Ancient ruins provide us with a concrete reminder of the incredible skill and talent of those who came before us. Even in their deteriorated state, the beauty of such impressive structures and villages continues to shine through. The world is packed with so many incredible ruins that visiting them all is almost impossible—regardless, here is a list of five ancient ruins you must see.
Chichen Itzá, Mexico
A must-see attraction in Mexico, Chichen Itzá is one of the new wonders of the world. This ancient city was inhabited from around A.D. 600 to 1221 and served primarily as a religious center for the Mayan people. Occupying an area of four square miles, Chichen Itzá comprises the largest archaeological site in the Yucatán Peninsula. Perhaps the most notable feature of these impressive ruins is El Castillo, an incredible temple-pyramid that once served as a temple to the god Kukulkan—a feathered serpent deity.
Once a thriving Roman city, Pompeii was tragically consumed by ash and lava during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The eruption killed roughly 2,000 people, but the city remarkably remained intact under the four to six meters of volcanic ash, which even preserved many villagers into stone-like sculptures. After many years of abandonment, the city was re-discovered in 1748 and has become known as one of the most popular and infamous ancient ruins.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Located high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Machu Picchu is widely considered to be the Incan Empire’s most remarkable urban creation. While its exact purpose remains unknown, it’s believed to have once served as an Incan royal estate and sacred religious site. Although Machu Picchu was constructed in the 15th century, its ruins weren’t uncovered until 1911. Today, visitors can explore the impressive remains, which include 3,000 steps and over 150 stone structures.
Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The Pyramids of Giza were constructed from around 2550 to 2490 B.C. to serve as elaborate tombs for the Egyptian pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. The three massive pyramids were intended to supply the pharaohs with everything they would need to thrive as gods in the next world. Located along the Nile River in northern Egypt, the incredibly long-lasting pyramids are the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Miraculously, they’re also the only ancient wonders that have remained mostly intact.
The Great Wall of China, China
Commonly thought to be a singular wall, the Great Wall of China is actually a collection of various wall segments originally designed to defend China from outside invasions. As such, a variety of guard towers, beacon towers, bridges, battlements, and stairways are included throughout the long expanse. The construction and reparation of this impressive system, which spans 13,171 miles, was the work of many dynasties throughout history—from the Qin Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty, which made the last contribution. With construction beginning in the 3rd century B.C., the wall wasn’t completed until 1879, over 2,500 years later.