1. Fatehpur Sikri, India
Location: Uttar Pradesh
It's astonishing how this 16th-century city stayed almost flawlessly intact! Though Fatehpur Sikri is definitely not the oldest ancient relic on this list, its unique, nearly perfectly intact architecture is definitely worth a mention, especially since it's situated in close proximity to other major tourist destinations, such as the Taj Mahal.
Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory) is a fortified city created by Emperor Akbar in 1571. Akbar was the third Mughal emperor, who initiated the construction of this beautiful terracotta city to serve as a capital for the empire. During Akbar's rule, the Mughal Empire was thriving and he managed to enlarge its borders to include nearly all of the Indian subcontinent, so the emperor had plenty of funds to spend on extraordinary architectural projects, with Fatehpur Sikri definitely being a prime example.
Unfortunately, after just 14 years, the water supply to the city diminished dramatically and it was completely abandoned, standing uninhabited for centuries. Today, the city is a prime example of Mughal architecture, and tourists from all over the world visit the city to admire the multitude of royal palaces and pavilions the city contains.
You can see pristinely preserved courtyards, gardens, towers, a mosque, ornamental pools, and royal quarters, including a harem, all covered with intricate decorations and unbelievably detailed carvings. It is the best-preserved collection of Mughal architecture in India. Today, the city also houses an archeological museum containing cultural artifacts from the Mughal and pre-Mughal period.
2. Pula Arena, Croatia
A true gem, the Pula Arena in Croatia is among the largest and best preserved Roman arenas in the world, and the only one to retain four side towers and all three Roman architectural orders. Though admittedly somewhat smaller than the Roman Colosseum, the intricate Pula Arena can seat 26.000 spectators. To this day, events such as concerts, festivals and gladiator fight re-enactments are organized at the amphitheater on a regular basis.
Apart from being one of the largest Roman arenas, the amphitheater is also the best-preserved Roman monument in Croatia. Located in close proximity to the seashore, the Pula Arena was built during 27 BC - 68 AD. The stone version was completed during the reign of emperor Claudius to hold gladiator fights and was in use until the 5th century when gladiator battles were banned.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the building was abandoned and stones from the arena were plundered by local folk until the 13th century, with even the local Pula Cathedral containing stone from the amphitheater.
3. Longmen Grottoes, China
The Longmen Grottoes, one of the most recognized historical landmarks in China, are situated merely 12 km (7.5 miles) south of the city of Luoyang, one of the oldest cities in the world. The grottoes incorporate 2,345 caves and niches scattered with 2,800 inscriptions, 43 pagodas, and more than 100,000 Buddhist carvings. The earliest images on the site date back to 493 AD, but, according to archeological assessments, the carvings continued to be added until 1127 AD.
The Longmen Grottoes are a magnificent sight. The myriad of small carvings and images of the Buddha and bodhisattvas scatter the rocky exterior of the mountain, leaving every observer speechless.
Certainly, the gem of the Longmen Grottoes is Fengxiansi (672-675 AD), the most enormous, extravagant cave, pictured above. The carvings at Fengxiansi feature the impressive 17.14 meter (56 feet) tall Vairocana Buddha and many bodhisattvas. It is considered the pinnacle of Chinese Buddhist art, and rightfully so.
4. Bagan Temples, Myanmar
Location: Central Burma
Bagan is another sacred Buddhist site. It's an entire architectural zone scattered with an exceptional range of art and monuments, such as temples, stupas, places of pilgrimage, frescoes and sculptures. The temples of Bagan were built during the 11th and 13th centuries, with every ruler of the Bagan civilization contributing to the unbelievably beautiful landscape of the area.
Overall, there are more than 3,595 monuments in the area executed in various architectural styles, and the whole zone is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Needless to say, the Bagan Temples are also the largest tourist attraction in Myanmar, leading the way for the developing tourist industry in the country.
5. Tikal, Guatemala
Location: Tikal National Park
Tikal is another UNESCO treasure, as it is likely the most impressive monument complex of the Maya civilization. The ancient city ruins are located deep in the rainforest of Guatemala, and historians suggest the Mayan name of this magnificent city was Yax Mutal.
The earliest archeological findings in the area date back to 1,000 BC, but major construction didn't begin until 400-300 BC when both the pyramids and platforms were built.
Related article: 14 of the World's Most Impressive Step Pyramids
The jewel of the ancient city were the twin step pyramids facing one another, but the city also contains palaces and public squares, suggesting that it was the ceremonial center in the area. Certainly, Tikal is among the most valuable remnants of Pre Columbian civilizations in the Americas.
6. Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali
Location: Djenné, Mopti
Another architectural wonder few people know about is the Great Mosque of Djenné. Many experts believe the mosque is the greatest achievement of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style, and we can certainly agree that the Great Mosque of Djenné is one the most unique-looking and interesting structures we've ever seen!
Related article: 7 Wonders of the World That Nobody Talks About
A former meeting place for traders from Sudan and Guinea since 800 AD, the mosque and the surrounding city are sometimes collectively referred to as the City of Mud, as all the structures here are built from a mixture of straw, clay, and oil. Although the current mosque was built only in 1906 and significantly enlarged, the basis of the monument most likely dates back to 1,200 AD.
7. Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia
Location: Siem Reap
The Ta Prohm Temple in Cambodia looks like a place straight out of a fairy tale! The stone temple is part of the ancient Khmer city of Angkor and it's completely overpowered by powerful tree roots and branches, submitting to the power of nature. Once a Buddhist monastery hidden deep in the jungle, Ta Prohm was mostly abandoned by the 15th century.
However, during its heyday during the 12th century, the temple was a center of learning that accommodated over 12,500 people. The original name of the monastery was Rajavihara, or ‘The King’s Ministry’, and it was one of the most prominent and richest monasteries in the deeply religious Khmer Empire until its very fall.