the early 1300s when the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John set out to improve the Byzantine walls that stood there previously. The crescent-shaped fortress surrounds the old city and contains 11 gates and several other noteworthy sites within them, including the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, Socrates Square, Suleiman Mosque, as well as the Street of the Knights.
Photo by Teemu Tretjakov, CC BY 2.0
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The Ark Fortress of Bukhara is by far one of the most architecturally unique forts in this gallery. Located in Uzbekistan, the original fortress dates back to the 5th century and was repeatedly built, destroyed and rebuilt. It measures in at just over 2,500 feet long and its massive walls tower at between 50 and 60 feet high. In its day, the fortress primarily served to protect, but was also an inhabited citadel. Today it is preserved as a tourist attraction.
Photo by Dan Lundberg, CC BY-SA 2.0
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Officially Germany's largest hilltop fortification, Konigstein Fortress sits nearly 800 feet above the River Elbe on a rock plateau in Saxon Switzerland. In its more than 750-year history, the fortress has served as a state prison, temporary state treasury for Saxon and today a military history museum. Aside from its architectural and historical significance, a visit to the Konigstein Fortress will grant you postcard-perfect panoramic views of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and surrounding Saxon Switzerland.
Photo by Thomas Depenbusch, CC BY 2.0
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Thanks to Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon can officially declare itself the last completely-walled city in all of South Korea. The fortress measures just more than 3.5 miles long and circles Suwon's old city center. It dates as far back as 1794 when King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty had it built to honor and house his father's remains. The fortress contains four large gates representing each of the cardinal directions, as well as floodgates, watchtowers, a beacon tower and Hwaseong Haenggung Palace. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, the fortress remains well preserved and can be easily walked in its entirety. If visiting April through October, don't miss the Jangyongyeong guard ceremony on Sundays.
Photo by Chayon, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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The 18th-century sea fort now known as Suomenlinna Fortress spans six islands off the coast of Helsinki. Before it belonged to Finland, the fort was built and used by Sweden as protection against Russia. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the islands it occupies are home to nearly 1,000 permanent residents and remains a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.
Photo by Jonathan, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0