11 Ancient Cities to Add to Your Bucket List

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Elizabeth is an experienced traveler and writer with bylines in several popular travel publications. She currently co-owns a small digital travel publication and spends her free time writing, taking photos, and traveling.

Uncover the mysteries of the past by venturing into these 11 ancient cities. From the chilling ruins in Pompeii to the lost city of Petra in Jordan, you’re about to embark on a journey to discover the marvels of these ancient cities and experience the magic of the past.

1. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu
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This 15th-century Incan citadel, located nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, is one of the world’s most iconic sites. Its awe-inspiring architecture includes terraced fields, polished stone structures, and intricate water systems. Many historians believe that Machu Picchu was a royal retreat and part of an extensive network of cities linked by the Inca Trail.

2. Pompeii, Italy

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This Roman Empire-era city was buried under volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and was eventually forgotten until it was rediscovered in the late 16th century. Visitors today can wander through the remarkably preserved streets, homes, and public buildings of Pompeii, providing fascinating insights into ancient Roman life.

3. Petra, Jordan

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Petra is an ancient city carved into pink-hued sandstone cliffs in the desert, imbibing a kind of mystique that makes it a spectacle. The city was once the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom, which flourished around the first century AD. Highlights of the city include the iconic Treasury, the Monastery, and the amphitheater.

4. Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza
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Located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, this ancient Mayan city was one of the most powerful and renowned of its kind. The centerpiece of the city is the Kukulcan Pyramid, a temple that was dedicated to the Feathered Serpent God.

5. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat
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Angkor Wat is known for its elaborate temple complexes and artistic architecture. It was once the capital city of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from the ninth to the 15th centuries AD. Angkor Wat is the most iconic temple in the city, with striking architecture and intricate designs.

6. Ephesus, Turkey

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This ancient city on the coast of Turkey was one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the Roman Empire and was once a hub of commerce and culture. Today, the city’s remarkably preserved ruins include the Temple of Artemis, the Library of Celsus, and the Grand Theater.

7. Tikal, Guatemala

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The lesser-known Tikal was an ancient Mayan city that was once one of the most prominent cities in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The ruins of Tikal are considered to be among the finest examples of Mayan architecture, featuring towering pyramids, towering temples, and intricate carvings.

8. Palmyra, Syria

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Once a vibrant trading hub in the Hellenistic era, Palmyra is now a UNESCO World Heritage site in Syria. The city’s striking ruins include the Temple of Bel, the Triumphal Arch, and a network of impressive colonnades.

9. Jerash, Jordan

Jerash Jordan
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This ancient Roman city in Jordan is renowned for its array of pillars, Roman arches, and well-preserved theaters. It was once a key center of trade along the Silk Road and remains one of the best-preserved examples of Roman architecture in the Middle East.

10. Uxmal, Mexico

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Uxmal was an ancient Mayan city in Mexico known for its ornate facades and intricate carvings, making it one of the most impressive examples of Mayan artistry. The city’s prominent landmarks include the Pyramid of the Magician, the Nunnery Quadrangle, and the Great Pyramid.

11. Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan Myanmar
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Bagan, Myanmar, is a vast archaeological site featuring over 2,000 temples and pagodas dating back to the 9th century. Visitors can marvel at the stunning artwork and intricate designs that make this one of the most impressive ancient sites in Asia.

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Apostle Islands
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Havasu Falls
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Olympic National Park Hoh Rainforest
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