The world is full of ancient history! If you look at the six primarily populated continents, you will find ancient ruins just about everywhere.
For instance, there are many ancient Roman sites in Europe. The Middle East also has sites that date past Biblical times, as does Asia. In the United States, you can visit ancient tribal sites, such as Mesa Verde National Park, which dates back to the early 7th Century.
To get the most out of visiting an ancient site, we have compiled some tips for you to consider during your travels. These tips will help you make memories, respect the site, and feel like you are a part of history.
Table of Contents
- Tips to Remember While Visiting Ancient Sites
- 1. Did You Bring Your Camera?
- 2. Are There Any Traditions That You Should Follow?
- 3. Are You Allowed To Touch That?
- 4. Did You Grab Everything?
- 5. Leave the Dog At Home, In the Car, or Somewhere Else
- 6. If the Dog Shouldn’t Dig, Then Neither Should You
- 7. Does It Matter If You Take Something?
- 8. Did You Find An Artifact?
- Top 16 Ancient Sites to Visit Around the World
- 1. Chichén Itzá
- 2. Moai Statues, Chile
- 3. Pyramids of Giza
- 4. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
- 5. Tikal, Guatemala
- 6. Petra, Jordan
- 7. Acropolis of Athens
- 8. Stonehenge, United Kingdom
- 9. Machu Picchu, Peru
- 10. Nazca Lines, Peru
- 11. Ggantija Temples, Malta
- 12. Skara Brae, Scotland
- 13. The Terracotta Army, China
- 14. The Great Wall of China
- 15. The Roman Baths in the City of Bath
- 16. The Ellora Caves, India
- What Ancient Sites Are You Planning To Visit?
- Why is historic preservation important?
- What role do Artifacts play in history?
- What to know before visiting an ancient site?
Tips to Remember While Visiting Ancient Sites
1. Did You Bring Your Camera?
Most ancient sites allow photography, but some places are sensitive and may not allow flash photography. If you bring your camera along, remember to disable the automatic flash that usually comes standard with lower and digital versions.
If you are old-school and still have the detachable flash, just leave it detached. Using your manual settings, you can get good light exposure, even in low lighting conditions, which makes the flash unnecessary. If you are still confused about what kind of photography is allowed at the ancient site you have chosen to visit, make sure to skip the flash to be safe.
Note: No matter what historical site you visit, always look for rules and regulations regarding photography policies, even if you are simply striking a pose for pictures.
2. Are There Any Traditions That You Should Follow?
Some ancient sites are blessed or ordained as holy sites. These may include churches, synagogues, mosques, and other traditional religious settings. Depending on the religion or faith involved, you should observe certain rituals, such as taking off your shoes or hat before entering the building.
Some cultures have specific restrictions on how to dress appropriately to enter a holy site. Additionally, there may also be a few behavior restrictions enforced, such as keeping quiet while in the holy place, sanctuary, and so forth. By respecting the culture you visit, you will get a small glimpse of what ancient life was like in that place.
3. Are You Allowed To Touch That?
Many ancient sites are well-guarded to protect and preserve archaeological finds to the greatest extent possible. Some Roman sites, for example, may have fencing around them that prevents entry into the site, except with an authorized guide.
Other places may allow full access to the site but restrict you from collecting any artifacts. The bottom line is that you can admire the artifact from afar and not touch it, especially if it’s restricted. Cave art, hieroglyphics, and other forms of ancient art are very fragile, and all it could take is one touch to ruin the masterpiece.
4. Did You Grab Everything?
Whatever materials you carry to the site you visit, you should ensure to bring them out with you. There is no better way to preserve an ancient site for others to enjoy.
Always remember that leaving materials like campfires, food, and trash can contaminate the site, making it more difficult for people to understand and learn the historical significance of artifacts.
5. Leave the Dog At Home, In the Car, or Somewhere Else
You might love your dog, but that beloved pet can do a lot of damage to an ancient site very quickly. Though service dogs are usually an exception, most dogs, including purse dogs, are not welcome because of the possibility of scratching or leaving pet waste behind.
Even if your pet just wants to roll around in the dirt, they could end up digging the one spot with an undiscovered ancient artifact underneath it.
6. If the Dog Shouldn’t Dig, Then Neither Should You
A sense of adventure fills the human spirit when nothing else seems to work. It affects us to our very core because it is exciting to discover new things or rediscover parts of our past.
That urge can make it seem like digging to find hidden ancient artifacts at a site could be a great idea as it may help archaeologists with their work. However, this can cause more unintended damage to the artifacts.
Let the professionals do their work. Your job is to enjoy the experience and leave the archaeological materials undisturbed.
7. Does It Matter If You Take Something?
You may think, “if I just take one little thing as a souvenir of my trip, it won’t make much difference.” This would probably be right if you were to assume you are the only person who ever had that thought.
However, the problem comes when several people have that same thought every day and all attempt to take one little thing as a souvenir. Pretty soon, there will be nothing left to enjoy or study. Additionally, this will ruin the experience for everyone else who wants to explore ancient sites in the future. Keeping beautiful memories of the ancient site can also act as a great souvenir, and photographs will help you recall those memories fondly.
8. Did You Find An Artifact?
Sometimes a visit to an ancient site may lead you to a great find. It could be a pottery shard, a petrified corn cob, or even a small figure of a goddess. When we find an artifact, we know we should not keep it, but we also want other people to see it. For this reason, many people take these finds and pile them up in a specific place on the site.
It is crucial to remember that these artifacts can become a nice collection but may get exposed to several elements, quickly degrade, and lose whatever value they may have had. Therefore, if you find something that you feel is amazing, contact an official at the site and let them know where you found the object. Let them handle the rest of the work!
Top 16 Ancient Sites to Visit Around the World
Exploring the ancient ruins of a long-gone civilization where mysterious cultures had thrived is truly wonderful. Several religious and cultural sites have been discovered worldwide and have stood the test of time. They now stand as famous monuments for travelers to admire.
Here are the top 16 impressive ruins and fascinating ancient sites you can visit worldwide.
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1. Chichén Itzá
Chichén Itzá, which translates to “at the mouth of the well of Itzá,” is among the Seven Wonders of the World and is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico. It has undergone extensive restoration in the past few years and is one of the most significant Mayan ruins in Guatemala.
Chichén Itzá was at its height as a civilization between 600 and 1200 AD. It is located in the present-day state of Yucatan, on the Yucatan Peninsula. Merida is 75 miles away from Chichen Itza, while Cancun is 125 miles away.
It is accessible via a day trip from both locations. The entry fee for children under 12 is free and is around $28 per adult. Daily hours of operation are 8 am to 5 pm. If you are planning to visit Mexico, you should definitely plan your visit to Chichén Itzá, the iconic archaeological ruins!
Nearby Accommodation: La Casa de las Lunas
2. Moai Statues, Chile
The Moai statues are distinctive structures on Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. The inhabitants of this island, also known as Rapa Nui, constructed the moais between 1400 and 1650 ZD.
This location has around 1,000 statues, the largest of which weighs 86 tons and stands 10 meters tall. The Rano Raraku volcano provided the material for 95 percent of the moais.
The moais are well-known across the world because a large portion of them is made of tuff, which is compressed volcanic ash. The natives used volcanic ash because they had no metal tools and could only use Toki (stone tools).
Moai sculptures were built in memory of deceased chieftains and other prominent figures. It is a widely held notion that the moai statues were built by aliens.
If you want to learn about the rich history while visiting Easter Island, a guided tour of the Moai Trail is a great option. It’s one of the most significant yet mind-boggling archaeological sites in the world.
Nearby Accommodation: Altiplanico Rapa Nui
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3. Pyramids of Giza
The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt’s most popular archaeological landmark, is situated on the Giza Plateau, an esplanade outside Cairo.
Khafre, Pharaohs Khufu, and Menkaure constructed all three of Giza’s famous pyramids, as well as the detailed burial complexes, around 2550 to 2490 BC.
The pharaohs of ancient Egypt believed that they would live forever as gods. They constructed massive pyramid tombs for themselves and temples to the gods, each containing everything a monarch would require to govern and survive in the afterlife.
Each pyramid is a part of a much bigger complex that includes temples, a palace, boat pits for solar energy, and other structures.
The site also has the ancient ruins of many small towns and temples, which are crucial to learning more about the local ancient Egyptian life.
If it’s your first time visiting the Egyptian Pyramids of Giza, you can opt for a guided tour and enjoy the experience.
Nearby Accommodation: Giza Pyramids Inn
4. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Asia’s well-known archaeological site, Angkor Wat, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the main reason travelers from around the world visit the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Angkor served as the capital of the mighty Khmer empire from the 9th to 15th Century. It expanded to become the largest known pre-industrial settlement, covering an area roughly equal to modern-day Paris.
A suitable temple had to be built by each monarch to declare the symbolic connection between ruler and divinity because it was thought that the Khmer king had a divine role.
Numerous notable temples can be found at the Angkor Archaeological Park, including Ta Prohm and Bayon, which is famous for their smiling, calm faces carved onto enormous towers. These breathtaking sites are best viewed at daybreak.
You can book a guided tour to experience and explore Angkor Wat.
Nearby Accommodation: Mane Village Suites
5. Tikal, Guatemala
Tikal, the majestic monument in Guatemala and one of the largest sites to be discovered in the Americas, has some of the most intriguing Maya civilization archaeological sites. It is far larger than the ancient city of the Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico.
Many of the site’s structures were built when Tikal reached its peak of 100,000 inhabitants and rose to become the largest city in the Mayan civilization in the 8th century.
The sacred city is home to magnificent palaces, temples, and other Mayan ruins. Furthermore, the surrounding jungle contains the remains of several dwellings.
Surprisingly, when Hernán Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, marched through Tikal in 1525, he and his men couldn’t view the city’s temples because they were hidden by mahogany, cedar, silk, and cotton trees. The ancient ruins weren’t found until 1848, when a Guatemalan government expedition explored them.
I highly recommend a guided in-depth tour to explore Tikal, where you’ll learn the amazing history of Tikal, which means “the Place of Voices.”
Nearby Accommodation: Hotel Jaguar Inn
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6. Petra, Jordan
Petra is Jordan’s top tourist destination and one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. It is also popularly known as the rose city.
Although the exact date of Petra’s construction is unknown, the ancient city started to thrive as the capital of the wealthy Nabataean Empire in the 1st Century BC, thanks to trade in myrrh, frankincense, and spices. After becoming a part of the Roman Empire, Petra thrived until a big earthquake in the 4th century severely destroyed most of the Roman city.
The ancient city gradually fell into ruin and was abandoned as a result of the earthquake and altered trade routes. Petra was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss adventurer named Johannes Burckhardt, and it has drawn tourists ever since. It is highly recommended you take a guided tour of the Roman ruins to know the detailed history of Petra and enjoy the stunning ancient city.
Nearby Accommodation: Petra Marriott Hotel
7. Acropolis of Athens
The rocky crag known as the Acropolis overlooks the finest sanctuary of ancient Athens, the heart of the modern city. This sanctuary was mainly dedicated to its patron, the goddess Athena.
The legendary stories of ancient Athens, its religious celebrations, earliest cults, and several pivotal historical events are all associated with this sacred area. The Acropolis’ monuments coexist peacefully with the surrounding environment. These one-of-a-kind works of ancient architecture, which innovatively mix many orders and styles of classical art, have influenced culture and art for several decades.
Overall, the Acropolis is one of the best representations of Athens’ magnificence, wealth, and power during Perikles’ golden period in the 5th century. A tour of the Acropolis is one of the best ways to learn about the history of ancient Greece while experiencing its sheer beauty and awe-inspiring construction.
Nearby Accommodation: Belle Epoque Suites
8. Stonehenge, United Kingdom
The 4,500-year-old archaeological site of Stonehenge holds different meanings for many individuals today. Its circle of standing stones is an engineering marvel, and its construction must have required tremendous work from several using only basic tools and technologies.
It is unclear what the ancient ruins were used for, but it serves no practical function. People from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages who constructed Stonehenge must have had a spiritual motivation for doing so because it was not inhabited and could not be protected.
In 1986, UNESCO inscribed the site and its surroundings on the list of World Heritage Sites. You can explore the breathtaking site of Stonehenge on your own or opt for a guided tour and enjoy a hassle-free trip.
Nearby Accommodation: The Merchant’s House
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9. Machu Picchu, Peru
Pachacutec, the Incan king, is thought to have constructed Machu Picchu in the 15th Century, surrounded by misty Andean peaks. The vast stone complex contains hundreds of structures, including spas, temples, and other buildings, and a sophisticated water supply system.
It is astonishing to know that Machu Picchu was built without the aid of metal tools, wheels, or mortar. The reason it was constructed and then abandoned remains a mystery to historians.
According to a widely accepted notion, this mountaintop castle was a royal refuge for the Incas before it was destroyed not long after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in South America. The past of the location, however, is still up for question. You can book a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu and explore its magnificence.
Nearby Accommodation: Inti Punku Machupicchu
10. Nazca Lines, Peru
The Nazca Lines are massive markings on the ground known as geoglyphs, created in southern Peru between 200 BC and 600 AD. The ancient Nazca people, who inhabited the area at the time, are thought to have invented them.
More than 1,000 illustrations feature geometric shapes, straight lines, flora, and animals, including a hummingbird, monkey, orca, and lizard. We now have the privilege to view these large, well-defined patterns from the air, but did the ancient Nazca ever get to do so to appreciate their completed work? What function did these drawings serve, in particular?
While some beliefs connect them to fertility and water ceremonies, others give them astronomical importance. They could have also been communications sent to gods or other celestial creatures. If you are planning to visit the Nazca Lines, you can go for a guided tour and experience the majestic beauty of the place.
Nearby Accommodation: DM Hoteles Nasca
11. Ggantija Temples, Malta
In the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, on the Maltese island of Gozo, are the Ggantija Temples. The enormous megaliths belong to the Neolithic era, with an estimated age of 5,500 years.
The name Ggantija comes from the Maltese word “giant.” They are thought to have been built by a race of giants. Furthermore, archaeologists believe the temples were dedicated to an ancient fertility cult.
However, what amazes visitors is how these self-standing limestone structures, some of which rise to nearly 20 feet in height, were created using simple stone tools. Book a guided tour if you want to visit Malta and explore its exquisite hidden treasures on the island of Gozo.
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12. Skara Brae, Scotland
The historic stone town of Skara Brae is situated on a windswept coastline in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Skara Brae, inhabited around 5,000 years ago, is one of the best-preserved Neolithic monuments in Europe, predating both Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza. It consists of a collection of stone houses where almost everything is still present apart from the roofing—including the oldest known toilet in Scotland, beds, and stone dressers.
Around 2500 BC, a thriving population of hunters, farmers, and craftspeople mysteriously vanished without any sign of warfare or human remains. What caused the occupants of Skara Brae to flee their homes remains a mystery. If you are looking for a guided tour of Skara Brae, check out the get your guide website.
Nearby Accommodation: Ferry Inn
13. The Terracotta Army, China
One of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century, the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, was constructed in front of the tomb of China’s first Qin emperor. It was built as an afterlife guard to accompany the Emperor’s tomb.
The site contains clay soldiers, discovered by local farmers in 1974. The soldiers are buried with horses, chariots, and weapons and arranged according to rank. Over 8,000 life-size figures with unique facial features and expressions are said to be present in the excavated pits. The terracotta soldiers are one of China’s national treasures, standing poised for battle near the city of Xi’an, the provincial capital of Shaanxi province in China.
You can learn about the creation of these life-size warriors by visiting the Terracotta Army. Furthermore, you can also visit a nearby cave dwelling to study the 2,000-year-old methods and try to create a miniature warrior yourself. You can take a guided tour and discover the mystery of the Terracotta Warriors, the eighth wonder of the world.
Nearby Accommodation: Holiday Inn Express X’ian
14. The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall is a magnificent example of prehistoric defensive engineering. It passes through some beautiful scenery as it winds its way through rocky terrain and steep mountains.
The wall, covering a total length of more than 12,000 miles, was continuously constructed on the northern boundary of China from the third century BC to the seventeenth century AD. It was built under the major military defense project of the succeeding Chinese Empires.
The Great Wall starts in Shanhaiguan, Hebei province, in the east and finishes in Jiayuguan, Gansu province, in the west. Its main structure comprises walls, watch towers, horse trails, and shelters. It also includes multiple outstanding passes and fortresses.
Approximately 1,200 miles of the Great Wall have vanished or become ruins due to human destruction and natural erosion. You can book a guided Great Wall of China tour and learn more about the area from an expert local guide.
Nearby Accommodation: Commune by the Great Wall
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15. The Roman Baths in the City of Bath
Roman Baths, UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, lies in the heart of the city of Bath. When you visit the site, you will learn how the Romans who invaded Britain in 43 CE used the hot spring and worshipped at the bath.
The Romans built the bath complex and a temple to honor Minerva, the Roman goddess of war, and the Celtic goddess of sacred water and healing, Sulis Minerva. Within a few decades, the city of Aquae Sulis, which grew up around the bathhouse, became one of the most significant spas and sites of pilgrimage in the western Roman Empire.
One of the best ways to learn about the vast history of the ancient city is to visit the long-forgotten Roman Baths. Here, you will learn much about religion, life, and changes in Roman-Britain civilization. Take a guided tour of the Roman Baths and discover the incredible artifacts and relics that the Romans left in the Roman city after conquering the region.
Nearby Accommodation: The Z Hotel Bath
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16. The Ellora Caves, India
The Ellora Caves, carved into the sides of a cliff in Maharashtra, are evidence of the harmonious coexistence of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism in historic India. The 34 monasteries and temples on the archaeological site date back to the seventh century. The remarkable pieces of sculptures must have required extreme expertise—even the ceilings were made out of cliff rocks.
The most striking features of the Ellora Caves are the elaborate friezes and sculptures showing peaceful Buddhas and mighty Hindu gods engaged in combat. Jain caves are worth visiting, even though they are at the opposite end of the complex.
You can also visit the Ajanta Caves, which are roughly three hours away from the Ellora Caves. The Ajanta Caves are exclusively Buddhist, unlike Ellora. You can book a guided tour of the Ellora Caves and discover the history of significant Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain monuments. You will also witness some of the greatest surviving examples of historical Indian art.
Nearby Accommodation: The Meadows Resort and Spa
What Ancient Sites Are You Planning To Visit?
Ancient civilizations may have left traces of their culture behind, but that does not mean we should leave our traces behind as we explore how our ancestors lived and worked.
Most ancient cities are full of wonder and majesty as the grandeur of humanity is displayed in the buildings and ancient ruins. Make sure to take these tips into consideration as you travel so that everyone can create beautiful memories like you.
Why is historic preservation important?
We can pass on our knowledge of the ancient world to future generations by practicing historic preservation. Historic preservation helps tell the numerous facets of our world’s history and ancient sites.
What role do Artifacts play in history?
Scholars who seek to study a culture can learn a lot from artifacts. Archaeologists explore the locations where ancient cultures once existed and use the artifacts to understand the past better.
What to know before visiting an ancient site?
It all depends on your interest in that specific place. If you enjoy exploring an ancient site to the fullest, you should find out the idea behind its construction, its construction period, and if there are other historical sites nearby. You can also check out the site’s visiting hours, entry fees, and additional information.
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Saturday 21st of December 2013
Thanks for the great tips. We visited Mesa Verde National Park a few years ago and enjoyed it. It was quite challenging getting to the sites but definitely worth it once we got there.
Monday 23rd of December 2013
Absolutely! Visiting a challenging site that requires some adventure always makes it that much more rewarding in the end!