The world’s greatest ruins

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These ancient wonders around the globe are still worth the trip today.

  • 1. Teracotta Army


    Xi’an, China

    In 1974, well diggers in China’s northwestern region of Xi’an struck the head of a sculpture, thereby discovering an underground network of 8,000 terra cotta soldiers—the army and afterlife accompaniment of China’s self-proclaimed first emperor Qin Shi Huang. It was not uncommon for emperors to start building their tombs when they took the thrown, but Qin Shi Huang took this task more seriously than others: To make sure no one knew the location of his final resting place, he buried all of its workers and artists alive.

  • 2. Roman Baths

    Photo by Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images

    Bath, England

    First used as a Celtic shrine dedicated to the goddess Sulis, the baths became a quotidian spot for socializing and bathing (no small task then) in post-conquest Roman culture. After touring the baths and temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva, take a sip of spring-sourced mineral water. (There’s also tea available—this is Britain, after all.)

  • 3. Moai

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    Easter Island, Chile

    Polynesia’s easternmost island is home to some of the history’s most fascinating sculptures—the moai, multi-ton sculptures carved from quarry rock to represent the Rapanui people’s deified ancestors. The means by which the moai made their way from the quarry to their places on the hill has been the subject of much archeological debate. While the most recent theories assert that men used rope to rock the statues from side to side and forward, the Rapanui people say they simply walked.

  • 4. Petra

    Photo by Yadid Levy/Alamy

    Petra, Jordan

    Remember the Canyon of the Crescent Moon in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? It was fashioned after the monastery at Petra, a Nabataean city that flourished from prehistoric times until an earthquake brought it to ruin. Rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the lost city has since become one of the seven new world wonders, and its complex systems and ornate facades—carved right into the rose-colored rock—are revered among archaeologists.

  • 5. Tikal

    Photo by Kendall Rittenour/Getty Images

    Tikal National Park, Guatemala

    The Maya left its imprint all over Central America, but Tikal might be the most impressive example of what life was like for pre-Colombian society. The onetime capital is a complex network of temples, palaces, and other societal structures for the roughly 120,000 inhabitants that lived there at its peak (around A.D. 800). These days, the tops of the temples offer incredible views of the surrounding rainforest.