The world is filled with iconic man-made historical sites and landmarks that give us a glimpse into the past. Over the thousands of years of history, we’ve created some incredible places – even if some of them are only ruins today.
With so many incredible historical sites built by ancient civilizations, it’s hard to narrow it down to the best. But we think that if you’re going to see any, it should be these:
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20 Most Memorable Historical Sites to Visit Around the Globe
1. Cappadocia, Turkey
One of the more bizarre World Heritage Sites, Cappadocia, is made up of flowing rock formations and stone-capped chimneys begging to be photographed. Many of these iconic formations are situated in the Monks Valley and Goreme, while the nearby village of Uchisar also houses ancient cave homes carved into the soft rock, built by people in the Bronze Age – around 5,000 years ago. Take a sunrise hot air balloon ride to take in the historical landscape over Cappadocia.
2. Machu Picchu, Peru
In southern Peru lies a ruined city on top of a mountain that’s only accessible by train or a four-day trek. Machu Picchu is one of those historical sites that requires a bit more footwork to get to, but once you’re there you’re met with the magical Inca powers that still linger there. Often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas,” the location was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 and named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
3. Petra, Jordan
Historical sites always seem to be steeped in mystery, and that’s especially true of Petra in Jordan. Carved into a canyon in Arabah, Jordan, Petra’s founding is unknown, but it appears to have had settlers as early as the 6th century BC. The historical site was “discovered” in 1812 by a Swiss explorer who followed some local tribesmen there. Unsurprisingly, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Today, you can visit this ancient place on horseback – just make sure you take an English-speaking guide with you.
4. Pyramids at Giza, Egypt
They’re over 3,000 years old, and we still don’t have all the answers as to how they were built or how the Egyptians made them so precise (were aliens involved?). The three pyramids align to the stars and the solstices and have many chambers that still haven’t been (or cannot be) opened. This site is a true marvel of human engineering, and of course, the Sphinx is nearby – another one of Egypt’s historical sites.
5. Stonehenge, England
This megalithic structure is over 3,000 years old, and the stones come all the way from Wales. Scholars are still trying to figure out how the builders got the stones there and have even tried to replicate them. And there are no real answers as to the purpose of the historical site. Stonehenge is fenced off from the public, and visitors can only walk around the attraction. But it’s worth visiting for the mystery behind it.
6. The Parthenon, Greece
When it comes to historical sites, Greece certainly gives historians a run for their money. Especially the majestic: Parthenon. The ancient temple to Athena stands as a symbol of the power of Athens and is a testament to Greek civilization. The site also provides sweeping views of Athens and other nearby ruins whose temples and buildings are equally as magical. Over centuries, much of it and the surrounding structures have been destroyed by war and thieves, but thankfully the structures remain for visitors to revel in Greece’s history.
7. Easter Island, Chile
Found in the Pacific Ocean on a special territory of Chile is the mystical Easter Island – home to the Moai statues, which are the only thing that remains of a culture that once lived there. The gigantic, impressively carved heads are just another one of those historical sites that prove primitive people weren’t all that primitive. The island is more accessible than one would think, with regular commercial flights running from Santiago to the island.
8. Taj Mahal, India
Erected in the 1600s, this is one of the most beautiful historical sites and is a testament to undying love. The Taj Mahal is essentially a white marble tomb built for Emperor Shah Jahan’s deceased wife. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, the Taj sees between two and four million tourists each year and has recently implemented restrictions on tourism to help protect the site. Still, the greatest threat to the site is the air pollution that’s destroying the marble.
9. The Alhambra, Granada
Part palace, part fort, part World Heritage site, The Alhambra is Spain’s love letter to Moorish culture. Located in Granada, Spain, the European historical site has long enchanted its visitors with its trickling fountains, rustling leaves, and lingering ancient spirits. During the Napoleonic occupation, the Alhambra was used as barracks and nearly blown up. Today’s version has been heavily and respectfully restored and remains a beautiful site with gardens overlooking Granada.
10. Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Meaning “at the mouth of the well of Itzá,” the Chichén Itzá is the second most visited archaeological site in Mexico and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. When it comes to Mayan historical sites, it’s one of the most important in the Americas and has been restored in the last few years. Located just 125 miles from Cancun, this is the perfect day trip to add some historical charm to your Mexican adventure.
11. The Great Wall of China
Originally conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the third century BC as a means of keeping the Mongol hordes from invading the country, the Great Wall of China is a global icon and one of the most well-known historical sites in the world. While it never effectively prevented invaders from entering the country, it’s still an incredible engineering and construction feat and a staggering human accomplishment.
12. Bagan, Myanmar
Known for having the largest concentration of Buddhist temples in the world, Bagan in Myanmar is home to thousands of ancient temples and stupas which stretch endlessly across the landscape. Most of these were built in the 1000s and 1100s when it was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom. Some have been restored, and others are little more than ruins but also range in size and level of sophistication. Tour the site on old bicycles, hire a horse and cart, or take a hot air balloon ride over the site.
13. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Set in the jungle, not far from the city of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is known for being the world’s largest religious monument. Besides the sheer size of the complex, the architecture is just as jaw-dropping. Angkor Wat was built by the Khmers in the 12th century, and today is an intriguing mix of excavated and unexcavated temples, with some taking on a mystical appearance as the tree roots intertwine into the structures.
14. Mesa Verde, USA
Home to one of the most beautiful archaeological historical sites in the United States, and some of the most well-preserved Native American ruins in North America, is Mesa Verde. Cliff dwellings tucked into canyon walls, a forest-covered plateau, and various ruins make up this historical site once inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloans – which is present-day Colorado. Take a scenic drive on the winding road to the top of the mesa, where you tour the grounds and see pit houses, sweeping views, and other ruins.
15. Tower of Pisa, Italy
Easily one of Italy’s most famous landmarks and historical sites. Construction of this structure began in 1173 and only finished in 1399. After the first three stories were built out of the 8 planned, it was noticed that the tower was leaning due to the soft ground on which it was constructed. And it’s been leaning ever since – at an angle of about five and a half degrees. Despite this, it’s perfectly safe, and you can visit it in Tuscany whenever you want.
16. The Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
This ancient structure was built between AD532-AD537 as a Greek Orthodox cathedral in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). After the city was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. This famous Turkish landmark became a museum in 1935, and now visitors from across the globe can visit this historical site and its intricate mosaics.
17. Old City, Jerusalem
The Old City nestled in Jerusalem is steeped in history and old-world charm. It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981 and continues to amaze locals and visitors with its towering walls and historical significance. Located on a plateau in the Judean Mountains, Jerusalem has been home to many faiths like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Temple Mount are just some more of the historical sites you can find in the Old City.
18. The Eiffel Tower, Paris
Constructed for the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, the Eiffel Tower was originally intended to be temporary but was never removed from its site due to popular demand. Since then, it’s become one of the world’s most recognizable buildings in France and has been one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites since 1989. Designed by engineer Gustave Eiffel, the beautiful structure was the tallest building in the world at the time, towering at 300 meters high.
19. Pompeii, Italy
Built around 2,000 years ago during the Roman empire, Pompeii was rediscovered in 1748. Today, its preserved ruins are protected as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located near Naples, Italy, this historical site was buried under rock and ash by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Much of this historical site remains buried beneath ash to this day but ended up preserving everything from jars of fruit to paintings on the walls and even bodies of victims.
20. Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
Located on Navajo land near Chinle, Arizona, Canyon de Chelly is one of the best historical sites in the world. Protected by the Navajo tribes for centuries, they even refused to leave their ancestral home during the American Civil War. The US Army forced them out of these canyon lands in 1865 and were finally allowed to return in 1868. Today, the monument preserves more than 5,000 years of human occupation and protects over 800 archaeological sites!
So, where will you go first?
Historical Site FAQs
What is the most famous historical site in the world?
The Pyramids of Giza are one of the most well-known and most-visited historical sites in the world.
Which country has the most ancient sites in the world?
Italy has the world’s highest number of World Heritage Sites, with 58 entries.
What are the top monuments around the world?
- Machu Picchu in Peru
- The Taj Mahal in India
- The Great Wall of China
- The Eiffel Tower in Paris
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy
- The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt
- Angkor Wat in Cambodia