Petra, in Jordan, is by far our favorite ancient city of the world. You enter with a .75-mile long walk through a high narrow gorge known at the Siq. Once you arrive at the vast opening of the main square, you are treated to this view of the Treasury. Each temple is extraordinary. While there, don’t miss going up to the Monastery. If the climb is too much for you, hire a donkey to take you up the uneven rocky trail.
Pryamids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt, probably are the world’s most famous ancient temples. Built around 2,500 B.C., these are the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. They do not disappoint. When laying eyes on them for the first time, I could not believe how huge they were. It’s impossible to imagine how they were built so long ago.
Before traveling to Southeast Asia, we never had heard of the ancient city of Bagan in Myanmar. But after seeing pictures of it in brochures, we knew we had to go there. It’s a spectacular stretch of temples located on the Irrawaddy river. Take a horse cart to tour the complex and make sure to climb to the top of a temple to overlook the hundreds of stupas.
Roman ruins aren’t only found in Italy; the ancient city of Jerash, in Jordan, is one of the most well-preserved Roman ruins in the world.
The legendary lost Incan city of Machu Picchu, in Peru, has attracted tourists for decades. You can trek up to this mountain city on the Inca Trail and (literally) follow in the footsteps of this ancient civilization, or you can take a scenic train through the Andes. Either way, the view will take your breath away.
I didn’t know much about Cambodia growing up, but I had heard of this mystical ancient city in the jungle. To see it with my own eyes was a dream come true. Lost for centuries, it was nearly overtaken by the jungle, and some temples have been left with trees and roots growing out from their foundations.
We’ve all heard about Chichén Itzá and Tulum, but there are several other Mayan cities in Mexico to see. One of our favorites is Tonina, located in the far southern state of Chiapas. Because it is off the tourist circuit, Tonina is a place you can explore free from crowds; when you’re there, you feel as if you have it all to yourself.
The ancient city of Hampi, in India, dates back to the 2nd century. What makes this city stand out from other ancient cities in the area is that people still live within the temples and walls. It feels as if you have stepped back in time and are in the middle of living history.
On the Island of Crete, in Greece, you will find the ancient city of Knosses, known to be the oldest city in all of Europe. In the 1920s Sir Arthur Evans tried to restore the complex with concrete creating a strange mix of modern materials within ancient stones. Due to the poor excavations of the past, it’s definitely one of the oddest ancient cities we’ve witnessed.
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City of Beijing is a must-visit when you visit China. Built in the 1400s during the Ming Dynasty, the complex housed the ruling Emperors for 500 years. Set on 180 acres, it’s the largest palace complex in the world. Even though the site is large, you can see a lot of it in a day, but make sure to give yourself the time you need to explore it properly.
Chichén Itzá was the first ancient city we visited in our lives. The giant Mayan complex is probably the most well-preserved and impressive of the Mayan cities in Mexico, and we were lucky enough to visit while you could still climb the main temple. Those steps since have been closed to tourists.
Located in the middle of a rainforest in Guatemala, Tikal is an ancient city that truly feels off the beaten path. Temples still lay unexcavated under giant mounds of earth, and wildlife roams freely through the complex. Howler monkeys can be heard roaring at sunrise and spider monkeys play overhead. It is truly an ancient wonder.