The world is full of beautiful and exotic places that may look somewhat similar in shape or design but are a million light years apart anyway. In this sense, you, too, must have seen a whole lot of picturesque sites and architectural styles, but you've certainly missed out on some of the greatest ones. Together we're going to explore almost a quarter of the world's most exceptional and unique buildings that may be old as the hills but are just as fantastic as today's modern architecture. Although most of these buildings may even stretch as far back as the 3rd-4rd century BC, their unusual shapes and designs have managed to inspire travelers from all over the world.
Whether you're more interested in wandering through a city's century-long ruins or explore opulent and elegant palaces, you'll undoubtedly find high doses of inspiration here. From the Roman archeological site of Baalbek in Lebanon to the marvelous Monte Albán in Mexico, today we bring you 20 of the world's most ancient buildings man has ever created. Besides, it's really amazing to know that most of these gorgeous edifices weren't built by some highly-skilled engineers, but with the help of ordinary men.
20 "The City of The Sun", Baalbek, Lebanon
The first ancient building on this list is the impressive archeological site of Baalbek in Lebanon. This spectacular place has been known as quite a unique site with beautiful temples, magnificent stone stairways, charming courtyards, etc. This particular Roman site looks like a giant monster that can dwarf any big city into a home of ants. It was first designated as "Heliopolis" which can be translated as "The City of the Sun," but the Greeks and Romans hardly thought that many centuries later, there would be another gorgeous city in Italy that would share the same name - Naples, the Italian City of The Sun. But realistically speaking, Heliopolis has no equal.
19 The Great Wall of China
Let's admit it - there's barely a nation that wouldn't frown at the thought of having some barbarians enter their land or at least this is how it was back in the day. So, to prevent them from reaching their territories, the Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang, commissioned the beginning of today's world-recognized Wall of China.
Officially built in the 3rd century B.C., the Great Wall spreads out across 4,000 miles—and this is without the additional 1,500 miles of brick, wood and stone barriers. Surely, most sections of the original wall couldn't stand the test of time. Therefore, the Chinese Ming dynasty reconstructed and reinforced the ancient structure, turning it into the wonder it is today.
18 The Ancient Temple of Hera, Italy
A day doesn't go by that we're not fascinated by this beautiful European country and its rich legacy. From baroque palaces and cathedrals to majestic buildings and landscapes, Italy has always been a favorite destination of ours as well. Surely, this ancient looking temple is just another impressive feature about Italy and the best part is that it's open to the public for contemplation. The original Temple of Hera was built with dozens of stone columns and three chambers and rooms, which later become worship areas. Today these areas are quite known for being one of Rome’s most ancient relics.
17 Ancient Greek Parthenon On the Acropolis
The area of the Acropolis is nicely strewn with marvelous sites to explore, such as the columns made from Pentelic marble. From a historical viewpoint, the Persians destroyed the first structures ever built on the edgy outcrop of the Acropolis; however, a decade and a half later, the building went under a massive reconstruction which continued until 432 B.C.
But apart from its historical background, the majestic Temple of Athens, Greece, impresses its visitors with another ancient structure, namely the Greek Parthenon and the beautiful statue of Athena that features gold and ivory elements.
16 The Breathtaking Gobekli Tepe, Turkey
This impressive temple is made up of at least 200 pillars, dozens of rock statues with carvings of different animals. This spectacular site is also home to oddly shaped pillars that weigh more than 60 tons. All of these fantastic details can only make the experts wonder how in the world such primitive civilizations have completed the construction of these overly complicated buildings. Note that the Gobekli Tepe features dozens of circular installations with pillars surrounded by stone walls. But thanks to this, the ancient Gobekli Tepe is now one of the world’s most appreciated structures ever made by man.
15 The Alhambra - The Symbol of Spain
If there's a building that can serve as a symbol of this exotic country, it must be this strikingly beautiful palace towering out of the Granada's elm-wooded hillside. This iconic building enjoys over 5,000 visitors a day - and that's sure quite a good number for such an ancient structure. Those, who've already wandered through the restored doors of this superb building will probably agree that no amount of words can adequately describe the majesty of this Spanish palace. Admittedly, this exact structure pretends to be one of the best-preserved edifices of the Nasrid dynasty, and that's certainly a pretty good reason to visit it.
14 Tumulus of Bougon, France
Well, you haven't heard of it either, have you? Well, this bizarre structure happens to be a stepped mound, offering an array of human-made chamber walls and passages, all shaped by "upright stones." This odd, yet quite impressive structure sits on a limestone plateau within a short distance of the River Bougon. Upon entering the mound, equipped with another rectangular chamber, you will undoubtedly notice an almost 90-ton capstone which covers the entire central hall of the Tumulus of Bougon. There are monolithic pillars at the front as well which divide the chambers into considerably small sections.
13 The Epic Stonehenge, England
Unlike most of the other ancient builds which are quite fantastic, but aren't that famous, the legendary Stonehenge is one of the most visited places in England. This internationally renowned structure is made up of a mix of substantial sarsen stones and a few smaller bluestones. The sarsen stone is a sort of sandstone which was once found in natural form in the southeast parts of England. The blue rocks, on the other hand, are just as impressive as they weigh up to five tons each. Locals believe that the blue stones and the most massive sarsen stones derive from Wales and Marlborough Downs and were carried all the way from there.
12 Carnac Stones: "The French Stonehenge"
Another interesting structure is this bizarre series of Carnac stones in France. Well, they may not seem as phenomenal or colossal as the Great Wall of China, but this unique collection of standing stones dates as far back as the 4500 B.C. Well, this sure is quite an impressive historical background. Also, another thing that's pretty exciting about these ancient rocks is the fact that they were used to explore and follow the movement of the Sun and the stars. These freakish Carnac stones, located in the Brittany region of France, may look super weird from today's perspective but were of paramount importance to the locals about hundreds of years ago.
11 Knap of Howar, Scotland
Best known as the oldest stone house in the northeast parts of Europe, the Knap of Howar is a fantastic place to explore when visiting Scotland for the first time. Although it may only seem to be a stone house, the unique feature about the famous Knap of Howar lies in the farmstead's buildings connected by a passage. Also, split stones were used to build the farmstead's two structures which were later retrofitted with more doorways facing the sheer blue sea. This unusual stone house lacks a roof and is now among the most impressive ancient structures in the country.
10 The Free-standing Megalithic Temples, Malta
Built hundreds of years ago, these unique Megalithic Temples in Malta are now famous not only because of their complicated and original structure and unparalleled design but because of the free-standing element. Even from today's viewpoint, the construction of each of these stone structures seems to have required quite advanced technical skills. As a result, this impressive collection of temples is now one of the world's most breathtaking ancient site. Also, each of these stone monuments boasts an entirely different articulation and construction although the exterior design of the megalithic temples was made of the same hard coralline limestone. All in all, this spectacular stone structure is believed to be about 3,500 years old.
9 The Newgrange And Its Spectacular Shape
You may not believe this, but even Stonehenge sounds like a freshly built structure when compared to this impressive site from the good old days. During the coldest seasons, the winter solstice sun manages to poke through the top of the temple filling the entire monument and the interior chambers with warm light for about 15-20 minutes. This unique building in Ireland is referred to as one of the most remarkable structures with an almost perfect design that can catch the winter sun quite effortlessly.
As we've just hinted a few lines above, this unusual structure in Ireland is even older than the Stonehenge in England. Initially, it was used to track the passing of the years - meaning that they actually used it as a regular calendar.
8 Sechin Bajo, Peru
This exact location is recognized as the oldest and most impressive architectural site in Peru and around the world. This bizarre structure is well-equipped with additional platforms, graveyards, circular plazas, and more.
In 2008, Peru's Valley-based build was opened to the public after the impressive discovery of additional circular adobe bricks and a 30-feet rock plaza. All of this, combined with the nearby sunken features and pre-ceramic materials, are the reasons why this location has earned such wide popularity. So next time you're not sure what to do in Peru, you can get the car ready and drive all the way to this extraordinary place.
7 Theatre of Marcellus, Italy
From majestic palaces and plazas to beautiful bridges and unique museums, the ancient city of Rome has always been an inexhaustible source of inspiration. This time, though, we won't be wandering through its typical Italian streets, but instead, we'll be peeking at its stunning Theatre of Marcellus and its star-studded history.
Officially commissioned by Julius Caesar, the spectacular structure with stone columns became the template for the world's most impressive theater buildings. This impressive theater could welcome over 20,000 spectators thanks to the different seating areas. Rome's unique theater of Marcellus was initially built as an open-air venue with many beautiful arches, stairways, and columns.
6 The Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain
The Aqueduct of Segovia in Spain has become the symbol of the best-preserved structures in the entire world, and it really serves as an adequate example of that. This impressive structure was built around 50 AD - meaning that it precedes the construction of the magnificent Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Today this Spanish structure is not only a surviving instance of one of the world's most spectacular and unique sites, but locals appreciate it for its role of carrying water from the Frio River into the town of Segovia. Also, the Aqueduct of Segovia consists of 24,000 granite blocks, almost 165 arches and no mortar at all.
5 The Grand Colosseum, Italy
Speaking of the majestic Colosseum in Italy, there's no better example of an impressive ancient structure than that. As magnificent as it looks, this beautiful structure is over 600 feet long and 500 feet wide. Technically, it's one of the largest amphitheaters around the world that enjoys armies of travelers every year. What's interesting about the Colosseum in Rome is that it wasn't built into a hillside for support.
When compared to other massive structures from that time, the grand Colosseum was 100% free-standing stadium made of concrete and stone which could hold over 50,000 visitors thanks to the numerous seating levels.
4 La Hougue Bie: The Ancient Bunker In France
This ancient bunker, located off the coast of Normandy, France, is one of the tallest European structures with passage graves, religious sites, and prehistoric mound dolmen. What's super unique about this ancient structure is that it's believed to be the first structure used as a place of worship about 3,500 years ago. This religious site was also marked by a well-preserved chapel, sitting right on the top of the mound dolmen. Later on, though, it was mainly used as a bunker during the German Occupation. But apart from its rich historical background, The La Hougue Bie is frequently featured as one of the world's most spectacular and ancient structures in Europe.
3 The Egyptian Pyramids Were Built Around 2,400 B.C.
There's no doubt that the Egyptian Pyramids are a favorite location for lots of photographers and adventurers around the world. We've all seen pictures of them but what exactly makes them that fantastic and impressive? Well, the man's building efforts, for one, sounds like an excellent starting point. Also, the height and scale of the pyramids, the mud-brick tombs, and iconic shape, all achieved by stepped layers of stone have created a mind-boggling structure that was probably just as legendary back in the day. Built around 2400 B.C, the colossal Egyptian Pyramids were once surrounded by many courtyards, shrines, and temples. In fact, the original pyramid topped the insane height of 204 feet while the Great Pyramid of Khufu, for instance, rose to almost 500 feet - quite unbelievable, right?
2 Van Fortress, Turkey: The Symbol Of The Turkish Military Force
The majestic Van Fortress, located in Turkey, was under construction for over a century and was finally completed in around 1,000 B.C. This massive fortress stands on a steep bluff overlooking the beautiful area of Tushpa - the charming capital of Urarian, situated nearby the friendly city of Van, Turkey. Originally made of basalt and mud bricks, Van Fortress has become a symbol of the Turkish power rather than an emblem of the military supremacy. Over the years the fortress might have changed its rulers but has remained a remarkable relic from the past nevertheless.
1 Persepolis Gate of Nations, Persia (Iran)
Coming last in order is this imposing relic in Persian (now Iran) which features an ornate detailing, carved gates and impressive wooden interior with pivoting doors made of metal. Here, in the very heart of the Persepolis Gate of Nations, Persians engaged in old rituals to ward off evil spirits. Most of their bizarre traditions took place precisely here where pairs of carved bulls and lamassu mark both entrances to the gate. Not only was the structure quite imposing for its time, but the size of the carvings were also pretty much unusual in their shape and design. A hall between the gates once led to the south entrance from where one could take in the grandeur and massiveness of this Gate of Nations in Persia.