Ancient Marvels: A Global Tour of Impressive Ruins

By Jack Ripley | May 14, 2024

Religious Harmony in the Ellora Caves, India

Every region has unique sights to explore, offering a wealth of travel possibilities. While you might not get to visit every corner of the globe, this virtual tour will let you see and learn about a range of compelling UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Authentic, amazing, and unique, each of these sites reveals something unexpected that resonates with visitors across the globe.

Learn fascinating details about ancient civilizations, secret settlements, and devotional constructs that take you back in time. Experience the flavor of long-lost cultures from history and explore the remaining ruins. Discover a collection of some of the most compelling places on the planet.


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This unique UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the Indian state of Maharashtra, is a complex of about 100 elaborately constructed caves hewn from the basalt volcanic formations in the Charanandri Hills. Of the 34 caves open for tours, 17 are of Hindu origin, 12 are Buddhist-built, and 5 are of Jain origin. Each exhibits its own religious and mythological artifacts.

All of the caves were built during the first millennium CE, suggesting a harmonic society where different faiths could peacefully coexist. The Ellora Caves offered pilgrims a place to rest and revive during their treks and a place for traveling traders to ply their wares.

Some of these caves are particularly notable. Dhumar Lena, Cave 29, is among the largest and earliest excavations. It is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and features a waterfall. Visvakarma, Cave 10, is a Buddhist site carved with the illusion of wooden beams, thus nicknamed "Carpenter's Cave." Chhota Kailasa, Cave 30, is one of the five Jain caves, featuring two giant bas-reliefs of the deity Isra.

A Transplanted Monument: Abu Simbel, Egypt

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During his reign in the 13th century BCE, Pharoah Ramses II commissioned Amu Simbel to create this monument. Cut from the rocky hillside, it features four gigantic statues of Ramesses II that flank the entrance. Abu Simbel was strategically placed so sunlight would enter the inner chamber twice yearly on each equinox. An earthquake caused the damage shown in the photo.

When the Aswan Dam was built in the 1960s and 70s, which created Lake Nasser, water would have covered the ruins in their original location. Therefore, archeologists moved the Abu Simbel temples to a higher spot known as the UNESCO Nubian Monuments. Despite the move, they did not reconstruct the damaged statue, preferring to leave the broken pieces just as they had fallen.