20 Historical Places for a History Buff’s Bucket List

Spectacular view of two beautiful camels in front of Al Khazneh (The Treasury) at Petra. Petra is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan.

One of the greatest advantages of traveling the world is that you encounter many of its best historical places along the way.

These magical attractions range from unsung temples tucked away in remote villages to vast ancient sites of international acclaim. Yet no matter what they are or where you encounter them, the result tends to be the same: your mind is blown, and the beauty, age, and architecture on display make memories.

Whether you’re a history buff or not, these impressive sights help make travel special. For a better understanding of why that’s the case – and for fresh ideas for your travel bucket list – check out the following 20 historical attractions.

1. The Great Pyramid of Giza

Location: Giza, Egypt

Dates from: ~2550 to 2490BC

While its construction date and process remain subject to dispute, the mystique surrounding this historic location is undeniable. An iconic structure and world wonder, the Great Pyramid of Giza sparks ideas of adventure in anyone who lays eyes upon it.

2. The Colosseum

Location: Rome, Italy

Dates from: 72AD

Located in the heart of Rome, the Colosseum is a historical place of global renown. An architectural marvel, this vast oval amphitheater held over 50,000 spectators, all bearing witness to gladiatorial games, public executions, and dramatic performances.

3. The Roman Forum

Location: Rome, Italy

Dates from: 7th Century BC

Intricate, sprawling, and one of Rome’s most notorious historical places, the Roman Forum is a breathtaking set of ancient ruins. Once nothing more than a marshy burial ground, it developed over centuries into the commercial and political hub of the Roman Empire. A superbly restored historic district, few other archaeological sites display the past quite like it.

4. Pompeii

Location: Campania, Italy

Dates from: ~8th Century BC

Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, covering the nearby city of Pompeii in a thick layer of volcanic debris. Effectively mummified by the ash and rock that smothered it, the town lay frozen in time for centuries until its rediscovery in the 18th century. Now unearthed by archaeology, the historic buildings, streets, and monuments offer unparalleled insights into life in ancient Rome.

5. Machu Picchu

Location: Peru, South America

Dates from: ~15th to 16th Century BC

Situated high above the Urubamba River valley in Peru, the remarkable Machu Picchu managed to go relatively unnoticed in the modern world until 1911. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s one of the best-preserved national historic sites on the planet and, courtesy of its superb mountaintop location, a common feature in movies and books about adventure.

6. Stonehenge

Location: Wiltshire, England

Dates from: ~3000 to 2000BC

Historic landmarks don’t get much more famous than Stonehenge. A national historic site that needs no introduction, the huge monoliths of this stone circle represent a striking display of ancient engineering and mystery that’s yet to be fully solved.

7. The Parthenon

Location: Athens, Greece

Dates from: 447 – 432BC

Few ancient buildings invite as much attention or acclaim as the Parthenon. Dedicated to the goddess Athena, this enormous rectangular temple dominates the hill of the Acropolis in the Greek capital. With its iconic colonnade of fluted columns, the Parthenon cuts a striking image of national significance.

8. Chichén Itzá

Location: Yucatan, Mexico

Dates from: ~600AD

Chichén Itzá is Mexico’s answer to Egypt’s pyramids. A remarkable prehistoric city complete with vast stone temples, tombs, and Toltec statues, it’s another historical landmark that boasts Indiana-Jones-esque intrigue. Tourists from around the globe flock to see it up close and walk in the footsteps of an ancient civilization.

9. The Great Wall of China

Location: Northern China

Dates from: ~3rd Century BC

The Great Wall of China is a series of defensive walls and fortified towers that stretches for a grand total of 13,171 miles along the country’s northern border. Another historical place found high up the bucket lists of travelers everywhere, it remains one of the biggest and most historic structures ever built.

10. The Taj Mahal

Location: Agra, India

Dates from: 1631AD

Welcome to one of India’s most treasured tourist attractions and a national historic landmark of the highest order. A stunning funerary mosque constructed of white marble, the Taj Mahal is an architectural masterpiece erected by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to commemorate his favorite wife.

11. Tower of London

Location: London, England

Dates from: 1066AD

Home to the Crown Jewels and over 1,000 years of history, the Tower of London is an iconic castle and national monument in the center of England’s capital city. Fun fact: from the 13th to the 19th century, this historic building was home to a menagerie of exotic animals, including a polar bear, which was a gift from the distant King of Norway.

12. The Bimini Road

Location: North Bimini, Bahamas

Dates from: Unknown

For travel-loving history buffs with a penchant for unsolved mysteries, historical places won’t get much better than the Bimini Road. This mysterious “road-like” rock formation is tucked away in the tranquil turquoise waters of the Bahamas. Its origin and function? For some, it’s simply an interesting geological feature. But for others, these huge monoliths on the seafloor are evidence of a lost civilization.

13. Gobekli Tepe

Location: Urfa, Turkey

Dates from: ~9000BC

With structures that predate Stonehenge by six millennia, Gobekli Tepi is a historical site that challenges our modern understanding of civilization. This spectacular ancient temple contains over 20 circular stone enclosures. Some stand 5.5m tall, weigh 10 tons, and are decorated with intricate carvings of animals and headless humans.

14. Cholula Pyramid

Location: Puebla, Mexico

Dates from: ~2000 years ago

The Great Pyramid of Cholula is the largest pyramid ever constructed, complete with multiple levels, platforms, ancient artifacts, and tunnels that weave through its cavernous interior. However, for most of the last 500 years, the casual observer would have had no idea it was there.

Disguised as a large hill (whether on purpose or through happenstance is up for debate) it was only when the dirt started falling away that archaeologists realized its national significance.

15. Serpent Mound

Location: Ohio, United States

Dates from: ~800BC to 1070AD

Although the debate continues about the age and function of this remarkable serpent effigy, there’s no question that it’s one of America’s most striking historic places. Over 400m long, this supposed Native-American historic landmark curves along the top of a plateau in the unmistakable shape of a snake, raising all sorts of questions.

16. Gunung Padang

Location: West Java, Indonesia

Dates from: Up to 28,000 years ago

Gunung Padang has long been a sacred location for the local Sundanese people. A tall megalithic complex close to the village of Karyamukti, its upper surface is covered in uniform stone enclosures and thousands of andesite pillars. Its exact age and function are unknown, yet there’s evidence to suggest this enigmatic hill is actually a vast manmade pyramid that could be the oldest ever discovered. Whatever the case, it’s one of Indonesia’s most important historical landmarks.

17. Ggantija

Location: Gozo, Malta

Dates from: ~3600 to 2500BC

The beautiful island of Gozo in Malta is home to many historical buildings, but none more impressive than the megalithic temple complex called Ggantija. Thought to have been built in the Neolithic era, this striking stone structure is comprised of enormous monoliths, some of which are five meters long and weigh 50 tons. Legend says giants built it, hence the name “Ggantija,” which is a derivative of the word “ggant,” or “giant” in English.

18. Angkor Wat

Location: Angkor, Cambodia

Dates from: ~12th Century AD

South East Asia boasts a huge array of notable historic properties and places. However, few are as impressive as the temple complex known as Angkor Wat. Covering around 400 acres, it’s officially the world’s largest religious structure. Intricate and symmetrical, it’s an architectural marvel and an ideal historic place to watch the sunrise n Cambodia.

19. Petra

Location: Jordan

Dates from: 2000+ years ago

One of the world’s oldest cities and most popular tourist attractions, Petra received its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Half built and half carved out of the red sandstone rocks in the high desert of Jordan, the so-called “Lost City” has been a hub of the Arab world for over two millennia. It’s also one of the new seven wonders of the world.

20. Sigiriya Rock

Location: Central Province, Sri Lanka

Dates from: ~5th Century AD

Towering 180m above the surrounding plain, Sigiriya Rock is an unmissable historical attraction in more ways than one. About halfway up the 1200 steps to the summit, you’ll find remnants of a huge stone gateway carved in the shape of a lion – hence the site’s nickname, “Lion Rock.”

Travel Through Time With These Historical Places

The world is full of breathtaking historical places – traces of the human story that delight and enchant countless lucky visitors every year. These national treasures and significant landmarks come in many forms and enjoy varying levels of acclaim, yet they never fail to leave an impression on those who explore them.

From the Great Pyramid of Giza to the Roman Forum, the ancient attractions on this list promise a unique and fascinating glimpse into history. Visit these historic sights when you can, pay for a guided tour, and revel in the myriad wonders of our past.

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Danny Newman is a writer and content creator from the UK. He founded What’s Danny Doing, a travel and lifestyle site for people who want more freedom, adventure, self-discovery, and purpose in life. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s articles have been featured on the Associated Press Newswire, MSN, and hundreds of news sites across the US.

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