Places That Inspire Enlightenment

Some people like to travel. If you’re one of those people, you might as well think about travelling to places that can kick start your “enlightenment gene.”

Ok, maybe there is no enlightenment gene – but if you surround yourself with mystical, illuminated ideas and situations, you are more likely to WAKE UP a little.

The places on this list are mystical and fascinating and if you are at all receptive to new ideas and states of mind you will experience changes in your neurology – That’s sort of like activating an “enlightenment gene” isn’t it?

Anyway, go out and explore the world. What else do you have to do?

NOTE: this is intended as an educational and entertainment site. All pictures are used solely to generate interest in the places mentioned and have NO commercial intention.

 Places and Things to See


Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights)

(Yukon Territory, Canada – and many other places)

Aurora-Borealis-5The Lights can be seen in the northern or southern hemisphere, in an irregularly shaped oval centred over each magnetic pole. The lights are known as ‘Aurora Borealis’ in the north and ‘Aurora Australis’ in the south. Scientists have learned that in most instances northern and southern auroras are mirror-like images that occur at the same time, with similar shapes and colors.

The best places to watch the lights (in North America) are in the northwestern parts of Canada, particularly the Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Alaska. Auroral displays can also be seen over the southern tip of Greenland and Iceland, the northern coast of Norway and over the coastal waters north of Siberia. Southern auroras are not often seen as they are concentrated in a ring around Antarctica and the southern Indian Ocean.

Areas that are not subject to ‘light pollution’ are the best places to watch for the lights. Areas in the north, in smaller communities, tend to be best.aurora-borealis-yukon_

Moraine Lake

(Alberta, Canada)

Not just another lake, Moraine is unique because when it’s full, the intensely light rock from the surrounding mountains refracts, and creates astounding neon shade of blue.

Gros Morne National Park

(Newfoundland-Labrador Canada)

This area has received world-wide recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its geological wonders and awe-inspiring fjords. Recreational opportunities include front and back country camping, hiking, nature study, photography, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and boat touring.


Great Serpent Mound

(Ohio, USA)

The Great Serpent Mound is a 1,348-foot-long (1/4 mile), three-foot-high prehistoric effigy mound located on a plateau of the Serpent Mound crater along Ohio Brush Creek in Adams County, Ohio. Maintained within a park by the Ohio Historical Society, it has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior. Built around 800 BC there is evidence of ritual use as late as 1000 to 1500 AD. it is the largest serpent effigy in the world. There are similar effigies in Ontario and Scotland. Why it was built – no one knows. Its purpose – also unknown. It looks as though it were about to swallow an egg. It might represent an eclipse. It could be a drawing of a constellation. There are cave like, hollow structures around the area as well. No one knows what they are for, either.



Shenandoah Valley

(West Virginia, USA)

The Shenandoah Valley is formed by two mountain ranges, the Blue Ridge on the east and the Appalachian on the west. Another mountain ridge, the Massanutten, runs down the middle, as does the Shenandoah River. The Shenandoah Valley is believed to have been named by a lost Native American tribe. The meaning of the name is disputed, but the most popular interpretation is “daughter of the stars”. The region is best known for its natural beauty and Civil War history. On seeing this valley, Thomas Jefferson wrote,  “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic”

Grand Canyon

 (Arizona, USA)

Just because you’ve heard about this place all your life doesn’t make it any less mysterious, inspiring and extraordinarily beautiful. Carved by the Colorado River and  located in Arizona, it is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Antelope Canyon

(Arizona, USA)

You might think the Grand Canyon is the only canyon you need to see in the US, but really, consider Antelope Canyon, which is conveniently also located in Arizona. Antelope Canyon was created through rivers and streams eroding the sandstone, and it makes for a wholly awesome experience where you can just saunter through miles of them.

Roswell

(New Mexico, USA)

roswell_alienswelcomeDid aliens really crash land here in 1947? Is there really an ongoing government cover up? Whatever happened in 1947, Roswell has now become a center for UFO enthusiasts to gather and discuss all the possibilities. Whether you believe in UFOs or not it has got to be fun to spend a night in a town that welcomes aliens.

Roswell

Chichen Itza

(Yucatan, Mexico)

One of the best preserved ancient Mayan cities this beautiful site feature pyramids, cult statutes, giant serpent carvings, sports arenas and an ancient observatory. This UNESCO World Heritage site was built and occupied between 600 and 1200 AD.


Palenque

(Chiapas, Mexico)

This is another ancient Mayan city, possibly more beautiful than Chichen Itsa but much harder to get to. It features the pyramid tomb of King Pacal. Apparently, special government permission is required to view this tomb, perhaps because of the controversial images connected with the King. Look at the picture of the 5 ton cover stone – is that King Pacal in a space ship?

 

Cenote

(Yucatan, Mexico)

The natural wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula are countless, but some of the most unique to the area are the cenotes. A cenote  is a deep natural pit or sinkhole  resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula, and some nearby Caribbean islands, cenotes were considered to be sacred, entrances to the underworld, and sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings. In addition they were an incredibly important fresh water resource.




Tikal

(Guatemala)

This spectacular Mayan city dates back to the 4th c B.C. It was known as the “lost city” because it was abandoned and completely covered over by the jungle for hundreds of years until explorers found it in the 1800’s. One of the most amazing things you can do is climb to the top of the great pyramid and watch the sun rise over the rainforest. Truly illuminating.


Haleakala Crater

(Hawaii, USA)

 

This massive shield volcano forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Early Hawaiians applied the name Haleakal (“house of the sun”) to the general mountain. Haleakal is also the name of a peak on the south western edge of Kaup Gap. In Hawaiian folklore, the depression at the summit of Haleakal was home to the grandmother of the demigod M’ui. According to the legend, M’ui’s grandmother helped him capture the sun and force it to slow its journey across the sky in order to lengthen the day.

Machu Picchu

(Peru)

Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as the “City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World.

The Incas started building the “estate” around 1400, but abandoned it as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction.


The Amazon River

(South America)

Regardless of which country you go to to see it – Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, or French Guiana – considering it’s the largest rainforest in the world and houses millions of unique creatures rarely found anywhere else, it’s worth seeing for thousands of reasons.

 

Nazca Plain

(Peru)

The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 kilometres (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana about 400 km south of Lima. Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 AD.The hundreds of individual figures range in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirdsspidersmonkeysfishsharksorcasllamas, and lizards (even an astronaut). Are they signals for ancient space gods? These lines can only really be observed by helicopter.


Easter Island

(Chile)

A special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapanui people. It is a World Heritage Site (as determined by UNESCO) with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park. In recent times the island has served as a warning of the cultural and environmental dangers of over-exploitation as over the centuries the natives stripped it of almost every natural resource including trees. Easter Island is claimed to be the most remote inhabited island in the world.


The Italian Chapel

(Orkney, Scotland)

This highly ornate Catholic chapel on Lamb Holm in Orkney, Scotland was built by Italian prisoners of war during World War II, who were housed on the previously uninhabited island while they constructed the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow. Only the concrete foundations of the other buildings of the prisoner-of-war camp survive. It was not completed until after the end of the war, and was restored in the 1960s and again in the 1990s. It is now a popular tourist attraction.ITALIANCHAPEL

Coventry Cathedral

(West Midlands, Britain)


Also known as St Michael’s Cathedral, this is the seat of the Bishop of Coventry and the Diocese of Coventry, in Coventry, West Midlands, England.

The city has had three cathedrals. The first was St. Mary’s, a monastic building, only a few ruins of which remain. The second was St Michael’s, a 14th century Gothic church later designated Cathedral, that remains a ruined shell after its bombing during the Second World War. The third is the new St Michael’s Cathedral, built after the destruction of the former and a celebration of 20th century architecture.

St Michael’s Church was largely constructed between the late 14th century and early 15th century. It was one of the largest parish churches in England when, in 1918, it was elevated to cathedral status on the creation of Coventry Diocese. This St Michael’s Cathedral now stands ruined, bombed almost to destruction during the Coventry Blitz on 14 November 1940 by the German Luftwaffe. Only the tower, spire, the outer wall and the bronze effigy and tomb of its first bishop survived. The ruins of this older cathedral remain hallowed ground. Following the bombing of the medieval cathedral in 1940, Provost Howard had the words “Father Forgive” inscribed on the wall behind the altar of the ruined building.  The architect Basil Spence (later knighted for this work) insisted that instead of re-building the old cathedral it should be kept in ruins as a garden of remembrance and that the new cathedral should be built alongside, the two buildings together effectively forming one church.

Tintern Abbey

(Britain)

Founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, on 9 May 1131 it is situated in the village of Tintern, on the Welsh bank of the River Wye in Monmouth shire, which forms the border between Monmouth shire in Wales and Gloucestershire in England. It was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales. It inspired William Wordsworth’s poem “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey”, Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Tears, Idle Tears”, Allen Ginsberg’s “Wales Visitation”, and more than one painting by J. M. W. Turner.

Glastonbury

(Britain) (Is this King Arthur’s Avalon?)

Glastonbury has been described as a New Age community which attracts people with New Age and Neo-pagan beliefs, and is notable for myths and legends often related to Glastonbury Tor, concerning Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail and King Arthur. In some Arthurian literature Glastonbury is identified with the legendary island of Avalon. Joseph is said to have arrived in Glastonbury and stuck his staff into the ground, when it flowered miraculously into the Glastonbury Thorn. The presence of a landscape zodiac around the town has been suggested but no evidence has been discovered.


Cadbury Castle Somerset

(Britain) (Is this the site of King Arthur’s Camelot?)

Local tradition, first written down by John Leland in 1542, holds that Cadbury Castle was King Arthur’s Camelot. The old word “Camelot” could be connected to the fact that this castle stands close to the River Cam with the villages of West Camel and Queen Camel in proximity.The site and the Great Hall are extensive, and the writer Geoffrey Ashe argued in an article in the journal Speculum that it was the base for the Arthur of history. His opinion has not been widely accepted by all students of the period.

Stonehenge 

(Britain)

The true significance of the Stonehenge site is unknown but there are many theories, some feasible and some rather outlandish – a structure built by aliens being one theory put forward. A ceremonial temple; astronomical observatory for mapping out the Heavens to build a calendar; or burial place created by King Arthur are among other ideas and legends. Latest Stonehenge theories proposed on a Time Team TV Special are that the site is part of a larger complex with areas devoted to the dead and the living, with the Stonehenge being constructed as a ritual area dedicated to ‘the ancestors’.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

(Cumbria, Britain)

One of the most visually impressive prehistoric monuments in Britain, and the most visited stone circle in Cumbria. Every year thousands of people visit it to look, photograph, draw and wonder why and when and by whom it was built. The stone circle is on the level top of a low hill with views across to Skiddaw, Blencathra and Lonscale Fell.


Rosslyn Chapel 

(Scotland)

The chapel has been featured in such books as “The Da Vinci Code” as being somehow connected to the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. There does not appear to be any evidence to support this claim. The chapel is very old and incredibly beautiful, with amazing sculpture and carvings. It is definitely a mysterious and spiritual site and well worth exploring.

Dunnottar Castle

(Stonehaven, Scotland)

Notable mostly for its appearance this site is sometimes known as “the Warlocks Castle.” Very cool.




Newgrange

(Ireland)

A prehistoric monument located in County Meath, on the eastern side of Ireland, about one kilometre north of the River Boyne. It was built around 3200 BC, during the Neolithic period. There is no agreement about what the site was used for, but  it is aligned with the rising sun, which floods the stone room with light on the winter solstice. Newgrange is older than Stonehenge and the great pyramids of Giza. After its initial use, the entrance to Newgrange was sealed by the ancients – no one knows why. Local folklore and mythology grew up around the site. It remained closed for thousands of years until antiquarians in the 17th century began to study it. It was largely restored to an interpretation of its original Neolithic appearance by conservators in the 1970s. Today, Newgrange is a popular tourist site, and according to the archaeologist Colin Renfrew, is “unhesitatingly regarded by the prehistorian as the great national monument of Ireland” and is also widely recognized as one of the most important megalithic structures in Europe.


Blarney Castle

(Ireland)

Originally built in the 1200’s, the castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and battlements. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. Tourists visiting Blarney Castle may hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give the gift of eloquence. There are many legends as to the origin of the stone, but some say that it was the Lia Fáil—a magical stone upon which Irish kings were crowned.

Surrounding Blarney Castle are extensive gardens. There are paths touring the grounds with signs pointing out the various attractions such as several natural rock formations which have been given fanciful names, such as Druid’s CircleWitch’s Cave and the Wishing Steps. Blarney House, also open to the public, is a Scottish baronial-style mansion that was built on the grounds in 1874.

How to Kiss the Stone

How to Kiss the Stone

 

 

Hill of Tara

(Ireland)

For many centuries, historians worked to uncover Tara’s mysteries, and suggested that from the time of the first Gaelic influence until the 1169 invasion of Richard de Clare, the Hill of Tara was the island’s political and spiritual capital. Specifically it was the seat of the High Kings of Ireland until the 6th century and beyond. The significance of the Hill of Tara predates Celtic times, and the earliest records attest that high kings were inaugurated there. The “Seanchas Mor” legal text (written down after 600AD) specified that they had to drink ale and symbolically marry the goddess Maeve (Medb) to acquire the high-kingship. Despite the passage of the centuries there is still a lot of power stored up in this site – a power a sensitive person can feel just by standing within its borders.

Cave Paintings of Altamira

(Spain)

Located near the town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, Spain, 30 km west of the city of Santander, it is famous for its Upper Paleolithic cave paintings featuring drawings and poly-chrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands. It was the first cave in which prehistoric paintings were discovered. The discovery was controversial in its time (1880) because most experts did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity to produce any kind of artistic expression. The acknowledgement of the authenticity of the paintings, which finally came in 1902, changed forever the perception of prehistoric human beings. The cave with its paintings has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Alhambra

(Granada, Spain)

A palace and fortress complex, it was constructed during the mid 10th century by the Berber ruler Badis ben Habus of the Kingdom of Granada in al-Andalus, occupying the top of the hill of the Assabica on the southeastern border of the city of Granada. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the Alhambra was “discovered” in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers, with restorations commencing. It is now one of Spain’s major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country’s most significant and well known Berber Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian building and garden interventions. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the inspiration for many songs and stories.

Mont-St-Michel

(France)

A rocky tidal island and a commune in Normandy, France. It is located approximately one kilometre (just over half a mile) off the country’s north-western coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River nearAvranches. The population of the island is 44, as of 2009. The island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times, and since the 8th century AD been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. The Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay are part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. More than 3,000,000 people visit it each year.

The Pyrenees Mountains

(France)

This range of mountains in southwest Europe forms a natural border between France and Spain. It separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe, and extends for about 491 km (305 mi) from the Bay of Biscay (Cap Higuer) to the Mediterranean (Cap de Creus).

For the most part, the main crest forms a massive divider between France and Spain, with the tiny country of Andorra sandwiched in between. Catalonia and Navarre have historically extended on both sides of the mountain range, with small northern portions now in France and much larger southern parts now in Spain.

Rennes le Chateau

(France)

This small French hilltop village is known internationally, and receives tens of thousands of visitors per year, for being at the center of various conspiracy theories, and for being the location of an alleged buried treasure discovered by its 19th-century priest Bérenger Saunière, the precise nature of which is disputed by those who believe in its existence, because of the sheer diversity of conflicting theories.

Mt. Bugarach

(France)

The geology of the mountain is striking. Its top layer is an overthrust from the Iberian plate, and is older than the bottom ones. This has given rise to its description as an “upside-down mountain”. Due to this unusual geology, a number of New Agers believe that the mountain contains aliens living in a spacecraft. This group believes that on December 21, 2012, the aliens supposedly living in the mountain will emerge to save them from the Apocalypse. A number of these believers have taken up residence on or near the mountain. A French parliamentary committee has expressed concerns that the New Agers may be planning a mass suicide or other significant events.

Carcassone

(France)



An ancient French castle founded by the Visigoths in the fifth century, though the Romans had fortified the settlement earlier. The fortress, which was thoroughly restored in 1853 by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. 

Emperor’s Palace

(Versailles, France)

When the palace or château was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a suburb of Paris, some 20 kilometres southwest of the French capital. The court of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the Paris capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime.

Town of Ghent

( Belgium)


Often called “the Wizard’s Town” because of it’s magical appearance. Really just a charming medieval city in the Flemish region of Belgium that looks spectacular and mysterious.
 


Gotland

(Sweden)

Sweden’s largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea.

Elsinore

(Helsingor, Denmark)

Kronberg Castle in Helsingor is the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Iceland

Iceland features some of the most alien landscapes in the world, from huge, partially frozen waterfalls, to the Northern Lights and insane sunsets and sunrises, to miles of barren tundra; not to mention an outgoing population who’s down to party.


Norwegian Fjords

(Norway)

Norway has one of the longest coastlines in the world, but almost certainly the most interesting. Its eastern coast is riddled with hundreds of jagged inlets, jutting right into the inland of the country. The formations within them as well as the views from them are among the most mesmerizing around.


Chateau de Chillon 

(Montreux, Switzerland)

It looks like a powerful sorcerer should live there, but really it’s just a fabulous medieval castle called Château de Chillon. Located on the shore of Lake Léman near MontreuxSwitzerland, it consists of 100 independent buildings that were gradually connected to become the building as it stands now.The oldest parts of the castle have not been definitively dated, but the first written record of the castle is in 1160 or 1005. From the mid 12th century, the castle was home to the Counts of Savoy, and it was greatly expanded in the 13th century by Pietro II. The Castle was never taken in a siege, but did change hands through treaties.It was made popular by Lord Byron, who wrote the poem The Prisoner Of Chillon (1816) about François de Bonivard, a Genevois monk and politician who was imprisoned there from 1530 to 1536; Byron also carved his name on a pillar of the dungeon.


Neuschwanstein Castle

(Germany)

This 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace is set on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssenin southwest BavariaGermany. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner.The palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, but it was opened to the paying public immediately after his death in 1886. The palace has appeared prominently in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland‘s Sleeping Beauty Castle and later, similar structures.

Oberammergau

(Germany)

A municipality in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in BavariaGermany. The town is famous for its production of a Passion Play, its woodcarvers, and the NATO School. The Oberammergau Passion Play was first performed in 1634 and is the result of a vow made by the inhabitants of the village that if God spared them from the effects of the bubonic plague then sweeping the region they would perform a passion play every ten years. The play is now performed in years ending with a zero, as well as in 1934 which was the 300th anniversary and 1984 which was the 350th anniversary (though the 1940 performance was cancelled because of the intervention of the Second World War). It involves over 2000 actors, singers, instrumentalists and technicians, all residents of the village.

Plitvice

(Croatia)

Plitvice is the oldest national park in Southeast Europe, and the largest in Croatia. Its views are something that few would expect in Europe at all, and the fact that it remains relatively untouched (aside from a few walkways), makes it all the better.

Assisi

(Italy)

The birthplace of at least 7 saints including St. Francis, St. Clare and St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows – there has got to be something special about this place. A beautiful city with a rich history. Also the site of a famous meteorite fall in 1886.



Sistine Chapel

(Vatican City, Italy)

Honestly, with some of the most prominent works by some of the most famous Renaissance artists – like Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Pietro Perugino – how could you not want to take at least a quick look at the Sistine Chapel? I mean, it’s in Vatican City, which is pretty worth checking out on its own.

Delphi

(Greece)

In ancient times Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god Apollo after he slew the Python, a dragon who lived there and protected the navel of the Earth



Parthenon

(Athens, Greece)

Arguably the most famous building in the world, the Parthenon was built in the 5th century BC to honour the goddess Athene and to show off the wealth and power of Athens. It has been copied and used as a model of design for hundreds of public buildings around the world. The word Parthenon refers to virginity because Athene was known as the Virgin Goddess. She was born fully grown and clothed in armor out of the brain of Zeus, king of the gods. She is the goddess of wisdom and all practical arts, including the art of warfare and diplomacy. The Parthenon represents all things associated with the culture and glory of ancient Greece.

Thera

(Greece) (Is this the historical Atlantis?)

Thera also known as Santorini is an island archipelago off the coast of Greece in the southern Aegean. It is the remains of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history that occurred about 3600 years ago. The eruption is reputed to have partially destroyed the ancient Minoan empire, spread ashes as far away as England and caused crop failures in China. Some claim the eruption influenced the Biblical Exodus but the explosion is most often associated with the fall of Atlantis. Today it plays home to spectacular views, crazy architecture, and a storied history.


Arkadi Monastery

(Crete, Greece)

The church dates back to the 16th century and is marked by the influence of the Renaissance. This influence is visible in the architecture, which mixes both Roman and baroque elements. As early as the 16th century, the monastery was a place for science and art and had a school and a rich library. Situated on a plateau, and surrounded by a thick and high wall, the monastery is also built like a fortress.

The monastery played an active role in the Cretan resistance of Ottoman rule during the Cretan revolt in 1866. 943 Greeks, mostly women and children, sought refuge in the monastery. After three days of battle and under orders from the abbot of the monastery, the Cretans blew up barrels of gunpowder, choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender.

The monastery became a national sanctuary in honor of the Cretan resistance.  The explosion did not end the Cretan insurrection, but it attracted the attention of the rest of the world.

Knossos

(Crete, Greece)

The first settlement in the Knossos area was established circa 7000 BC, during the Neolithic Period. The economic, social and political development of the settlement led to the construction of the majestic Palace of Knossos towards the end of the second millennium BC. Knossos was the seat of the legendary King Minos whose son was the half man half bull known as the Minotaur. The Minotaur lived in a Labyrinth under the palace and was fed prisoners of war and slaves sent as tribute to the all powerful King Minos.This first Palace was destroyed circa 1700 BC. It was rebuilt and destroyed again by fire, this time definitively, in 1350 BC. In mythic history, the Athenian hero Theseus killed the Minotaur, freed the slaves and burned the city. Some of the destruction, however, was possibly due to the volcanic eruption on nearby Thera about 1600 BC. Like Thera, Knossos is connected to the Atlantis story. After the destruction the environs of the Palace were transformed into a sacred grove of the goddess Rhea, but never inhabited again.

The Palace of Knossos is the monumental symbol of Minoan civilization  due to its construction, use of luxury materials, architectural plan, advanced building techniques and impressive size.

Tomb of Tutankhamen

 (Egypt)

We’ve all heard this story the tomb of Tutankhamun was found in the Valley of the Kings and became famous for the wealth of treasure it contained. The tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, underneath the remains of workmen’s huts built during the Ramesside Period; this explains why it was spared from the worst of the tomb depredations of that time.

Great Pyramid and Sphinx 

(Egypt)

 

The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact. Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb for fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops in Greek) over a 10 to 20-year period concluding around 2560 BC. Initially at 146.5 metres (481 feet), the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. Originally, the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface; what is seen today is the underlying core structure. Some of the casing stones that once covered the structure can still be seen around the base. There have been varying scientific and alternative theories about the Great Pyramid’s construction techniques. Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place.

The Great Sphinx of Giza  commonly referred to as the Sphinx, is a limestone statue of a reclining or couchant sphinx(a mythical creature with a lion’s body and a human head) that stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt. It is the largest monolith statue in the world, standing 73.5 metres (241 ft) long, 19.3 metres (63 ft) wide, and 20.22 m (66.34 ft) high. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture, and is commonly believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafra (c. 2558–2532 BC).

The Great Sphinx is one of the world’s largest and oldest statues but basic facts about it, such as when it was built, and by whom, are still debated. These questions have resulted in the popular idea of the “Riddle of the Sphinx,”alluding to the original Greek legend of the Riddle of the Sphinx.

It is not known by what name the creators called their statue, as the Great Sphinx does not appear in any known inscription of the Old Kingdom, and there are no inscriptions anywhere describing its construction or its original purpose. In the New Kingdom, the Sphinx was called Hor-em-akhet (English: Horus of the Horizon; Hellenized: Harmachis), and the pharaoh Thutmose IV (1401–1391 or 1397–1388 BC) specifically referred to it as such in his Dream Stele.

The commonly used name Sphinx was given to it in classical antiquity, about 2000 years after the accepted date of its construction, by reference to a Greek mythological beast with a lion’s body, a woman’s head and the wings of an eagle (although, like most Egyptian sphinxes, the Great Sphinx has a man’s head and no wings). The English word sphinx comes from the ancient Greek verb meaning to squeeze, after the Greek sphinx who strangled anyone who failed to answer her riddle. The English word sphincter comes from the same root.

Valley of the Kings

 (Egypt)

This is a valley in Egypt where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles. The valley stands on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes (modern Luxor), within the heart of the Theban Necropolis. The wadi consists of two valleys, East Valley (where the majority of the royal tombs are situated) and West Valley.

The valley is known to contain 63 tombs and chambers. The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues to the beliefs and funerary rituals of the period. Almost all of the tombs seem to have been opened and robbed in antiquity, but they still give an idea of the opulence and power of the Pharaohs. This area has been a focus of archaeological  exploration since the end of the eighteenth century, and its tombs and burials continue to stimulate research and interest. In modern times the valley has become famous for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun (with its rumours of the Curse of the Pharaohs), and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. In 1979, it became a World Heritage Site, along with the rest of the Theban Necropolis. Exploration, excavation and conservation continues in the valley, and a new tourist centre has recently been opened.

Nile River

(Africa)

Generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is 6,650 km (4,130 miles) long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.

Cave Paintings near Tassili

(Sahara Desert, North Africa)

Many cave paintings are found in the Tassili n’Ajjer mountains in southeast Algeria. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the rock art was first discovered in 1933 and has since yielded 15,000 engravings and drawings that keep a record of the various animal migrations, climatic shifts, and change in human habitation patterns in this part of the Sahara from 6000 BCE to the early classical period. Do they also show evidence of ancient aliens? Some of the drawings are distinctively unearthly.

Olduvai Gorge

(Tanzania)

 Known as “The Cradle of Mankind”, this steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley stretches 48 km through eastern Africa. The name is a misspelling of Oldupai Gorge, which was adopted as the official name in 2005. It is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world and has been instrumental in furthering the understanding of early human evolution. This site was occupied by Homo habilis approximately 1.9 million years ago, Paranthropus boisei 1.8 million years ago, and Homo erectus 1.2 million years ago. Homo sapiens are dated to have occupied the site 17,000 years ago.The site is also significant in showing increased developmental and social complexities in hominids. Evidence of this is shown in the production and use of stone tools, which indicates the increase in cognitive capacities. There is also evidence indicating the practices of both scavenging and hunting, which is highlighted by the evidence of gnaw marks predating cut marks, and comparisons on percentages of meat versus plant in the early hominid diet. Furthermore, the collection of tools and animal remains in a central area is evidence of increases in social interaction and communal activity.

Victoria Falls

(between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Africa)

Debatably the largest waterfall in the world, with a width of 5604ft (1708m) and a height of 354ft (108m), and a much better choice than Niagara Falls.

The Kidron Valley

(Jerusalem, Israel)

The Kidron Valley runs along the eastern wall of The Old City of Jerusalem, separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. It then continues east through the Judean Desert, towards the Dead Sea, descending 4000 feet along its 20 mile course.  The Bible calls the Valley “Valley of Jehoshaphat – meaning “The valley where God will judge.” It appears in Jewish  prophecies, which include the return of Elijah, followed by the arrival of the Messiah, and also the war of Gog and Magog and Judgment day. According to the prophecies, in the war of Gog and Magog, the two major coalitions of gentile nations will join forces against the Jewish state in Israel. Israel will be overwhelmed and conquered, and the last stronghold will be Jerusalem, which will also be conquered by the gentiles. After the gentiles finally succeed and destroy Israel, God will commence Judgement. God will save Israel and battle “with diseases, rain, fire and stones” against all the gentile nations that set to destroy Israel, and will fill the Land of Israel with their bodies which will take the Jews 7 months to bury all. In the prophecies, it says he will bring the gentiles down to Kidron Valley, and then he will judge all of the gentiles for all of the wrong they have done against Israel since the beginning of time, and only the gentiles that helped Israel will be spared.The valley is also known for its tombs most notably the Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is revered by both Christians and Muslims. In addition, it is well known for Jewish tombs, including the Pillar of Absalom, the Tomb of Benei Hezir, and the Tomb of Zechariah. There are many Muslim tombs present, as well as Christian holy places including the tombs of Saint James, and Josaphat.

Petra

(Jordan)

Built around 1200BC, Petra is an ancient city of Jordan, renowned not just for the fact that it’s entirely built inside “towering rocks,” but for its intricacies therein. The city was able to be constructed in the desert because its designers, the Nabataeans, redirected waterways, creating an artificial oasis–the center of their caravan trade, and a fortress.

Timbuktu

(Mali)

A town in the West African nation of Mali situated 15 km (9.3 mi) north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. Tales of Timbuktu’s fabulous wealth helped prompt European exploration of the west coast of Africa. Among the most famous descriptions of Timbuktu are those of Leo Africanus and Shabeni. Currently, the town is all but impoverished but it still carries with it that sense of mystery. Most people consider it a mythical place – a place that might have existed long ago but is now lost in time. English dictionaries now cite Timbuktu as a metaphor for any faraway place.


Babylon

(Iraq)

This ancient Akkadian city-state was founded in 1867 BC by an Amorite dynasty of  Mesopotamia. Its remains are found in present-day Al HillahBabylon ProvinceIraq, about 85 kilometers (55 mi) south of Baghdad. All that’s left of the original famed city is a mound, or tell, of broken mud-brick buildings and debris in the fertile Mesopotamian plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. 

Claiming to be the successor of the ancient ruling cities, Babylon became known as the “holy city” of Mesopotamia around the time an Amorite king named Hammurabi first created the short lived Babylonian Empire; this quickly dissolved upon his death and Babylon spent long periods under Assyrian, Kassite and Elamite domination. Babylon again became the seat of the Neo-Babylonian Empire from 612 to 539 BC which was founded by Chaldeans and whose last king was an Assyrian. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Its name means Gateway to the Gods. In the Bible it is associated with confusion (Tower of Babel) and great evil (Mystery Babylon). It is symbolically a great, multinational city but the negative counterpart to Jerusalem.

 

 

Troy

(Anatolia, Turkey)

A city, both factual and legendary, in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, south of the southwest end of the Dardanelles / Hellespont and northwest of Mount Ida. It is best known for being the setting of the Trojan War described in the Greek Epic Cycle and especially in the Iliad, one of the two epic poems attributed to Homer

Cappadocia

(Turkey)

A region of exceptional natural wonders, in particular characterized by fairy chimneys and a unique historical and cultural heritage. The term, as used in tourism, roughly corresponds to present-day Nev?ehir Province. In pre-Hellenistic times, PersiansHittites Assyrians and Greeks all lived in Cappodocia. All of these groups were Hellenised in the era of the Greek city-states. During the Middle Ages, after the settlement of Armenians in the Cappadocian theme during the Byzantine era, numerous Turkish tribes invaded the region, which was subsequently settled by them.


Haghia Sophia

(Istanbul, Turkey)

The Church of Holy Wisdom is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931, when it was secularized. It was opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.

The Church was dedicated to the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity, its dedication feast taking place on 25 December, the anniversary of the Birth of the incarnation of the Logos in Christ. Although it is sometimes referred to as Sancta Sophia (as though it were named after Saint Sophia),sophia is the phonetic spelling in Latin of the Greek word for wisdom – the full name in Greek being , “Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God”.

Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have “changed the history of architecture.” It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site, the previous two having both been destroyed by rioters. It was designed by the Greek scientists Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician.

Mount Ararat

(Turkey)

From the Bible, the place where Noah’s Ark rested after the great flood.


Gobekli Tepe

(Turkey)

Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it’s the site of the world’s oldest temple.

The Taj Mahal

(Agra, India)

Considered “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage,” which should be reason enough to visit its vaulted walls and beautiful gardens; but what’s more, it was built from 1632-1653 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Now that is some serious devotion.


Golden Pagodas

(Bagan, Myanmar)

Bagan really came into it’s own in 1044 AD and flourished until the thirteenth century when the Country was sacked by the Mogul warriors. During this period thousands of Pagodas were built, all within an area of 42 square kilometers and over two thousand stand to this day. As has happened to many historical sites around the world Bagan has been plundered over the years by unscrupulous collectors but now a truly magnificent museum has been built which houses many of the artifacts from the Pagodas, thus preserving them for future generations.

Angkor Wat

(Cambodia)

Angkor Wat is a temple complex surrounded by a moat, built by Cambodian king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century to serve as the state temple and capital city. The symmetry and “harmony” of its design has been compared to the most famous architecture of ancient Greece and the Romans. If you visit this site, be sure to look for the carving of the dinosaur. No one knows exactly what the carving is supposed to be – but it resembles a stegosaurus.  It was carved 800 years ago – long after dinosaurs became extinct and long before any one was supposed to know what a dinosaur was. (I don’t think it’s a stegosaurus – looks more like a pig or a rhino – but who knows).

Gobi Desert

(Asia)

A beautiful, mystical region of the world. The sand and sky take on exquisite dream-like shapes and patterns. This large desert region in Asia covers parts of northern and northwestern China, and of southern Mongolia. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north, by the Hexi Corridor and Tibetan Plateau to the southwest, and by the North China Plain to the southeast. The Gobi is most notable in history as part of the great Mongol Empire, and as the location of several important cities along the Silk Road.

The Himalayas

(Asia)

Tallest mountains in the world, home of the Abominable Snowman and possibly the location of the mythical city of Shangri – La. Amazing scenery, interesting animals and people and many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.

 

 

Kathmandu

(Nepal)

One of those mythical, far away places you always associate with mystery and wonder.The ancient trade route between India and Tibet that passed through Kathmandu enabled fusion of artistic and architectural traditions of other cultures to be amalgamated with local architectural and artistic culture.The ancient and refined traditional culture in Kathmandu, for that matter in the whole of Nepal, is an uninterrupted and exceptional meeting of the Hindu and Buddhist ethos practiced by its highly religious people. It has also embraced in its fold the cultural diversity provided by the other religions such as JainismIslam and Christianity. Kathmandu has been described variously as “Land of Gods” and as “land of the largest congregations of magnificent historical monuments and shrines ever built”

 

The Potala

(Lhasa, Tibet)

The Potala Palace was named after Mount Potala, an important mountain in Buddhist traditions. The Potala Palace was the chief residence of all Dalai Lamas until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India after an invasion and failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace has been converted into a museum by Chinese authorities.

The Palace buildings stand 13 stories high and contain over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues. These tower 117 meters (384 ft) above Marpo Ri, means “Red Hill”, and more than 300 meters (1,000 ft) above the valley floor. Tradition says that the three main hills of Lhasa represent the “Three Protectors of Tibet.”

The Forbidden City

(Beijing, China)

Formerly the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government.

Built in 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 720,000 m2(7,800,000 sq ft). The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

The common English name, “the Forbidden City”, is a translation of the Chinese name Zijin Cheng literally “Purple Forbidden City”.

The name “Zijin Cheng” is a name with significance on many levels. Zi, or “Purple”, refers to the North Star, which in ancient China was called the Ziwei Star, and in traditional Chinese astrology was the abode of the Celestial Emperor. The surrounding celestial region, the Ziwei Enclosure, was the realm of the Celestial Emperor and his family. The Forbidden City, as the residence of the terrestrial emperor, was its earthly counterpart. Jin, or “Forbidden“, referred to the fact that no-one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor’s permission. Cheng means a walled city.Today, the site is most commonly known in Chinese as Gùg?ng  which means the “Former Palace”.

The Great Wall of China 

(China)

Construction of the Great Wall began in the 7th century BC and continued for hundreds of years. It’s the longest fortification ever built, constructed to thwart invasions of Mongolian and Manchu enemies. At its height (well, length), it was more than 3700 miles (6000 km) long.

Mount Fuji

(Japan)

Japan’s sacred mountain.

Ayers Rock/Uluru

(Australia)

Located in the middle of the Australian Outback, the beauty and mystery of the place is easier to get to flying on an eagle’s back then driving as it’s actually more than 280 miles outside of any significant town (Alice Springs).Or you could hitch a ride on a UFO. Ayers Rock/Uluru is considered a sacred place by the Aborigines.  Drawings made thousands of years ago in the caves seem to depict an alignment of stars connected to the earth.

The native Anangu people prefer that no one climbs the rock – but of course tourists always do. Local legend claims that misfortune will fall on those who remove rocks from Uluru. It has been reported that many who had taken this risk later attempted to mail the rocks back to lift the curse.


 

Caves near Gleneig River

(Kimberley, Australia)

More ancient Australian drawings of  what some fancifully believe are ancient alien visitors. These images are thousands of years old.

The Great Barrier Reef

(Australia)

Composed of over 2900 individual reefs, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest of its kind in the world – so large it can be seen from outer space – and also the biggest single structure made by living organisms. Due to coral bleaching from pollution, this is a site to see asap.

Bali

(Indonesia)

 A province in the country of Indonesia, the island is located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. The island is home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority.  It is also the largest tourist destination in the country and is renowned for its highly developed arts, including traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking, and music.

West Borneo

(Indonesia)

The Borneo rain forest is 130 million years old, making it the oldest rain forest in the world. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees (267 species are dipterocarps), 221 species of terrestrial mammals and 420 species of resident birds in Borneo. It is the centre of evolution and radiation of many endemic species of plants and animals. The Borneo rainforest is one of the only remaining natural habitats for the endangered Bornean Orangutan. It is an important refuge for many endemic forest species, including the Asian Elephant, the Sumatran Rhinoceros, the Bornean Clouded Leopard, the Hose’s Civet and the Dayak Fruit Bat. The World Wide Fund for Nature has stated that 361 animal and plant species have been discovered in Borneo since 1996.


Bora Bora

(French Polynesia)

Located in French Polynesia in the South Pacific, Bora Bora is well-known as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. With crystal clear waters and awesome accommodations, there’s no way to avoid this one.


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