Ever since first reading about places such as Easter Island and Tikal, ancient cultures and civilisations have fascinated me. In fact, it is reading about these places which helped inspire me to travel in the first place. I wanted to see these ancient sites with my own eyes. I wanted to walk among the ruins of long dead civilisations, and wonder at their construction. After 20 years, I have managed to see quite a few, and these are just 10 ancient and weirdly mysterious places I have visited.
10 Ancient And Weirdly Mysterious Places I Have Visited
Teotihuacan in Mexico
Teotihuacan is a massive archaeological complex located about 30 kms from Mexico City. Thought to have been constructed around 100BC, at its peak, the population was estimated to be an astounding 150,000 people or more. Since its rediscovery, parts of the site have been reconstructed, so in a way, it is difficult to tell if this is how it actually looked thousands of years ago or not. The size and scale of the site is amazing, and the logistics behind its construction mind-boggling. Add into that some astronomical alignments that only an advanced civilisation could arrive at, and it is not difficult to see why the meaning of Teotihuacan is ‘The Place Where Gods Were Born'.
I visited Teotihuacan back in 2005, when I was backpacking through Central and South America. You can read more about this mysterious site and my adventures here >> Teotihuacan, Palenque, Monte Alban, and more.
Located in Guatemala, Tikal was a powerful ancient city of the Maya. It suffered the same fate as most of the Mayan city complexes, in that the entire civilisation seems to have all but collapsed by around 1000 AD. To think that a culture became so powerful that they could construct such a place, and then disappear entirely is something we should all keep in mind. They had the same problems of climate change, over farming, and over population that we face today.
I visited Tikal during the same backpacking trip through Central and South America. I liked it so much, that I went there for a second time, when I cycled from Alaska to Argentina. You can read more about my time there and see extra photos here – Photos of Tikal.
No list of ancient and weirdly mysterious places would be complete without featuring Stonehenge. It may not have the complexity of a Mayan city, nor the sheer size of the pyramids, but it is fascinating nonetheless. Again, it's purpose is a mystery, although its solstice alignments are well known. A place of worship, a meeting place? Nobody knows for sure, but Stonehenge is one of the most iconic mysterious places in the world.
I visited Palmyra in Syria when I was cycling from England to South Africa. The site had been in use since the Neolithic times, and was an important stopping point for people crossing the desert. I say ‘had'. A couple of years ago, IS militias had taken over the site, and just a few days ago, news came through that they had blown it up. I don't think we will ever truly know how much historical and cultural legacy has been lost. All I have to show, is some happy memories from staying there, and a few photos like the one above.
Easter Island easily makes my 10 ancient and weirdly mysterious places I have visited list. The island is literally in the middle of nowhere, and is completely isolated by several thousand kilometres from the nearest mainland. Somehow, a civilisation arose here which considered erecting huge statues to be of prime importance. Why this should be is not entirely known. Neither is if the original inhabitants migrated from South America or from the South Pacific Islands. It is a fascinating place to visit, and I drove around, hired a bike, and also rode a horse to explore every corner of this mysterious place. I would definitely like to go back to Easter Island again!
The Nazca Lines
What sort of a civilisation would create huge works of art on the ground that you can only see from the air, before the power of flight was discovered? The Nazca Lines are a true mystery, and many theories have been put forward as to what they may have been for. Landing lines for ancient astronauts? Spirit lines for shamans to follow? No one knows for sure. All that I know, is that they are truly spectacular when viewed from the air, and all but invisible when down on the ground. Read here to find out more about my time spent seeing the Nazca Lines from the air.
The Pyramids in Egypt
Few man-made constructions are more impressive than the great pyramids of Egypt. Few are more mysterious either. Certainly, the smaller pyramids scattered throughout the country were designed as tombs for royalty and important persons, but were the Great Pyramids? And what is the Sphinx all about? Historians place the age of them at 3000 BC, and yet geologists and experts in weathering say that they show signs of water erosion. If this is the case, then they may be nearly 12000 years old instead. No one really knows, and they certainly do not know why they were built to exacting measurements with astronomical alignments in mind. I saw the pyramids during my cycling expedition from England to South Africa, and so they easily make the list of 10 ancient and weirdly mysterious places I have visited list.
Derinkuyu Tunnels in Turkey
The Derinkuyu tunnels in the Cappadocia region of Turkey are very weird! Several underground cities can be found in the area, dating back several thousand years. No one knows why or even how these tunnels were built. Although early Christians in the area took refuge in them in times of need, they already existed. You can here about my time spent cycling through Cappadocia.
There is not much left of this mysterious city complex set high in the Bolivian altiplano on the shore of lake Titicaca. What remains there are though, raise many questions. Who built this city/ How did they move vast stone slabs weighing over 100 tonnes? What technology did they use to fit the stones seamlessly together? It was a site that I always wanted to visit, and one that I intend to return to in order to spend more time there.
Last, but in no means least, is the Angkor Wat complex of temples and palaces in Cambodia. Once the heart of the mighty Khmer Empire, and constructed during the 12th century, it fell into disrepair after the 16th century. It was never completely abandoned, although the jungle did its best to reclaim the buildings which are spread out over a vast site. Today, it is a major tourist attraction, and thousands of visitors from around the world come to marvel at it.
And that brings this list of 10 ancient and weirdly mysterious places I have visited list to a close. (Yes, I did count them, there are 10 there!)
Have you been to any of these places, and if so, what did you think? Are there any mysterious places in the world that you have visited you think I should go to? I would love to read your comments below.