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32 ancient ruins to see in your lifetime

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From Machu Picchu to hulking castles, here's where to gain a huge perspective on history.
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Machu Pichu, 08680, Peru
This month marks the hundred-year-anniversary of the "re-discovery" of this Inca citadel by Hiram Bingham. Machu Picchu deserves its clichés--'place of a lifetime,' 'bucket-list destination'...'mystical'...'amazing'... Sometimes, it's okay...
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Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Thailand
While you're in Thailand, be sure to escape the colorful chaos of Bangkok and head toward the historic capital of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The best option to get there would be by train and they run frequently from Bangkok's...
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Situated not far from Meknes, between Fes and Rabat, the Roman ruins of Volubilis stand as a testament to a culture that changed the world forever. In the fertile area that the ruined city is located, it's difficult to remember you're in Morocco....
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Adare, Co. Limerick, V94 W8WR, Ireland
This castle was erected with an ancient ring-fort, around the early part of the 13th century. It became a strategic fortress during the following turbulent years. It was the property of the Earls of Kildare for nearly 300 years until the rebellion...
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Carretera Federal, Cancun - Chetumal Km 230, 307, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
While not as large as other ancient Mayan cities in the region, Tulum draws in visitors for its stunning setting of centuries-old temples perched on a cliff by the Caribbean Sea. You’ll pass a large market with souvenirs, a casual Mexican...
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Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Crowds may swarm upon it daily from sunrise onwards, but exposure hasn’t dulled the impact of the largest religious monument in the world. Commissioned by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century as the centerpiece of the mighty Khmer empire,...
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1495 Villers-la-Ville, Belgium
In 1146 a dozen monks and some lay brothers, with the blessings of St Bernard (not the dog!) headed to what is now Belgium and founded the abbey. It had been neglected and then revitalized during its second golden age in the 1800s where some of...
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Easter Island is a strange, remote, and magical place. After a full day of wandering around this tiny island, we were fortunate enough to witness an absolutely breathtaking sunset over the Pacific. The "beach" here is made up of pitch black...
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Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Better known as the Tomb Raider Temple since its starring role in the Hollywood movie of the same name, Ta Prohm has at least as much star quality as Angelina Jolie. Cloaked in dappled shadow and locked in the embrace of the vast root systems that...
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Flavijevska ul., 52100, Pula, Croatia
The sixth-largest Roman amphitheater still standing today, the Pula Arena is Croatia’s most magnificent classical monument—and reason enough to check out Pula, Istria’s main city. Built in the 1st century C.E. during the rule of...
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The Pends, St Andrews KY16 9QL, UK
Often called, "Scotland's Greatest Cathedral" the now-ruined medieval St. Andrews, overlooking the North Sea in its namesake town, is a splendid sight any time of day or night. However, in my several days of residence in the town made famous by...
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Macau
One of Macau's most famous landmarks. The front façade and the grand stone stairs are the only remains of the greatest church in Macau or even in East Asia.
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Polignotou 3, Athina 105 55, Greece
Slave-traders and shoe-menders, jewelers and moneylenders haggled and gossiped at this ancient marketplace the history of which spans five millennia. The Agora was also the stomping ground of rival philosophers Plato and Socrates—the latter...
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Woodstock, NY, USA
About forty minutes after you start Overlook Mountain trail in Woodstock suddenly without any warning the ruins of Overlook Mountain House rise in their most haunted and cryptic look in front of you. Only four outer walls and main staircases of...
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Jl. Raya Solo - Yogyakarta No.16, Kranggan, Bokoharjo, Kec. Prambanan, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55571, Indonesia
Go back in time with these partially ruined temples from the 9th century. Celebrating the hindu trinity (Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh, Creator- Sustainer-Destroyer), these temples have seen their cycles of creation and destruction more than once.
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Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ, USA
As Anglo settlers arrived in the 19th century, several sites throughout the Southwest desert were named, erroneously, for the Aztec emperor Montezuma (Moctezuma). The most famous one—and the one to keep this name officially—is Montezuma Castle...
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Mueang Pak, Pak Thong Chai District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30150, Thailand
Though it pains me to say this - prior to traveling to Thailand, I had never heard of Ayutthaya. How could such a historically significant and architecturally fascinating place have completely evaded me?!? In case you're in the same boat as me,...
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Tikal, Guatemala
It will give you a jolt to see these crumbling Mayan temples in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle. The limestone rocks have been scraped smooth by archeologists desperate to stave off the jungle vines and mossy dampness and the green undergrowth...
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80045 Pompeii, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy

Witness the destruction wrought by Mt. Vesuvius nearly 2,000 year ago at the archaeological site of Pompeii. The ancient village was frozen in time beneath a blanket of hot ash during an eruption in 79 C.E. Among the ruins that have been uncovered...

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Cambodia
Vestiges of European colonial settlement remain throughout much of Southeast Asia, often contrasted against more traditional hill tribe villages and always set in (cooler) rolling mountain ranges. These former frontier towns were once the summer...
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Hamzalısüleymaniye, Akropol Cd. No:6, 35700 Bergama/İzmir, Turkey
“The ruins of himself! now worn away, with age, yet still majestic in decay.” —Homer. The best way to see the Acropolis of Pergamon is to take the cable car up (they will try to sell you a return ticket, but insist on one-way) and then walk down...
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Finding 'old' in Qatar can be a challenge. Someone mentioned in passing that there are ruins of a pearl fishing village up north, but none of the Qataris I asked had heard of it–nor could they possibly comprehend anyone's fascination with a...
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During a recent destination wedding shoot in the Caribbean, our boat tour guide took us to a shipwreck off the coast of Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands. La Famille Express, a general cargo ship, ran aground during Hurricane Frances in 2004...
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Ollantaytambo, Peru
Ollantaytambo’s namesake archaeological site is one of the best examples of Incan architecture in the region. It’s easy to spend a half day exploring the temples and other structures there, especially if you factor in time to hike...
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Piazza Venezia, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
The Monument of Victor Emmanuel II in Rome, nicknamed the Wedding Cake (and, alternately, the Typewriter) for its distinctive boxy shape, offers some of the most stunning panoramic views to be had of the Eternal City, in every direction. There is...
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Pisiga, Bolivia
Contact Guinness Book of World Records. This must be the shortest vacation to Bolivia on record. As near as I can tell with my less-than-fluent Spanish skills, I was turned back after 30 minutes at the Bolivian border because: - it was snowing and...