All across the world there are amazing landmarks that often fall in the shadow of some of the greats like the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Colosseum and Great Wall of China. So, if you’re looking for something a little more unique – try these lesser-talked-about yet truly awe-inspiring sites.
1. The temples of Bagan, Myanmar
It’s hard to say which temple stands out as the predominant landmark in Bagan, but the Ananda temple is one of the largest ancient temples in the region.
Bagan’s more than 300o Buddhist temples along with together with the country’s isolated and preserved culture create one of the most unique travel experiences today. Aside from a local or two tasked with caring for the crumbling buildings, many of the areas ancient temples are deserted; however, other well-known temples in the region draw crowds of worshipers and tourists alike.
For more on how to explore the Bagan Region click here.
2. Petra, Jordan
The treasury building of the archeological ruins of Petra was once made famous by the Indiana Jones movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, which was filmed in part on the ancient grounds of Petra. While extremely impressive, an hour-long hike or an even shorter donkey ride up the rear mountains of the park lead to an even greater masterpiece – the monastery.
An entire day, if not two, can be spent exploring the facades of the rose-rock city that is recognized as jewel of Jordan. The park is well accustomed to tourists as it is the largest tourist draw in Jordan.
My advice though? Make the climb beyond the Monastery for breathtaking views of the Jordan and Israel mountains and desert.
3. Cappadocia, Turkey
Cappadocia’s sweeping vistas only add to the intrigue of this magical region, and between the Goreme Open Air Museum, Uchisar Castle and the like – there is no shortage of well-known landmarks. Inside hundreds of these fairy chimneys are ancient caves that served as homes, churches and public gathering places during the Roman persecution of Christians. In fact, there are entire underground cities where believers fled to escape the Romans and others who disagreed with or threatened their faith.
4. The White Temple – Chiang Rai, Thailand
Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple, in Chiang Rai is artist Chalermchai Kositpipat’s most famous work. Not only is this a serious departure from the traditional temples found throughout Thailand, it’s also a defining statement of modern thought pertaining to societal expectations, greed and politics.
4. The Old City – Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubvronik juts from the steep hillside down to the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. Its landmark? The Old City perched high on cliffs above the Adriatic. Its history of being less-frequented by tourists is quickly fading as thousands of people pour off cruise ships and jam inside the ancient city walls daily.
It is undoubtedly one of my favorite places to watch the sun fade from the sky. Every night it seems to sink deep into the blue waters beyond the ancient city walls. At the same time, the cruise ships depart and the Dubrovnik quiets significantly leaving those who choose to stay with freedom to explore without the hectic crowds.
4. Borobudur Temple – Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple, is situated outside of the clogged and crowded city of Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java. Aside from the crowds of local tourists, it can offer can offer a bit of peace. The ancient temple, built between 750 and 820 AD, is lined with reliefs on its lower levels and stupas on the upper levels. Some say it was built hundreds of years before Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, and even more before the beautiful cathedrals of Europe making it one of the world’s oldest preserved religious structures.
5. The Amer Fort – Rajasthan, India
The Amer Fort, commonly known to travelers as the Amber Palace, sits perched above the ancient town of Amber and is one of the most famous and heavily touristed forts in Rajasthan. Originally the capital of the region, the fort was built before 1600 AD. It’s quite a walk up hill if you don’t drive or you can simply hail an elephant for the short ride to the top. Don’t be like Former President Clinton who first skipped the elephant ride on a visit to the Amer Fort before returning later a second time to take the traditional elephant ride to the top.
6. Bayon, Angkor Wat Complex – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Bayon, also known as Angkor Thom, often sits in the shadow of Angkor Wat; however, many tourists leave the Angkor Complex with a greater appreciation for Angkor Thom than any other temple on the complex thanks to its extremely unique style. Nearly 50 towers, 49 to be exact, surround this awe-inspiring temple constructed after Angkor Wat.
What do these stone heads represent? Well, some say they are the image of King Jayavarman VII who ordered the temple to be built, but others believe they represent Buddha. Either way, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you’re being watched in any part of the temple.
7. Boudhanath Stupa – Kathmandu, Nepal
8. Ephesus, Turkey
The ancient city of Ephesus is one of the most magnificent Roman ruin sites in the world. Sitting just outside Selcuk, Turkey near the coast, the Roman city of Ephesus was once a bustling port and center for commercial trade. What remains today is in pieces, but archeologists are working diligently to put the puzzle back together.
9. Pha That Luang – Vientiane, Laos
Pha That Luang, the national symbol of Laos, is a magnificent stupa in the country’s capital. However, it’s not the stupa itself that secures its spot on this list rather a host of things to see in Vientiane.
While you’re there, make sure to explore the surrounding temples and venture outside of the city to see the old crumbling figures at Buddha Park.
10. Shwedagon Pagoda – Yangon, Myanmar
The intricacy and the scale of this magnificent complex make the Shwedagon Pagoda a must see in Myanmar. The stupa itself is enshrined in gold and diamonds – the largest reportedly being a 72 carat diamond. While that may be enough of a reason to visit, the human element cannot be overlooked. Simply standing back and witnessing the devotion of the Burmese who flock to the complex to pray is an intriguing and enlightening experience.