Remains of yesterday’s peoples are scattered all over the world. There is nothing quite like visiting these archaeological sites! Explore the lives of the ancients when you step into their world and learn how they lived. If you’re itching to see a long-abandoned city, then head to one of these awesome archaeological sites for great experiences— and maybe even a little digging.
1 My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam
My Son Sanctuary dates back to the 4th Century, when Hinduism began to take Vietnam by storm. The site was continually developed for about a thousand years, at which time the site was abandoned. The temples are gorgeously overgrown with picturesque vines and greenery. It is easier to image that they’re fairy houses than that they once served a purpose for mankind!
2 Coba, Mexico
This site may not be as famous as some of the other South American archaeological sites, but it’s definitely one of the coolest! Some of the tours include extreme sports to make you feel like a real explorer: rappelling, zip lines, and hiking are all a part of this exciting adventure. Once you get there, don’t expect everything to be roped off and out of reach. Quite the contrary! You’ll get to climb up the ruins and see things from the perspective of the ancients.
3 Church of Saint George, Ethiopia
Lalibela is the second-holiest city in Ethiopia, and it is full of beautiful ancient churches. One of the loveliest rock-hewn churches in Lalibela is the Church of Saint George, a cross-shaped building created from a huge rock mass. It likely dates as far back as the 1100s. The church is interesting because instead of being built at ground level, it was carved from a deep, artificial pit in the surrounding bedrock. The roof is at ground level rather than the floor! This is still a pilgrimage site for many Orthodox Christians.
4 La Bastida, Spain
This incredible Bronze-Age city is a whopping 4000 years old, and it was one of the most powerful of its day. It’s a shame that such great cities fall and are buried for so long before they are rediscovered. It makes one wonder how many such places are still hidden and if our major cities will someday meet the same fate. The fortress of La Bastida is the most remarkable part of this archaeological site, and it was only discovered in 2012.
5 North Cornwall Heritage Excavation, Great Britain
Learn about the history of Great Britain as you play in the dirt! Sponsored by North Cornwall Heritage, this dig unearths a medieval community at three different sites. You can just watch, or you can dive in with cleaning artifacts, digging holes, and recording information. It costs just $15 to camp, eat, and work here!
6 City of the Dead, Egypt
No pharaohs here, but this archaeological dig is still unearthing some pretty rad tombs. The site, which dates back to the 10th to 19th Century, is comprised of Muslim architecture. You can leave behind the living city of Cairo and head to these majestic tombs for digging, learning, and exploring. What an opportunity!
7 Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Perhaps you’ve seen the iconic photo: old houses seem to blend in with the ancient trees, whose roots are hungrily engulfing the full height of the building. Such a Middle Earth look is apparently Photoshopped, so you might be surprised to learn that it is real place! Ta Prohm is the site of an 800-year-old temple in Angkor in Cambodia. It was abandoned in the 15th Century to be overgrown by the aggressive trees and moss, which now lend an eerie look to the place. Not many years ago, the value of the temples was recognized and restoration work begun. Today, visitors can see this archaeological site that is slowly merging with the jungle.
8 Longmen Grottoes, China
This archaeological site is as close as a short trip from the bullet train station and as far away as the Ming Dynasty. Step back into time when you discover the incredible art and architecture of the grottoes! There are well over two thousand caves and 100,000 statues—a feat that took centuries to produce. The main attraction is the gigantic Buddha carving in the center of them all.
9 Plumpton Roman Villa Project, Great Britain
Have you ever wanted to break out a shovel and do some of your own excavating? Well, now you can! There are several places where you can do this in the world, but one of the coolest is the Plumpton Roman Villa Project. The Sussex School of Archaeology is allowing volunteers to come get their hands dirty at the site. For a small fee, you can learn the basic of archaeology and engage in the dig.
10 Luxor Temple, Egypt
Luxor Temple is one of Egypt’s most iconic monuments. This archaeological site is a dream come true for many people to visit, after seeing it for years in history books and Egyptian documentaries. The temple was built in 1400 BC, and it includes two massive statues guarding the front entrance and one of the two obelisks (the other is now in Paris). The excavation of this temple began in 1881 and lasted 80 years. The rubble around the ruins had been used as a foundation for many smaller buildings over the centuries, which had to be cleared out in the process.
11 Hadrian’s Wall, England
Hadiran’s Wall is an ancient wall in England. It was built in 122 AD to define and defend the roman territory of Britannia. The wall once ran all the way across the width of the British Isle, but today only a small portion remains. Some of the original stones of the wall can be found in other nearby buildings dating across many eras. Earthwatch even offers a weekender chance for some hands on experience in excavating remains of Hadrian’s Wall.
12 Volubilis, Morocco
The remains of the city of Volubilis are visible in the countryside of Morocco. The city was founded around 300 BC, and it remained in use for the next 1300 years. The city changed hands many times, belonging to everyone from the Carthaginians to the Romans to the Catholics to the Muslims. After years of looting and natural decay, the city is a shell of its former glory—albeit an enticing and beautiful one.
Archaeology is more than just old ruins. These digs give visitors a unique glimpse into a country’s history and culture. Some of these fascinating sites even offer hands on experiences, so dig in!