Ancient Ruins You Can Still Visit Today

There’s something very special and even magical about visiting the remnants of the ancient world that no longer exists. Bringing parts from the past into our present adventures is every traveler’s dream, with storied mysteries shaping our journeys into unforgettable experiences.

Civilizations around the world have built majestic temples, pyramids, and monuments before falling to ruin. Fortunately, some of their greatest architectural and engineering achievements stand proud and strong thousands of years later until this very day. Are you ready to explore them all?

Stonehenge, UK

Stonehenge in the UK
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Justin Black

It’s only fair we kick off the list with one of the world’s most popular ruins – the prehistoric megalithic structure known as Stonehenge.

While it is not clear who built the iconic stone circle located in Salisbury Plain, England, archeological evidence suggests that neolithic hunter-gatherers might have started the construction as early as 3000 BCE. Stonehenge was then completed in several stages over the next 1500 years.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu in Peru
Image Credit: Shutterstock / David Ionut

The historical site of Machu Picchu is but a shadow of the glory that once graced the Andes in Peru. The ancient Incan citadel was built in the 15th century and is famous for its advanced architectural feats and picturesque mountain views.

Located more than 7,000 feet above sea level, the ruins are perfectly blended in their surroundings and remain one of the most visited ancient places in the world.

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Darryl Brooks

The once sophisticated and thriving Italian city of Pompeii was obliterated when the Mount Vesuvius volcano erupted in 79 CE, vaporizing the city’s streets and wiping out the entire population.

Nowadays, millions of tourists visit the preserved remains of the so-called Sin City known for its explicit erotic graffiti, frescoes, and artifacts.

Acropolis, Greece

Parethenon Temple in Acropolis of Athens, Greece
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Sven Hansche

Located in Athens, Greece, the Acropolis serves as one of Ancient Greece’s most note-worthy landmarks.

Once a religious hot spot and the center of worship, the Acropolis was built in the 5th century BCE in honor of the Greek gods after the Greeks’ major victory over the Persians. The place features several important buildings such as the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheion.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat in Cambodia
Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Alexey Stiop

Angkor Wat is an architectural masterpiece and the world’s largest religious monument. Located in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the temple complex spans 163 hectares of land and was completed around 1150 CE after three decades of construction.

While the temple in the center of the Khmer Empire was originally built to worship Hinduism, King Jayavarman VII renovated the temple and converted to Buddhism after concluding he was failed by the Hindu gods when the Cham people raided and sacked the holy grounds in 1177 CE.

Colosseum, Italy

Colosseum in Rome
Image Credit: Shutterstock / SCStock

The Colosseum – The bloodiest ruins in the world and an inspiration for many modern-day movies. The giant amphitheater’s construction began around 72 CE by the Roman emperor Vespasian and was finished in 80 CE by his son Titus.

The structure was used mainly for entertainment purposes in the form of bloody fights and executions that saw around 400,000 people and countless animals killed over the span of nearly four centuries.

The Great Wall, China

Great Wall of China
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Yuri Yavnik

Built in response to the Mongol incursions, the Great Wall of China was designed to protect the Chinese Empire from invaders and to safeguard the Silk Road Trade.

The wall stretches across 13,171 miles and stands firm more than two thousand years after the construction was finished. While some parts of the wall have completely collapsed and deteriorated over time, other parts are still open to millions of tourists who visit China for this particular attraction.

Moai Statues, Easter Island, Chile

Moai in Easter Island.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Alberto Loyo

The Rapa Nui people of Easter Island carved human figures in giant stones sometime between 1250 and 1500 CE.

Over centuries, nearly nine hundred such legless statues were carved and erected across the island in honor and tribute to the fallen leaders and important figures of the Polynesian society.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza
Image Credit: Shutterstock / lunamarina

Chichen Itza was a hub of worship, rituals, and astronomy built by the Maya people in what is today known as the Yucatan region in Mexico.

Known for its many temples and pyramids, the former pre-Columbian city-state covers an area of four square miles. Archeologists still don’t agree on when the construction began, but it is believed that development might have started in the early 7th century CE and lasted several hundred years.

Giza Pyramids, Egypt

Great pyramids in Cairo, Egypt
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Merydolla.

Giza’s three famed pyramids – the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure – are a true architectural wonder that withstands the effects of time up to this day. The first and the biggest pyramid was built by Pharaoh Khufu around 2550 BCE with the other two following in the decades after his death.

Contrary to common belief, evidence suggests that the pyramids were built by Egyptian workers and farmers rather than slaves. The laborers were enticed to join the efforts by being offered good food and an entire village to reside in while constructing the monuments to the tombs of the pharaohs.

Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal National Park in Guatemala
Image Credit: Shutterstock / WitR

Nestled deep in the rainforest of Guatemala are the ruins of Tikal, one of the greatest feats of the ancient Maya civilization. Constructed in the 8th century CE, Tikal served as a ceremonial center and boasted an estimated 100,000 residents.

Remains of many temples, dwellings, and palaces remain well-preserved to this date, making this historical landmark a popular destination among archeology lovers.

Petra, Jordan

Ad Deir Monastery in Petra Jordan
Image Credit: Shutterstock / tenkl

Also known as the rose-red city, Petra is the most visited place in Jordan and one of the world’s most famous historical landmarks. Built as the capital of the Nabataean Empire between the 4th and the 2nd century BCE, the city served as a hub of trade where the smell of spices, myrrh, and frankincense took over the streets.

Now, the city carved into the face of a rocky mountain is open to tourists eager to explore its many temples, passages, and tombs.

Terracotta Army, China

Terracotta Army in China
Image Credit: Shutterstock / DnDavis

The Terracotta Army is a collection of sculptures created to protect China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in the afterlife. Buried together with the emperor, the collection consists of more than 9,000 sculptures including over 8,000 life-sized soldiers and hundreds of horses, chariots, and cavalry units.

The Terracotta Army is now displayed in the excavated pits of the mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in Xi’an, China.

Bagan, Myanmar

Temples in Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Martin M303

Over 12,000 temples and monasteries were built by the peoples of Bagan across forty square miles between the 9th and 13th centuries. For many years, Bagan served as the capital of the Pagan Kingdom until they were overcome by Mongol invasions.

Nowadays, visitors can still see and enjoy over 3,000 well-preserved structures that grace the plains of the ancient city.

Borobudur Temple, Indonesia

Borobudur Temple in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Luciano Mortula – LGM

As the largest Buddhist temple in the world, the Borobudur Temple deserves a spot on this list of must-see ruins. Located in Indonesia, the temple was built between the 8th and 9th centuries CE and served as a place for Buddhist pilgrimage.

The temple is now home to hundreds of decorative sculptures, Buddha statues, and the teachings of Buddha connecting the past with the present.


Natural History Museum in London, England.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Pajor Pawel

Ancient civilizations around the globe have left us with majestic monuments and sculptures worth visiting. Whether you’re after fragments of history and religious teachings or you simply wish to admire the architecture as it once was, you would do well to visit some of the world’s most popular ancient ruins. From the historic Mayan temples to the one and only Colosseum to the ancient trading hub of Petra, you will not be disappointed. The ancient ruins await you!

Author: Zan Kokalj


Zan Kokalj is a veteran content writer, copywriter, and author inspired by the impact of ink on paper.

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