16 Amazing Ancient Ruins of the World

We've seen a lot of amazing ruins of the world during our 18 years of traveling. 

Ruins of the World 

As I go through all that there is yet to see I find that we have barely scratched the surface. We have yet to see Easter Island, and we may never see any of the great structures of Afghanistan or Iraq.  Butn the meantime, enjoy our list of ancient ruins that we have visited.

1.Bagan, Myanmar

The days were hot when we explored the Temples of Bagan in Myanmar. We hired a horse cart for one day and a bicycle for the next. One thing we remember was that our horse cart driver was expecting a child any day now.

ruins of the world bagan burma

Bagan, Myanmar

It was a happy time. Located in Myanmar (Burma) we took a ferry from Mandalay on the Irrawaddy River to the ruins.  This Buddhist complex was built in 1057 and covers 16 square miles.

Time stands still in most of Burma and this feeling is even heightened in Bagan.  Farmers ride by on their ox carts, very few many locals pray at the temples and monks walk the street in the morning searching for alms.

Like most other ruins, the highlight is walking to the top of the highest temple; Thatbyinnyu Pahto to overlook the complex.

But one of the most extraordinary temples is Ananda Pahto.  Inside stands 4 giant Buddhas and two sacred Buddha footprints. Visiting Bagan made a believer out of me! It is a spiritual sight that gives off a feeling of calm and peace.

2.Petra, Jordan

Having the chance to visit Petra was a dream come true. We had heard about this ancient city but never thought that we'd get there.

ancient ruins of the world petra jordan

Petra, Jordan

To have a guide from the Jordan Tourism Board and a Petra official long for our walk through the ruins allowed for us to experience a Petra that many others don't get to see. It is by far one of our favourite ruins of the world.

3.Hampi, India

We didn't even know Hampi existed before going to India. But we were told about it while studying Yoga in Goa. We hopped on a train to see this city in the boulders where people still live among the ruins.

ancient ruins hampi india

Hampi, India

Even today people sell their wares in the bazaar and worship at the temples.
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4.Giza, Egypt

It's the most famous of all the ruins of the world. The Pyramids of Giza don't disappoint. We saw them by camel but sadly were ripped off by the sly guides. We got over it though because we just witnessed the mysterious temples seen on movies and television. Who ever thought we'd ever get the chance to see the pyramids of Giza?

ruins of the world egypt

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The first pyramids I had ever heard about as a child.  Wow, the pyramids of legend and the top of most peoples “must see” lists.  We finally made it to the piéce de resistance of all of the pyramids in the world. Driving through Cairo, you can see the pyramids from almost everywhere.

The most incredible way to see them is to hire a camel and guide.  You start walking through the maze of back streets getting a real taste of Cairo and then you walk into the desert riding high on its back. Definitely feeling like we were Lawrence of Arabia, we fantasized about how it must have felt to come upon these great monuments after a long caravan in the desert.

5.Machu Picchu, Peru

The fog was heavy when we arrived at Machu Picchu and we worried that we would never fully see this ancient city. Located high in the Andes it is shrouded in clouds each morning. But as the day moves on,  the sun burns off the clouds and the complex is revealed. We were mesmerized. How did people build this structure on the slope of a mountain without modern machinery? Machu Picchu is truly an impressive ruin of the world.


ruins of the world deb dave

Machu Picchu, Peru

Nestled high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, at 2500 meters it is certainly the most extraordinary location on the planet.  How did the Incas build this incredible complex so high on the side of a cliff?  Built in the 1400's Machu Picchu is remarkably well preserved.  Arriving early in the morning, it is shrouded in cloud, but as the sun rises and burns off the fog, a majestic vision unfolds.  200 buildings, terraced high on the side of the mountain surrounded by jungle,

Arriving early in the morning, it is shrouded in cloud, but as the sun rises and burns off the fog, a majestic vision unfolds.  200 buildings, terraced high on the side of the mountain surrounded by jungle, vegetation and clear blue skies.

We should have hired a guide for our journey throughout the complex and because we went to Peru on a whim, we didn't have time to book a trek on the Inca trail.  You have to book a year in advance if you are going in high season.

6.Tikal, Guatemala

It was by far our favourite place to visit. Mounds of earth burst out of the ground in conical shapes. Hiding beneath was yet another temple waiting to be discovered. Howler monkeys are heard in the distance and spider monkeys and toucans drop berry pits upon our heads. It was the leaf-cutter ants that caught our attention though.

Tikal, Guatemala

We watched them work as they hustled back and forth along the distinct trail that they carved on the jungle floor. It was mesmerizing. Tikal may be one of the greatest ruins of the world, but it's the wildlife and setting that make it stand out above the rest.

Arriving early in the morning, we set high on the top of a temple overlooking the jungle and complex.  Howler monkeys roar in the distance and we sit mesmerized by its splendor content to just “Be”.

If we stopped long enough and stood silently still, we could spy spider monkeys, toucans and parrots play above as leaf-cutter ants cut narrow paths into the jungle floor.

7. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

It's the mother of all ruins of the world. Angkor Wat was introduced to the masses in Lora Croft's Tomb Raider. This ancient Khmer Temple is being overrun with tourists these days. When we were there, one could still outrun tour buses by taking a tuk tuk to remote corners of the complex.

Whenever we saw a bus coming, we hopped in our ride and told our driver to high tail it out of there. We stayed one step ahead of everyone and enjoyed solitude in the temples.

ruins of the world angkor wat

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Located in Cambodia this majestic complex consists of hundreds of temples covering 500 acres of land. Mother nature has done her work well reclaiming the land once ruled by the Khmer Empire. The jungle had almost swallowed up the temples of Angkor, until great efforts were made in restoration. In recent years many temples have been restored to their original grandeur.

The Main Temple of Angkor Wat is well preserved and a breathtaking sight. Its five main towers jut into the air as high as 66 meters (215 ft) from its 1.6 km (1 mile) long base.You can witness the strength of nature by visiting the temple of Ta Prom. Left in its original state, vines and roots twist through the complex breaking apart solid rock as trees rise through its roof far into the air.

Not to be missed is Angkor Tom. Imposing statues of 54 Gods and 54 Demons line the causeway leading up to the temple.

At sunset on Bakheng Hill, you can overlook the entire land, but it wasn't quite as special when you were jockeying for a position and trying to see over the other hundreds of tourists heads.  Never the less it is well worth a visit.

8.Chizen Itza, Mexico

Chitzenitza is probably the most visited by tourists from Canada and the US, but it was one of our favorites. Being the very first ruin that we ever visited makes it one of the most memorable.  Located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico about 3 hours from Cancun, we had our most in-depth tour of any temple that we have ever gone to.

mexico ruins

Chitzenitza, Mexico

We were amazed with how connected to the stars the Mayans were. They seemed to know them intimately. The entire complex was built for the heavens it seemed. We couldn't believe how everything lined up perfectly with other Mayan Ruins.  They built everything in precision without modern tools or technology.

It is unbelievable that during the Equinox at El Castillo, the sun hits the site perfectly and a shadow in the shape of a serpent snakes down its 365 steps. We were in awe of the impeccable sound in the Pok ta pok arena and yet we were a little shocked at the brutality of the Mayans.  They held sacrifices, they beheaded players of the Pok ta Pok game, it was a bloody society that is for sure.

9. Jerash, Jordan

jordan ruins jerash

The Ruins of Jerash

One of the most well preserved Roman Ruins in the world can be found in the Middle East. The hand of Rome reached far and nothing shows that more than the impressive Jerash Ruins. Who knew that the small country of Jordan has some of the most important and impressive Roman ruins of the world?

10. Tonina, Mexico

Deep in the south of Mexico you will find the quiet ruins of Tonina in Chiapas. The complex itself is 2 square km but only a small portion of it has been excavated. Why did we love this so much? There was nobody around to stop us from exploring it to the fullest.

mexican ruins tonina chiapas

Tonina Ruins in Chiapas, Mexico

The most exciting moment was walking through the 50 metre passageway. It's pitch black and claustrophobic. You need to run your hand along the walk to find your way, but watch out for spiders!

11. Great Wall of China

We didn't expect to be impressed by the Great Wall, we even went to the site expecting to be disappointed. I'm glad that we allowed ourselves to change our minds.

ancient ruins of the world china

The Great Wall, China

The Great Wall was one of the best ruins of the world we have ever visited. The  section is practically deserted and you can walk along the 2.5 km section enjoying the countryside and imagining the great battles that took place between the Chinese Empire and the Mighty Mongols.

12. Roman Colosseum

It took us a while to finally see Rome and wow, what a city. Ancient ruins are intertwined throughout the entire metropolis. One minute you are sipping an espresso in a cafe and the next you are walking by a piece of architecture thousands of years old. Spending time in Rome is like no other experience you'll ever have in a city.


Colosseum, Rome

It's modern chic mixed with ancient tradition. The most impressive monument is the Colosseum. We had the privilege of staying in an apartment right across the street and looked out our window each day at one of the most amazing ruins of the world from above. It was spectacular

13. Cappadocia

ruins turkey

Read – Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons

14. Meteora

ancient ruins greece meteora

The Meteora monasteries of will take your breath away. Carved by wind and rain over thousands of years, Meteora's landscape is unique with massive stone spires reaching to the sky.

15. Messine

greek ruins

Unlike visiting the heavily crowded Acropolis of Athens, we had Messene all to ourselves. Dating back to the 8th and 9th century BC, the region of Messenia is as ancient as it gets. Messene itself was founded in 369 BC and still stands proud at the base of Mt Ithome.

16. Acropolis

That said, you cannot miss going to the Aropolis when visiting Athens. WE visited during a very crowded day, but we were more impressed with it at night from afar!

acropolis ruins

Read More

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Machu Picchu – Citadel in the Sky

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