If you are going to go on a vacation simply to recharge your batteries, then a nice weekend in the country, say within a 100 mile radius of your home town, is more than enough to help you relax. However, avid travelers find much more satisfaction in exploring other cultures, learning about the history of the world, and taking in some of the magnificent works of architecture left by our ancestors.
If you fancy yourself a world traveler and a lover of culture, instead of a mere tourist, there are tons of unique awe inspiring ancient ruins for you to explore. Here are some of the most beautiful.
1. Koh Ker – Near Siem Reap, Cambodia
About 75 miles from Siem Reap in Cambodia is a beautiful and well-preserved temple, and a number of other ancient structures, among the jungle covered hill slopes. The ancient city of Koh Ker was built from sandstone and brick. It features an impressive seven-tier pyramid among other spectacles.
2. Petra – Ma’an Governorate, Jordan
Raising out of the coarse sands of the Jordan desert, the sandstone cliffs are host to a wonderful and ingenious piece of architecture – a city carved in the rose-colored stone. The Rose City was established nearly 2500 thousand years ago. It has been a very popular movie location in the recent past due to its unique style.
3. Borobudur – Magelang, Indonesia
In a wide clearance in Magelang, surrounded by hills and forests, lies a huge stone structure – the world’s largest Buddhist temple. It features nine raised platforms, with a huge central dome and over 2,500 thousand relief panels. There are also hundreds of statues depicting the Buddha. It is an inspiring experience, regardless of whether you are a Buddhist or not.
4. Bagan – Mandalay Region, Myanmar
A relatively small ancient city, covering an area of 42 square kilometers. This unique gem is a host to well-over 2000 Buddhist temples. There are fun activities like balloon rides over the area, but one can simply take a stroll and experience the awesomeness firsthand.
5. Pompei – Near Naples, Italy
Probably the best preserved ancient Roman city in the world, Pompeii was wiped out when the nearby volcano erupted. Fortunately, the volcanic ash that covered the entire city actually helped preserve the architecture, artworks, items, and even the bodies of the inhabitants. Exploring its streets is like taking a walk through history.
6. Chichen Itza – Tinum Municipality, Mexico
This vast Mayan archeological site is a true marvel of ancient ingenuity, featuring a huge pyramid known as El Castillo. People actively lived there from as early as 600 AD to about 1200 AD. There are a multitude of different styles of buildings to be observed at this silent testament to the might of the pre-Columbian cultures of Central America.
7. Teotihuacan – Just Outside Mexico City, Mexico
A wonderfully preserved and impressively sized ancient site, with numerous stone pyramids and paved streets, Teotihucan is truly something to behold. There is a lot to explore in one place. There is a reason why they called it “the birthplace of the gods”.
8. Tikal Ruins – Petén Basin, Guatemala
Here is another great Mayan city with tall stone structures that have stood the test of time. It just goes to show how developed the pre-Columbian civilizations of America were. The big temple is 47 meters high, with a steep staircase leading to the chamber on top, where you’ll also find an excellent view of the surrounding area.
9. Asklepieion of Kos – Kos, Greece
This ancient medical center has been ravaged by the passage of time; however, its parts are quite well conserved, particularly compared to some other Greek ruins where only a few small stones still remain. It was built to commemorate the famous ancient physician Hippocrates, as well as honor the god of healing, making it an excellent pilgrimage site for medical professionals.
10. Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England
A nearly miraculous feat of ancient engineering, Stonehenge features huge man-made rock formations in a circular layout. These Neolithic structure make us wonder just how the ancient peoples that inhabited Britain managed to produce such a grandiose monument.
11. Sunken Ancient City of Heracleion – Alexandria, Egypt
A once great and proud metropolis, the city of Heracleion lie sunken underneath the sea for over a millennium, until it was finally rediscovered in 2000. There are tons of beautiful statues, inscribed slabs, and all manner of ancient wonders for the eager scuba diver to explore.
12. Ephesus – Ionian Coast, Turkey
A powerful and beautiful Ancient Greek city, dating back to the 10th century BC, Ephesus is incredibly well preserved, given all the wars the Greek states had seen during their time, not to mention the elements eating away at it for millennia. There are many world famous examples of early Greek architecture to be seen, and a lot of them are in fairly good shape.
13. Ayutthaya Historical Park, Thailand
An astounding number of buildings still remain in excellent condition in the Ayutthaya National Park, pointing to a glorious past where Ayutthaya was a capital of a large kingdom. It’s worth mentioning that extensive repairs and reconstructions have been done over the years, helping this site retain much of its former glory.
14. Ellora Caves – Maharashtra, India
It mast of taken tons of devotion, hard work, and skill to carve out 34 different caves to create these breathtaking temples. The site features Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples standing together proudly, as a silent reminder that people of different religious creeds can live in harmony. The Ellora caves are simply amazing.
15. Ancient Tombs – Valley of the Kings, Egypt
No list of wonders ancient ruins would be complete without the many Egyptian pyramids. However, the pharaohs that ruled the so-called New Kingdom went a step further and had their giant tombs in the hills of Luxor. There are 63 tombs across the Valley of Kings, with the last discovered quite recently in 2005. It seems that the valley still holds a few secrets that we are yet to discover.
No serious traveler should go through their entire life never to have seen some of these amazing and inspiring ancient ruins. You get a new-found respect for our ancestors who were, among other things, creative artists and incredibly gifted architects.