If you are thrilled at the idea of exploring some of the most historical places in the world, you’re not alone! Here is a round-up by travel experts who have explored them all. So channel your inner Indiana Jones and put these 36 amazing historical places on your bucket list!
Historical Places in the World You Need to Visit
At least once in your lifetime, you need to gaze upon the great monuments, ancient wonders, and quiet memorials that together are humanity’s story. Some have captured the world’s imagination and others you might not have even heard of!
But experiencing these incredible sites can change your view of human history and our own little place in it. Here’s an A-Z of jaw-dropping historical places in the world.
It’s hard to think of anywhere else in the world where you can visit so many Unesco world heritage sites in a few hours.
The Acropolis is an ancient citadel whose main buildings were constructed during the Golden Age of Athens, from 460 to 430 BC. one enormous victory monument celebrates the Greek victory over the Persians that began the Greek Classical Age in the 4th century BC.
The Parthenon is considered the most iconic monument of ancient Greece and it is visible on the top of Acropolis Hill from all over Athens. The ancient wonder once contained a monumental statue of the goddess Athena.
The Erechthion directly across from the Parthenon is no less amazing and is the site of the mythical battle between Poseidon and Athena for the patronage of the people in the city below the Acropolis.
The hole in the roof made by Poseidon’s trident, the salt water font that appeared where the trident hit the ground, and the olive tree that grew upon Athena’s victory is all part of the legend that can be seen at the Erechtheion.
It also contains the ‘porch of the maidens’ held up by the Caryatids. You can see all but one of the real Caryatids in the Acropolis Museum.
The tiny stone temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaia, the theatre of Dionysus, and the great walls enclosing the citadel are the other ancient wonders to see here, but the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is also an impressive Roman-era site on the side of the hill.
Read more: Everything You Need to Know to Visit the Acropolis, how to take a Self-guided Walking Tour of the Acropolis, the best Ancient Ruins in Athens and Ancient Ruins in Greece.
In the heart of Burgundy, not too far from Dijon, is a small village that 2000 years ago was the site of one of France’s major battles: Alesia, known today as Alise-Sainte-Reine.
This is where the Gallic tribes, united under Chief Vercingetorix, made their last stand against Julius Caesar.
They had reason to be optimistic. Only months before, the Gauls had defeated Rome’s troops at Gergovie, but Alesia would be different. Caesar was a brilliant tactician and understood his mistake at Gergovie – he had tried to attack the Gauls from the front.
Now, he would try something different: he would lay a siege at Alesia and simply wear his enemy down.
The strategy worked, and the Gauls, only loosely united under Vercingetorix, began straggling home. Vercingetorix was taken to Rome, held prisoner, and eventually executed.
Alesia’s archeological site sits outside the village, a modest set of walls and building foundations that are still under excavation. The site is beautifully brought to life by the iPad tour designed for the site.
After the requisite trek to Vercingetorix’s statue nearby, truly understanding the marvels of Alesia requires a visit to the MuseoParc Alesia. This is a modern, circular museum where every last bit of Alesia’s history is reconstructed, from the food the Gauls ate to the armor they wore and the weapons they wielded.
Caesar’s siege has been recreated outside the museum, with fences and lookouts positioned just where they might have been in 52 BC, allowing visitors to imagine the Roman troops massing at the bottom of the hill and closing the vise on the Gauls above.
By Leyla at Offbeat France
Read more: Incroyable!61 France Landmarks to Visit
The Alhambra Palace is a symbol of the sophisticated and elegant nature of the Moorish civilization that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries in Spain.
The meaning behind “Alhambra” comes from the Arabic word “red castle.” The original fortress existed in the 9th century, but it wasn’t until the 13th century that it was rebuilt by Mohammed ben Al-Ahamar, the Emirate of Granada.
The famous structure fell into decay during the 18th and 19th centuries. When Napoleon’s troops invaded Granada between 1808-1812, they used the Alhambra as a barracks, causing structural damage to the buildings.
It wasn’t until 1870 that it was declared a national monument. In 1984 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Walking through the different parts of the Alhambra is a full sensory experience – the intricate designs on the walls, floors, and ceilings, its detailed Moorish architecture, and panoramic views of Granada make it a very special place to visit.
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the western world, it is highly recommended to book tickets in advance. If there’s something that you can’t miss on a day trip to Granada, it’s the Alhambra.
By Cristina of My Little World of Travelling
Read more: 55 Famous Landmarks in Spain to Visit
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The world’s largest religious complex and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, Cambodia’s Angkor Archaeological Park needs no introduction.
Unfolding over 400 square kilometers at the fringe of Siem Reap city, the famous archaeological site consists of the iconic Angkor Wat plus many hundreds of other stone temples, stupas, citadels, and structures.
Together, they make up one of the most impressive and significant historical landmarks on earth.
In the 12th century, Angkor served as the capital of the prolific Khmer Empire and was the largest pre-industrial city in the world. Evidence suggests that a total population of up to one million people was supported by sophisticated canal networks and agricultural systems.
The jewel in the crown, the temple of Angkor Wat, was built in 1113-1150 by King Suryavarman II and combines Hindu and Buddhist references in its exquisite stone carvings and bas-reliefs.
You need an hour or two just to explore this massive complex and its many gates, terraces, galleries, and clusters of sandstone towers.
Beyond Angkor Wat, there are dozens more well-preserved temples to see and they receive far fewer tourists than the main temple of Angkor.
Highlights include The Bayon, with its towers inscribed with smiling faces, Ta Prohm, the Tomb Raider temple, the pink-stone Banteay Srei, and further-flung complexes such as Banteay Chhmar, a hidden gem in far north-western Cambodia.
As one of the last surviving relics of the Khmer Empire, the site’s importance to Cambodian and world history is immense.
By Emily from Wander-Lush
Read more: Cambodian Temples of Angkor Wat: 1 & 2-day itineraries, and about Phimai: The Khmer Empire’s Most Important Outpost, and the Ultimate Guide to the Best Asian Temples.
Visit a chilling chapter in our history at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi German concentration and death camp, at Oświęcim, approximately 70km from Krakow, Poland.
The Nazis deported at least 1.3 million people to Auschwitz between 1939-1945, including 1.1 million Jews. Shortly after liberation, the holocaust survivors vowed to let the world know about the atrocities by opening the extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, as a museum.
The Auschwitz complex houses the brick living blocks, torture chambers, and rooms where Josef Mengele conducted his medical experimentation by injecting women with Typhus.
The haunting displays show the piles of discarded shoes, suitcases, personal belongings, and sacks of human hair which were used to make socks for the forces.
Walking to the exit, visitors will pass the ‘Death Wall’ where prisoners were shot, and finally through the gas chamber.
Take a short bus ride to the Birkenau (Auschwitz II) complex to the iconic scene of the train tracks where prisoners alighted the trains to be faced with the selection process where around 25% made the cut and the rest were told they were going for a “shower” to avoid mass panic.
Those that were ‘saved’, lived in appalling conditions in the barracks. The tour takes you past the chimneys of the underground chambers, some were blown up by the Nazis in an attempt to hide their crimes.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial museum serves to educate visitors on the atrocities, the rise of the Nazis, and how their power impacted millions of lives across generations.
It certainly acts as a graphic reminder that both nations and individuals should learn from.
By Vanessa at Wanders Miles
Modern-day Baalbek, in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, is a Phoenician city believed to date back 11,000 years. Once known as Heliopolis (“Sun City” in Greek) during the Hellenistic Period, the site has served religious functions for many centuries.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Baalbek Temple complex as it exists today is one of the most incredible examples of Imperial Roman architecture. The acropolis consisted of several temples. The most intact and still capable of being explored to this day is the Temple of Bacchus (pictured).
The largest, the Temple of Jupiter was all but destroyed by earthquakes over the last millennia, along with the Temple of Mercury and Temple of Venus, though many parts of the ruins can still be explored.
The site is significant as one of the most famous sanctuaries of the Roman world. Both its outstanding artistic value and monumental stone construction work make it one of the most remarkable historic religious sites in the world. Notably, the site has also been a place of Mesopotamian and Islamic worship.
Situated close to the Syrian border, it’s unfortunately not one of the easiest and safest places to visit at present. This is the most popular guided day trip to Baalbek.
Do check daily news and safety warnings, however, a good tour guide should be competent in keeping you abreast of any political unrest that may affect your journey.
An easy day trip from Beirut, you can reach Baalbek in around 2 hours then allow yourself several hours to explore the incredible site.
By Keri at Family Travel in the Middle East
The Buddhist temples, pagodas, and stupas of the Bagan plain are one of the most extraordinary and beautiful sites in Asia.
This sacred landscape shows the rise of Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia and the consolidation of the economic, political, and religious power of the regional power.
Located in the central dry zone of Myanmar, not far from Mandalay, more than 3500 pagodas were built during the period of the Burmese Kings, 800 to 1000 years ago. They cover an area of 16 square kilometers in the bend of the Ayeyarwaddy River.
It was the redistribution of wealth by the Kings that allowed the pagodas to be built because of a belief in being able to move to a higher level of existence in the next life by doing meritorious deeds in the present. Building a pagoda is pretty much the highest merit-making activity.
There are other structures in the previous royal city of Old Bagan (Pagan), such as monasteries and Theravada Buddhism libraries. The pagodas themselves are not just architecturally important, but many contain wall paintings and statues of Buddhas and Buddhist iconography including ogres (Belu).
It’s important not to support the Burmese military regime by traveling to Myanmar now, but Bagan should certainly be one of the historical places in the world to put on your bucket list for the future.
Read more: Here’s a complete itinerary for seeing the Bagan pagodas and where to stay in Bagan, how to see the pagodas by hot air balloon, and where to see the best Bagan sunrises.
Borobudur Temple, Indonesia
This ancient temple in the jungles of Java is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
UNESCO calls the Borobudur Temple complex “one of the great Buddhist monuments in the world.” Its origins have been lost but it is believed to date from the 8th or 9th centuries. It was abandoned in the 14th century and after Islam came to java in the 1500s, it remained unknown and lost under a dense tropical forest.
It was rediscovered in the 18th century and restored in the 19th century.
For 500 years until the 10th century, the Syailendras ruled Java. Borobudur temple is the greatest monument of the Syailendra Dynasty.
The temple is built with three main sections to represent the three realms of Buddhist cosmology. It was built on a ‘sacred plain’ that includes two other temples, two volcanoes, and two rivers. The three temples form a complex in the shape of a lotus flower (the flower of the Buddha).
There are 2,500 square meters of stone carved reliefs lining the walls of the galleries of this mighty temple. There are also 72 open work stupas and each has a statue of a Buddha inside. This makes the temple highly unusual.
There are many other incredible parts to his multi-tiered complex that is a perfect day trip from Yogyakarta.
Read more: Borobudur Temple: how to visit the world’s largest Buddhist temple
Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Located in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Chichén Itzá is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Chichén Itzá is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. The archaeological area is dominated by the step-pyramid, El Castillo (the Temple of Kukulcan).
The temple was dedicated to the god Kukulkan which is the Yucatec Maya Feathered Serpent deity.
El Caracol on the ancient site gauges the movements of the sun and planets and was part of the Mayan civilization’s sophisticated charting of the seasons and astrological events. You can also visit the Ball Court for the Mesoamerican game called Pok a Tok, and the Temple of Warriors.
There are several theories about when the construction of this historical place began. However, it’s been determined that most buildings in this city had been built between 400 and 600 AD. Some argue that Chichén Itzá dates as far back as 1500 years ago.
Chichén Itzá is located 95 miles from Tulum. The pre-Columbian Mayan is an extremely popular tourist attraction, visited by millions of tourists each year, more than any other Mayan ruin site in central America.
by Daria at The Discovery Nut
The Colosseum is one of Italy’s historic sites that the masses are familiar with and millions flock to visit Rome each year, largely in part because of this ancient treasure!
Completed in 80 AD, the oval-shaped Roman amphitheater was the largest of its kind at the time. It spans 2 hectares of territory and is 48 meters in height, and the gigantic structure could fit 80,000 people inside in its prime.
The arena had several uses, as do many Roman amphitheaters, and some of them were animal fighting, gladiator fights, races, and more.
One of the reasons that archaeologists from across the globe are so interested in visiting the Colosseum is because its underground labyrinth is still not fully discovered and excavations are taking place all the time. It is also a structure that baffles engineers as the construction was so advanced for the times.
Other characteristics you will find at the Colosseum are that the limestone is held together by iron clamps (which is why there appear to be large holes in the walls) and that it sits on a man-made lake.
This Roman monument was the site of over half a million human deaths and over a million animal deaths. Today, you can visit it and let your mind transplant you to ancient Rome!
It is a site that is open while in Rome in winter or summer, and you can take a tour of it or visit it independently.
By Megan at Megan & Aram
Read more: 45 Best Landmarks in Italy to Visit
The Oracle of Delphi was one of the most important historical figures in the entire ancient world. The ancient ruins in Delphi include the Temple and Sanctuary of Apollos and millions of people visit the site on the slopes of Mount Parnassus in Greece every year.
If you were an ancient Greek, Delphi was the center of the universe. And even though the most famous seer in the ancient world resided here, it was also a major meeting, business, sporting, and cultural place that brought people from all over Greece together for the Pythian Games.
For more than 1000 years a woman over 50 years old sat in the oracle’s cave for nine months a year and issued prophecies. She gave ambiguous answers that showed the consequences of all courses of action, but not which one to choose.
She was consulted when the Colossus of Rhodes fell and the Oracle’s prophecy was interpreted to mean it would be dangerous to reconstruct the great statue.
Delphi, like all the great religious sanctuaries of Greece, was destroyed on the order of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius in 393 or 394 AD.
Read more: How and why to visit the Oracle of Delphi and Best Ancient Ruins in Greece: Greece ruins to visit
Ephesus, Turkey may be one of the most historical locations you will ever visit. While the area is not as well known as other Turkish cities, it needs to be on your bucket list if you love history.
It was once the most important Greek city and an important trading center. Many other ruins of the time area swarmed with people, however, you are likely to find Ephesus more laid back, less crowded, and in incredible condition. Mosaic floors look as if they are ready for the shop owner to lay out his wares.
The Library of Celsius awaits you at the end of the path. It was the third largest library in the ancient world. The area holds a lot of history as the Virgin Mary was said to be born nearby, and Cleopatra’s sister lived in exile here for a while.
She was later considered to be a threat to the queen and was believed to be executed near the library. Cleopatra and Marc Antony strolled these same paths while on their honeymoon in the ancient city.
This is still a working archeological site making its historical significance change with each new discovery.
By Angela DiLoreto of FittinginAdventure.com
Forbidden City, China
Together with the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors, the Forbidden City is one of China’s best historical sites.
The landmark is located right in the heart of Beijing, China’s bustling capital. Tiananmen Square is built right up to the entrance.
For over 500 years, the Forbidden City was the political and ceremonial center of China, and between 1420 and 1924, 24 Emperors lived here together with their families and servants.
Ordinary people could not enter this palace complex and were punished with death for trespassing – this is where the name “Forbidden City” comes from. Today, however, the City is no longer forbidden but is visited by thousands of people a day.
The walls surrounding the palaces are 26 feet high and there is an enormous moat protecting the walls – it’s 20 feet deep and 171 feet wide! With its 980 ancient buildings, this is the largest imperial palace in the world, and there is a lot to see.
Some of the things that cannot be missed on a visit to the Forbidden City are the six halls in the central line of the complex, the main exhibitions, and the view over the complex from Jingshan Park.
The final garden is a rock garden that is an awesome and fitting finale to this old city.
By Laura of Laure Wanders
Great Wall of China, China
One of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China is no doubt one of the most impressive historical places in the world.
The Ming Great Wall is the most recently constructed and most accessible part of the Great Wall system, located close to Beijing. It runs from Jiayu Pass in the Gansu Province on the edge of the Gobi Desert, crossing 8,850km to Manchuria and the Hushan Great Wall in the East.
Other Chinese dynasties constructed different sections to suit their own needs and to protect their borders against rival states. The wall itself is also made up of different features – ramparts, trenches, ditches, and watchtowers all combine to form this architectural marvel.
The Badaling Great Wall section is by far the most famous and most popular section of the Great Wall to visit. It’s well restored and well connected to Beijing via public transport, but it’s by far the busiest section to visit.
The Mutianyu Great Wall section is well known for being surrounded by beautiful vegetation and many watchtowers. This section can still get busy over the summer, however, it’s still far less busy than Badaling.
Visiting the Jinshanling Great Wall is a great option. Considered ‘partially wild’, it’s one of the most beautiful and photogenic sections of the wall and is most popular for hiking and photography with little to no crowds. It’s possible to visit this section using public transport or on a small organized tour (allow a half day).
As one of the most popular attractions in the world with over 10 million visitors per year, no matter which section you decide to visit, the Great Wall of China is definitely a bucket list destination.
By Laura at Laura the Explorer
Hagia Sophia, Turkey
There are plenty of historical landmarks in Turkey, but none comes close to the significance of Hagia Sophia. Built as a Christian cathedral by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 537, it was one of the most revered religious monuments at the time.
This building is situated in the historic center of Istanbul, but when the building was constructed, the city was part of the Byzantine Empire. It wasn’t called Istanbul, but rather Constantinople, after Constantius’ father.
But in 1453, the city of Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Mehmet the Conqueror ripped down the Christian Cathedral and turned it into one of the most spectacular mosques of all time, as indicated by the 4 minarets.
However, the Turkish government turned it into a museum in 1935. After years of public discontent, it eventually returned to being an active mosque in 2020.
The beauty and magnificence of this historical building are undeniable, especially considering that the original building was constructed over 1500 years ago. The dome is an impressive 108 feet (33 meters) in diameter, and the crown rises 180 feet (55 m) off the ground.
The extraordinary opulent building includes massive slabs of marble used for the interior of the building. As a stunning architectural feat and the religious epicenter for the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire, the Hagia Sophia is one of the most historical landmarks in the world.
By Ben at The Turkey Traveler
When talking about Iraq, the first thing that comes to people’s minds is ancient Babylon in Mesopotamia with the Hanging gardens, the tower of Babel, and the Code of Hammurabi.
However, 340 km to the north of the capital, Baghdad, and 160 km to the south of Mosul, there is an extraordinary archeological site that gets much less attention, although Hatra, “the City of the Sun,” was listed as the first UNESCO World Heritage site in Iraq.
In the middle of a deserted area, a group of temples with magnificent columns in a surprisingly good state opens up and astonishes the visitor.
The capital of the Hatra Kingdom, in the Western part of the Parthian Empire, was a prospering trade city in the 1st and 2nd centuries along the silk road with Palmyra, Petra, and Baalbeck.
The fortified walls withstood Roman invasions in the second century but the 3rd Sassanid king, Shapur I, destroyed it, and it was only rediscovered in the 19th century.
Like Babylon, Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq, ordered its reconstruction to revive the symbol of Iraq’s former glory and made it the country’s showpiece. He also left his signature on the bricks.
After long years of insecurity caused by a series of wars and the presence of ISIS, Hatra is open for travelers again. They can access the site through a security checkpoint and are usually accompanied by soldiers.
ISIS was a real threat to Hatra, but apart from statues and engraved images, the main walls and towers remained intact compared to other archeological sites.
Hatra is now one of the most impressive archeological sites in Iraq
By Agnes at Voice of Guides
Hiroshima is a destination everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. While the city does have a sad past, today it is a symbol of hope and a stunning display of the resilience firmly ingrained in Japanese culture.
During WWII on 6th August 1945, Hiroshima was the target of the world’s first nuclear bomb and the effects were truly devastating. However, today rising from the ashes is an inspiring and unique destination in this beautiful area of southern Japan.
The sobering but unmissable UNESCO World Heritage sites to add to your itinerary include the haunting Atomic Bomb Dome, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and the Children’s Peace Monument.
The stories of survivors from the time are enough to pull on the heartstrings of any visitor and make one recognize just how precious life is.
While bearing black scars from that fateful day, flourishing trees that survived the blast are a reminder that nature — and humankind — can overcome even the worst of tragedies.
These important historical places are sobering and a must to see at least once in a lifetime. There are many other amazing things to do in Hiroshima during your visit to this vibrant city. For example, try the local specialty, okonomiyaki, in a 4-story building bursting with restaurants exclusively creating this dish!
By Alyse at The Invisible Tourist
Knossos Palace, Greece
The great Minoan civilization thrived in Greece from 3500 BC to 1100 BC and was centered on the island of Crete. The greatest artifact built by the Minoans is the Palace of Knossos.
The Palace of Knossos is a vast site, near Heraklion, that contains frescoes and symbols of Minoan culture and myth. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of visiting Knossos is the chance to peer into the bowels of the excavations and try to spot the labyrinth underneath the Palace.
According to greek legend, the Minotaur was trapped in the underground labyrinth built by Daedalus to stop it from eating people.
Knossos Palace is the most visited site in Greece apart from the Acropolis of Athens and is one of the most impressive of ancient Greece’s most iconic historical places. It still contains vibrant and intricate Minoan frescoes and is the best-preserved palace of the once mighty Minoan Empire.
Read more: Visit Knossos Palace and the Minotaur Labyrinth, and 2 Week Crete Road Trip for History and Beach Lovers
You will find one of the most incredible places in Africa when you head up the mountains in northern Ethiopia to the town of Lalibela. In the Lasta mountains, you will find the incredible rock-hewn churches of Lalibela or Africa’s New Jerusalem.
Ethiopia was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity, and Ethiopians believe they are direct descendants of King Solomon of the bible. They believe that Queen Sheba was Ethiopian, and she returned to Ethiopia with King Solomon’s son.
When the Muslim leader Saladin captured Jerusalem in 1187, King Lalibela of Ethiopia felt compelled t build a new Jerusalem. He ordered eleven churches to be made and even added the Jordan River to the project.
But instead of building the churches, they were carved from the rock, from top to bottom, and then hollowed out. Each church is hewn from one, single rock, representing unity, spirituality, and humility.
The churches are basically underground, with their roofs on ground level. You will literally be stumbling upon them.
Today the eleven churches are divided into two groups, the northern and southern groups, each with five churches. The Jordan river, also hewn from the rock, separates the two groups.
Lalibela’s most unique church, the cross-shaped Church of Saint George, does not belong to any group.
The best thing about visiting the Lalibela churches is that they are still used for their original purpose and haven’t been turned into museums.
Plan to be in Lalibela on a Saturday and Sunday to join the thousands of farmers and pilgrims attending mass at the churches – it’s something you’ll never forget.
By De Wet & Jin at Museum of Wander
Machu Picchu, Peru
The 15th-century citadel of the Inca Empire, known as Machu Picchu, is as famous as it is photogenic.
These ruins are located on a steep mountainside overlooking part of the Sacred Valley of Peru, 2430 meters above sea level, and were once inhabited by the Incan Emperor and many of his followers.
Machu Picchu was built around 1450 AD, possibly as a summer estate for the Emperor, and then abandoned a century later, around the time of the Spanish conquest of South America.
The Incas had no written language so records are scarce, and Machu Picchu was never seen by Europeans or other foreigners until the 19th century.
Lots of international tourists nowadays visit the lost city on a day trip from Cusco, and there are plenty of great things to do in Machu Picchu Peru which has been designated one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
You can stroll in the ruins and there are a number of great day hikes at Machu Picchu. These include Huayna Picchu mountain (also known as Wayna Picchu) or a shorter and easier hike with similar views, called Huchuy Picchu.
By David & Intan of The World Travel Guy
Mesa Verde, United States of America
Mesa Verde National Park in Southwestern Colorado preserves the cultural heritage of 26 tribes of the Ancestral Pueblo people.
With over 4,500 archeological sites, the breadth of this park is enormous. Most visitors come to see the cliff dwellings- and they are spectacular.
However, the Pueblo only lived in cliff dwellings for about 100 years. You’ll also see the remains of pit houses and pueblos. Altogether, the park traces over 700 years of Ancestral Pueblo history.
Many of the cliff dwellings can only be visited on guided tours. The most popular is the Cliff Palace Tour. While this tour is suitable for all ages, many of the other cliff-dwelling tours are not. Many include long walks, tall ladders, and squeezing through very narrow spaces.
You’ll need to book tickets for cliff-dwelling tours ahead of time. Tickets are released on a rolling basis, 14 days before the tour. In the busy summer months, they sell out very quickly- often in a matter of minutes.
Mesa Verde was the first National Park to focus on cultural programming, and they pride themselves on extensive offerings during the summer months. Check the schedule for dance or drumming performances held near the park campground.
Mesa Verde is a fantastic park to visit with kids, be sure to ask for Junior Rangers packets to complete as you explore the park.
The drive into the park is extensive, so try to stay inside the park if you can. There is one campground and one lodge. The Far View Lodge is the most central option in the park, with views across the park.
If you opt to stay outside the park, the nearest town is Cortez, Colorado. You can find more affordable arrangements here, but you’ll have at least a 45-minute drive into the park each morning.
By Cynthia at Sharing the Wander
Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain
Cordoba is one of the most historically significant cities in the world and the Mosque-Cathedral is its greatest historical site.
Lying in the heart of Andalusia, in Southern Spain, Cordoba was once the capital of the prosperous Roman province of Baetica and supplied most of the Roman Empire with olive oil.
It became the capital of the Arabic kingdom of Al-Andalus after the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by the Umayyad dynasty from Damascus, Syria.
Under the rule of the Umayyads, Cordoba became the biggest and the most cultured city in the world, with over 100,000 people living in the city in the 10th century.
As the capital of the Islamic caliphate in Europe, Cordoba was the center of learning, religion, art, and power. The magnificent Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is the embodiment of the city’s unique history.
Built on the foundations of a Roman basilica, it was the largest mosque in the world during its time. When the Christian monarchs re-conquered Cordoba from the Arabs, they built a stunning gothic cathedral in the center of the mosque.
Outside the mosque, a 2,000-year-old Roman bridge spans the width of the Guadalquivir River, crowned with a Moorish defense tower at the far end. This merging of styles and empires offers plenty of things to do in Cordoba to anyone wishing to peel back the layers of the city’s history.
By Margarita at The Wildlife Diaries
Read more: 55 Famous Landmarks in Spain to Visit
Old Jerusalem, Israel
Only a few places in the world have had such a long or complicated history as Jerusalem. Today, some of that history is locked within the walls of Old Jerusalem.
You can visit the Israeli capital on a day trip from Tel Aviv, or spend a couple of days exploring Jerusalem. Jerusalem is claimed by both Palestine and Israel as their capital city. All of the city has been under Israeli rule since 1967.
Jerusalem has been the holiest place for three major religions and is most definitely one of the most historical places in the world. Judaism has the Western Wall, the last standing piece of the Jewish Temple. Christians come to Old Jerusalem to walk on Via Dolorosa and see the Holy Sepulchre.
Al-Aqsa Mosque near the Dome of the Rock is one of the holiest places in Islamic culture. For thousands of years, people have fought for this sunburnt land and its significance. It’s a bloody history, considering its name means “city of peace”.
Start your tour of Old Jerusalem with the Ramparts Walk, a walk on the city walls starting at Jaffa Gate. The walled city is divided into four quarters, where different communities live: the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter.
After seeing the historical site from above, you can also tour its underground. You can only visit the Western Wall tunnels with a guide. The tour will take you back in time to the period when Jesus was preaching here.
When you get back to present-day Jerusalem, head to the Arab Market within the walls and enjoy some shopping and bargaining.
By Anda at Travel For A While
Persepolis in Iran is the old capital of the Persian civilization and one of the world’s most historic places.
The Persian kings ruled the Aechemenid empire which was at one point the largest empire the world has ever seen. From the Balkan mountains all the way to the Indus river including most of the middle east and parts of North Africa.
King Darius built the ceremonial capital in a remote mountainous region that is now south of the big city of Shiraz. The oldest buildings date back to 515 BC. The city developed into a large complex that was used to celebrate festivals and ceremonies such as Nowruz.
For over 200 years Persepolis was an important city within the empire until Alexander the Great damaged and looted Persepolis in 330 BC.
Considering its age the ruins that you can still see in Persepolis today are remarkably well preserved. The bas reliefs on the walls give a good insight into the culture and life of the ancient Persian civilization.
The bas reliefs include warriors, animals, and Zoroastrian symbols. One could take hours studying the images and the stories they tell. For this, I can recommend hiring a guide that can point out the funny details that you might otherwise miss.
By Ellis at Backpack Adventures
You cannot explore the World’s most historic places without adding the ancient Rose City of Petra in Jordan to your list.
Petra is one of the wonders of the world and you can easily see why. This ancient city is one of the best historical places to visit in the Middle East, as it was built as early as 300 B.C. Most locations dating this far back have very little left of them, yet this incredible City which was built into sandstone cliffs still stands strong today.
The City of Petra was developed as a trading post by the Nabateans because it was near the trading routes for incense. Over time, this area became a thriving City for living and trading.
In the First Century AD, Petra had 20,000 inhabitants before it fell to the Romans in 106 AD. By the Islamic era, its importance had declined and it was abandoned.
Even though this City is centuries old, you can still see the impressive rock-cut architecture today. The most popular site visitors aim to see here is the Treasury.
You will find the lost City of Petra in the town of Wadi Musa in Southern Jordan. There are plenty of ways to get to Petra but the best way is by car. This means you can explore Petra at your own pace and see the rest of the amazing sites in Jordan by car.
This is a destination everyone needs to visit at least once in their life. And for those looking for the World’s most fascinating historical places to visit, you need to add the ancient City of Petra to your list.
By Lowri at Many Other Roads
If you were to think of eruptions or buried cities, chances are, you would think of Pompeii in southern Italy and the mighty Mount Vesuvius that towers over the Bay of Naples.
Vesuvius has erupted many times and will one day erupt again. But the eruption of 79 AD buried cities on the slopes of the volcano as well as on the Bay and its surrounding plain. These cities included Pompeii and Herculaneum.
What distinguishes Pompeii from other excavated cities is its sheer size. It was a thriving and large city with complex civic and religious precincts, merchants, brothels, elaborate villas and guardians, and sporting and performing arts centers.
Roman mosaics and frescoes survive, as do a few amazing giant-sized statues. The bodies of residents unable to flee can also be seen, encased in lava.
It is in some ways a haunting and sad place – where time stopped forever in a moment for all the residents who lived near Mount Vesuvius. In other ways, it is a treasure trove of archaeology and an incredibly rich cultural experience of life in Campania in the 1st century AD.
Read more: Visiting Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius: tickets, travel tips, tours, highlights, how to choose which site to visit: Pompeii vs Herculaneum: pros, cons, how to visit, and Herculaneum Ruins: how and why to visit
Prague Castle in the Czech capital is a UNESCO-listed site and is officially the largest castle complex in the world. It is an example of the great European castles that concentrated the religious or economic wealth of regions and were the site of major battles and historical events.
While the foundations of Prague Castle were laid out already in the 8th century, it witnessed major development from the 10th century onwards. You can find gothic, renaissance, and even baroque architecture there.
At the heart of the castle complex, stands the majestic Gothic Cathedral of St. Vitus, which houses the tombs of the most prominent Czech kings. The Cathedral was started in the 14th century under the reign of King Charles IV and took nearly 600 years to finish.
Prague Castle’s importance has always been high and along with that responsibility came great damage. There were the Hussite wars in the early 15th century and the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century.
In the 16th century, however, Prague Castle was the seat of the whole Habsburg Empire under Emperor Rudolf I., who had the castle further expanded and brought in extremely valuable art and scientific collections.
At times, the castle didn’t serve its purpose because it was either too damaged or Prague’s importance waned – like during the 18th century when the capital of the Habsburg Empire was moved to Vienna.
Nowadays, parts of the Castle complex are accessible to tourists including the St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, the Old Royal Palace, and the Golden Lane.
By Veronika at Travel Geekery
Read more: Prague Libraries: Most Beautiful in the World? and 10 Best Prague Museums
Pyramids of Giza
The Giza plateau in Egypt is one of the most famous historical places in the world.
The Giza necropolis with its ancient pyramids is the world’s most famous burial ground. The spectacular Giza pyramids are the only remaining wonders of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Visiting the giant monuments that make up the magnificent Giza pyramid complex is one of the best things to do in Egypt.
The Giza necropolis holds several pyramids, cemeteries, and a sphinx. However, the Great Pyramid of Cheops, the Pyramid of Khaphre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure are the three main pyramids in Giza.
The pyramids were the tombs of Pharaoh Cheops, his son Pharaoh Kaphre and his grandson Pharaoh Menkaure. The ancient Giza pyramids were built roughly from 2550 to 2459 BC.
The impressive Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Great Pyramid of Cheops) is the tallest ancient Egyptian pyramid. It is also the tallest structure made by men in the ancient world.
The famous Giza sphinx stands just in front of the pyramids. The Great Sphinx of Giza served as a spiritual guardian of the tomb of Pharaoh Khaphre, specifically the Pyramid of Khaphre. An interesting fact is that the 4500-year-old Great Sphinx of Giza is the oldest statue in the world.
So, if you are a history enthusiast interested in ancient civilizations and famous historic places, the Giza complex is a must-see.
The pyramids of Giza are in a suburb of Cairo. It is about 11 mi (17 km) away from downtown and makes a great half-day trip. The complex can be reached independently (by hiring a taxi, uber, or taking the Cairo metro) or by joining a tour.
By Milijana of World Travel Connector
Rapa Nui Moai (Easter Island)
If you are looking for a remote destination with a mystical atmosphere, centuries of history, and fascinating culture, then Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island is definitely the right destination for your next trip.
As one of the most remote places in the world, even getting here is not so easy. But the journey is certainly worth it.
The most important stop on any Easter Island Itinerary is, of course, the island’s large stone heads, known as moai statues. The island is made of volcanic rock. Soft volcanic rock is called “tuff” and this is what the famous landmarks are carved from.
The history of Rapa Nui – as the locals call Easter island – has little in common with that of mainland Chile even though it is a special territory of Chile. It contains over 1000 Moai monumental statues.
The Polynesian people who came to Rapa Nui between 800 and 1200 AD began fighting each other in the 18th and 19th centuries. They toppled every Moai statue. It is called huri mo’ai and by 1860, the warring groups on Easter Island had made sure they broke all the statues as they fell to take away their socio-spiritual power.
In the island’s museum, you can learn more about the background and history of the Moai statues.
By Vicki at Vickiviaja.com
The Great Sphinx in Egypt is one of the most iconic monuments in history. Estimated to have been built over 4,500 years ago, the Sphinx was actually mostly hidden under the sand for the past 2,000 years until it was excavated in the 1930s.
Measuring over 240 feet long and 66 feet high, the Great Sphinx is one of the largest monuments surviving from the times of ancient Egypt.
The Great Sphinx is actually only one of many Sphinx statues you can find in Egypt. There’s even a small street in Luxor called “Sphinx Alley” lined with dozens of Sphinx statues connecting Luxor and Karnak temples. Usually, they were depicted with the body of a lion and the head of a human. What makes the Great Sphinx special, besides its size, is that it has the head of a Pharoah instead of just a normal man.
It’s most commonly believed that the Great Sphinx depicts the Pharaoh Khafre, who ruled Egypt around 2603 B.C.
The Great Sphinx is a massive sculptural feat. It’s carved out of a solid block of limestone, and researchers estimate it would have taken at least 100 people three years to carve out the likeness of a Sphinx from a block of stone that size.
The monument is famously missing its nose, and there are rumors that Napoleon’s troops shot off the nose with a cannon in 1798 when they were in Egypt. This rumor, although probably not true, is a testament to the enduring star quality of the Sphinx as a historical icon throughout the centuries.
A visit to the Great Sphinx belongs in every Egypt itinerary, as it’s conveniently located in the same complex as the Great Pyramids of Giza, which is a not-to-miss destination for every traveler in Egypt.
By Katie at Katie Caf Travel
Stonehenge is one of the most famous ancient sites in the world as it is surrounded by mystery. There are debates about its purpose but it is thought to have been a burial site, religious ceremonies, and perhaps also ancestral worship, but the evidence is inconclusive.
Built over 4000 years ago, it is hard to comprehend how they were able to move those huge stones without modern technology and using instead sleds, rollers, and rafts. Many came from 240 miles away in Wales.
It is also impressive to think about the planning that went into the design of the stone circle. They aligned the stones so that the sunrise of the summer solstice and the sunset of the winter solstice would hit just right through the monument.
Your visit to Stonehenge starts at the Visitor’s Center where there is an interesting exhibition. From there, take the bus or walk the mile to the stone circle. Normally, you walk around the stone circle keeping a safe distance, but you can go closer to the stones when you visit for the solstice or on a premium tour.
The Stonehenge stone circle is not the only historical site you can visit in the area. About 20 different places make up the UNESCO World Heritage site known as Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites.
By Anisa at 2 Traveling Texans
Read more: 12 Best Cultural and Historical Places in England to Visit
Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal is an iconic ivory-white marble mausoleum in the city of Agra that dates back to the era of the Mughals.
It is known for being a symbol of love and one of the seven wonders of the world and is India’s most famous historic site.
The foundation of the Taj Mahal was laid in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a dedication and tomb to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It took around 22 years to complete it.
The Taj Mahal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being a perfect example of Mughal architecture in India. This iconic landmark of India depicts India’s rich history through its architecture and artistic style craftsmanship.
There are many intricate designs and inscriptions on the walls of the mausoleum. Four minarets stand tall on the sides of the dome of the Taj Mahal.
The symmetrical Persian-style gardens and their positioning on the south banks of river Yamuna create a magnetic and enchanting aura for visitors making it a sight to behold. It is even more magical during the sunrise or sunset hours.
The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is from October to April, millions of tourists come to visit it throughout the year.
By Anjali at Cheerful Trails
Read more: Ultimate Guide to the Best Asian Temples
As one of the most complex Mesoamerican societies, Teotihuacan was also one of the most powerful and influential in the region during its height.
Completed around 300 A.D., this archeological site near Mexico City flourished during the Classic Period. At that time, it is believed to have had a population as high as 100,000 people.
The inhabitants were well-known for their finely carved obsidian tools and elaborately decorated ceramics. In fact, artifacts found at Teotihuacan and other sites around Mexico suggest that it was a trade center among different preHispanic communities.
It’s unknown what exactly led to the collapse of the site by 600 A.D., although there is evidence that buildings were purposely burned and religious artworks were destroyed.
When the Aztecs discovered the abandoned site in the 1400s, they named it Teotihuacan which in their native Nahuatl language means, “The place where the gods were created.”
You can visit Teotihuacan from Mexico City by taking a bus at the North Terminal. When you arrive, guides are available to hire if you would like to learn more about the history as you walk around.
The site itself is laid out in a grid with the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon linked by a straight road called the Avenue of the Dead.
Another significant structure is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl which is decorated with various stone heads of the Feathered Serpent. You also won’t want to miss the museum of murals and other archeological finds from Teotihuacan.
By Julien Casanova at Cultures Traveled
Terracotta Army, China
Emperor Qi Shi Huang was the founder of the Qin Dynasty and the first ruler of a unified China. Qin ruled from the ancient capital of Chang’an, known as Xi’an today. Soon after Emperor Qin ascended the throne in 246 BCE, workers started working on his mausoleum.
The Emperor’s necropolis was completed, buried, and eventually forgotten until 1974 when a group of farmers digging a well made one of the most significant discoveries.
The numbers are astounding. An estimated 700 000 workers worked on the Terracotta Army, which would ride with the Emperor into his afterlife. The army consists of around 8 000 lifesized warriors, 130 chariots, and 670 horses, with more still being unearthed.
Even more impressive than the project’s scale is that each soldier is unique, with individual facial features, hairstyles, and clothing. Besides distinguishing ranks, Qin wanted to show a unified China, so his army had to represent each clan and tribe with their unique features.
The army was originally painted in bright colors, but due to Xi’an’s arid climate, the paint peels off within minutes after being exposed to light and oxygen after being buried for thousands of years.
Today, the Terracotta Army is the number one Xi’an attraction. The incredible tomb is situated just outside the city and is easily reached by public transport or by joining an organized tour.
The tomb is enormous and consists of four pits the size of hangars. Only pits one to three are open to the public. Start with pit number three and work towards pit number one, which is the highlight of the tomb with rows and rows of soldiers placed in battalions – it truly is a magnificent sight.
And remember that all of that was created in 210 BC!
By De Wet & Jin at Museum of Wander
Tower of London, England
The infamous Tower of London is perhaps the most historically important site in England.
That’s because this castle has stood in central London for nearly 1000 years with most of the country’s royal and political history encompassed within its walls.
Originally built by William the Conqueror in 1066, the Tower now spans 12 acres and actually constitutes 21 separate towers.
It has served as fortifications, a royal residence, an armory, a treasury, and of course a prison, with some famous occupants such as Guy Fawkes, Sir Walter Raleigh, three of Henry VIII’s wives, and more recently Rudolph Hess and the Kray Twins.
The Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the most visited tourist attraction in the whole of the UK. The crowds dissipate towards the end of the day which is the best time to go, but make sure you allow at least four hours to go around it.
Visitors can see the truly spectacular Crown Jewels, and Tower Green where three wives of Henry VIII were beheaded: Anne Boleyn (1536), Catherine Howard (1542), and Lady Jane Grey (1554).
You can also see the Line of Kings which is a tourist attraction dating from the 17th century, the incredible early Norman chapel of St. John, the armory, the Museum of Fusiliers, and of course, the sites of imprisonment and torture of so many people.
You can even find graffiti carved into the stone walls before their executions, a tragic reminder that really brings their stories to life.
The Ceremony of the Keys is a 600-year-old ceremony that admits just a few onlookers each night; it is an evocative and truly special experience.
By Sarah Nash at Slow Travel
Read more: 12 Best Cultural and Historical Places in England to Visit
The Ziggurat of Ur, Iraq
Ur, the ancient Sumer city, was once one of the most influential cities in Mesopotamia, but it also had religious importance. The Old Testament cites it as the birthplace of Abraham. It was once one of the most famous historical sites in the known world.
Since 2021, Iraq has eased the visa procedure and made these amazing historical sites more accessible for travelers. The complex includes the ruins of the royal palace and the burial site of king Ur-Nammu, where precious items were discovered.
But the main attraction of Ur is the ziggurat. This 30-meter-high pyramid-like structure was a religious site on top of which stood the shrine of God Nanna, the God of the Moon, the revered patron deity of Ur.
Together with the one on Chogha Zanbil in Iran, it is the most well-preserved ziggurat in the world. They used mudbrick for the construction and mud as plaster to fix the elements.
King Ur-Nammu, who belonged to the 3rd dynasty of Ur, restored the Akkad Empire and built the ziggurat in the 3rd millennium BC, although his son, Shulgi, finished it and proclaimed himself God. This was the golden age of Babylon.
After the Persian contest in the 4th century, the once significant city of Mesopotamia was abandoned and forgotten.
Extensive excavations started in the 1920s, and as part of Saddam’s restoration project, the monumental central staircase and the upper levels were restored.
By Agnes at Voice of Guides