These eight archeological destinations are tangible remnants of past civilizations that are nothing short of remarkable, and not just because they’ve remained all this time for us to explore today. From Machu Picchu to the pyramids in Egypt, our planet is full of incredible feats of human engineering, architecture and ingenuity—especially considering how long ago the sites in this gallery were created. Some of them continue to baffle archaeologist and are all guaranteed to impress those of us lucky enough to tick them off our bucket list.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
1 of 8
China has no shortage of impressive archeological sites, but few are as unique as the funerary statues known as the Terracotta Army. Discovered in the mid-1970s by local farmers, excavation to date has revealed thousands of statues of soldiers, chariots and horses all modeled after China's first emperor Qin Shi Huang's army and buried with him around 210 BC.
Photo by Bernd Thaller, CC BY-NC 2.0
2 of 8
To visit modern-day Rome is to take a step back in time through the heart of the seat of the Roman Republic and later the center of the Roman Empire. Plenty is preserved within the UNESCO World Heritage historic centre of Rome and its surrounding areas, including the Pantheon (pictured), Colosseum, Mausoleum of Augustus, Column of Marcus Aurelius and a variety of other historically-relevant archaeological sites from those periods and others.
Photo by Diana Robinson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
3 of 8
Until 1911, Machu Picchu remained virtually unknown to the world at large and hidden away at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It is believed that this mountain-side complex was built for an emperor around 1450 and served religious, agricultural and astronomical functions during the Inca Empire. Machu Picchu includes some 200 structures across more than 5 square miles that represent quintessential Inca architecture.
Photo by Dan Doan, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
4 of 8
Undeniably one of the most impressive and important sites in South East Asia, Cambodia's Angkor has few rivals. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the largest city of its time and today the temple complex remains the world's largest religious monument. This once-capital of the Khmer Kingdom, which ruled between the 9th and 15th centuries, lies just under 4 miles outside of Siem Reap and covered 390 square miles in its day. Today you could easily fill a weekend, if not more, exploring the Angkor Archaeological Park, which includes the famous Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and the Bayon, among many other temples of historical, cultural and architectural importance.
Photo by Rodney Topor, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
5 of 8
Mexico's Chichen Itza served as a major city and sacred site for the Mayan civilization estimated between 600 and 1400. The ruins that remain from this massive Pre-Colombian complex in present-day Yucatán include El Castillo, a large step pyramid, as well as the Temple of the Warrior.
Photo by Daniel Mennerich, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
6 of 8
Within Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island you'll find the countless moai, monolithic human-like figures dating back between the 10th and 16th centuries. The structures are believed to represent ancestors of the native Polynesian inhabitants of this remote Chilean island. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site includes an estimated 900 moai, as well as hundreds of other relevant archaeologically-relevant structures.
Photo by Babak Fakhamzadeh, CC BY-NC 2.0
7 of 8
Straight from the pages of your elementary school textbook, what remains of Egypt's ancient capital of Memphis is the definition of bucket list-worthy. It also happens to include the only remaining Ancient Wonder of the World. The pyramid fields from Giza to Dahshur that surround the once Old Kingdom capital includes the famous Great Pyramid of Giza, as well as the Sphinx, along with several other pyramids and relics dating back more than 4,500 years.
Photo by Chris Ford, CC BY-NC 2.0
8 of 8
By far one of the most relevant archaeological sites in the United States are the ancestral Pueblo Indian dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. The prehistoric settlement includes around 600 cliff dwellings, along with more than 4,000 additional sites built between the 600 and 1300. Notable dwellings include the Cliff Palace and Balcony House.
Photo by Jacqueline Poggi, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0