1. The Lost City of Stone, Jordan

Carved intricately into the rock face in Jordan, Petra is one of the most awe-inspiring ancient ruins on the face of the Earth. The city was forged by the nomadic Nabatean people who settled there around the 6th century BC. It was soon turned into a hotspot for silk, spice and other trade routes that linked the Eastern and Western worlds.

Archaeologists keep discovering more of the vast city, which was once described by poet John William Burgon as a “rose-red city half as old as time”.  Although many houses were destroyed by earthquakes, intricate rock-cut tombs survive along with the Treasury – the most famous facade in Petra.

Going into the site is humbling enough – the entry is a narrow mile-long gorge called a Siq, which was created by a geographical fault. It’s more than 180 metres high in some areas and three metres wide in others. Once you’ve made it through the passageway, you emerge into the Lost City, ready to explore even more. 

Because of its sheer size, you’ll need at least two days to roam the ancient city streets. If you’re feeling lazy, rent a camel, donkey or a horse-drawn carriage, complete with a handler. Then reward yourself with a pint in Cave Bar, right outside the city gates.


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2. Great Wall, China

Though there’s no truth to the old adage that you can see the Great Wall of China from space, it’s still a pretty impressive sight.

Building began around the 5th century BC and continued through to the 16th century, and the wall runs for 5500 miles.

The oldest surviving stretch, in central Henan Province, is from about 221BC. Try a sweaty trek atop it, as the wall snakes through scenic, undulating hills and mountains.


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3. Tiwanaku, Bolivia

Tiwanaku is the black sheep of South America’s pre-Hispanic public architecture with its boxy stone sculptures and faces etched into the walls of buildings.

Standing as highest city in the ancient world of the southern Andes, Tiwanaku had 40,000 inhabitants before it collapsed in 1100. The city, which is 45 miles west of La Paz, is one of the most important forerunners to the Inca Empire.


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4. Bagan, Myanmar

One of South-East Asia’s less-travelled ruins, Bagan’s 16 square miles of breathtaking spires and stonework
are well worth the trek.

The ancient site – on the long list of previous Burmese capital cities – is best for discovering beautiful temples and pagodas that are etched with stone inscriptions and filled with frescoes dating as far back as the 11th century.

It’s also fairly central, so it avoids the constraints of the rainy season, unlike southern Myanmar and Thailand.


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5. Pompeii, Italy

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, much of the once-hectic Roman city of Pompeii was sealed with ash and pumice.
Head around the bay from Naples to see what was preserved in the volcanic matter – including an amphitheatre, houses, restaurants, erotic wall art, Latin graffifi…and even bodies.

And for a panoramic view of the Amalfi Coast, Naples and the ruins, climb up the now dormant Vesuvius.