The world is filled with mind-blowing man-made historical sites and wonders. Over thousands of years of history, we’ve produced some pretty breathtaking structures which defy present engineering effort and force us to think that how could the ancient humans have created such marvelous and accurate buildings with such limited tools. Below are ten historical sites that every traveler should try to visit at some point:
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.
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 is made for one of the best travel memories you can have. Be sure to spend the night in the park, as you then really get to see it without the crowds. It is particularly enjoyable seeing the sunrise from atop the temples.
3.The Pyramids at 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. 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.
This ancient city in Cambodia was the center of the Khmer Empire that once ruled most of Southeast Asia. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the God Vishnu for the Khmer Empire. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II and is regarded as one of the fastest made structures of the ancient world.
But towards the end of the 12th century, it was converted into a Buddhist Temple, which continues to the present day. 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.
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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.
Located near Salisbury, this megalithic structure is over 3,000 years old, and it’s 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 of 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.
7. The Parthenon
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.
8. Easter Island
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.
9. Chichén Itzá
Chichen Itza was a Mayan city on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Although it’s an important tourist attraction, Chichen Itza also remains an active archeological site. New discoveries are still being unearthed in the area, providing even more insight into the culture and accomplishments of the Mayan people, who ruled much of present-day Mexico and Central America prior to the arrival of European colonists. Chichen Itza was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and, in 2007, it was voted in a global survey as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
10. The Great Wall of China
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.