Are you a history lover looking to create a bucket list of archaeological hotspots? Here you’ll find a rundown of the most historical places in the world that you need to see before you die!
Have you ever dreamed of channeling your inner Indiana Jones?
Well, you’re in luck!
I’m always down for exploring new destinations. And I have a serious passion for visiting historical places with fascinating stories behind them.
These historic properties are culturally or archaeologically significant in some way.
And they attract millions of curious tourists every single year!
From the iconic Pyramids of Giza in Egypt to the remarkably preserved city of Pompeii, these bucket list destinations will fill you with serious wanderlust.
Now prepare to connect with otherworldly cultures and iconic monuments from centuries past as we uncover the most historical places in the world!
Travel Through Time: 27 Historical Places In the World You Can’t Miss
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is an Incan city that was built back in 1483AD (or thereabouts!), and it remains one of the most fascinating historical places in the world.
It was once a major civilization but was abandoned when the Spanish invaded the Peruvian region in the 16th century.
So, this historic city wasn’t uncovered until 1911 when American explorer Hiram Bingham III happened upon it!
This historic district is perched an incredible 2,430 meters above sea level and offers sensational views of the Andes. But it’s the impressive citadel, dry-stone buildings, and the fact that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that makes it worth visiting.
If you’re wondering how to get here, I recommend heading out from Cusco on the 3.5-hour scenic train route. You’ll be dropped off just a few miles from the site. From there, you’ll get to take in the luscious greenery and canyons along the way!
2. Petra, Jordan
No list of the most historical places in the world would be complete without Petra.
This ancient city was constructed by the Nabataeans over 2,000 years ago and is simply remarkable. And as it remained undiscovered by the West until 1812, it’s still pristine!
As you arrive in Petra you’ll be met with the towering Siq (which is essentially a narrow gorge!) that leads you to the rose-colored landscape.
Once you’re inside the Rose City, you can easily spend a couple of days exploring the centuries-old tombs, caves, temples, and monasteries that characterize the area.
Plus, who wouldn’t want to visit the incredible sites where Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed?
I recommend waking up early to visit Petra. It’s a magical place when a few people are around. The site is open from 6 am, so you can cover plenty of ground before the crowds arrive!
3. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The Pyramids of Giza are among the most impressive historical sights ever.
It was on my bucket list since I was little. And when I saw finally saw them, I was in awe at such a magnificent sight. I confess I even shed a few tears.
You can see why they are one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient Worl.
The pyramids are located near Cairo and were constructed somewhere between 2550BC and 2490BC as tombs to carry the pharaohs into the afterlife.
Although the treasure and sculptures have since been removed to minimize looting, the enormous pyramids are still seriously impressive!
Considering the pyramids were built without modern construction equipment and contain over 2 million limestone blocks, they’re a major feat of ancient engineering.
The huge desert complex consists of three smaller pyramids and three larger ones that are tucked alongside the Great Sphinx of Giza.
So, you get to see all that ancient archaeology in one go!
There is a general admission entry fee of around 200 Egyptian pounds (around $6.5 at the time of writing) if you want to see the pyramids. So, bear this in mind before heading out.
4. The Great Wall of China, China
The Great Wall of China is an ancient historical site that was initially built as a fortification barrier during the Qin dynasty.
It stretches an impressive 12,500 miles across China’s forested areas and took over 2,500 years to fully complete.
And that’s because it was significantly altered and rebuilt during the Ming dynasty!
The Great Wall has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. It attracts more than 10 million visitors each year. Plus, it’s the longest manmade structure in the entire world!
Although you won’t be able to cover the whole thing, you should prioritize areas with perfectly preserved barracks, passes, and fortresses.
I’d say that the Badaling and Mutianyu Great Walls are the easiest to reach. Plus, they offer panoramas over the landscape that you’ll never forget!
5. The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
The Colosseum is one of the most impressive historical sites in the world, with its grand amphitheater dating back to 70 AD. This iconic structure was used for gladiator fights and other public spectacles, attracting crowds of up to 50,000 people.
The Colosseum’s construction began under the emperor Vespasian and was completed by his successor, Titus. The oval-shaped amphitheater is made of concrete and sandstone and measures 48 meters high, 189 meters long, and 156 meters wide.
Despite being damaged by earthquakes and fires over the years, the Colosseum still stands as an enduring symbol of Roman engineering and architecture. Visitors can explore the underground tunnels where gladiators and wild animals were kept before entering the arena.
Today, the Colosseum is a popular tourist destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is estimated that over 6 million visitors visit the Colosseum every year to witness the grandeur and history of this ancient amphitheater.
You should get there early in the morning or late in the afternoon when there are fewer people.
And if you really want to make the most of your visit, book a guided tour to fully appreciate the rich history of the Colosseum.
6. The Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal is one of the historical places in the world with an incredible backstory.
This marble palace was constructed somewhere between 1632 and 1648 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal who passed away in 1631.
It’s perched right on the edge of the Yamuna River and boasts gorgeous Muslim architecture and stunning vistas over the water. But don’t forget to check out the groomed gardens and sprawling pathways if you’re planning to visit!
You can’t go wrong with when you choose to head down here. But it’s particularly beautiful just before the sun sets.
7. The Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Athens is home to several historical sights, but it’s The Acropolis that truly takes the cake.
It’s a citadel that’s perched on top of a rocky outcrop above Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings.
The Parthenon is one of the most significant buildings you’ll spot while you’re here.
It was built as a monument to honor the goddess Athena and has survived several conflicts and natural disasters!
Not only will you get glorious views of Athens from The Acropolis, but the towering columns and artifacts from the Acropolis Museum will take you back in time.
You can buy your tickets in advance or right at the entrance for around $23 per person (with concession prices available for some!).
8. The Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Guatemala
The Mayan Ruins of Tikal are bound to impress history lovers from far and wide.
It’s no secret that Central America is home to tons of Mayan structures, temples, and sacrificial sites.
But there’s something about the tropical rainforest setting of Guatemala that makes the Tikal ruins stand out.
It’s believed that the towering Tikal Temple dates back to 7 BC. But most civilizations around this area grew between 200 AD and 850 AD.
You’ll find over 3,000 incredible points of interest in Tikal National Park. It’ll take you quite a while to cover the whole 200 square miles.
Just watch out for the playful spider monkeys that might try to steal your bags!
P.S.: If you’re a film lover, you might recognize these glorious Mayan ruins in the movie “Star Wars: A New Hope!“
9. The Terracotta Army, China
The Terracotta Army was created by Emperor Qin Shi Huang who believed that an 8000-strong army of warriors and horses would protect him in the afterlife.
This immense collection of terracotta figures in Xi’an took approximately 38 years and 700,000 workers to complete. And unfortunately, they were all killed after the project was finished to keep the location of the army a secret (grisly!).
Luckily for us, they were discovered in 1974 by a local farmer, and the entire area is now a World Heritage Site.
Not only is the face of every single warrior different, but they’re all holding solid bronze weapons that add some serious gravitas to the mix.
10. The Alhambra, Granada, Spain
The Alhambra is one of the historical sites that you need to see before you die.
It’s an incredibly ornate palace and fortress in Granada. It’s a beautiful example of Islamic architecture in the Western world.
Although it operated as a palace during its early years, it turned into a defensive fortress during the Napoleonic wars (where it was almost destroyed!).
You’re bound to appreciate the jaw-dropping façade and intricate interior. But as it stands at the highest point of Granada, you’ll also get spectacular views of the Albaicín district and the mountains of Sierra Nevada.
While you’re here, don’t forget to spend time wandering through the Generalife gardens and inspecting the Andalusian art too!
Trust me, it’ll be an afternoon well-spent.
11. The Forbidden City, Beijing, China
The Forbidden City proudly stands in central Beijing and housed the imperial Chinese emperors between 1420 and 1911.
It’s a huge complex that boasts a total of 980 buildings that stretches over 7.75 million square feet.
So, seeing it all is going to be pretty much impossible.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t hit the highlights like the Palace Museum and the labyrinthine halls and grounds.
Oh, and did I mention that it’s home to the largest and best collection of Chinese historical artifacts in the world?
You’ll usually enter this historical site through the Meridian Gate before heading to the gorgeous marble bridges of the Golden Stream.
If you want to really push the boat out, why not mount the wall and gaze upon the amazing Dragon Throne and Three Great Halls?
Whatever you choose to do, it’s going to be unforgettable.
12. Chichen Itza, Mexico
Chichen Itza is an extremely significant Mayan archaeological site that’s tucked away in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Oh, and did I mention that it’s one of the New Seven Wonders of the World?
It’s probably most famous for the impressive Pyramid of Kukultan (sometimes called El Castillo), but it’s the fascinating history that’ll draw you in.
This area is regarded for the Cult of Cenote ritual which involved the Mayans sacrificing living humans to the gods.
Although you can’t climb to the top of the pyramid these days, you can still check out the Mesoamerican architecture around the ancient Temple of the Warriors.
Fancy moving beyond the iconic pyramid?
You can also head to the sacred cenote, the spooky Platform of the Skulls, or the Great Ball Court!
13. The Angkor Wat, Cambodia
When it comes to impressive historic sites, you can’t do much better than Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
It’s a worthy testament to Khmer architecture and was originally built to honor the Hindu deity, Vishnu. But over time, it developed into a significant place of Buddhist worship for the residents of Siem Reap.
This enormous complex of temples dates back to the 12th century. It takes up 400 acres of the Angkor Archaeological Park.
It consists of 12 main temples, but you’ll also spot smaller religious monuments, statues, and structures dotted around the area.
Oh, and don’t forget the impressive tree roots that sprawl over the incredible ruins!
There are always tourists hanging around the popular temples like Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Angkor Thor. It’s just the nature of the beast.
But you can certainly beat the touring crowds by heading down in the early morning.
You’ll virtually have the place to yourself. And watching the sun rising above the temple’s gorgeous spires will take your breath away.
14. The Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
Are you a fan of Byzantine architecture, beautiful mosaics, and religious history?
Well then, you’ll want to add the Hagia Sophia to your Bucket List of historical places to visit!
This sprawling structure was built between 532AD and 537AD, and it was originally designed as a Green Orthodox cathedral.
But when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, it was converted into a gorgeous imperial mosque with intricate mausoleums and tombs!
It became the burial spot for several prolific sultans, but it’s also a major site of artistic importance in Turkey.
Not only will you adore the enormous minarets, but the sprawling mosaics of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and emperors are just as impressive as they were centuries ago.
And to make the experience even sweeter, there’s no entrance fee to visit as it’s still a functioning mosque!
15. The Palace of Versailles, France
The Palace of Versailles has been a World Heritage Site for decades, and it’s one of the most beautiful historic sites in Europe.
This grand building was originally built by Louis XIII in 1623 as a hunting lodge.
But it gradually housed French monarchs when it was embellished by Louis XIV to include lavish grounds, water features, and an artistic interior.
It’s home to centuries of European history. You can easily spend an entire day walking through the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments.
If you want to truly appreciate the magnificence of this place, don’t miss the Hall of Mirrors. It reflects light beautifully and is packed with gold and crystal that highlight the incredible painted ceilings.
And if you’re an art lover, you’ll be pleased to know that this sprawling estate boasts over 6,000 paintings and an untold number of tapestries and sculptures!
16. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is known for its signature tilt and is one of the most popular places to visit in Italy for an amusing selfie (or three!).
Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t actually designed to tilt.
But because of the soft foundations of the ground around the tower, it was approximately 5.5 degrees off being straight.
Construction started in 1174, but it wasn’t completed until 1350 because of wars, a lack of cash, and several unsuccessful attempts to correct that lean!
The tower is a gorgeous mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles, and the fascinating columns and cylindrical shape are truly sights to behold.
Next to the incredible tower, you’ll find the beautiful Pisa Cathedral, which is an impressive feat of medieval architecture.
Just be warned that you’ll need to pay around 18 Euros to climb to the top of the tower. And there are usually large queues to do so!
Oh, and one of my top Italy travel tips? Get to the tower as early as possible to capture shots without tons of tourists around!
17. Vatican City, Rome, Italy
The Vatican City is located in the heart of Rome. It was first established in the 4th century AD when the original St. Peter’s Basilica was constructed.
After the church was built, the area became a well-known pilgrimage site for Christian worshippers under Emperor Constantine I.
Over the years, the gorgeous Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel, and the new St. Peter’s Basilica were added to the Vatican City’s ornate landscape.
It’s regarded for its beautiful Renaissance architecture and religious reputation (hey, the Pope is based here!).
But there’s more to this spot than meets the eye.
At the Vatican Museums, you’ll find huge collections of art and archaeological relics tucked away inside an incredible 1400 rooms.
Plus, who wouldn’t want to see the fascinating Papal tombs inside the Vatican Grottoes?
Whether you’re deeply religious or just want to catch a glimpse of the Pope, you won’t be disappointed by the Vatican City!
Top tip: Visiting the Vatican museums at night. It was one of the most incredible experiences I had in Rome.
18. Easter Island, Chile
If you’re looking for places with history, you can’t beat Easter Island in Chile.
This ancient archaeological site is located approximately 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile (so it’s not that close to the mainland!).
But the trek to these enormous statues made from volcanic ash is worth the effort.
The statues were built sometime between 1100AD and 1650AD by the Rapa Nui people of Polynesia, and they form an imposing circle around the island.
Considering they weigh several tons each, we still can’t say for certain how the local people managed to maneuver these sculptures to their final resting place.
Regardless of what you think of the Easter Island heads, this is among the world’s historical places that are worthy of preservation.
19. Old City of Jerusalem, Israel
The Old City of Jerusalem is a culturally, historically, and religiously significant part of the world.
Not only is it considered an extremely holy city in Judaism, but it’s also been a major hub for Islam and Christianity over the years.
It’s separated into the Muslim Quarter, the Christian and Armenian Quarters, and the Jewish Quarter – so, there’s tons to explore!
While you’re here, you must visit the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and the Golgotha (where Jesus was said to be crucified).
But you should also spend time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock which is an extremely holy site for Islamic worshippers.
20. The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
It’s no secret that Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world.
And the Eiffel Tower, which was supposed to be dismantled after only 20 years of its construction, is now one of its most celebrated historical landmarks.
This towering wrought iron structure overlooks the city at a height of 300 meters and is designed to be highly wind resistant (phew!).
Construction began in 1887 and was ready just in time for the Paris World Fair in 1889 where it was officially unveiled.
The design was conceptualized by Gustave Eiffel (hence the name!) who was also responsible for the glorious Statue of Liberty in NYC.
Although it looks gorgeous during the day, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is particularly beautiful when it glitters at night.
You can thank the 20,000 individual lightbulbs for that!
21. Pompeii, Italy
Pompeii is a famous historic city that was entirely buried underneath ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD.
Although the eruption was a tragedy that killed every soul living in Pompeii, the blanket of ash perfectly preserved the city for around 1800 years.
Until it was discovered in 1748.
Believe it or not, only one-third of the total site has been excavated to date.
Walking through its streets is quite haunting. It transports you back in time to the moment when this bustling city was frozen in time.
This feeling is amplified when you see the plaster casts of the people who were killed in the disaster, frozen in their final moments of agony.
Which leaves you with a newfound appreciation for the fragility of life and the power of nature.
It’s one of the archaeological sites that’s seriously worth visiting.
22. Luxor, Egypt
Luxor might not be quite as well known as Cairo or Giza, but it’s home to a handful of ancient monuments that you need to see.
I am sure you’ll feel the same air of mystery and intrigue I felt the first time I walked through Valley of the Kings. The tombs, filled with intricate carvings and hieroglyphics, hold secrets and stories of a civilization that flourished thousands of years ago.
And the Karnak Temple and the Temple of Hatshepsut are among the finest archaeological gifts we have from the ancient Egyptians.
Walking through this 60-acre open-air museum, you’ll be surrounded by one jaw-dropping sight after another.
This site contains many well-preserved ancient Egyptian structures and artifacts.
It’s easy to see why this place is just as worthy as the Pyramids!
23. Mesa Verde, United States of America
Mesa Verde is a national park in Southwest Colorado that’s home to over 4,700 separate archaeological sites.
The whole park is completely open to guests as a self-guided experience.
I suggest focusing on the Canyon of the Ancients while you’re here.
It’s tucked away on the Sand Canyon Trail, which runs for around 6.5 miles. It’s packed with striking artifacts from the Ancestral Puebloans.
The cliff dwellings were built sometime after 650AD and remain remarkably preserved, considering they were literally used as houses!
And the sunsets around here? They’re just stunning.
24. Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan is a glorious complex of temples perched right on the Irrawaddy River.
The red-bricked temples are surrounded by desert and shrubbery, which makes this site super peaceful.
It’s said to have been built somewhere between 1200 and 1300, but exact dates have never been pinned down.
Although exploring the ancient pagodas, murals, stonework, and temples is the main reason to visit this iconic spot, there’s much more to this area than meets the eye.
You can engage with the locals, ride bikes along the dusty pathways, and even watch Thanaka (a local cosmetic paste!) being made.
In my book, it’s one of those historical places that’s still brimming with life and is a total must-visit spot!
25. Stonehenge, England
Stonehenge might not look like much at first glance.
Especially with the highway that runs next to it…
But if you can look past that, this prehistoric circle of stones in Wiltshire tells us a lot about Neolithic ceremonies and practices.
It’s believed that the stone circles were placed here between 3000 BC and 2000 BC, and the area includes several burial mounds and small chalk pits.
It’s hard to say whether it was used as a spot for otherworldly rituals or studying the moon and stars.
But the fascinating audio tour will give you some insight into this mysterious and unique place!
Oh, and the gorgeous rugged scenery and impressive relics at the Stonehenge Exhibition certainly don’t hurt either.
26. Leshan Giant Buddha, China
The Leshan Giant Buddha is a popular tourist destination that will blow you away as soon as you see it.
It’s a simple but colossal statue that was carved into a cliff during the Tang Dynasty.
It towers over the waterfront at 70 meters high, and it’s approximately 1,300 years old.
Although it’s not easy to get to, and it’s not the oldest stone depiction of Buddha in the world, it’s certainly the tallest. It offers a truly awe-inspiring sight that is bound to leave a lasting impression on you.
27. Cappadocia, Turkey
With its rugged rock formations, fairytale chimneys, and vibrant collections of hot air balloons, it’s no wonder that Cappadocia is a dream destination for many.
This is one of those historical places with a charming atmosphere.
It was created 60 million years ago by volcanic eruptions. So, it’s been around for a while!
Spending your time watching the gorgeous sunsets is one of the best ways to enjoy this beautiful area.
But I’m partial to the luxurious hotels that are converted cave dwellings (they’re often tucked away inside a sandstone cliff, BTW!).
Whatever you choose to do, Cappadocia is a historical site that’s oozing with romance and intrigue.
There you have it: the ultimate list of historical places in the world that will transport you to another time.
Have you been to any of these historical places?
If you have any questions about these glorious sites or want to share your experiences, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!