The Best Historical Landmarks: Exploring the Rich Tapestry of the World's Great Sites
Discover the world's most awe-inspiring treasures as we delve into the realm of the best historical landmarks. From the magnificent grandeur of the Yellow Stone National Park to the centuries-old wonders of Machu Picchu and Chichén Itzá, prepare to embark on a captivating journey through time and culture. Lose yourself among the hallowed halls of the Colosseum, stand in awe of the Pyramids at Giza, and marvel at the architectural marvels such as Angkor Wat and the Great Wall of China. Join us as we delve into the rich tapestry of history, unveiling the secrets and stories behind these remarkable sites. Escape to the past and delve into the enchanting world of the best historical landmarks that continue to captivate our imaginations.
Yellowstone National Park
Photo by Kelly Cheng Travel Photography, Getty Images
Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872 as the world's first National Park, has a rich history that stretches back thousands of years. This majestic park has served as a sanctuary for tribes, animals, plants, and vegetation, making it their cherished home. It is here that you can find iconic attractions like Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (shown here).
Grand Canyon (Arizona)
For awe-inspiring views of America's natural beauty and an opportunity to learn about the country, the Grand Canyon is an ideal destination. The South Rim visitors center is where you can delve into the history of this Arizona wonder. Watch a 20-minute film about the canyon, see historic artifacts from the region, or join a guided tour of the area. Nearby, you'll find the Yavapai Geology Museum and the Tusayan Ruin and Museum, where you can learn about Puebloan Indian life.
Mount Rushmore (Keystone, South Dakota)
If you have a deep interest in and admiration for former presidents, Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota, is the perfect tourist spot for you. Carved into the stone are the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. History enthusiasts can rent an audio tour wand to listen to the story of Mount Rushmore and how this American vision came to life.
Situated in southern Peru, Machu Picchu is a ruined city perched atop a mountain accessible only by train or hiking the Inca Trail. Discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, it was a significant cultural center for the Inca civilization but was abandoned during the Spanish invasion. Although often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas" (though that title belongs to Vilcabamba), it gained recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
The site faces challenges due to increasing tourist numbers, and efforts have been made to regulate access. Hopefully, further limitations will ensure its preservation for future generations.
Where to Stay: Consider staying at Viajero Kokopelli, a fantastic hostel with modern pod beds, a bar/restaurant, and a vibrant social atmosphere.
For more information on planning your trip, you can read my budget travel guide to Peru.
Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
Chichén Itzá is a complex of pre-Columbian ruins located on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. It thrived as one of the largest Maya cities from 400 C.E. to the 1400s. The site's architectural styles reflect the diverse population that once inhabited the area. Notable structures at Chichén Itzá include the Great Ball Court, the Temple of the Warriors, and El Castillo (also known as the Temple of Kukulkan), a step pyramid that overlooks the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site.
How to visit
Chichén Itzá is approximately a three-hour drive from Cancún and just 30 minutes from Valladolid. The nearby town of Valladolid offers additional attractions such as a 16th-century colonial city with a baroque cathedral and a range of accommodation options, from hotels with cenotes to the Coqui Coqui guesthouse and perfumery. Tickets to Chichén Itzá can be purchased onsite, with entry costing approximately $26 for adults and free entry for children aged 12 and under.
This article was originally published in May 2019 and was updated in January 2022 with new information.
The Colosseum and Forum
The Colosseum and the Forum are neighboring sites in Rome. The Colosseum, the largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire with a capacity of 50,000-80,000 people, and the Roman Forum, the center of Roman public life, provide glimpses into the civilization that once controlled much of the known world. These sites, dating back around 2,000 years, exude both beauty and historical significance.
Over the years, parts of the complex have deteriorated, and certain areas are now restricted to the public, such as the floor and basement where organizational activities took place. However, guided tours, such as the one mentioned above, offer access to these restricted areas.
For a more immersive experience, I recommend a guided tour that includes skip-the-line access. The information provided by the authorities may not provide as much detail.
Where to Stay: Check out YellowSquare, a social hostel with a bar, organized walking city tours, and a coworking space.
For more hostel suggestions, you can refer to my list of the best hostels in Rome, and for insights into different areas of the city, you can read my post breaking down the best neighborhoods in Rome.
To start planning your trip, read my budget travel guide to Rome!
Wadi Musa, Jordan
During its prime, Petra, Jordan's most renowned archaeological site, flourished as a bustling center of commerce. This ancient city was the hub for trading Arabian incense, Chinese silks, and Indian spices. Built by the Nabateans in the country's southwestern desert in 400 B.C.E., Petra remained hidden from the Western world until the 1800s. Accessible through a narrow canyon, the city showcases towering temples and tombs carved into pink sandstone cliffs, earning it the moniker "Red-Rose City." In fact, Petra's Treasury served as the backdrop for the temple housing the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
How to visit
Petra Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located approximately 150 miles south of Jordan's capital, Amman. Most visitors enter through Wadi Musa, a nearby town offering luxurious hotels for those embarking on the journey to the rock wall crypts. Tickets can be purchased at the main entrance to the temple, with prices of approximately per adult and free entry for children aged 12 and under.
Where to Stay: Consider booking a stay at Riad le petit ksar, an excellent riad with a rooftop terrace, complimentary breakfast, air conditioning, and various room options.
To start planning your trip, you can refer to my budget travel guide to Morocco!
The Alhambra in Granada, Spain, is a testament to Moorish culture and an architectural marvel that captivates visitors with its tranquil ambiance. Serving as a palace, fortress, and a reflection of medieval architectural mastery, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has charmed countless individuals throughout history.
The Alhambra, one of the best-preserved historic Islamic palaces, was initiated in 1238 by Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar, the founder of the Emirate of Granada. Despite its near destruction during the Napoleonic occupation, extensive and respectful restoration work has preserved its beauty. The panoramic view it offers of the historic area of Granada is breathtaking.
Due to its popularity and visitor restrictions, I highly recommend booking a ticket in advance. Guided tours also provide fast-track access and a more immersive experience with local guides. Adult tickets are priced at 19.09 EUR, and children under 12 can enter for free.
Where to Stay: Consider staying at Eco Hostel, a modern and social hostel located in a beautifully restored historic building on one of Granada's main thoroughfares.
To start planning your trip, you can refer to my budget travel guide to Granada!
Mesa Verde National Park
Photo by Mint Images, Getty Images
Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado holds great significance as the home of the Ancestral Pueblo people for over 700 years. This area was established as a national park in 1906 to preserve its rich cultural and archaeological heritage. The park showcases 5,000 archaeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings, with Cliff Palace being the most famous among them. By exploring these dwellings, visitors can gain valuable insights into the early American way of life dating back as far as the 14th century.
Strategically situated and thriving as a major trading center during Roman times, Volubilis in Morocco stands as one of the world's best-preserved and least-visited ruins of its kind. Originally dating back to the 3rd century BCE, this ancient city became the capital of the kingdom of Mauretania, growing even more prosperous under Roman rule.
Volubilis offers a unique experience with minimal crowds and barriers, allowing visitors to closely appreciate its structures. Compared to other Roman ruins, I find this one particularly captivating. It makes for a delightful day trip away from the hustle and bustle of Fez.
Various tour companies offer day trips to Volubilis from Fez, or you can opt for a multi-day tour through Morocco. Volubilis is open daily, and admission costs 70 MAD.
Where to Stay: Consider staying at Riad le petit ksar, an excellent riad with a rooftop terrace, complimentary breakfast, air conditioning, and various room options.
To start planning your trip, you can refer to my budget travel guide to Morocco!
Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park in Guatemala is known for its well-preserved ancient Mayan ruins, which represent the dominant Mayan civilization during the Classic Period (200-900 CE). To fully experience the park without the crowds, it's recommended to spend the night. The early morning or late evening, when the tourists have left, offer a serene and unforgettable atmosphere. Watching the sunrise from the top of the temples is a highlight. Fun fact: Tikal is the city featured at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope.
If exploring on your own isn't your preference, an 8-hour guided tour of the site is available, which includes lunch, park admission, and the expertise of a local guide.
If you're coming from Belize, you can find a bus at the border for 100 GTQ per person. Otherwise, you can join a tour from San Ignacio or drive yourself to Tikal, but be cautious of potential visa overcharges from border officials. The park's main gate opens at 6am and officially closes at 6pm. Foreign adult tickets cost 150 GTQ, with an additional 100 GTQ if entering before 6am for the sunrise viewing.
Where to Stay: Consider staying at Los Amigos Hostel, an artsy and social hostel with a relaxing jungle garden, a bar/restaurant serving local cuisine, free Wi-Fi, and hot showers.
For more information and to start planning your trip, read the budget travel guide to Guatemala!
Disneyland (Anaheim, California)
Considered the first-ever theme park, Disneyland in Anaheim, California, holds a significant place in American amusement park history. Its innovative themed lands and technological advancements forever changed the industry. Many original attractions from 1955 still operate today, including Autopia, the Disneyland Railroad, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and the Storybook Land Canal Boats. Don't miss the Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln show, featuring the first-ever animatronic from the 1964 New York World's Fair.
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Considered one of the most famous and fabulous homes in American history, Hearst Castle is a remarkable estate. Spanning 250,000 acres, it features beautiful gardens, pools, and immaculate residences. The castle also houses a vast collection of over 25,000 artifacts from around the world, including an Italian Renaissance sculpture and Tiffany & Co.'s 1889 Orchid Vase.
Yosemite National Park
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Yosemite National Park intertwines California's history with its awe-inspiring natural beauty. Spanning 1,200 square miles, the park showcases ancient giant sequoias, former mining lands that drew migrants during the 19th century, and breathtaking vistas at every turn. Whether you're a climber seeking El Capitan or wishing to visit Nevada Falls, exploring this landmark is a worthwhile experience.
Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral, Florida)
If NASA and space exploration pique your interest, the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, is a must-visit. Serving as NASA's primary launch center since 1968, it continues to launch rockets periodically, offering captivating spectacles. Even without a launch, you can explore the Apollo missions launch site, including the famous Apollo 11 flight that marked the first moon landing. This awe-inspiring center goes beyond Disney and beaches to provide an extraordinary experience.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
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When on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, visiting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a must. This memorial preserves, interprets, and commemorates America's involvement in World War II, starting from the fateful events that occurred on December 7, 1941. It serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made and the impact of that pivotal day.
Located in the Pacific Ocean, Easter Island is a unique territory of Chile. It is renowned for its over 900 monolithic statues called Maoi, created between 1250-1500 CE by Native Polynesians. The largest statue stands at 33 feet (10 meters) in height and weighs almost 81 tons.
These statues, made from volcanic ash, hold great intrigue and mystery. Many remain in the quarry, abandoned by the island's inhabitants who engaged in warfare due to depleting resources. The creation, purpose, and transportation of these statues continue to be subjects of speculation, adding to the allure of this enigmatic place. While visiting Easter Island can be expensive due to its remote location, it's still possible to reduce costs with strategic planning.
Where to Stay: Hostel Petero Atamu offers apartment rentals with kitchen access, complimentary breakfast, and a free shuttle to/from the airport.
For more information and to start planning your trip, read the budget travel guide to Chile!
Fort McHenry National Monument (Baltimore, Maryland)
Without Fort McHenry, there would be no "Star-Spangled Banner." The Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812 witnessed the raising of the American flag over this battlefield, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the song that became the national anthem of the United States. Today, you can visit the Fort McHenry National Monument, learn about the famous battles that took place here, and even participate in raising and lowering replicas of the flag that inspired Key.
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum (Boston, Massachusetts)
History buffs visiting Boston, Massachusetts, should not miss the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. This museum tells the story of the events leading up to the American Revolution, allowing visitors to experience a colonial town meeting and even participate in dumping the tea into the harbor. A highlight of the museum is the Robinson Tea Chest, the only known remaining tea chest from the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Bunker Hill Monument (Charlestown, Massachusetts)
The Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, Massachusetts, is one of the first monuments built in the United States. The monument, located on Breed's Hill, where the Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place, commemorates a significant turning point for the colonies in the Revolutionary War. Visitors can learn about the costly British victory, explore the museum, and discover the musket, the soldier's weapon of choice at the time.
The White House (Washington, D.C.)
Visiting the White House, the residence of the United States' executive branch, is possible without being part of the presidential administration. You can request a public tour through your Congressman. This self-guided tour allows access to public areas of the home, including the Red Room and the East Room.
Independence Hall (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is where U.S. history began. It's a must-visit for any history buff. This is the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. During a 40-minute guided tour, you'll see the Assembly Room as it appeared during the Constitutional Convention. Also on display is an original draft of the Constitution.
Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.)
Formerly known as the National Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., tells the story of American history through various art movements. The extensive collection showcases everything from modern folk art to impressionist paintings and paper sculptures. It stands as one of the world's largest collections of American art, spanning colonial works to modern multimedia pieces.
National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, D.C.)
The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., displays and celebrates the rich culture of American Indian communities from past and present. With locations in both Washington, D.C., and New York City, this museum holds one of the world's largest collections of Native American art and artifacts, totaling over 800,000 items. A visit to the D.C. museum is a must, offering a profound insight into Native American history and culture.
National Museum of African American History and Culture (Washington, D.C.)
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened in September 2016, is relatively new but essential to visit. It highlights the culture and resilience of African-Americans throughout American history while acknowledging the tragedies they have faced. This museum features significant artifacts, such as garments worn by slaves, a bible owned by rebellion leader Nat Turner, and Emmett Till's glass-topped casket.
National Museum of American History (Washington, D.C.)
The National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., is a haven for history buffs. With nearly 4 million visitors annually, this Smithsonian-run institution explores every aspect of American history and culture. Its exhibits delve into entertainment, politics, science, and the military. Don't miss Julia Child's kitchen, the John Bull locomotive, the Greensboro civil rights sit-in counter, the first ladies' dresses, and the original flag that inspired the "Star-Spangled Banner."
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, D.C.)
Though the horrors of the Holocaust occurred outside the United States, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., narrates its international and American perspectives. This museum confronts the reasons behind American inaction and provides valuable insights into other modern genocides and instances of anti-Semitism. A visit to this sobering museum prompts reflection and remembrance.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum (Simi Valley, California)
Situated in Simi Valley overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a unique must-visit for modern presidency enthusiasts. As the largest of the 13 federally operated presidential libraries, it features the Air Force One Pavilion—an expansive hangar housing the actual presidential plane used by multiple presidents. The library also exhibits tens of thousands of documents, photographs, and films that chronicle the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan.
Ford's Theatre (Washington, D.C.)
Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., holds historical significance as the site of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. A visit allows you to learn about the impact of that tragic event and explore the rest of Lincoln's presidency. The museum displays various artifacts, including the weapons used by assassin John Wilkes Booth. The theatre itself remains an important venue for live shows.
Mark Twain House & Museum (Hartford, Connecticut)
The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, serves as the family home of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known as Mark Twain. This is where Clemens wrote some of his most famous books, including "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Visitors can embark on guided tours of the home, watch a Ken Burns documentary on Mark Twain, and explore the adjacent museum.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (Hyde Park, New York)
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, was the first presidential library, opening in 1941. It offers insight into FDR's presidency during the Great Depression, New Deal, and World War II. The library features documents, exhibits, and self-guided tours that illuminate this fascinating period of American history. Admission also includes access to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's home, with guided tours led by park rangers.
National Mall (Washington, D.C.)
The National Mall in Washington, D.C., serves as a grassy field surrounded by some of the most famous monuments in America. Many historical events, including protests and presidential inaugurations, have taken place here. Adjacent to the mall, you can visit iconic landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, and Reflecting Pool.
The Supreme Court of the United States (Washington, D.C.)
The Supreme Court of the United States, located in Washington, D.C., serves as the head of the country's judicial branch. This remarkable building hosts nine Supreme Court justices who make important constitutional decisions impacting Americans' everyday lives and rights. While guided tours are not available, self-guided tours offer the opportunity to see exhibits on former Supreme Court justices and the building's architecture. Public sessions are open for viewing when available, with courtroom lectures offered outside session times.
The Alamo (San Antonio, Texas)
The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is the most-visited tourist attraction in the Lone Star State. This mission and fortress witnessed the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, where a small garrison of Texas independence fighters were ultimately overwhelmed by a much larger Mexican army after a 13-day siege. Today, you can take guided or self-guided tours to learn more about the church, the history of rulers in Texas, the Texas Revolution, and the defenders of the Alamo, including renowned pioneer Davey Crockett.
Jamestown (Williamsburg, Virginia)
Jamestown, near Williamsburg, Virginia, serves as the first permanent English colony in the New World and marks the beginning of English settlement in America in 1607. The archaeological site of Historic Jamestowne sits alongside the modern-day Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum that brings the 17th-century Virginia colony to life. Explore reconstructions of the ships that transported the original settlers, a colonial fort, and a recreated Powhatan Indian Village to gain insights into the interaction between Native Americans and European settlers.
Gettysburg National Military Park (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)
The Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, allows visitors to immerse themselves in the history of the Civil War. This famous battlefield was the site of a significant Union victory and the costliest battle of the war. Every weekend from April to October, Civil War living historians give demonstrations across the park, showcasing how people lived and fought during that period. Battle walks and campfire lectures also enrich the experience. Don't forget to pay your respects at the Gettysburg National Cemetery, where President Lincoln delivered his stirring Gettysburg Address.
Graceland (Memphis, Tennessee)
Graceland, the mansion of Elvis Presley in Memphis, Tennessee is a pilgrimage site for rock 'n' roll enthusiasts. As the "King of Rock 'n' Roll," Elvis made an enormous impact on the music industry. A guided tour of his mansion allows you to experience his extraordinary life. The museum also features the Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum and a collection of his automobiles. While in Memphis, don't miss a visit to Sun Studio, where B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others recorded some of their biggest hits.
The Statue of Liberty (New York, New York)
Considered the most iconic symbol of American freedom, the Statue of Liberty in New York City stands as a national park and museum open to visitors. Be sure to secure advance tickets. After a ferry trip to Liberty Island, you can explore the beautiful surroundings of the statue and access its pedestal. The museum provides the story behind the statue's construction and its transformation into an enduring icon. With a reservation, you can even ascend to the crown for stunning views of New York.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force (Dayton, Ohio)
The National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, stands as the official museum of the United States Air Force. It showcases military aviation history through an extensive collection of planes, missiles, and uniforms from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and more. The museum also highlights the pioneers of flight, including Ohio's very own Wright Brothers.
Tenement Museum (New York, New York)
The Tenement Museum in Lower Manhattan, New York City, delves into the often unglamorous immigrant stories of the city and the United States. Through actual apartments inhabited by immigrants, the museum brings their stories to life. It covers a wide range of backgrounds, including Irish, German, Polish, Greek, Chinese, and Puerto Rican immigrants. The Tenement Museum offers a compelling glimpse into America's immigrant past.
One World Observatory and National September 11 Memorial & Museum
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These sacred grounds pay tribute to the innocent lives lost during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as the brave individuals who risked and sacrificed their lives to rescue others. The memorial, museum, and the new World Trade Center embody the resilience of our nation and its people.
Harriet Tubman National Historic Park
National Parks Service
Located in Auburn, New York, Harriet Tubman National Historic Park provides a remarkable opportunity to learn about the extraordinary woman behind the Underground Railroad. She rescued and emancipated countless enslaved Black individuals and played a lesser-known role in aiding the Union Army during the Civil War. The park is home to significant historical sites, including the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center, the Tubman Home for the Aged, the Harriet Tubman Residence, and the Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
Betsy Ross House (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Betsy Ross is renowned for sewing the first American flag, but her life was more complex than commonly known. The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers a comprehensive exploration of her story. This 18th-century home features an audio tour that delves into the life of Betsy Ross, and exhibits highlight the role of working women during the Revolutionary War.
Whitney Plantation stands apart from other antebellum homes in Louisiana. It is the only plantation that focuses extensively on the lives and lasting legacies of the individuals enslaved on its grounds. This Black-owned plantation provides a unique and detailed perspective on the experiences of enslaved people in America during the 18th and 19th centuries.
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Taos Pueblo, a Native American community founded nearly 1,000 years ago, still thrives today with approximately 150 full-time residents. The adobe residences serve as a testament to the resourcefulness, traditions, and deep connection with nature of Native American peoples. Exploring this site offers a glimpse into early American life, predating European colonization and westward expansion.
Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington County, Virginia)
Arlington National Cemetery, located in Arlington, Virginia, is a hallowed resting place for over 400,000 American soldiers. It honors those who perished in battle and those who served in the military and later passed away. One of its most revered sites is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the final resting place of unidentified soldiers from World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Visitors can witness the solemn changing of the guard ceremony that takes place hourly during the summer and every half hour during cooler months. Notable figures, such as John F. Kennedy, William Howard Taft, and the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, also find their eternal repose in this esteemed cemetery.
National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis, Tennessee)
Built around the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination at the former Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, the National Civil Rights Museum chronicles the ongoing struggle for civil rights in the United States. It traces the history of racism and resistance from the era of slavery in the 1600s to the present day. With its extensive collection of over 260 artifacts, 40 films, and interactive exhibits, the museum provides a deeply moving and highly educational experience.
Fredrick Douglass National Historic Site
National Parks Service
This landmark in Washington, D.C., pays homage to the inspiring life of Frederick Douglass, a formerly enslaved man who became an influential figure in the abolitionist movement. The site preserves Douglass's Cedar Hill estate, where he resided from 1877 until his death in 1895. Visitors can gain insight into his life, accomplishments, and literary works.
Located in north-central Thailand, Sukhothai served as the capital of Thailand from 1238 to 1438 CE. This historical site is often overlooked by travelers en route to Chiang Mai. The central area of Sukhothai showcases 21 temples enclosed by a moat. These temples feature the unique Sukhothai style of decoration, influenced by Khmer and Sri Lankan architectural elements. The expansive site takes a day or two to explore fully, and visitors should come prepared with sunscreen due to its exposure to the sun. Biking is an enjoyable way to cover the considerable distance between the three ruined cities within Sukhothai. Sukhothai Bicycle Tour offers full-day or two-hour bike tours.
Where to Stay: Old City Boutique House – This hostel is located near the entrance of the historical park, and it offers air conditioning, free breakfast, bike rentals, and friendly staff to assist with any needs.
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China was originally constructed by Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the third century BC to defend against invading Mongol forces. The most renowned and well-preserved section of the Great Wall was built during the Ming dynasty from the 14th to the 17th centuries, stretching approximately 8,850 kilometers (5,499 miles). While the Great Wall did not entirely prevent invasions, it remains an extraordinary engineering and construction feat, earning its place as one of the world's most remarkable wonders.
Many visitors opt for guided group tours from Beijing, which provide round-trip transportation, admission tickets, and a local guide to offer insights into the history and significance of the Great Wall.
Where to Stay: The Great Wall Courtyard Hostel – Situated near the Badaling section of the wall, this hostel offers simple and comfortable accommodations with amenities like Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and close proximity to the train station and the entrance of the Great Wall.
The Taj Mahal is a perfectly symmetrical mausoleum located in Agra, India. It is widely regarded as the most beautiful example of Mughal architecture and was built between 1631 and 1648. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the construction of the mausoleum to honor his late wife. Approximately 20,000 craftsmen from Central Asia were employed for the project. While Jahan intended to build a second mausoleum for himself, it was never completed. After his death in 1666, he was buried alongside his wife. Visitors to the Taj Mahal can explore the expansive garden with long reflecting pools and a red sandstone gate.
How to visit
Most tourists visit the Taj Mahal on a day trip from Delhi. There are high-speed trains available from Delhi, as well as from Varanasi and cities in Rajasthan. Tickets for adults cost around $19, while entry is free for children aged 15 and under.
Stonehenge is a megalithic structure located near Salisbury, England. It is over 3,000 years old and consists of massive stones brought from Wales. Each stone is around 13 feet tall, 7 feet wide, and weighs about 25 tons. The method used to transport these stones is still unknown, and attempts to replicate the feat have been unsuccessful. The purpose of Stonehenge is also uncertain. Visiting the site is no longer permitted inside the circle of stones, but the mystery surrounding it makes it worth a visit. Audio tours are available, and advanced online booking is required. Group day trips from London are also popular, although the journey takes two hours each way. Stonehenge is open from 9:30am to 7pm, with adjusted hours during certain months. Ticket prices start at 20 GBP for adults and 12 GBP for children.
Where to Stay: The Wheatsheaf is a traditional-style inn located in Salisbury. It is housed in a historic 19th-century building and offers free parking and a pub downstairs. To plan your trip, read the budget travel guide to England!
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is a scenic World Heritage site and a recognizable religious structure. Built by King Suryavarman II during the 12th century, this Hindu temple complex is just one part of the larger Angkor Archaeological Park designated by UNESCO. Spread across approximately 400 acres in northwestern Cambodia, the site features numerous architecturally significant ruins and temples. One of the temples even appeared in Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider film. The park is also home to inhabited villages.
How to visit
Angkor Wat is located about three miles north of Siem Reap in Cambodia. It is a short drive from Siem Reap International Airport, which offers flights from various Asian airlines. A popular way to explore Angkor Wat is to hire a tuk-tuk driver for around $15 a day. There are affordable hotels in Siem Reap, but for a unique experience, consider staying in a safari-style tent at the Beige. Entry tickets can be purchased at the main entrance to the temple, with one-day passes costing around $37 for adults and free entry for children aged 12 and under.
The Pyramids at Giza
The Pyramids at Giza are a marvel of human engineering. These ancient structures are over 3,000 years old, and the methods used to construct them remain a mystery. The pyramids are aligned with the stars and solstices and contain numerous chambers that remain unopened. The largest pyramid, known as the Great Pyramid, was built by Pharaoh Khufu and has limited access. Guided tours are a popular option for visiting the pyramids, with various options available departing from Cairo. Multi-day tours throughout Egypt are also available. The pyramids are open daily from 8am to 5pm, with adjusted hours certain months. General admission is 200 EGP, while admission to the entire complex, including entry to the Great Pyramid and the Solar Boat Museum, is 600 EGP.
Where to Stay: Horus Guest House Pyramids View is a conveniently located guest house just a short walk from the entrance to the pyramids. It offers a complimentary Egyptian breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and exceptional views of the pyramids.
FilippoBacci//Getty ImagesThe Brooklyn Bridge is considered an iconic landmark in New York City. Designed by Prussian immigrant John A. Roebling, it features Gothic double arches, criss-crossed steel cables, and has separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians. Completed in 1883, the bridge connects Brooklyn to Manhattan and remains a picturesque route between the two boroughs.
Annie SchlechterColonial Williamsburg is a living history museum that offers an immersive experience of colonial America during the 18th century. Visitors can explore historic trades, admire a collection of American folk art, and engage in conversations with "founding fathers." The site also offers excellent hotel and dining options for a complete experience.
American Civil War Museum (Richmond, Virginia)
The American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia, aims to tell the story of the Civil War from multiple perspectives. Exhibits feature narratives from soldiers and civilians on both the Confederate and Union sides. The museum's main exhibition, "A People's Contest: Struggles for Nation and Freedom in Civil War America," provides insights from women, enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, and others involved in the war.
Atlantide Phototravel//Getty ImagesJackson Square, located in the heart of New Orleans's French Quarter, is a historic landmark with roots dating back to 1721. Designed to resemble Paris's Place des Vosges, this beautiful locale has witnessed battles, executions, weddings, and various forms of entertainment throughout history. Today, it is a gathering place for local artists to showcase their works, and visitors can enjoy world-famous beignets from Cafe du Monde.
Situated just a short train ride from Naples, Pompeii is an ancient city that met a tragic fate when it was covered in volcanic ash. This catastrophic event preserved the city as it stood on the day of Mount Vesuvius' eruption in 79 CE. As you wander through Pompeii, you can explore Roman homes, villas, baths, and businesses. Many of these spaces still hold pots, vases, and beautiful frescoes. Additionally, you can encounter the hauntingly powerful casts of victims trapped in ash at the moment of their demise.
Admission to Pompeii is priced at 16 EUR, and for a more immersive experience, a guided tour with a professional archaeologist is available for 59 EUR.
Where to Stay: Hostel of the Sun - This cozy, award-winning hostel in Naples offers private and dorm rooms, as well as complimentary breakfast each morning.
To begin planning your trip, I recommend reading my budget travel guide to Pompeii!
***The world is filled with numerous remarkable historical sites, and while these are the best, there are many other destinations worth exploring. Take the time to research and create your own list! The more we learn about and understand the past, the better equipped we are to comprehend the present actions of individuals. Visiting these attractions and delving into our history facilitates this understanding and aids us in moving forward.
These are just a few of the world's most captivating historical landmarks, each carrying with it a rich tapestry of stories and an undeniable sense of awe. From the ancient wonders of Chichén Itzá and the Pyramids at Giza to the modern marvels of One World Observatory and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, these sites remind us of the incredible feats accomplished by human hands and the impact they have had on our shared history. So, whether you have a passion for ancient civilizations, a curiosity about pivotal moments in American history, or simply a thirst for adventure, these historical landmarks are waiting to be explored and their stories to be unraveled.
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