I was going through our travel archives and found out we actually visited a lot of archeological sites: ancient cities, monuments and temples. Mysterious and impressive, I always love to visit these ancient ruins.
Some of the ruins we visited were nothing more than a pile of old stones….at least according to our kids. But of course we respectfully regarded every piece of stone as a historically essential artefact… at least that’s how we tried to explain the importance of old stones to our kids.
I got the idea to create a list of the 10 of the world’s most amazing ancient ruins that we have visited. I decided to rank the sites based on one single criteria only: how much force was needed to drag me away from that place!
At the end I love to know about your favorite ancient ruin, so let’s go!
1. Bagan, Myanmar
My Ode to Bagan was the only way for me to express how I felt about this place. The plains full of temples and pagoda’s. Us and the kids riding our bikes from one temple to the other, passing cow herds and trucks full of Buddhist monks. The sunset that created a magnificent and unrivalled silhouette. This place is awesome.
There are now around 2,200 temple ruins to be found in Bagan. Just for you to imagine: this used to be over 10,000 during the prosperous years (between 11th and 13th century) but the area suffered a lot from earthquakes (with the biggest one in 1975 destroying many temples).
2. Angkor, Cambodia
Second on the list: Angkor (with our favorite temple ruin Ta Phrom). This one was on my bucket list for years and years when I finally visited in 2013. We spent almost a week in nearby town of Siem Reap and had the time of our life. You have to buy a visitor pass for one or more days, but I wish we bought ourselves an unlimited pass for life!
3. Machu Picchu
Who doesn’t know this 15th century Inca site in Peru, discovered in 1911 by Bingham. This one is from the list probably the one hardest to get to. But once you are up there and the clouds disappear you are left with jaw-dropping beauty. Picture below is from 2000 where Peru was actually our honeymoon destination!
4. Ayutthaya, Thailand
Just an hour north of Bangkok this place is not to be missed when you travel to Thailand. Don’t only go for a day, but spend at least one night (or more if you travel slow). Sunset behind the Wat Phra Si Sampet is beautiful. Rent some bikes and go your own way. Discover ruins less visited by tourists and also do ask a tuk tuk driver to take you to places a bit further out of town.
5. Sukhothai, Thailand
Another one in our favorite country of Thailand but further up north compared to Ayutthaya: Sukhothai. Well laid out and very relaxed to wander around in, this park full of ancient ruins is really worth the stop. Again, rent some bikes and wander around. Try to imagine how big and impactful these temples were long time ago…
6. Karnak temple Luxor, Egypt
Egypt… tourism suffering a lot from all that happened in the past years. We have been in Egypt only once, early 2000s (hence the analog quality of the images…). At that time we visited Luxor where the Karnak temple with its massive pillars left us speechless. The Egyptian hieroglyphs, the statues of the Gods and the idea that all this used to be one single temple….
We will for sure be back to see more of this wonderful country: Cairo, the pyramids and also the South with the famous Abu Simbel temple.
7. Khajuraho, India
Also known as the Kamasutra temples, these temples are actually quite well preserved. We visited these temples in 1998 I believe it was. I described them earlier as spaceships that landed centuries ago. From a distance their shape is already spectacular, but once you get closer your attention is move to something else: the uncensored erotic sculptures… That’s why they call them the Kamasutra temples. Out of this world…
8. Colosseum in Rome, Italy
Don’t think we don’t have any ancient ruins in Europe, of course we have! Most famous one is for sure the Colosseum in Rome, the largest amphitheater in the world. When visiting Rome the Colosseum of course is a must on your itinerary.
9. Ephesus, Turkey
The ancient Greek city of Ephesus in Turkey, discoverd at the end of the 1800s. This was actually the first ancient ruin that me and my wife visited, I think it was back in 1994…
Ephesus as far as I can remember was great, although it was quite busy with long lines of visitors. Because it was such a long time ago, Ephesus only made it to no. 9 on this list. Have you visited Ephesus recently? Do you think it should be higher on the list? Please leave a comment, because I really want to know.
10. Roman Forum, Rome
We visited Rome which in it’s grandeur is one big open-air museum. The Roman Forum is quite an important part of Romain history, being the center of the Roman empire from around 500BC to 400AD. However, the site did not really excite us. Sorry, but no. 10 it is for the Roman Forum.