Architectural marvels abound everywhere we turn on this planet, each possessing the capacity to delight and excite the masses. Among these, the humble staircase often needs to receive the spotlight it deserves. We will explore some of the world’s most iconic steep staircases and their intriguing stories in this post.
· Mont Saint-Michel, France
Stands as an impressive sight off France’s northwestern coast, housing an island commune called Mont Saint-Michel that’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here lies an eye-catching steep staircase that winds upward toward heaven – this site’s heart lies right there at Mont Saint-Michel! Constructed in the 13th century, this staircase has 350 steps leading to the Abbey’s spire, offering a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding bay.
The staircase’s steepness and narrowness contributed to Abbey’s defence during medieval times, making it difficult for invaders to climb. Today, this magnificent structure stands as an unfailing testament of their architectural skill.
· Chand Baori, India
Next we travel to Abhaneri Village of Rajasthan. Here lies Chand Baori, one of the deepest and largest stepwells in the world. This steep staircase is a unique architectural feat designed to conserve water in a region known for intense heat. With 3,500 narrow steps arranged in a symmetrical pattern across 13 stories, Chand Baori is a mesmerizing geometrical wonder.
The steps descend to a depth of 30 meters, where the bottom-most water remains 5-6 degrees cooler than the surface. This ancient marvel is a spectacular example of functional architecture, catering to water conservation and community gatherings.
· The Inca Trail, Peru
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru is renowned for its steep staircases. Built by Incan civilization during the 15th century, these staircases comprise part of an immense road network across thousands of kilometers in Andean mountain ranges. The staircases, carved directly into the mountainside, connect various archaeological sites along the trail.
One particular section, infamously known as the “Gringo Killer,” features a particularly steep staircase with a near-vertical climb. Despite the challenging ascents, the Inca Trail offers some of the most stunning views of ancient ruins, lush cloud forests, and majestic mountains.
· The Guatape Rock, Colombia
Our final stop is the town of Guatape in Colombia, home to the Piedra del Peñol or the Guatape Rock. A monolithic formation soaring above the landscape, the rock features a zigzagging staircase of 659 steps embedded into a large crack in the stone. This steep staircase leads you up to an exquisite viewing platform at the top, from which you can appreciate stunning vistas of lakes and islands in your surroundings. Climbing the Guatape Rock is a thrilling experience, a test of physical strength rewarded with an unforgettable panorama.
Each of these steep staircases has its unique story and purpose, whether aiding in defence, conserving water, connecting ancient sites, or offering unparalleled views. They are a testament to human ingenuity and the pursuit of architectural excellence. As we climb each step, we’re not just ascending a physical structure but journeying through history, one step at a time.