Hundreds of centuries of human history have produced some rather stunning monuments that continue to mesmerize travellers to this day. Most of these historical places around the world have withstood the test of time. These sites have provided humanity a chance to study the culture of ancient civilizations that once ruled the world.
Dating back to prehistoric times, many of these phenomenal man-made wonders still hold an aura of mystery, compelling millions from around the world to visit and see these sites for themselves.
Visiting historical monuments, like the ones mentioned in the list below, is not just something to tick off one’s bucket list. It’s supposed to be a spiritual experience that is bound to stay with you for a very long time.
Now, everyone might have their own criteria to determine which historical sites are better or more interesting than the rest.
If you love exploring new places and have a passion for history, here are some of the most awe-inspiring historical monuments that everyone must try to visit at least once.
The Pyramids at Giza in Egypt
The pyramid complex at Giza may be one of the most famous historical sites in the world. But their inception, construction and purpose still remain a huge mystery. The Pyramid of Djoser, which is believed to be the oldest pyramid in Egypt, dates back to 2630 BC. It was built in the Saqqara necropolis for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser.
This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The main pyramid complex close to the present-day city of Cairo comprises three larger and three smaller pyramids along with the enigmatic Great Sphinx.
Archaeologists believe the mysterious limestone sculpture with the head of a human and the body of a lion predates most of the other ancient structures in the area by 2,000 years or so. Meanwhile, the oldest and largest of the three big pyramids is the Great Pyramid of Khufu. It was built between 2589 and 2566 BC. It is also one of the only structures in the area that are mostly intact.
How to get there
Those who want to visit these historical monuments can easily take a bus from Tahrir Square in Cairo. From the bus stop, they can take a short camel or horse ride to reach their destination. Given their delicate state, visitors can only access a small area inside the pyramids after paying the fee.
The Colosseum and Roman Forum in Italy
Two of the most easily-recognized historical monuments, the Colosseum and Forum, are the crown jewel of the architectural marvel that is the city of Rome in Italy. The two sites are located right next to each other and are considered two of the most popular historical places to visit around the world.
Colosseum, the world’s largest amphitheatre, was built between 70 and 80 AD. It was an extremely important site in Imperial Rome, as it was used to hold gladiatorial contests, public executions, battle re-enactments and dramas. At the time, it had the capacity to accommodate up to 80,000 people at once. However, according to historians, the gigantic amphitheatre was later used as a fortress and then quarters for a Catholic order.
The ancient structure has seen massive damage due to earthquakes and at the hands of stone robbers. However, it is still one of the most iconic historical sites in Europe.
Meanwhile, the Roman Forum is a rectangular complex that was used to be the main marketplace in ancient Rome. It was used for various social and religious activities. Its location in the centre of several prominent ruins is an indicator of its historical importance. Originally, the giant plaza had five arches, though only three have managed to survive for this long.
How to get there
Depending on where you’re staying in Rome, you can easily take a bus or Metro to visit the Colosseum.
The Colosseum is open to the public all throughout the year. However, make sure to check the timings before visiting the captivating site as they tend to change with each season.
Stonehenge in the United Kingdom
Stonehenge, a mysterious prehistoric monument near Salisbury in England, United Kingdom, continues to baffle archaeologists and historians to date. Built nearly 3,000 years ago, these megalithic ruins sit atop several hundred burial mounds. The stones, which form a massive circle, were brought here from miles away in Wales. Given the fact that each stone is about 13 feet high and 7 feet wide, it’s hard to imagine how they were transported to this location.
The exact purpose and the peculiar arrangement of Stonehenge have always been a huge mystery. This historical monument has given way to many myths and conspiracy theories. Some believe it could have been a place to practice religion or witchcraft. Meanwhile, others theorize it could have served as an astronomical observatory in ancient times.
Considered one of the top historical places to visit in England, Stonehenge draws over a million tourists each year. It is important to note the main circle between the stones has now been closed for the public. That means visitors are only allowed to walk around the pre-historic monument and take photographs.
However, that doesn’t really take away from the experience now, does it?
How to get there
If you’re staying in London, you can take a direct train from Waterloo to Salisbury. It’ll take you about an hour and a half to reach your destination.
Machu Picchu in Peru
More popularly known as ‘The Lost City of the Incas,’ Machu Picchu in Peru is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful sites on the list. The archaeological city with perfectly carved stone structures is an architectural marvel tucked away on top of a mountain ridge in the Cusco region. Dating back to 1438 AD, this ancient citadel is believed to have been built as a summer retreat for Inca emperors.
This Peruvian sanctuary was abandoned in the 16th century during the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. When Spaniards were wiping out Incan settlements, Machu Picchu only remained safe due to its inhospitable location. An American archaeologist discovered the site in 1911. It has since become one of the most historical places to visit around the world.
The ruins of Machu Picchu include three primary structures: the Temple of Three Windows, the Temple of Sun and the Intihuatana Stone, a ritual stone associated with the astronomic clock of the lost civilization.
How to get there
If you want to see this historical site, you can take a 3.5-hour long scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes from Cusco. Or, you can trek for four days in the Peruvian mountains to reach these ruins.
Petra in Jordan
Fans of Hollywood’s popular ‘Indiana Jones’ series would instantly recognize Petra in Jordan as the ancient site where the main character finds the Holy Grail in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.’
The western world learned about Petra, which is also called the ‘Rose City,’ after a Swiss explorer discovered it in 1812. However, the history of this ancient city dates back to 312 BC. In ancient times, it served as the prosperous capital of the affluent Nabataean Empire.
which is also called the ‘Rose City,’ in 1812 after it was discovered by a Swiss explorer. However, the history of this ancient city dates back to 312 BC. In ancient times, it served as the prosperous capital of the affluent Nabataean Empire.
Not much is known about Nabataean Arabs who used to live there. But the honeycomb of hand-carved caves, temples and tombs tell the story of an advanced civilization that was lost to the world after its fall in the 7th century.
According to historians, after Nabataean Arabs, Petra became a part of the Roman Empire. However, a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed a major part of this captivating settlement. This resulted in the change of routes, which greatly affected the trade. Over the next few hundred years, Petra was completely abandoned. In fact, no one but a few local desert nomads knew of its existence.
How to get there
Petra is located at 3-hour drive from the Jordanian capital city of Amman. UNESCO has since declared this historical site a World Heritage Site. Some parts of this travel destination have also been restricted to the public.
However, there are several travel companies that offer extensive tours of the area. Moreover, you won’t have much trouble locating an English-speaking guide either.
Delphi in Greece
Delphi in Greece was undoubtedly one of the most influential sites in the ancient world. So much so, the Greek considered this captivating mountain-top settlement as the centre of the world where heaven met Earth. Now, thousands of years later, the remnants of the magical city of Delphi have become a top historical tourist attraction in Greece, second to Acropolis.
The ruins of Delphi are located some 180 kilometres from the city of Athens. They date back to the Neolithic period in 1600 BC. According to the myths associated with ancient Greece, Delphi was a spiritual sanctuary created for the worship of different deities, including Apollo, Themis, Poseidon and Demeter among others.
More importantly, in Greek mythology, this historical monument served as the seat of the Oracle of Delphi. Delphi was a high-priestess who had the biggest role in making critical decisions throughout the ancient world.
The inception of Pythian Games, which gave way to the modern-day Olympics, can also be tracked back to Delphi.
The ruins of the Temple of Apollo, Temple of Athena Pronaia, Athenian Treasury, Altar of the Chians, Castalian Spring, Corycian Cave, Stoa of the Athenians and Delphi Archaeological Museum are some of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. In fact, this is easily one of the most visited historical places around the world.
How to get there
A number of travel groups operating across the world offer trips to this stunning historical destination. Moreover, since a day is not enough to tour all important ruins in Delphi, you can easily book a hotel in the area for the complete experience.
Angkor Wat in Cambodia
Considered one of the largest religious monuments in the world, the ruins of Angkor Wat are the top historical tourist attraction in Cambodia. Constructed in the city of Angkor, which used to be at the center of the ancient Khmer Empire, this majestic temple complex dates back to the 12th century. At the time of its inception, Angkor Wat was dedicated to the worship of Hindu deity Vishnu. However, it eventually turned into a Buddhist place of worship.
The grand temple complex is the epitome of Khmer architecture. It is surrounded by a 5 kilometer long moat and a 3.6 kilometer long outer wall. The unique design of Angkor Wat includes an elevated temple mountain, three galleries and five towers in the center arranged in a particular geometric pattern.
Angkor Wat’s unique architecture and historical importance has made it one of the most visited ancient sites in South East Asia. The breathtaking site is filled with tourists throughout the year. Given its popularity, Angkor Wat is also featured on Cambodia’s national flag.
How to get there
Angkor Wat is located at almost 20-minute drive from the city of Siem Reap. You can easily book a room in the city and take a bus to the ruins. In fact, you can even ask your hotel for transportation.
Moreover, since the historical site is too vast to explore on foot, you can either rent a bike or book a tuk-tuk (a local rickshaw) for an entire day. Both options will cost you somewhere around $20.
Hagia Sophia in Turkey
Located in Istanbul, Turkey, Hagia Sophia is one of the most impressive examples of Byzantine architecture. It was built in 537 AD as a church on a site where two other churches were destroyed. Famous for its magnificent dome and breathtaking design, it was considered one of the world’s most beautiful buildings at the time.
In 1453, after the arrival of Ottoman Turks in the region, Hagia Sophia was converted into an imperial mosque. Sultan Mehmet constructed four massive minarets around the 100 feet wide dome. A central mihrab was also installed in the building, indicating the direction of Mecca.
The Ottomans were so inspired by its mesmerizing design that they used Hagia Sophia as a model for the beautiful Sultan Ahmet Mosque, the Rustem Pasha Mosque and the Suleymaniye Mosque.
In 1935, the government of Turkey turned this historical monument into a museum. It has now become a popular tourist attraction, famous for its message of co-existence. To this day, Hagia Sophia houses stunning mosaics, artworks and symbols of both Islam and Christianity.
If you’re planning to visit Turkey, a country full of architectural marvels, you need to visit this historical building.
How to get there
You can easily take the tram to Sultanahmet and walk through a small park to reach Hagia Sophia. The famous Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern are also located in the same area.
The Great Wall of China
Chances are that even if you haven’t visited the Great Wall of China in Beijing, you must have at least seen it in a movie. One of the most popular historical places to visit around the world, this 21,196-kilometre long wall was built during different dynasties in ancient China. The structure is built of stone, wood and other materials, spanning from east to west. These fortifications were made to keep the invaders at bay.
Archeologists believe the oldest section of this architectural marvel was constructed in the 7BC. However, some historians suggest it was commissioned sometime around 200 BC.
A number of emperors made modifications to the great wall. However, the Ming Dynasty joined different parts of the wall and built even more sections. The present structure around Beijing, which comprises barracks, guard towers and fortresses, was built between 1368 and 1644 by the Great Ming Empire.
This historical site remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Asia, with travelers from all across the world visiting it.
How to get there
From Beijing Capital International Airport, you’ll need to drive for about two hours to reach the Great Wall of China. If you are staying somewhere in the main city, you can easily take a bus or rent a car to visit the ancient structure.
Badaling and Juyongguan are two of the most popular and easiest to access sections of the Great Wall.
Tikal in Guatemala
If you have any interest in the ancient Mayan civilization, you need to add Tikal in Guatemala to your list of historical places to visit around the world. The Central American country is dotted with classical Mayan structures and ruins, among which the ancient city of Tikal is the most preserved and popular tourist attraction. It is located in a tropical rainforest that has now become the part of Tikal National Park.
Many archaeologists believe the ancient Tikal Temple dates back to 7 BC. However, historians believe Tikal flourished between 200 and 850 AD, as it was the capital of the most powerful empire. The ruins were was discovered in the 1840s. In 1970, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.
Tikal National Park has around 3,000 ancient structures and monuments that cover an area greater than 200 square miles. The hieroglyphics on the ruins suggest Tikal was home to an estimated 10,000 to 90,000 people.
How to get there
Flores and Santa Elena are the closest modern settlements around Tikal National Park. If you are stating in either of these areas, you can easily book a day tour and visit the ruins.
For those who don’t mind getting up early in the morning, the best time to visit the historical site is right after sunrise. Not only will you find the park less crowded but you’ll also beat the glaring mid-day sun.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for some historical places to visit in Pakistan, you might want to take a day trip to the archaeological city of Taxila near Islamabad. The historical Saidpur Model Village is yet another popular tourist location in the federal capital.
As for travelling abroad, here are a few countries around the world that offer visa-free travel to Pakistani passport holders.