We've seen a lot of amazing ruins of the world. But as I go through all that there is yet to see I find that we have barely scratched the surface. We have yet to see Easter Island, Stonehenge or The Acropolis and we may never see any of the great structures of Afghanistan or Iraq.
However we have seen some spectacular archeological wonders during our travels and we want to share a photographic journey of some of our favourite ruins of the world.
Ruins of the World
The days were hot when we explored the Temples of Bagan in Myanmar. We hired a horse cart for one day and a bicycle for the next. One thing we remember was that our horse cart driver was expecting a child any day now. It was a happy time. Located in Myanmar (Burma) we took a ferry from Mandalay on the Irrawady River to the ruins. This Buddhist complex was built in 1057 and covers 16 square miles.
Time stands still in most of Burma and this feeling is even heightened in Bagan. Farmers ride by on their ox carts, very few many locals pray at the temples and monks walk the street in the morning searching for alms.
Like most other ruins, the highlight is walking to the top of the highest temple; Thatbyinnyu Pahto to overlook the complex. But one of the most extraordinary temples is Ananda Pahto. Inside stands 4 giant Buddhas and two sacred Buddha footprints. Visiting Bagan made a believer out of me! It is a spiritual sight that gives off a feeling of calm and peace.
Having the chance to visit Petra was a dream come true. We had heard about this ancient city but never thought that we'd get there. To have a guide from the Jordan Tourism Board and a Petra official long for our walk through the ruins allowed for us to experience a Petra that many others don't get to see. It is by far one of our favourite ruins of the world.
It's the most famous of all the ruins of the world. The Pyramids of Giza don't disappoint. We saw them by camel but sadly were ripped off by the sly guides. We got over it though because we just witnessed the mysterious temples seen on movies and television. Who ever thought we'd ever get the chance to see the pyramids of Giza?
The first pyramids I had ever heard about as a child. Wow, the pyramids of legend and the top of most peoples “must see” lists. We finally made it to the piéce de resistance of all of the pyramids in the world. Driving through Cairo, you can see the pyramids from almost everywhere. When we landed at the airport and took our minivan to our hotel, I could see them out the window and couldn't wait to get up close and personal.
The most incredible way to see them is to hire a camel and guide. You start walking through the maze of back streets getting a real taste of Cairo and then you walk into the desert riding high on its back. Definitely feeling like we were Lawrence of Arabia, we fantasized about how it must have felt to come upon these great monuments after a long caravan in the desert.
5.Machu Picchu, Peru
Nestled high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, at 2500 meters it is certainly the most extraordinary location on the planet. How did the Incas build this incredible complex so high on the side of a cliff? Built in the 1400's Machu Picchu is remarkably well preserved. Arriving early in the morning, it is shrouded in cloud, but as the sun rises and burns off the fog, a majestic vision unfolds. 200 buildings, terraced high on the side of the mountain surrounded by jungle, vegetation and clear blue skies.
We should have hired a guide for our journey throughout the complex and because we went to Peru on a whim, we didn't have time to book a trek on the Inca trail. You have to book a year in advance if you are going at high season. I really didn't feel that I missed too much, but I do think that it would have put it higher on our list if we actually hiked the Inca Trail to the ruins. But taking the train through the Andes and spending time in Aguas Calientas was certainly special in its own right.
Arriving early in the morning, we sit high on the top of a temple overlooking the jungle and complex. Howler monkeys roar in the distance and we sit mesmerized by its splendour content to just “Be”.
If we stopped long enough and stood silently still, we could spy spider monkeys, toucans and parrots play above as leaf cutter ants cut narrow paths into the jungle floor.
7. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Located in Cambodia this majestic complex consists of hundreds of temples covering 500 acres of land. Mother nature has done her work well reclaiming the land once ruled by the Khmer Empire. The jungle had almost swallowed up the temples of Angkor, until great efforts were made in restoration. In recent years many temples have been restored to their original grandeur. The Main Temple of Angkor Wat is well preserved and a breathtaking sight. Its five main towers jut into the air as high as 66 meters (215 ft) from its 1.6 km (1 mile) long base.You can witness the strength of nature by visiting the temple of Ta Prom. Left in its original state, vines and roots twist through the complex breaking apart solid rock as trees rise through its roof far into the air. Not to be missed is Angkor Tom. Imposing statues of 54 Gods and 54 Demons line the causeway leading up to the temple.
I think that Angkor Wat would have been number 1 on our list if we had visited 5 years earlier. From what I heard, you could walk through the ruins for hours without seeing another person. However when we visited it in 2004, we spent most of our time having our tuk tuk driver outrun tour buses. At sunset on Bakhen Hill, you can overlook the entire land, but it wasn't quite as special when you were jockeying for a position and trying to see over the other hundreds of tourists heads. Never the less it is well worth a visit.
8.Chizen Itza, Mexico
Chitzenitza is probably the most visited by tourists from Canada and the US, but it was one of our favorites. Being the very first ruin that we ever visited makes it one of the most memorable. Located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico about 3 hours from Cancun, we had our most in depth tour of any temple that we have ever gone to. We were staying at an all inclusive hotel, The Barcello Maya in 1999 and booked a day trip to Chitzen Itza, because some friends had told us that it was not to be missed.
I am glad that we listened. We were amazed with how connected to the stars the Mayans were. They seemed to know them intimately. The entire complex was built for the heavens it seemed. We couldn't believe how everything lined up perfectly with other Mayan Ruins. They built everything in precision without modern tools or technology. It is unbelievable that during the Equinox at El Castillo, the sun hits the site perfectly and a shadow in the shape of a serpent snakes down its 365 steps. We were in awe of the impeccable sound in the Pok ta pok arena and yet we were a little shocked at the brutality of the Mayans. They held sacrifices, they beheaded players of the Pok ta Pok game, it was a bloody society that is for sure.
We visited Chizen Itza at a perfect time. I hear that you can no longer climb to the top of El Castillo. That was an extraordinary experience. Scary as it may have been, it was awe inspiring to stand high over the buildings and look into the jungle. If you looked hard enough, you could imagine that you can see the other great Mayan Ruins of Tulum, Tikal or CoPan which we knew were in a straight line leading from the temple.
9. Jerash, Jordan
10. Tonina, Mexico
11. Great Wall of China
It took us a while to finally see Rome and wow, what a city. Ancient ruins are intertwined throughout the entire metropolis. One minute you are sipping an espresso in a cafe and the next you are walking by a piece of architecture thousands of years old. Spending time in Rome is like no other experience you'll ever have in a city. It's modern chic mixed with ancient tradition. The most impressive monument is the Colosseum. We had the privilege of staying in an apartment right across the street and looked out our window each day at one of the most amazing ruins of the world from above. It was spectacular.