Segovia’s Roman Aqueduct, Spain
The story goes that a young Segovian woman, tired of lugging water from the river, sold her soul to the devil on the condition that he would bring water right to her front door. When you see the aqueduct he built for her (in truth built by the Romans), it’s hard not to believe that there is something of the devil in it. Not a drop of mortar was used in the aqueduct’s construction, which runs into the heart of Segovia. Made from 20,000 huge granite blocks sitting tightly on each other, it is the world’s most spectacular 3-D jigsaw.
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales
Without a doubt, this is Thomas Telford and William Jessop’s finest work. Faced with the problem of getting canal barges over the River Dee, the two engineers built a 115-ft- (35-m-) high aqueduct, complete with a towpath and a sheer drop down the other side. The water is carried along a castiron trough perched on 19 hollow columns, all bound together with a mortar of lime, water, and oxblood. The aqueduct is still used by canal boaters and links the village of Froncysyllte with its neighbor Trevor. The view over the River Dee, if you can bear to look, is magnificent
Caesarea Maritima, Israel
There are few more seductive sights than bronzed bodies playing beach volleyball against the backdrop of this Roman aqueduct, built by Herod the Great for his new port of Caesarea Maritima. The lack of fresh water at the site forced the city’s architects to bring water from Mount Carmel. You can see traces of that aqueduct on the road between Caesarea and Haifa and even walk a section that goes beneath Mount Carmel almost 10 miles (17 km) away. However, the most impressive section lies west of Caesarea, rolling for several (interrupted) miles over golden sands and almost taking a dip in the Mediterranean.
Águas Livres Aqueduct, Portugal
With the highest pointed arch in the world, the 226-ft (69-m) Águas Livres Aqueduct is an 18th-century engineering marvel. It survived the 1755 earthquake that destroyed most of Lisbon and was still bringing water to the city in the 1960s. After walking the length of the aqueduct over the Alcântara Valley with the Sintra Express hurtling beneath, visit the nearby Water Museum. It encompasses an 18th-century cistern – the Mãe D’Água Amoreiras – and the newer Boiler Room, housing exhibits of Lisbon’s water system.
Acueducto de los Milagros, Spain
As you descend into the bowl of the city of Mérida, you’ll pass through a particularly featureless set of suburbs. Then, suddenly, you come upon the towering remains of the Acueducto de Los Milagros (Aqueduct of the Miracles), stranded heroically amid the tangle of peripheral roads. The effect of its alternating granite and brick structure is striking, especially in spring when the stork’s nest where the water once flowed. The aqueduct stands proudly aloof in its own parkland, acting as a superb appetizer for the rest of Roman Mérida. No other place in Spain boasts such a wealth of classical remains.
Aqueduc St-Clément, France
The view of the St-Clément Aqueduct from the Château d’Eau is one of the most spectacular in France. Stretching far into the distance against the dramatic backdrop of the mountains of the Massif Central, this aqueduct was modeled on Pont du Gard by engineer Henri Pitot de Launay. It no longer brings water to the city, but the aqueduct is still in use, with a chic neighborhood, Les Arceaux, beneath its arches. As well as a food market, several boutiques have sprung up alongside, and table-tennis tables and pétanque courts now take advantage of the shade.