Do you ever wonder what life was like in the past?
Visiting ancient sites around the world offers insights into past civilizations, allowing you to connect with the past and witness the human story over millennia. We humans have come a long way over the centuries and witnessing some of our greatest achievements in the form of remarkable ancient architectural feats such as the Pyramids of Giza or the Colosseum is a fantastic way to appreciate these marvels.
In addition to gaining a deeper appreciation for past civilisations and their grand achievements, visiting sacred ancient sites can also provide a religious or spiritual experience. Ancient sites often hold mysteries and captivate us with their legends and ancient myths.
These ancient sites are like time machines, allowing us to connect with our past. So, get ready to walk in the footsteps of past civilisations such as the Romans or Ancient Egyptians as we journey back to the past with some of the world’s must-visit ancient sites. So important are these sites that many have been declared as UNESCO sites and Wonders of the World.
By visiting these historic sites, you are helping to preserve them thanks to entrance fees, which support restoration projects, archaeological excavations and research, and efforts to protect these sites for future generations.
To ensure you are not left in ruins yourself if your travel plans go awry, consider getting travel insurance, which can help you quickly get back to exploring our ancient world again.
Imagine walking in the footsteps of Indiana Jones as you make your way through the Siq Gorge and set your eyes upon Petra’s iconic Treasury building known as Al-Khazneh. This ancient Nabatean capital, dating back to the 4th century BC, once thrived as a bustling trading hub, peaking around the 1st century AD before eventually going into decline upon being taken over by the Roman Empire.
It’s Petra’s intricate architecture with its impressive motifs that has been carved into the rose-coloured sandstone cliffs, is what makes this ancient site so special. Aside from the Treasury building, you can observe the Monastery, Great Temple, Royal Tombs, and Roman Theatre.
Petra remained unknown to the Western world until it was “rediscovered” in the early 19th century by a Swiss explorer. Now, you can discover Petra for yourself on foot or by camel, with informative guided tours recommended to really gain an understanding of the history and importance of this site.
Once considered to be the centre of the world according to Greek mythology, Delphi was an Ancient Greek religious sanctuary on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. This was the home of the God Apollo who would communicate with mortals here, and one of the top attractions is the Temple of Apollo.
Other notable features include the Sanctuary of Athena’s Tholos of Delphi and the Theatre of Delphi which hosted Ancient Greek theatrical performances.
The Pythian Games, which were also held here, acted much like the Olympics occurring every four years. Many archaeological digs have been conducted at the site, and many of the relics, including statues and ceramics, can be seen in the onsite Delphi Museum’s collection.
No ancient sites list is complete without the iconic Pyramids of Giza. They are undoubtedly one of the most recognised structures on the planet and attract millions of travellers each year.
There are nine pyramids in the Giza area just outside Cairo, but three of them are the most recognised. The largest and oldest is the Great Pyramid of Khufu, while the smaller two pyramids were constructed as tombs for pharaohs Khafre and Menkaure.
The pyramids date back to the 26th century BC and have captivated the world ever since, easily becoming most iconic ancient wonders of the world. They are not only impressive to look at, but they also offer insight into the religious beliefs of the time and showcase the incredible engineering of the Ancient Egyptians.
Aside from the pyramids which safeguarded the pharaohs in their afterlife, there is also the giant Great Sphinx statue. And don’t you worry, there are guided tours available to gain a better understanding of the history of the pyramids, as well as camel rides and evening light and sound shows.
Italy is home to numerous important historical monuments but one of the most cherished is Rome’s Colosseum. The largest amphitheatre to have ever been built, it’s extremely well-preserved and is one of the most iconic symbols of the Roman Empire.
Originally known as Flavian Amphitheatre, its origins date back to the early years of the 1st millennium when it was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian. The inauguration of the Colosseum was marked by 100 days of games that were seen by the masses and went on to host gladiator contests and mock battles.
While the capacity of the Colosseum may not have matched the capacity of Australia’s very own MCG, which can accommodate over 100,000 fans, it could still house an impressive 50,000 to 80,000 spectators.
Today, visitors can explore the various levels of arched openings and ancient corridors of the amphitheatre as well as the complex system of tunnels, chambers, and animal pens as part of the guided Colosseum underground tour.
Wiltshire in England is home to ancient stone circles known as henges and none is more famous than Stonehenge. Dating back to roughly 3,000 BC, Stonehenge consists of giant standing sarsen stones weighing upwards of 25 tonnes that have been arranged in a circle.
In fact, the site contains a smaller circle of stones within the larger outer ring of stones, with a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of so-called bluestones within it. The exact purpose of Stonehenge is an ongoing debate; however theories include it being a religious or ceremonial site, burial ground, or having astronomical significance due to the stones aligning up with major celestial events like the annual solstices.
How the builders managed to transport the large stones over 30 kilometres is still a mystery and shows the early planning and engineering skills of the people back then. Stonehenge is just one of several stone circles, stone walls, and ancient cemeteries built in Wiltshire throughout the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Another must-see is the world’s largest stone circle in nearby Avebury which makes up the UNESCO-listed Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites.
A fantastic way to visit the site is to book the Stone Circle Experience which allows you to walk inside the stone circle outside normal visiting hours. The tours are limited; therefore reservations are required in advance, and they take place early in the morning or towards evening.
Stonehenge also has a visitor centre containing artefacts from the site, and special celebrations held during the summer and winter solstices.
Rome may have the Colosseum, but Athens has the Acropolis. This ancient citadel showcases the architectural brilliance of the Ancient Greeks and looks out over the city from its hilltop perch. The site is home to several iconic structures, most notably the Parthenon.
Most of the notable structures you see today were built around the 5th century BC, a period considered as the Golden Age of Athens. Other structures worth spending time at include the Temple of Athena Nike, Propylaea, and the Erechtheion. Many of the structures served as temples dedicated to Greek Gods, such as Athena in the case of the Parthenon.
Be sure to browse the Acropolis Museum which exhibits original marble sculptures from the site along with other artefacts. You can also observe replicas of the famous the Elgin Marbles sculptures that once graced the Parthenon and other areas of the Acropolis. To see the original marble sculptures, you must go to London’s British Museum which now houses them.
Head to Southeastern Turkey to get a glimpse of an ancient civilisation that predates Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza by thousands of years. Göbekli Tepe is one of the oldest man-made structures ever discovered, with estimates placing its construction to the 10th century BC.
The site consists of enormous limestone pillars arranges in circles, surrounded by walls and pathways. It is also known for its abundance of carved animals in the structure such as birds, snakes, and mammals.
While believed to have served a religious purpose, major excavations only commenced on the Neolithic archaeological site in the 1990s. Ongoing archaeological efforts continuously unearth fresh insights into this ancient site.
The discovery of Göbekli Tepehas made us rethink our understanding of early human history and how complex societies developed, since it predates the advent of agriculture which was thought to have set the stage for societies to begin creating many of the ancient architectural wonders we cherish today.
Visitors can explore Göbekli Tepe from designated viewing platforms and pathways, with information signs explaining the site’s history and importance. You may also visit the nearby Şanlıurfa Archaeology and Mosaic Museum, one of the largest museums in the country, which displays various artefacts from the site and surrounding region.