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30 of the World’s Most Impressive Ancient Ruins

Insider Guides
by Joe Batruny Aug 6, 2014

While modern structures can be more than impressive in their own right with respect to architecture, technological advancement, and beauty, there’s something to be said about structures from the past.

Ruins around the world have withstood the test of time and remain standing for travelers to marvel at. (Well, they haven’t completely withstood the test of time, or else they wouldn’t be called ruins.) Many of the methods used to create these ancient cities, temples, and monuments remain rather mysterious, as building them in this day and age would still be considered an impressive feat.

Check out these 30 awesome ancient ruins around the globe and see for yourself, and read about the new 7 Wonder of the World here.

Machu Picchu (Cusco Region, Peru)

Photo: Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock

Machu Picchu, a 15th-century Inca site believed to be an estate for emperor Pachacuti, was “discovered” by Hiram Bingham in 1911. A well-trod tourist attraction, Machu Picchu sits 7,970 feet above sea level.

Chichén Itzá (Tinum, Mexico)

Photo: World Explorers/Shutterstock

The pre-Columbian Mayan city of Chichén Itzá is visited by over 1.2 million people annually (making it one of Mexico’s most-visited archaeological sites).

Stonehenge (Wiltshire, England)

Photo: Mr Nai/Shutterstock

Surrounded by hundreds of nearby burial mounds, Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. Archeologists postulate that the site was built between 3000 and 2000 BC.

Ta Prohm (Siem Reap Province, Cambodia)

Photo: Vassamon Anansukkasem/Shutterstock

Seen in the film Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm was originally named Rajavihara. Whilemost Angkorian temples have been largely rebuilt, Ta Prohm remains mostly in its original state. It was founded as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university.

Longmen Grottoes (Henan Province, China)

Photo: Bule Sky Studio/Shutterstock

Over 1,400 caves filled with over 100,000 statues make up Longmen Grottoes, also known as the Longmen Caves. Some of the statues are only one inch tall, while the largest Buddha statue measures 57 feet tall.

Borobudur (Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia)

Photo: Kanuman/Shutterstock

The world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur is composed of six square platforms with three circular platforms resting on top of them. 2,672 reliefs and 504 Buddha statues adorn the temple.

Luxor Temple (Luxor, Egypt)

Photo: matias planas/Shutterstock

Founded in 1400 BC, the Luxor Temple is a sandstone temple complex located in current-day Luxor (known as Thebes in ancient times). Five other large temples can be found in the area.

Hadrian’s Wall (Cumbria, England)

Photo: Dave Head/Shutterstock

Hadrian’s Wall was a fortification in Roman Britain. A large portion of the wall still remains, and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The majority of the wall was built over six years and marked the de facto border of the Roman Empire in the British Isles. 

The Colosseum (Rome, Italy)

Photo: Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

Found in Rome, the Colosseum is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. The largest amphitheater in the world, it was built of concrete and stone from 70 to 80 AD.

Baalbek (Beqaa Governorate, Lebanon)

Photo: Milonk/Shutterstock

Home to some of Lebanon’s best-preserved Roman ruins, Baalbek can be found in the Beqaa Valley. The city was known as Heliopolis during the Roman period. 

Volubilis (Meknès-Tafilalet, Morocco)

Photo: Maurizio De Mattei/Shutterstock

A partially excavated Roman city founded in the 3rd century BC, Volubilis was originally a Phoenician settlement. The city was abandoned around the 11th century AD when Morocco’s seat of power was relocated to Fes.

Bagan (Mandalay Region, Burma)

Photo: Martin M303/Shutterstock

Bagan was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan from the 9th century to the 13th century. In present time, over 2,200 temples and pagodas can be found. At its peak, the city contained over 10,000 Buddhist temples.

Mycenae (Argolis, Greece)

Photo: Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock

Mycenae, a Greek military stronghold, was considered one of ancient Greece’s most significant sites. The period of history from 1600 to 1100 BC is referred to as Mycenaean, in reference to the city.

Jerash (Jerash Governorate, Jordan)

Photo: Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock

Originally constructed around the time of Alexander the Great, the ancient city of Jerash was held by a number of successive empires. In 749 AD, an earthquake destroyed much of the city. Wars and subsequent earthquakes added to the deterioration. The ruins remained buried until discovered in 1806.

Moai of Rano Raraku (Easter Island, Chile)

Photo: Amy Nichole Harris/Shutterstock

Rano Raraku is the main quarry of moai on Easter Island. The Rapa Nui people carved the human figures, or moai, between 1250 and 1500 AD. The tallest moai weighs 82 tons – the simple act of moving it is considered a more-than-impressive feat.

Tulum (Quintana Roo, Mexico)

Photo: andrmoel/Shutterstock

Tulum is another pre-Columbian Maya site, known to be one of the last cities built by the Maya. The well-preserved walled city’s most famous buildings are El Castillo, the Temple of the Descending God, and the Temple of the Frescoes.

Tiwanaku (Tiwanaku Muncipality, Bolivia)

Photo: Everton Lourenco/Shutterstock

Scholars consider Tiwanaku (also known as Tihuanaco) to be one of the mostimportant pre-Incan civilizations in this region. The empire of which Tiwanaku was the capitalflourished from 300 to 1000 AD.

Teotihuacán (San Juan Teotihuacán, Mexico)

Photo: Raul Luna/Shutterstock

The origins of this Mesoamerican city are cloudy, but it’s postulated that it reached a population of over 150,000 at its peak. It not only houses the Pyramid of the Moon and Pyramid of the Sun, but residential compounds and the Avenue of the Dead as well.

Palmyra (Syria)

Photo: Rafal Cichawa/Shutterstock

134 miles northeast of Damascus, Palmyra was an ancient Aramaic city located at an oasis. The city’s most notable building is the temple of Ba’al.

Cappadocia (Central Anatolian Region, Turkey)

Photo: Volodymyr Goinyk/Shutterstock

Cappadocia was the home of the Hittite Empire. Many of Cappadocia’s temples and homes were cut directly into the rock structures known as fairy chimneys visible in the photo above. The earliest mention of the region’s name dates back to the late 6th century BC.

Amphitheatre of El Jem (Mahdia Governorate, Tunisia)

Photo: Marques/Shutterstock

The Amphitheatre of El Jem is one of the remains of the Roman city of Thysdrus, known today as El Djem. The amphitheatre was capable of seating 35,000 people. Several scenes from Life of Brian and Gladiator were filmed here. 

Wat Ratchaburana (Ayutthaya, Thailand)

Photo: Ipsimus/Shutterstock

A Buddhist temple located in Ayutthaya Historical Park, Wat Ratchaburana was founded in 1424 by King Borommarachathirat II on the cremation site of his two elder brothers, who died in a duel for the succession of the throne.

Petra (Ma’an Governorate, Jordan)

Photo: Zephyr_p/Shutterstock

Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction, Petra is famous for its rock-cut architecture. The city is also known as the Rose City due to the color of the rock from which it has been hewn. 

Roman Baths (Bath, England)

Photo: ThinAir/Shutterstock

Constructed from 60 to 70 AD, the Roman Baths complex in Bath is very well preserved. Combined with the Grand Pump Room, the site receives over 1 million visitors annually. (Sorry: No bathing!)

Pompeii (Pompei, Italy)

Photo: muratart/Shutterstock

Pompeii, an ancient Roman city near current-day Naples, was destroyed and buried in ash and pumice after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Approximately 2.5 million people visit Pompeii yearly.

Ellora (Maharashtra, India)

Photo: Lana Kray/Shutterstock

Ellora, an Indian archeological site, is best known for its caves. There are 34 of them, and they were cut out of the rock faces of the Charanandri Hills. 

Montezuma Castle National Monument (Camp Verde, Arizona, United States)

Photo: Drop Zone Drone/Shutterstock

These very well-preserved cliff dwellings can be found in Arizona’s Montezuma Castle National Monument. They were built by the pre-Columbian Sinagua people.

Ephesus (Izmir Province, Turkey)

Photo: muratart/Shutterstock

An ancient Greek city on Ionia’s coast, Ephesus was best known for its Temple of Artemis. The temple, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was largely destroyed in 268 AD by the Goths.

Ajanta Caves (Maharashtra, India)

Photo: Emdadul Hoque Topu/Shutterstock

Similar to the caves at Ellora, the Ajanta Caves consist of about 30 rock-cut Buddhist monuments. The area was covered in dense foliage until it was rediscovered by chance in 1819.

Cobá (Quintana Roo, Mexico)

Photo: Nataliya Hora/Shutterstock

Not far from Tulum’s ruins, Cobá was a pre-Columbian Mayan city. At its peak, it is said to have housed over 50,000 people. The site’s tallest pyramid is 138 feet in height. 


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