One of the most fascinating and exciting things to do when traveling is pay a visit to some of the world’s ancient sites. Many of these entries might already have a spot on your bucket list – and for good reason.
Standing the test of time, these historic attractions have raked in millions of visitors every year, inspiring us in ways no other travel experience can. Whether it’s the struggle to get to the location itself, the dramatic history surrounding its creation, or simply the fact that it’s still there – ancient sites around the world will always hold our inquisitive nature and zest for adventure. From sunrise at Machu Picchu to sunset at Angkor Wat, here are some of the very best of Earth’s wondrous old stones.
The Colosseum, Italy
With construction beginning in AD 70, the Colosseum in Rome deserves a place among the ancient sites of the world. Crafted out of concrete and sand, it was estimated to hold between 50,000 and 80,000 people in its heyday. Not for the faint of heart, the gladiatorial games held here would have been bloodthirsty spectacles indeed, and they played a significant part in the history of the Roman Empire.
Though the Colosseum holds the number one spot as Rome’s most visited attraction, the city is actually an ancient playground itself, making a stop by the capital city a must.
Standing haphazardly in a field in the south of England you’ll find a collection of stones perched precariously on top of one another. There’s much debate about what this ancient site was used for, not to mention how exactly the stones got there! Believed to be constructed by the Neolithic people around 2500 BCE, Stonehenge is arguably the world’s most famous prehistoric monument, but the argument rages on as to why Stonehenge was actually constructed in the first place.
Some believe it to be an ancient burial site, others a place of healing, others still a place to worship the sun. Whatever the reason for its existence, it’s a fascinating, mysterious, and haunting attraction that draws thousands of conspiracy theorists and tourists alike each year!
The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The Great Pyramid in the Giza complex in Egypt is the only member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence. Built from an estimated 2.3 million stone blocks it took about 30,000 workers 80 years to complete!
The pyramids have captivated travelers and historians from all over the world for centuries, but exactly how they were built still remains a mystery.
Machu Picchu, Peru
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more enigmatic and captivating site than the world famous Machu Picchu in Peru. It became one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, and is believed to have been constructed by the Inca civilization sometime in the 15th or 16th centuries, before being decimated by Spanish invaders years later. Today, travelers can enjoy the incredible five-day jungle trek along the Inca trail to reach the ruins, while tourists can simply relax on a bus or train from the nearest town.
I’d strap on those hiking boots anytime! Arriving at the top to see the sun rise over these old stones is a rite of passage for anyone with even a hint of wanderlust. There’s nothing quite like it.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat holds the title of the largest religious monument in the world, and you’ll see why when you visit. It’s enormous – with much more to it than that picture you’re familiar with. This ancient site is actually a huge city, spread over a whopping 400 acres! That’s over 300 football fields! It’s going to take you a long time to see it all!
Revered so much it’s actually featured on the Cambodian national flag, the temple complex is visited by around two million visitors per year, all keen to catch the famous sunrise or sunset photo opportunity and then party the night away along the infamous “Pub Street” of nearby Siem Reap.
The Great Wall of China
Contrary to popular belief, The Great Wall isn’t the only man-made object visible from space, but with its astonishing length of 21,196 km, (13,171 miles),it’s still pretty impressive!
Snaking through northern China, The Great Wall was constructed over a period of hundreds of years to keep out marauding tribes in the Eurasian Steppe, with the most famous and well persevered sections being completed by the Ming Dynasty from 1368-1644. Although it didn’t succeed in keeping invaders at bay for the entirety of its history, even among its “old stone” peers in our list, it is widely regarded as the most impressive architectural feat undertaken by mankind and has become a symbol representative of China.
The Acropolis, Greece
Ancient Greece was one of the cradles of civilization as we know it – and without the Greeks we wouldn’t have things like plumbing, theatre, modern thought, or robots – and don’t forget all of that fabulous architecture!
The Acropolis is no exception and stands as a testament to the achievements of our ancestors. An ancient citadel overlooking modern Athens and home to the famous Parthenon temple, the Acropolis is one of the most impressive ancient sites in the world, built for and dedicated to the goddess Athena. It is simply breathtaking and not to be missed if you’re thinking about visiting Greece.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
The pre-Hispanic city of Chichen Itza was one of the largest Mayan cities. Built around 1000 years ago, it has been occupied by a variety of people over its subsequent history. The name means “at the mouth of the well of the Itza people” and is thought to relate to the tribe locating here to gain access to the underground water.
At the center of the site is its true showpiece, “El Castillo” (the castle), which is an impressive stone pyramid that served as a temple to the god Kukulkan. With 91 steps up each side, you’re likely to be short of breath after reaching the top! Chichen Itza is extremely popular with tourists in Mexico, and in high season it can welcome around 3,500 visitors a day – proving that different civilizations are still leaving their mark on this fragile attraction.
While we’re on the subject of leaving a mark – we urge you to try not to. If you’re going to be visiting one of these ancient sites, or any others for that matter, try to keep your footprint to a minimum.