It is one thing to read a book or watch a movie about an ancient culture or civilization, and it is another to witness it in person. Although it is interesting to learn about these storied places through the pages of a history book, visiting and fully entrenching yourself in an ancient city is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
1. Damascus, Syria
The Middle Eastern nation of Syria is still recovering from an almost decade-long civil war filled with countless rebel groups, jihadists, and violent separatist movements. There is still sporadic fighting in the eastern portion of the country, however, large cities like Damascus are relatively safe.
Disregarding the recent conflict, the capital of Syria is home to some of the richest history in the world. Damascus remains the longest continually inhabited city in human history, and it shows. The Romans, Persians, Greeks, Assyrians, and Babylonians all once controlled the city. Due to its large number of previous occupants, there is an impressive amount of ancient cultures on display that seldom exists anywhere else.
2. Rome, Italy
The Eternal City has long been a popular destination for world travelers and history buffs. Rome still lays claim to one of the most robust histories. Being the seat of power of the greatest ancient civilization in history is an impressive accolade, but there is much more here than just the Romans.
Rome is also home to the Catholic micro-state Vatican City. Despite its small size, the Vatican is one of the most breathtaking places in the world. The stellar Vatican Museum hosts priceless works of art dating as far back as the early Renaissance. Not to mention the awe-inspiring work of Michelangelo within the Sistine Chapel. Being the seat of the Roman Catholic Church for nearly 2,000 years has granted Rome another impressive feather in its already overflowing cap.
3. Athens, Greece
Another popular tourist trap, Athens, is unquestionably the best place to travel if you want to witness what remains of Ancient Greece. While there are still plenty of ruins and monuments to marvel at across the entirety of the country, there is no place where the remnants of the Greek City States are more alive than in Athens.
One of the few places on Earth that can live up to the postcards, the Acropolis is everything you could imagine and more. You will not walk away from the Parthenon disappointed. Everything in Athens lives up to expectations. It is no wonder this magical city has long been and will continue to remain one of the most fascinating and alluring places on the planet.
4. Petra, Jordan
Not much remains of this once great city, but what has managed to survive is certainly worth your attention. Found in modern-day Jordan, the ancient city of Petra was once a thriving center of trade and commerce in the late Antiquity and early Medieval Era.
Best known for its rock-cut monuments and tombs at the Siq, these ageless wonders are sure to impress. Historians date its construction to the Nabataeans, an Arab tribe that first settled the area in 1200 BC. These monuments carved out of the face of sandstone mountains are some of the most astounding cultural attractions on Earth.
5. Machu Picchu, Peru
Located deep in the Andes mountains, Machu Picchu remains a testament to the dedication and genius of its creators. First discovered in 1911, how and why ancient humans constructed this amazing city still confounds and baffles experts to this day.
The journey to Machu Picchu is what makes it stand out from other ancient cities. Due to its relative isolation and remoteness, getting to the city is not easy. Tourists can either take a train ride through the mountains to one of the nearby towns or backpack through the wilderness. The treks by foot are by no means easy but they are popular. Thousands of people flock to the ruins each year. Only the foundation of Machu Picchu’s once-great building remains, but its mystery lives on.
6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Constructed sometime in the 12th century AD by King Suryavarman II, he abandoned the temple city shortly after its construction and left it to the mercy of mother nature. Built originally as a monument to the Hindu faith, King Suryavarman II was quick to convert to Buddhism after the sacking of Angkor Wat in 1177 AD. To this day a skeleton crew of Buddhist monks maintains the temple.
French colonial authorities stumbled upon this amazing city in the middle of the 19th century, bringing it into the limelight. Since then, the various temple complexes have gone through a multitude of restoration projects. Today, Angkor Wat is an officially recognized UNESCO heritage site that is a source of pride for many Cambodians. Angkor Watt even makes an appearance on the Cambodian flag.
If you are lucky enough to be in the position to visit some of these amazing places, they will not disappoint. These locations are a must for any history nerd or layman alike. These ancient cities are sure to make for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.