Life Changing Historical Sites
An en Alain, Flickr
Tikal (pictured above) is located in Guatemala and is one of the places where I've felt like Indiana Jones. In the early morning or late at night, after the tour groups leave, it's just you and jungle. How amazing to think that this city once contained millions of people and now houses only monkeys and overgrown vines. If you visit, make sure to spend at least one night there so you can fully experience the site.
Like Stonehenge, there are many mysteries surrounding the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. Researchers still don't have a solid idea as to how the Egyptians built them so precisely aligned to the stars, or how the stones were even transported there. Moreover, the Pyramids contain vast chambers we still haven't opened yet! And, no one knows how the architects planed to light them as there would be no oxygen inside for fire. The Pyramids are as mysterious as they are beautiful.
Cambodia's Angkor Wat was the center of the Khmer empire that once ruled most of Southeast Asia. Unlike Tikal, Angkor Wat is packed with tourists and you'll have to jostle for space. Still, it's amazing to think that this city, in the middle of the jungle, was the center of a civilization and had some of the most advanced irrigation systems in the world. No trip to Southeast Asia is complete without a visit here.
Petra was made famous by the film "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade," scenes from which were shot at this Jordanian historical site. You might recognize the façade of Petra's treasury as the entrance to the Holy Grail's resting place. Before the site was "discovered" in 1812 by a Swiss explorer it had been lost to the desert for thousands of years. Though its founding date is unknown, it appears Petra had settlers as early as the 6th century BC. It makes you wonder how they carved such impressive structures so deeply into the stone without any modern equipment.
Located near Salisbury, England, Stonehenge is over 3,000 years old. Scholars still debate how the stones, supposedly from Wales, were put into place. And, scientists still have a hard time replicating the results. Though the site isn't so impressive to look at, what is impressive is the fact that its architects dragged these stones thousands of miles and aligned them perfectly with the stars.
Located in southern Peru, this fascinating city lies atop a mountain that requires a four day hike to get there. On your voyage, you use some of the very same steps the ancient Incas did. This could be one of the most breathtaking journeys of your life and will give you renewed faith in the human spirit. I mean, if we can build a city on top of a mountain with no modern methods, we can do anything.
Located in the Pacific Ocean, Easter Island is famous for its iconic statues of people's faces--the only thing left of its inhabitants. These gigantic carved heads were made of volcanic ash by the Polynesian tribes that originated in the Pacific. The staues were likely used as gravestones or monuments to dead people. Eventually, though, they became a status symbol, and the quest for them helped doom the people of the island. It's a humbling tale of resource management.
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China was originally built to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against the Mongols. However, it didn't do a good job and invasions by nomadic tribes continued throughout the centuries. Construction began in the 5th century BC and was maintained through the 16th century. The majority of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty.
The Alhambra is a palace and fortress used by the Moorish kings of the Muslim Empire in Granada, Spain. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the Alhambra began to undergo restorations in the 19th century. What makes this site amazing is the intricate Islamic and Moorish architecture and the amazing gardens in which you can get lost for hours.
Bagan was the capital of several ancient kingdoms in Burma (Myanmar), used for many thousands of years. In many ways it is like Angkor Wat with its awe inspiring temple's towers rising up out of the jungle. Unfortunately, the site is being ruined by a military junta which is rebuilding the buildings incorrectly, using poor materials, and opening the site up to mass tourism. It's truly saddening to see this happen to such a historic treasure.
- To Go or Not To Go? - Controversial Destinations[AOL Travel]
- Lonely Planet's Top 10 Countries for 2011[Lonely Planet]
- National Geographic's 20 Best Trips of 2011[National Geographic]