Friday TOP 5 | Ancient Civilizations

by admin on November 14, 2013

Isn’t it fascinating how the ancient civilizations used to live and some of them still live? I was just on a tour visiting many of Zapotec, Aztec and Mayan wonders and got very inspired by these civilizations. This is why I decided to list TOP 5 destinations that we are still privileged to visit and learn more about their amazing people and cultures.

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#1 Tikal, Guatemala

These amazing ruins lay in the heart of a jungle surrounded by lush vegetation. Tikal used to be one of the major sites of the Mayan civilization and is nowadays a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tikal was inhabited around 1 500 years from 600 B.C. to 900 A.D and it is situated in Tikal National Park. A large area of the reserve still comprises dense broadleaved forests with more than 300 species of commercially useful trees, such as cedar, mahogany, ramon (bread-nut tree), chicle (chewing gum), pepper and others. It is also birders heaven with 410 registered species and also a lot of other wildlife. Why I have chosen it to be the best is because something in Tikal is just magical. The crowds (if there are any) disappear in the jungle and you can really imagine the Mayans living inside the forests. Tikal was abandoned around 900 A.D. and its people relocated in the surrounding areas in Guatemala, Mexico and Belize.
The Mayan culture still lives strong in Guatemala as officially 40 % of the population is Mayan.

#2 Machu Picchu, Peru

The mysterious ruins of Inca Empire which can be visited from the city of Cusco are referred lot of the times as “The Lost World”. This is because they were only discovered in 1911. Even though The Inca Empire ruled until the Spanish conquest, they weren’t aware of this amazing site. Nowadays it is one of The New Seven Wonders of the World as well as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Separated into three areas – agricultural, urban, and religious – the structures are arranged so that the function of the buildings matches the form of their surroundings. The agricultural terracing and aqueducts take advantage of the natural slopes; the lower areas contain buildings occupied by farmers and teachers, and the most important religious areas are located at the crest of the hill, overlooking the lush Urubamba Valley thousands of feet below. The views of Machu Picchu are unbelievably beautiful and you can’t stop wondering how they build all this.

#3 Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor is a region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkor Wat is their main temple complex and one of the largest religious monuments in the world. It was built by Khmer King Suryavarman II as a spiritual home for the Hindu god Vishnu. Its name literally means “City of Temple” which it is. Still nowadays you can see monks around while visiting the ruins. The site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for more than 20 years. The architectural beauty of this temple, and all those surrounding it in this area are vast beyond imagination, detailed to such a degree as to make you wonder how they were ever completed.

#4 Colosseum, Rome

The Roman Empire begins when Augustus Caesar becomes the first Emperor of Rome in 44 B.C. and ends when the last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, is deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer 476 A.D. During this time the city of Rome ruled the known world and mixed sophistication with brutality and could suddenly lurch from civilization, strength and power to terror, tyranny and greed. The Colosseum is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of concrete and stone, it was the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire, and is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. It still is the largest amphitheatre in the world and is the most famous monument to have survived from the classical world. In its glorious times the purpose was hosting violent gladiator games. Thousands of men and animals fought for their lives in the sandy arena. A few of them found glory there, but some did found fame and riches. Many more died an anonymous death, providing entertainment for eager Roman spectators. It is one of the 7 Wonders of the World and the whole Historical Center of Rome has been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Need I justify my choice more?

#5 Teotihuacan, Mexico

This Pre-Columbian city and the archaeological site is located in what is now the San Juan Teotihuacán municipality in the State of México, approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) northeast of Mexico City. It was established around 100 B.C. and its golden time was around 450 A.D lasting all the way until 700 A.D. It has said to be one of the largest cities in the ancient world, with over 150,000 inhabitants at its peak. In Nahuatl (the ancient Aztec language) Teotihuacan means City of the Gods but can also be interpreted as “the place where men become gods”. The main temples Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Moon, and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl are in the same layout as Orion’s Belt and also follow the shape of the surrounding mountains. It is interesting that as one of the most powerful cultural centers in Mesoamerica, Teotihuacan extended its cultural and artistic influence throughout the region, and even beyond. As all the sites above Teotihuacan as well has earned its place as a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Miia Vilppula is a Tour Guide in Central America and Mexico as well as Student Journeys Travel Planner. She is very interested in the world history and all the amazing ancient civilizations.

The next TOP 5 will be published on the third Friday of next month.
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