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Top 5 World  Ruins

The ancient world has fascinated us for hundreds of years as an enigmatic window into the past. There are many places around the world that still tether us to this ancient time, and give us a sense of the origins of our own civilisations.

Angkor, Cambodia

One of the most impressive examples of ancient civilisation is the Angkor temple complex in Siem Reap. Angkor was the centre of the Khmer Kingdom between the 9th and 14th century, and because of this, you can see the evolution of Khmer architecture and art as you wander through.

flickr | Dennis JarvisThe most recognisable temple in the complex is Angkor Wat, but there are also the Preah Khan, Ta Prohm and Bayon temples, all of which uniquely imbued with cultural, social and religious significance. It's thought the deliberate positioning of the temples is also of symbolic significance.

The complex itself reaches over 400 Km2 hosting many more smaller temples as well as an established irrigation system consisting of canals, basins and dykes. Its historical significance in showing the complexities and advancements of the Khmer Empire has earned Angkor its place as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You could visit this ancient site by volunteering on one of our projects in Siem Reap.

Petra, Jordan

flickr | Seetheholyland.netMade up of several striking temples and tombs carved into red sandstone, Petra once served as the ancient capital of the Nabateans, and was used as a crossroads between Egypt, Arabia and Syria-Phoenicia. Aside from the impressive architecture what made Petra so successful was its water management system; a complex series of channels, cisterns and reservoirs to control and store rainwater, providing much welcomed respite for caravans crossing the arid desert.

The most famous of all structures at Petra has to be The Treasury, as featured in Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade. However, despite being portrayed in the film as an elaborate temple, is in reality a relatively small single chamber, so there are no traps to traverse and no templar ghosts to passive-aggressively judge your choice of chalice.

However, much of the ancient city does host intricate tunnels, chambers and channels within the Royal Tombs, irrigation systems and copper mines. The city may hold many more secrets too as it is thought there is still much of Petra undiscovered.

Great Pyramid of Cholula, Mexico

flickr | jrsnchzhrsWhen seen from certain vantage points you wouldn't be blamed for thinking "that looks more like a Catholic church than a pyramid", but it's actually the 'hill' that church is built on that conceals one of the largest pyramids ever built.

The Great Pyramid was originally calculated to have a massive volume of 4.45million cubic metres, however it was later discovered the main pyramid was built on top of two other large pyramids, lessening its overall volume. Although the main pyramid is technically smaller than one thought, the city as a whole spans much farther, with the discoveries of 3 more pyramid structures, a central plaza and a courtyard all containing murals, altars and other archaeological wonders.

The Great Pyramid, and the two underneath it, were built out a cob-like material called adobe; a combination of mud and straw baked into bricks. This meant that after it was abandoned in the 9th century, the city could return to the land.

There are thousands of Aztec and Mayan ruins scattered throughout Central America, and you can have the chance to see them whilst doing something incredible on our Central America Adventure Trail.

Meroe, Sudan

flickr | joepyrekTypically when asked to picture pyramids people envisage the world famous Giza pyramid complex in Egypt. But hop over the border south of Egypt into Sudan, and you’ll be in a country with over 250 pyramids; many of which you can get up close to and even go inside.

The majority of these pyramids are localised north-east of Kabushiya on the bank of the river Nile, and make up the remains of the ancient city of Meroe. These Nubian pyramids range from just a few metres to well over 100ft. The ruins of Amun Temple, Lion Temple and Hathor Chapel can also be found just south of Meroe. 

Yonaguni Monument, Japan

Located off the coast of the southernmost of the Ryuku Islands, this is definitely one of the most mysterious ruins in the world.

By Vincent Lou from Shanghai, China (DSC02829) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThis ruin is believed to be between 2,000-3,000 years old, but its origins are somewhat contentious as archaeologists and geologists have been trying to figure out whether the structure is a natural phenomenon or man-made. There is evidence supporting both claims; naturally occurring 90 degree shapes are not unheard of, but there are marks along specific points implying chisel work. Some scientists also theorise it could be both, with humans enhancing a natural site, much like Petra.

It is thought that because of its age, this structure would have been at sea level during a tectonic event, submerging it beneath the waves. But others have gone so far to say that these are the remnants of the fictitious "lost continent" Mu.

Many tourists flock to Yonaguni to dive amongst the monoliths (and is a great place to see Hammerhead Sharks), so whatever the eventual consensus, this may be the closest you can get to a real life Atlantis.

With so much still unknown and undiscovered it's not surprising to feel a sense of wonder when wandering these sites; literally walking through human history, so get out there and get exploring.

By Thomas Phillips - Online Journalism Intern

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