Throughout the many years of humankind, the world has gathered quite a collection of man-made historical sites and landmarks. Some of today’s most iconic structures and ruins give us a glimpse into past ancient civilizations.
From Europe to the Americas, there are plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to add to your bucket list. Here are 10 must-see historical sites from around the world that will change your life. . .
1. Machu Picchu – Cusco Region, Peru
Found in southern Peru, atop a mountain only accessible by train (or a four-day trek), is one of the world’s most famous city ruins: Machu Picchu. While it’s one of those historical sites that demands a bit more legwork to get to, when you arrive, you’ll encounter the magical Inca powers that still linger.
Commonly called “The Lost City of the Incas”, the site has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983 and was unsurprisingly named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
2. The Great Pyramids – Giza, Egypt
Approximately over 3,000 years old, and we still don’t have all the answers as to how the Great Pyramids were constructed or how the Egyptians made them so precise. Were aliens involved? The three pyramids align to the stars and the solstices and contain many chambers which remain unopened. The Pyramids are a true marvel of ancient civilization engineering.
(Of course, the Sphinx nearby is another one of Egypt’s incredible historical sites).
3. Cappadocia – Anatolia, Turkey
Easily one of the most outlandish World Heritage Sites, Cappadocia in Turkey is famous for its upward flowing rock formations and stone-capped chimneys begging to be photographed. You can find many of these incredible structures in the Monks Valley and Goreme, and nearby in the village of Uchisar, you can see ancient cave homes carved into the soft rock by people during the Bronze Age (about 5,000 years ago).
Cappadocia is popularly enjoyed with hot air balloon rides at sunrise, giving the best view for taking in this breathtaking historical landscape.
4. Mesa Verde – Colorado, USA
Mesa Verde is home to one of the most astonishing archaeological historical sites in the United States, which also happen to be some of the most well-preserved Native American ruins in North America.
At Mesa Verde (present-day Colorado), you’ll find cliff dwellings tucked into canyons, a forest covered plateau, and other ruins that all belong to this historical site which was once inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloans. You can take a scenic drive on the winding road to the top of the mesa, tour the grounds and observe pit houses, take in panoramic views, and discover other ruins.
5. The Alhambra – Granada, Spain
Spain’s grand love letter to Moorish culture, The Alhambra is part palace, part fort, and part World Heritage site. Found in Granada, Spain, the historical site captivates visitors with rustling leaves, trickling fountains, and lingering ancient spirits. When you take in this majestic site, it’s hard to think that the Alhambra was nearly blown up when it was used as barracks during the Napoleonic occupation.
Thanks to careful restoration, what remains is a beautiful site seeped in history, with gardens overlooking Granada – an all-time favorite way for visitors to take in the city below.
6. Petra – Arabah, Jordan
Many historical sites around the world are shrouded in mystery, and that’s especially true of Petra in Jordan. Carved into a canyon found in Arabah, Jordan – Petra’s founding is still unknown, but shows signs of settlement as early as the 6th century BC. “Discovered” in 1812 by a Swiss explorer who followed local tribesman there, Petra was officially made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
Today you can visit Petra on horseback with English-speaking guides who will take you back in time to ancient site.
7. Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England
Stonehenge is a megalithic structure over 3,000 years old – and the stones come all the way from Wales. Academics are still figuring out how the stones at the historical site were transported there and have even tried to replicate them. Additionally, there are no real answers as to the purpose of Stonehenge.
At the moment, Stonehenge is fenced off from the public, but visitors can still walk around the attraction. This one is definitely worth visiting for the mystery behind it!
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8. The Parthenon – Athens, Greece
When it comes to historical sites, Greece gives historians a run for their money. Naturally the iconic Parthenon in Athens comes to mind. The ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, stands a symbol of Athens’ power and is a testament to Greek civilization.
Of course, the Parthenon offers expansive views of the city, as well as other nearby ruins where temples and buildings are equally as captivating.
9. Old City – Jerusalem, Israel
Nestled in the heart of Jerusalem is the Old City. Steeped in history and traditional old-world charm, the Old City has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981 and continues to amaze locals and visitors with its mammoth walls and historical significance. Jerusalem is situated on a plateau in the Judean Mountains, Jerusalem is home to many faiths like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Historical sites you should visit in the Old City include the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Temple Mount.
10. Pompeii – Naples, Italy
Constructed around 2,000 years ago during the Roman empire, Pompeii was rediscovered in 1748. Today, the preserved ruins are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Found near Naples, Italy, this historical site was buried under rock and ash by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Much of this historical site remains buried beneath ash to this day but ironically ended up preserving everything from jars of fruit, paintings on walls, and even bodies of victims.
Let me know in the comments what some of your favourite historical sites are!
Efrat Sagi-Ofir is CRO & Founder of Air Doctor. Air Doctor is a startup that connects travelers to a global network of 20,000 local medical doctors through an easy-to-use app, to receive appropriate medical care from anywhere in the world.
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