Top 15 Fascinating Historical Sites Around the Globe

We find great joy in embarking on journeys to discover iconic historical sites around the world. Many travelers share this passion and make it their mission to visit as many UNESCO World Heritage sites as possible, using them as a guiding theme for their adventures. Exploring these remarkable historical landmarks not only provides a glimpse into the past but also serves as an excellent criterion for selecting your next vacation destination. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of our favorite historical sites from our own travels, aiming to assist you in planning your future explorations.

The Best Historical Places In The World

For those with a deep appreciation for history, the exploration of iconic historical sites is a true delight. In this guide, we have curated a collection of renowned historical landmarks, as well as hidden gems that may be less familiar to many. Whether you seek to enrich your travel experiences with UNESCO World Heritage Sites or simply wish to broaden your knowledge of history, you have arrived at the perfect destination. Our carefully compiled list will assist you in determining which of these remarkable sites deserve a coveted spot on your travel itinerary.

1. Colosseum, Italy

Our initial experience of staying in a luxury apartment with a direct view of the Colosseum in Rome was truly exceptional. Waking up each morning to the extraordinary sight of this ancient amphitheater was a privilege that left us in awe. It comes as no surprise that the Colosseum is revered as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Beyond its iconic status, the Colosseum has been recognized as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, further solidifying its significance. This immense structure, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, stands prominently in the heart of Rome, capturing the imagination of visitors from around the globe.

With its origins dating back to 72 AD, the Colosseum holds a fascinating historical legacy as the site of gladiatorial battles and spectacles. It is just one of the many remarkable attractions within Rome, which itself is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city abounds with monuments and museums, including nearby Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and the Spanish Steps, collectively adding to the rich tapestry of ancient Rome.

2. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

Rating the Pyramids of Giza as a historical place can be challenging due to the potential overcrowding and chaotic tourist atmosphere. Depending on the time of visit or the chosen tour, it is possible to have a less than desirable experience, with large crowds, persistent touts, and a sense of being hurried through the site. However, it cannot be denied that the Pyramids of Giza hold an undeniable awe-inspiring quality.

We have personally had the opportunity to visit the Pyramids of Giza on four separate occasions, using various modes of transportation such as camel, bus, private tour, and even bicycle. Among these experiences, one that truly stood out was the camel ride along the Giza Plateau. It provided us with a unique perspective and made us feel as though we were immersed in a scene from Lawrence of Arabia, exploring the grand complex of the pyramids.

3. Great Sphinx of Giza

The temple complex of the Pyramids of Giza comprises the impressive Great Sphinx and the three temples of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. The sight of the Great Sphinx standing proudly in front of the Great Pyramid is surreal and almost unimaginable.

With a history dating back 5000 years, the Pyramids of Giza are the sole remaining structures from the original seven wonders of the ancient world. When beholding them in person, one cannot help but marvel and contemplate the possibility of extraterrestrial involvement. How were these colossal monuments constructed by human hands? How have they endured the test of time?

Truly enchanting, the site of Memphis and its Necropolis, which includes the Pyramid Fields extending from Giza to Dahshur, was rightfully recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Its magical presence continues to captivate visitors and evoke a sense of wonder and awe.

4. Acropolis, Greece

Athens, being one of the most renowned tourist destinations in the world, holds a special place in our hearts. The city is adorned with splendid architecture and captivating ruins. It was during our third visit to Athens that we truly developed an affection for the Acropolis and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites within the ancient city.

To fully immerse yourself in the historical wonders of Athens, we highly recommend obtaining the 6 Archaeological Sites Pass, which grants access to all the iconic historical sites in the city. Through these sites, you can delve into the rich ancient civilizations that once thrived within the temple complex.

Among the treasures of the Acropolis, the Parthenon reigns supreme. Standing as the most renowned structure, it offers breathtaking views and serves as a symbol of devotion to the Goddess Athena, dating back to the mid-4th century BC.

As you explore, you will encounter a multitude of significant sites, including the ancient temple of Athena, the Temple of Nike, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theatre, and many more. Each of these structures carries the weight of human history and serves as a testament to the glorious past of ancient Greece. The Acropolis, standing tall for over two millennia, is a remarkable tribute to the enduring legacy of this extraordinary civilization.

5. Chichen Itza, Mexico

Our first encounter with a historical site was at Chichen Itza, situated in the captivating Yucatán Peninsula. This remarkable archaeological site is an absolute must-visit, as it has been recognized as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chichen Itza left an indelible impression on us, especially during our visit when we could still ascend the ancient temple of El Castillo.

It was at Chichen Itza that our fascination with the Mayan culture and ancient civilization began to take hold. Inspired by this awe-inspiring ancient city in the Yucatán Peninsula, we made a personal commitment to explore other archaeological sites in the future, and we are thrilled to say that we are nearing the realization of that goal.

To fully appreciate the site, we highly recommend arranging for a car rental or hiring a car to arrive before the tour buses flood in. Chichen Itza tends to attract a large number of visitors, so getting there early can provide a more intimate and serene experience. Additionally, since it is a considerable distance from Cancun, we suggest combining your visit with a comprehensive tour that includes stops at a Cenote (natural sinkholes) and the enchanting Colonial City of Valladolid. This way, you can make the most of your journey and explore the diverse wonders of the region.

6. Great Wall of China

Our journeys took us to the extraordinary Great Wall of China, situated outside of Beijing, and we were fortunate enough to visit it on two separate occasions. Each time, we were overwhelmed by its sheer grandeur and magnificence.

Renowned as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall offers various sections to explore, with the Badaling Wall and Mutianyu Wall being the most accessible and popular among visitors. Although distinct in their experiences, both segments left us in awe.

Having been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the Great Wall of China carries a history spanning 3000 years, providing a fascinating glimpse into the ancient world. It is worth noting that the wall is composed of several different sections that were integrated after China's warring states were unified under Emperor Qin's rule. The construction and unification of the Great Wall occurred over 2000 years ago during the Qin Dynasty.

Our personal encounters with the Great Wall surpassed all expectations. We explored both the Badaling and Mutianyu sections, each offering a unique experience. Badaling, being the closest section to Beijing, tends to attract a significant number of local tourists, resulting in bustling crowds. However, this vibrant atmosphere added to the excitement and energy of the place.

On the other hand, Mutianyu, located a bit farther from the city, provided a more serene and tranquil setting with fewer tourists. Its beauty and grandeur were equally mesmerizing. For over a millennium, the wall served as a vital defense against the nomadic tribes from the north. Subsequent dynasties dedicated efforts to repair and maintain the wall, preserving its formidable fortifications.

The Great Wall of China unquestionably lives up to its legendary status. Whether you choose to explore the lively Badaling section or immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of Mutianyu, each step along this remarkable monument is a testament to human ingenuity and history's enduring legacy.

7. Petra, Jordan

Our visit to Petra in Jordan left us in awe, even surpassing our expectations shaped by its appearances in iconic movies like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Aladdin, Transformers, and The Mummy Returns. As we stepped into the captivating world of Petra, we understood why it deserved its status as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Embarking on the 1.3 km journey along the Siq, with towering cliffs enclosing the narrow path, we were instantly captivated. The hidden nature of this complex, concealed from the outside world for centuries, became evident. It was easy to let our imaginations run wild, envisioning hidden treasures and even the Holy Grail, just as Indiana Jones had led us to believe.

The sight of the Treasury and Monastery, intricately carved into the red sandstone, was truly awe-inspiring. The sheer brilliance of the ancient Nabataeans, who crafted such a masterpiece over two thousand years ago, left us in wonder and admiration.

Dating back to the 2nd century AD, Petra is located approximately three hours away from the capital city of Amman. The Bedouins had utilized this site since the 3rd century BC, yet it remained concealed from the Western world until a mere two hundred years ago. Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt is credited with its "discovery" in 1812.

Once a bustling caravan city, serving as a vital trading route between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, Petra was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. Its historical significance and architectural marvels continue to mesmerize visitors, offering a glimpse into the ancient civilizations that thrived in this remarkable place.

8. Taj Mahal

While our visit to the Taj Mahal in India may have left us slightly disappointed at first, upon reflection, we are grateful to have experienced the magnificence of this renowned structure. After all, it is rightfully recognized as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

Situated in Agra, the Taj Mahal is India's most iconic monument. Constructed in the 17th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, it stands as a testament to love, as it was built in memory of his beloved wife.

The creation of the Taj Mahal spanned over 20 years, and Shah Jahan lived in sorrow until his death. Over time, the monument suffered from neglect and deterioration. Fortunately, British viceroy Lord Curzon intervened, putting an end to looting and undertaking extensive restoration efforts, restoring the Taj Mahal to its former glory.

In recognition of its historical and cultural significance, the Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Its intricate architecture and symbolic meaning continue to captivate visitors from around the globe, ensuring its place as an enduring symbol of love and an architectural marvel.

9. Tikal, Guatemala

Our visit to the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala was truly a unique and captivating experience. What sets Tikal apart is the enchanting way in which the pyramids have become intertwined with the surrounding jungle. As you explore Tikal National Park, you'll witness majestic pyramids emerging from the earth, hinting at the incredible wonders concealed beneath.

Immersed in this jungle setting, the cries of howler monkeys echo in the distance while playful spider monkeys frolic in the treetops above. Trails carved by industrious leafcutter ants wind through the dense foliage. Scaling the towering structures, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the sprawling rainforest. When it comes to historical sites in Central America, Tikal should undoubtedly top your list.

Dating back to the 6th century BC, Tikal holds immense significance as one of the major sites of Mayan civilization. Its rich history led to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Nestled in northern Guatemala, it is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Mayan ruins worldwide.

The temples themselves are awe-inspiring, showcasing magnificent architectural craftsmanship dating from 600 to 900 AD. Among the highlights are the towering North Acropolis 1, renowned for its grandeur, and the expansive Plaza of the Seven Temples, one of Tikal's largest plazas.

One of the unique aspects of Tikal is the opportunity to climb most of the ruins. We highly recommend ascending one of the pyramids at sunrise, immersing yourself in the mystical atmosphere as the mist envelops the landscape and the resonating roars of howler monkeys fill the air. From the vantage point above the lush jungle canopy, you may even recognize the iconic view featured in the concluding scene of Star Wars: A New Hope.

Visiting Tikal is an extraordinary journey into the ancient world, where history and nature converge in a harmonious symphony, leaving an indelible imprint on all who venture within its mystical realm.

10. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, rightfully named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, holds a place of profound cultural and natural significance as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nestled high in the Andes of Peru, this ancient Inca city beckons history enthusiasts to embark on a remarkable journey. Since its discovery by the Western world in 1911, Machu Picchu has drawn increasing numbers of tourists each year, though this popularity can lead to crowded conditions.

Situated approximately three hours by train from the city of Cusco, it is not merely the ruins themselves that captivate visitors, but rather the awe-inspiring setting in which they reside. Terraced blocks of brick buildings cascade down the slopes, seemingly plunging into the valley below.

For those seeking a truly transformative experience, trekking to Machu Picchu along the revered Inca Trail is an option that spans four days. This arduous journey presents a spiritual pilgrimage that leaves an indelible mark on one's soul. Despite its popularity, Peru has imposed visitor limits, ensuring that the challenge of hiking this trail remains intact.

Consider the rarity of an ancient city perched at a staggering altitude of 2,430 meters above sea level. The Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, proudly occupies its mountaintop sanctuary in the majestic Andes of Peru, offering an unparalleled blend of historical intrigue and breathtaking natural beauty.

11. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Nestled within the Cambodian jungles, Angkor Wat stands as an ancient city of remarkable significance. Located just outside the town of Siem Reap, it once reigned as the dominant force in Southeast Asia, with the mighty Khmer Empire reigning supreme.

What sets this historical site apart is its captivating transformation as nature reclaims its territory. The encroaching jungle has intertwined its roots with the temple structures, resulting in a mesmerizing fusion of human artistry and natural beauty. To fully appreciate the grandeur of Angkor Wat, it is advisable to dedicate several days to explore this ancient city.

During our visit, we opted for a private tuk-tuk ride departing early in the morning from our guest house in Siem Reap. This allowed us to witness the splendor of Angkor Wat in serene tranquility. As the day progressed, hordes of tourists on organized tours flocked to the site, diminishing its peaceful ambiance. We decided to retreat and delve into the wonders of Siem Reap and its surrounding areas, saving further exploration of Angkor Wat for the following day, where we resumed our journey where we had left off.

12. Cappadocia, Turkey

The enchanting landscapes of Cappadocia, adorned with whimsical chimneys, are like something out of a fairytale. It is renowned worldwide as one of the most captivating destinations for hot air balloon rides. Our desire to witness the breathtaking views from above led us to embark on a sunrise adventure, overlooking the expansive valleys with names that evoke romance and beauty, such as Love Valley, Rose Valley, and Red Valley.

Cappadocia, situated in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey, is a land steeped in ancient history. Shaped by a series of volcanic eruptions, the area is adorned with peculiar stone spires that dot the valleys. In the past, these formations served as homes for early civilizations, as they ingeniously carved cave dwellings into the sandstone cliffs. Today, some of these caves have been transformed into luxurious hotels, adding a touch of modern comfort to the ancient landscape.

Exploring the remarkable landscapes of Cappadocia and experiencing the awe-inspiring hot air balloon rides are truly unforgettable moments that transport you to a world of wonder and magic.

13. Bagan

While we were captivated by the ancient cities of Borobudur and Angkor Wat, it was the historical marvel of Bagan that left us breathless. Nestled along the banks of the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar, Bagan is a sprawling complex of temples that were constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries. It stands as an absolute must-see historical site in Myanmar.

Once home to over 10,000 temples, Bagan still boasts an impressive collection of approximately 3,500 temples that have endured the test of time. While the restoration efforts carried out by Myanmar's military junta were met with criticism for their subpar quality, Bagan ultimately earned its rightful place on the UNESCO World Heritage list after the restrictions were lifted.

Exploring the vast expanse of Bagan is a journey into the past, as you wander among these ancient temples that bear witness to a rich and storied history. The sheer magnitude of the site is awe-inspiring, leaving visitors in awe of the architectural achievements and the spiritual significance of this sacred place. Bagan is a testament to the enduring legacy of Myanmar's cultural heritage and an experience that lingers in the hearts and minds of all who have the privilege of visiting.

14. Stonehenge, England

Stonehenge, located in England, is indeed a remarkable historical site and an enigmatic monument that continues to fascinate people from around the world. Dating back approximately 5,000 years, Stonehenge holds a place of great importance in the realm of ancient civilizations. While its exact purpose remains a subject of speculation and debate, it has captured the imagination of many.

The stone circle, situated on the Salisbury Plain, has religious significance for practitioners of the Druidic faith, who gather at Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice and other important celestial events. The alignment of the stones with the movements of the sun during solstices and equinoxes adds to the intrigue surrounding its purpose.

Numerous theories have been put forth to explain the purpose of Stonehenge. Some propose that it served as a burial site, as evidenced by human remains discovered in the vicinity. Others believe it was a place of worship or a site for religious ceremonies, given its celestial alignments and the meticulous planning and construction required to create it. The theories are varied and diverse, reflecting the mystery that surrounds Stonehenge.

Regarding the notion of aliens, while it captures the imagination and has been featured in popular culture, it is not a widely accepted or scientifically supported explanation for the construction of Stonehenge. The prevailing theories center around the ingenuity and capabilities of the ancient people who erected this monument, using rudimentary tools and their knowledge of astronomy and engineering.

Stonehenge continues to be a symbol of ancient wisdom and human achievement, inspiring awe and curiosity. Its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1986 further highlights its significance as a historical and cultural treasure.

15. Newgrange, Ireland

It seems like you're referring to the ancient passage tomb of Newgrange in Ireland. Newgrange is indeed a remarkable archaeological site and a significant part of Ireland's Ancient East. It is an ancient mound tomb that dates back to around 3200 BC, making it older than both the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge.

Newgrange is located in County Meath and consists of a large circular mound made up of approximately 200,000 tons of rock, with a passage leading to a central chamber inside. The mound itself is an impressive 12.5 meters (41 feet) high. What makes Newgrange particularly fascinating is its alignment with the winter solstice.

During the winter solstice, a narrow beam of light penetrates through a specially designed opening above the entrance and illuminates the inner chamber. This astronomical alignment showcases the advanced knowledge and skill of the builders, who were able to create such precise alignments with the movements of the sun.

While Newgrange is commonly referred to as a tomb, the exact purpose and significance of the site are still not fully understood. Archaeologists and researchers continue to study and explore its mysteries, including the purpose of the inner chamber and the rituals associated with it. The site holds immense historical and cultural value, and its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1993 further highlights its significance.

Visiting Newgrange provides an opportunity to witness an ancient architectural marvel and explore the mysteries of the past. Its age, impressive construction, and alignment with astronomical events make it a unique and intriguing historical site in Ireland.