Petra (petra meaning: rock) is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma’an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited tourist attraction. It lies on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.
Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
Carved into a canyon in Arabah, Jordan, Petra was made famous by the third Indiana Jones film when he went to find the Holy Grail. The site was “discovered” in 1812 by a Swiss explorer who followed some local tribesmen there; prior to that, it had been forgotten to the Western world. Though its founding is unknown, it appears this place had settlers as early as the 6th century BC. Under Roman rule, the site declined rapidly and was abandoned by the late 4th century. In 1985, Petra became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The ruins of Machu Picchu, rediscovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham, are one of the most beautiful and enigmatic ancient sites in the world. While the Inca people certainly used the Andean mountain top (9060 feet elevation), erecting many hundreds of stone structures from the early 1400’s, legends and myths indicate that Machu Picchu (meaning ‘Old Peak’ in the Quechua language) was revered as a sacred place from a far earlier time. Whatever its origins, the Inca turned the site into a small (5 square miles) but extraordinary city. Invisible from below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population, and watered by natural springs, Machu Picchu seems to have been utilized
by the Inca as a secret ceremonial city.
Located in southern Peru, this ruined city lies on top of a mountain that’s only accessible by train or a four-day trek. Rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, it was an important cultural center for the Inca civilization but was abandoned when the Spanish invaded the region. (It is famously referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas,” though that is actually Vilcabamba). The location was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, and it was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Concerns over growing numbers of tourists have led to limitations on how many people can enter the site, though only by a fraction of what is necessary. Hopefully they will limit it even more so this site can last for hundreds of years more.
The pyramids of Giza are the only surviving Ancient Wonder of the World and one of the most famous tourist attractions in the modern world.They are some of the oldest sacred sites in our index and certainly among of the most impressive. Although it is clear the pyramids were used for the burial of pharaohs, the construction, date, and possible symbolism of the Giza pyramids
are still not entirely understood. This mystery only adds to the attractiveness of these ancient wonders and many modern people still regard Giza as a spiritual place. A number of fascinating theories have been offered to explain the “mystery of the pyramids,” one of which is summarized below. Giza is the most important site on earth for many New Age followers, who are drawn by the pyramids’ mysteries and ancient origins.
Since 1990, private groups have been allowed into the Great Pyramid, and the majority of these have been seekers of the mystical aspects of the site. But even the most skeptical visitor cannot help but be awed by the great age, grand scale and harmonic mathematics of the pyramids of Giza.
They’re over 3,000 years old, and we still don’t have a good idea as to how they were built or how the Egyptians made them so precise (were aliens involved?). The three pyramids align to the stars and the solstices and contain tons of chambers that still haven’t been (and cannot be) opened. I mean, how did they create those little chambers where people can’t even crawl through? The largest one, called the Great Pyramid, was built by the Pharaoh Khufu and has limited access to it. The Pyramids are truly a marvel of human engineering that was fit for kings. (You will also find the Sphinx nearby, another historical site whose mysteries baffle researchers and are the subject of many conspiracy theories.)
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 2.0 miles (3.2 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks. It is at the centre of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds. Archaeologists believe the iconic stone monument was constructed anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC, as described in the chronology below. Radiocarbon dating in 2008 suggested that the first stones were erected in 2400–2200 BC, whilst another theory suggests that bluestones may have been erected at the site as early as 3000 BC (see phase 1 below). The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986 in a co-listing with Avebury Henge monument. It is a national legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage, while the
surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.
Located near Salisbury, England, this megalithic structure is over 3,000 years old, and its stones come all the way from Wales. Scholars still are not sure how the builders got the stones there and have tried to replicate the feat, with dismal results. Moreover, we only have a vague idea to its purpose (we’re basically just guessing). Stonehenge is now fenced off, and you can no longer go into the circle; visitors can only walk around the attraction. But it’s worth visiting for the mystery behind it and an excellent and detailed audio tour.
Persepolis consists of the remains of several monumental buildings on a vast artificial stone terrace about 450 by 300 m (1,480 by 1,000 ft). A double staircase, wide and shallow enough for horses to climb, led from the plains below to the top of the terrace. At the head of the staircase, visitors passed through the Gate of Xerxes, a gatehouse guarded by enormous carved stone bulls.
Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet. The old Potala Palace was built in 7th century. At that time Zhanpu King (Shuzhan Genpu) established Tufen Kingdom in Tibet, Lhssa was its Capital, The Emperor of China’s Tamg Dynasty sent Princess Wenchen to merry Zhanpu King. Zhanpu King decided “to build a city to show the glory”, then started to built Potala Palace on the Red Hill. There were 1,000 rooms in it; however the old Palace was destroyed during the war. The present Potala palace was re-built major after 17 century, particular during Dalai Lama V period. The present Potala Palace is 119 meters height with 13 floors. It is famous for its high historical value and kept numerous treasure in it.
The Alhambra in Granada Spain is so much more than architecture and history, it is an overwhelming feeling. From the moment you start climbing the small hill which leads us to what I would like the gates to heaven or to our final resting place to look like, our bodies are invaded with new feelings and emotions. It is probable that many of us who are interested in the Alhambra, have seen beautiful pictures of it, but when you are coming closer, the magnificence of its physical aspect seeming to touch the deep Grenadine sky together with originality is breathtaking. Every day since its beginning as a castle in the 9th century, the Alhambra has lived memorable moments, both historic and passionate ones, and these sensations lived years ago are the ones which reach our most inner soul, causing us to tingling, trembling and even flurry.
Christ the Redeemer (Portuguese: Cristo Redentor) is a statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world and the 5th largest statue of Jesus in the world. It is 39.6 metres (130 ft) tall, including its 9.5 metres (31 ft) pedestal, and 30 metres (98 ft) wide. It weighs 635 tonnes (625 long,700 short tons), and is located at the peak of the 700-metre (2,300 ft) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city. A symbol of Brazilian Christianity, the statue has become an icon for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, and was constructed between 1922 and 1931.
The Colosseum is probably the most famous landmark in Rome. Built in the 1st century AD, this great arena could seat 45,000 spectators and was the largest Roman amphitheater in the world. It hosted gladiatorial combats, spectacles with wild beasts and possibly the execution of early Christians.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the Colosseum was believed to be a place of martyrdom and was therefore regarded as a sacred place.
The Colosseum and the Forum are right next to each other in Rome, so I included them together. Remnants of a civilization that once controlled the known world, these sites are breathtaking not only for their beauty but also for their history and age. You’re standing in the spot Caesar walked and gazing into the arena where gladiators battled to the death. The Colosseum has slowly crumbled throughout the ages, and much of it is restricted now, especially the floor and basement where everything was organized. The Forum is great to walk around (and it’s free), though a ticket is required for Palatine Hill. I would definitely get a guided tour, because the information presented by the authorities doesn’t go into much depth.
This Mayan city-state is one of the largest and best-preserved ruins of that civilization, and was a dominant force in the Mayan world during the Classic Period (200-900 AD). Located in Guatemala, this place lets you experience your inner Indiana Jones early in the morning or late at night when the tourists go home and it’s just you and the jungle. It is very serene, and that made for one of the best travel memories I have. Be sure to spend the night in the park, as you then really get to see it without the crowds. I particularly enjoyed seeing the sunrise from atop the temples.
This ancient city in Cambodia was the center of the Khmer Empire that once ruled most of Southeast Asia. This empire fell into decline, but not before building amazing temples and buildings that were later reclaimed by the jungle for hundreds of years. Though Angkor Wat is packed with tourists, it’s still breathtaking to see. And the temple regions to the north and south see far fewer tourists than the main temple grouping. (Though admittedly, some of them are simply piles of stone rubble now.) The most popular temples are Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom, and Angkor Thom, and they always have crowds. In order to really experience the temples, you’ll need to purchase the three- or five-day pass. The best time to visit is early in the morning before the big tour groups arrive and stay late after they have gone.
Though it’s currently (and seemingly has been forever) getting a face-lift, the Parthenon is still astounding and breathtaking. This ancient temple to Athena stands as a symbol of the power of Athens and a testament to Greek civilization. Moreover, it provides a sweeping view of Athens and nearby ruins, whose temples and buildings are equally as wondrous. Over the centuries, much of it and the surrounding structures have been destroyed by war and thieves. Luckily, the structure still stands… at least for now. Note that there is scaffolding along the right side of the structure; considering it has been there for over five years, I doubt it is going anywhere anytime soon. They do things slowly in Greece.
Located out in the Pacific Ocean, Easter Island, a special territory of Chile, is home to Moai statues that are the only thing left of a culture that once lived here. These gigantic and impressively carved heads are just another reminder that primitive people were not really all that primitive. The stones that attract visitors to this island are made out of volcanic ash; many still remain in the quarry, left behind by the inhabitants as diminishing resources on the island left their tribes doomed to wars that finally killed them off.
Built in the 1600s, this building in Agra, India, is a testament to undying love. This white marble tomb built for Emperor Shah Jahan’s deceased wife is a must-see for everyone. In 1983, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and also has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The Taj sees between two and four million tourists annually, so there have been recent restrictions on tourism in an effort to help protect the site. However, the greatest threat is the air pollution that is destroying the marble.
The Alhambra is Granada’s — and Europe’s — love letter to Moorish culture, a place where fountains trickle, leaves rustle, and ancient spirits seem to mysteriously linger. Part palace, part fort, part World Heritage site, part lesson in medieval architecture, the Alhambra has long enchanted a never-ending line of expectant visitors. During the Napoleonic occupation, the Alhambra was used as a barracks and nearly blown up. What you see today has been heavily but respectfully restored. This is a beautiful site with so many various gardens and builings, and its view of the historic area of Granada is second to none.
The Great Wall of China actually consists of numerous walls and fortifications. It was originally conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang (ca. 259–210 BC) in the third century BC as a means of keeping out the Mongol hordes invading the country. The best-known and best-preserved section of the Great Wall was built in the 14th through 17th centuries, during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Though the Great Wall never effectively prevented invaders from entering China, it’s still a massive engineering and construction feat and human accomplishment.
Chichén Itzá, meaning “at the mouth of the well of Itzá,” is the second most visited archeological site in Mexico and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It’s one of the most important Mayan historical structures in the Americas and has been restored greatly in the last few years.
A major trading center and the southernmost settlement during Roman times, Volubilis in Morocco is one of the best preserved (and least frequented) ruins of its kind in the world. I found it empty of tourists, not built up, and open in a way that really lets you get up close and see the structures without being behind ten feet of barriers and jostled by crowds. Most of the city is still unexcavated, so the site has a very raw feel to it. I’ve been to a lot of Roman ruins in my travels, but I love this one the best. It’s a lovely day trip away from the crowds and noise of Fez. Entrance is 20 MAD (Moroccan dirhams), or about $5 USD.
Located in a beautiful in north-central Thailand, Sukhothai was the capital of Thailand for a couple hundred years. This is site is often overlooked by travelers, as few stop there on the way to Chiang Mai. The central area contains 21 temples enclosed by a moat. Its many temples showcase the unique Sukhothai style of decoration, which incorporates Khmer (Cambodian) and Sri Lankan influences. It’s a huge, huge site and takes a good day or two to see. Most of it is exposed to the sun, so bring sunscreen or you’ll get massively sunburned. The world has many amazing historical sites, and even if you don’t make it to these, there are plenty more out there worth seeing. The more you know about the past, the more you can understand why people act the way they do in the present