5 ancient ruins to visit where you can do more than just learn about history
What better way to celebrate World Tourism Day than by visiting ancient ruins around the world? Buckle up as we show you the exciting things to do at these famous archeological sites and ancient ruins from Peru to Cambodia. Think the only thing to do at ancient sites is to learn about history? Think again! Read on for new ways to explore more of these ancient places while on our tours.
5. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Get a blessing from a monk
Angkor Wat is a sprawling, 900-year-old Hindu temple complex—and the largest religious monument in the world. This relic of the Khmer empire is home to ancient structures, such as the Bayon Temple, which is filled with carved reliefs of ancient faces, and the Temple of Ta Prohm, a beautiful ancient ruin that’s covered in jungle growth.
Inside the sacred site, Buddhist monks sit quietly on its stone floors, offering blessings to visitors like staffer Lindsay. “Travelers visiting Angkor Wat can receive blessings from young monks inside the temple,” said staffer Lindsay. “Looking on as a monk silently and gently tied a red bracelet around my wrist was a peaceful moment and a nice way to feel more connected to the place.” Out of so many spectacular ancient places, Angkor Wat should make it to the top of your bucket list. Experience this special moment for yourself on our Vietnam & Angkor Wat tour.
4. Petra, Jordan
Hike the secret treasury trail for the best views
There’s an unmarked trail leading to some of the best views of Petra, one of the oldest ruins in the world. The fourth century B.C. city carved out of pink sandstone was once a bustling city with theaters, temples, and palaces embedded into the natural landscape.
It can take days to fully explore the ruins of Petra, nicknamed the Rose City.
But of all the ancient sites, one of the most impressive monuments in Petra is the Treasury. A quick left near the Royal Tombs landmark will lead you up an arduous path of over 500 stairs. The sweat will be worth it—the trail will reward you with a unique, unobstructed view of one of the most incredible ancient ruins in the world. Explore the famous ruins of Petra for yourself on our Israel, Jordan & Egypt: Petra to the Pyramids tour.
3. Machu Picchu, Peru
Feel the energy of the Intihuatana stone
“One of our local guides at Machu Picchu said that the Intihuatana Stone gives off a certain energy when you hover your open hands near it,” said staffer Jamie. The stone was used for sun-worshipping by Incan high priests at this famous ancient ruin, where they performed equinox ceremonies to mark the changing of seasons.
During the equinox, the sun is directly aligned with the equator, making it look like the sun is hovering right above the Intihuatana Stone. It’s earned its nickname at Machu Picchu as “the hitching post of the sun.” “One of my fellow travelers tried it and was amazed,” said staffer Jamie. “He said he closed his eyes and felt the energy go right up his arms. Whether you believe it’s real or not, it’s a fun thing to try while you explore the sacred site!” With so many ancient sites to visit, you need to feel the energy on our A Week in Peru: Lima, Cuzco & Machu Picchu tour.
2. Uluru, Australia
Watch the sun set over a sacred site
In the heart of the Australian Outback, there’s a natural landmark that isn’t so much an ancient ruin as it is an ancient cathedral without walls. For the Aborigines of Australia, the monolithic Uluru is the source of their creation story, known as the Dreamtime. Rays of light from the sun beam onto the sandstone, making the prominent rock appear different colors depending on the time of day, from gray to purple as the sun rises, to a glowing red as the sun sets. See the sun set over this one-of-a-kind location for yourself on our Australia & New Zealand tour.
1. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Seize the opportunity to view petroglyphs
Explore ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs at this famous archaeological site. Mesa Verde was home to 26 tribes of the Pueblo people and has over 600 cliff dwellings, including the notable Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Spruce Tree House. You can view 800-year-old petroglyphs in a backcountry setting on a unique 2.8-mile hike. The rock art is linked to the Pueblo people’s observations of the night sky, with certain elements of the petroglyphs only illuminated by the sun during the winter solstice. Take the trek to see these dynamic petroglyphs on our Albuquerque Balloon Festival & U.S. National Parks tour.