Best Ancient Ruins to Visit – Ancient ruins that are centuries old can burn the imagination and become fuel for future travel plans. The best thing about this ruin is that it can make you feel young, small, and totally amazed by pieces of ancient architecture.
Among the many amazing ruins that still exist today, some can be made into a once-in-a-lifetime trip. This list includes 10 stunningly stunning ancient ruins, but we want you to share your favorites too.
Whatever ruins you visit, there are some rules that apply. Time your trip for a less crowded time, often early or possibly late. Give yourself plenty of time, as some ruins require a few days of exploration.
Hire an experienced guide, as the history of these ancient ruins, is rich but the signs are often fleeting. While going beyond the most popular sections of the ruins, you’ll need a little quiet space to appreciate this kind of ancient majesty.
Find 10 Best Ancient Ruins to Visit
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
The journey to Machu Picchu is epic even with newfangled transportation like trains. But every year, about 25,000 people abandon the direct route and choose to walk for days on the 27-mile Inca Trail to reach these ruins. Since being rediscovered a century ago, the Incan treasures nestled in the jungles of the Peruvian Andes have captured imaginations around the world.
The large stone blocks tell the story of both the vast agricultural zones with terraces and ancient food warehouses and the urban zones full of temples, squares, tombs, and dwellings. If you’re considering a trip to Machu Picchu, plan this one: You can only hike with a licensed company, and book quickly, especially in high season.
2. Acropolis, Greece
The next Best Ancient Ruins to Visit is Acropolis in Greece. While waiting for traffic to speed up at the bustling Athens intersection, you may forget that history is watching over this city. Look up, though, and you’ll see a sight that Athenians and visitors alike have admired for the past 2,500 years.
Time has destroyed the temples and gates that once pristine crowned the hill of the Acropolis. Leaving stone ruins that retain their familiar splendor even after thousands of years of wear and tear.
Elegant proportions of the 5th century BC Parthenon and Temple of Athena Nike, both dedicated to the patron deity of the city and as a reminder of how much we still depend on ancient Greece for our concept of beauty.
3. Mesa Verde, United States of America (Best Ancient Ruins to Visit)
Huge ruins are not always far from the sea. Some of the best-preserved Native American cliff houses in North America are in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. It is home to the Ancestral Pueblo whose descendants are made up of 20 different southwestern tribes, including the Hopi and Zuni. Mesa Verde traces 700 years of history at 4,000 archaeological sites.
Visit mesa-top pueblos and dwellings built under massive overhanging cliffs. Climb steep paths and stairs, or crawl through tunnels to explore ancient architecture like the 150-room Cliff Palace or the hard-to-reach Balcony House. Park hours vary according to season, and not all sites are open year-round.
4. Angkor, Cambodia
The next Best Ancient Ruins to Visit is Angkor in Cambodia. War or natural disasters may have weakened the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire. But in the end, it was the forest that conquered this 9th to the 15th-century city center. Today, the 150-square-mile heavily forested Angkor Archaeological Park protects part of a large cluster of ancient capitals and many of which remain buried.
The garden’s most famous temple, Angkor Wat, is the largest religious building in the world. But dozens of other park ruins, including the Bayon temple with its carved walls of 11,000 figures, offer a more serene look into this culturally rich 600-year period of art and architecture.
5. Great Pyramids and Memphis, Egypt (Best Ancient Ruins to Visit)
The best collection of ruins in the world cannot exclude Egypt. The world’s last ancient wonder, the Great Pyramid of Giza, stands as a single-window into the past.
With more than 4,000 years to ponder the question, experts still can’t agree on how its builders placed more than 2 million stone blocks so perfectly. The rest of the Giza Necropolis has more magic. There are two more Great Pyramids built over 80 years by 20,000 to 30,000 workers, plus the Great Sphinx, a cemetery, and the ruins of a village.
The pyramids are part of a larger UNESCO World Heritage site that includes Memphis, the capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Travel can even cover the near and personal. Visitors can explore the interiors of some of the pyramids. And the recent decline in tourism offers tourists the rare opportunity to visit the pyramids without crowds.
6. Tikal, Guatemala
The next Best Ancient Ruins to Visit is Tikal Guatemala. Stay in a national park for the ultimate experience in Tikal, an ancient Mayan city in northern Guatemala that was home to 90,000 people before being abandoned in the tenth century.
Early the next morning, before the park opens to the public, join a small group for a trek through a forest inundated with a pre-dawn symphony of birds and insects. Climb to the top of Temple IV, the temple with two serpent heads to watch the sunrise from behind the ancient temple and the pyramids rising from the green forest.
You still have hours to explore this vast complex of pyramids, temples, and plazas before the huge crowds roll in. Along the way, catch glimpses of coatimundi, toucans, howling monkeys, and some of the hundreds of other species to witness.
7. Petra, Jordan (Best Ancient Ruins to Visit)
Hailed as the “rose-red city half as old as time” in 19th-century poetry, the ancient city of Petra is half-built, and the other half-carved into red sandstone cliffs. The Nabataean Arabs founded the city in the sixth century B.C.E., and for hundreds of years, it thrived as a trading center for frankincense, myrrh, and spices.
Now, as it was then, you can enter the ruins of the city via a narrow, half-mile-long trail wedged between nearly 300 feet of cliffs. Inside, you can explore architecturally intricate tombs and temples, sacrificial altars, and even a Romanesque amphitheater.
Most people explore on foot, but visitors can also ride camels and donkeys. The sun illuminates Petra’s red cliffs most dramatically in the mid-morning and late afternoon, so be sure to time your visit.
8. Colosseum, Italy
The next Best Ancient Ruins to Visit is Colosseum Italy. Reimagined digitally in Hollywood films like Gladiator, the camera literally captures this millennia-old Colosseum of Rome. But the 2,000-year-old ruins are so evocative that the special effects seem overdone. With a bloody history of gladiators, slaves, prisoners, and wild animals, the Colosseum accommodated 50,000 spectators or more in its heyday.
Later, the Romans used the abandoned arena as an excavation site. The stones of the Colosseum are part of the churches of St. Peter and St. John Lateran. In the summer of 2011, parts of the ruins were completely refurbished, including the crypt which is now open for tours.
9. Great Wall of China, China
Like a dragon, the Great Wall of China creeps across some 4,500 miles of landscape, and it protects something of value. Built to protect Chinese people and culture from the outside world.
This Long Wall of 10 Thousand Li was built over 2,000 years by many imperial dynasties. While some parts of the walls were destroyed or completely lost, other parts have been restored or preserved.
The most popular section today is the Badaling Great Wall, close to Beijing. A little further from the capital and offering a more rugged (and less crowded) experience is the Great Wall at Mutianyu. In Qinhuangdao City, the Laolongtou Great Wall actually stretches out to sea and is said to resemble dragon drinking water.
China has so many ruins and other archaeological sites. Which one would you recommend to other travelers?
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10. Palmyra, Syria
The next Best Ancient Ruins to Visit is Palmyra in Syria. Twice a day, at sunrise and sunset, the Bridge of the Dessert blushes. This is still the case even 18 centuries after his birth. Palmyra, also known as Tadmor. Its location is in the desert northeast of Damascus, Syria, and was once a rich caravan oasis along the Silk Road that connected Persia, India, and China with the Roman Empire.
At the crossroads of cultures, the ruins of colonnaded avenues, temples, funerary towers, and aqueducts show the mix of influences that made this place so cosmopolitan in the second century.
Palmyra is also home to the warrior queen and conqueror Zenobia. Tour guides tell interesting stories that gave this seemingly isolated place a major role in world history.