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15 incredible places like Machu Picchu you need to explore
Explore the world’s most magnificent ancient ruins that aren’t Machu Picchu.
The ruins of Machu Picchu are famed around the world and no trip to Peru would be complete without an excursion to this 15th century Inca citadel.
But its popularity comes with a price – the number of tourists increase every year, with June through August being the busiest months. If you are looking for worthy, breathtaking alternatives without the infamous crowd, consider these ancient ruins. We’ve also included deals for flights and exciting local tours you can take when you’re there.
15 places like Machu Picchu
Image source: Chichen Itza
1. Chichen Itza, Mexico
These ancient Mayan ruins belong to a UNESCO World Heritage site. While not as famous as Machu Picchu, the huge stone pyramids, the great ball court and the stone carvings dating back to 600A.D. draw in over a million visitors annually.
- Ruin highlights: El Castillo, Great Ball Court, Tzompantli, eagles and the jaguars, Ossario
- Nearby things to do: Party in Cancun, swim with whale sharks at Isla Holbox, hang out in Playa de Carmen
- Best tour: Private Archaeologist Tour
Image source: Tikal Park
2. Tikal, Guatemala
The ruins of the ancient city of Tikal are found in the heart of the Guatemalan rainforest. The largest excavated site in the American continent contains ruins of temples, palaces and dwellings.
- Ruin highlights: Temple One, Central Acropolis, Pyramid Five, Three and the Lost World
- Nearby things to do: See the ceramic museum, watch sunrise and sunsets from the ruins, hike up a volcano
- Best tour: Tikal National Park Overnight Tour
3. Teotihuacan, Mexico
Known as “The City of the Gods”, Teotihuacan is home to two gigantic pyramids and was one of the most powerful cultural centres in Mesoamerica. Today, it is one of the most visited ancient sites in Mexico.
- Ruin highlights: Pyramid of the Sun, Temple of Quetzalcoatl, Pyramid of the Moon, Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacan Art
- Nearby things to do: Hot air balloon ride over the ruins, botanical garden, learn more about the culture at the museums
- Best tour: Teotihuacan Pyramids Tour
Image source: Peru Tourism
4. Nazca Lines, Peru
Spread over the arid plains of Peru lie the mysterious Nazca Lines. Flying is the best way to see these ancient lines drawn by the Nazca culture.
- Ruin highlights: Zoomorphic (animals), figures, phytomorphic (plants and vegetables) and geometric designs
- Nearby things to do: Mummies at Chauchilla cemetery, walk the Pardeones ruins, explore the desert
- Best tour: Nazca Lines Air Tour
5. Choquequirao, Peru
The lesser known sister of Machu Picchu involves a two day trek on mules. But those who brave the journey will be rewarded with lush wilderness, sweeping mountain views and a chance to explore the ruins minus the crazy crowds.
- Ruin highlights: White rocks in the shape of the llama, large structures with strong walls, places of worship and to store food
- Nearby hotspots to visit: Visit the historical city of Cuzco, check out the view from The Sacred Valley of the Incas, visit the terraces of Moray
- Best tour: Discover Choquequirao Tour
6. Pisac, Peru
Pisac is famed for its lively markets and ancient ruins. This hilltop Inca citadel has an impressive agricultural terracing and impressive examples of masonry.
- Ruin highlights: Agricultural terracing, Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon, Qorihuayrachina, Qanchisracay
- Nearby things to do: Shop at the Pisac markets for artisan and antique goods
- Best tour: Sacred Valley, Pisac and Ollantaytambo Tour
7. Moray, Peru
Reminiscent of Roman amphitheatres, the ruins of Moray were built for agricultural purposes. The concentric terraces make for a perfect photo opportunity and, since it is less accessible than other places, there are no crowds.
- Ruin highlights: Concentric agricultural terraces that look like giant craters
- Nearby things to do: The small town of San Sebastian, visit the Church of San Pedro of Andahuaylillas and Paucartambo
- Best tour: Maras, Moray and Salineras Half Day Tour
8. Isla del Sol, Bolivia
At the tip of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, over 80 ruins of the remnants of the Inca civilization can be found. Among the most spectacular are the Chincana Ruins, with its maze of stone walls with a small well of sacred water in the middle.
- Ruin highlights Face of Viracocha, Refuge of the Sun, Refuge of the Moon, Footprints of the Sun, Labyrinth
- Nearby things to do: Visit Copacabana, check out the panoramic views of Lake Titicaca, stay in Yumani
- Best tour: Tiwanaku Archaeological Tour Site Tour
9. Takeda Castle, Japan
Known as Japan’s Machu Picchu, the Takeda Castle is one of the most famous castles in Japan. In autumn, the castle is shrouded in fog, giving an illusion that is floating in the sky.
- Ruin highlights: North part (Kita Senjo), the South part (Minami Senjo), the West part (Hanayashiki) and the Centre where the highest spot (Tenshudai)
- Nearby things to do: Hike up Mount Rokko, relax at the Arima Onsen, visit museums in Kobe
- Best tour: Takeda Castle Hike
Image source: Intrepid Travel
10. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat contains the remains of the great Khmer empire and is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. The architecture of these ruins embodies cultural, religious and symbolic values.
- Ruin highlights: Statue of Vishnu, galleries, bas-relief decorations, temples and towers
- Nearby things to do: Head to Siam Reap, visit the National Museum, shop at the Old Market
- Best tour: Tiwanaku Angkor Wat Ruins Tour
Image source: English Heritage
11. Stonehenge, England
This prehistoric monument dates back to 3000BC and is one of the wonders of the world. To date, no one knows why the site is built but it continues to draw in visitors worldwide, making it the most popular European ruins.
- Ruin highlights: Ring of standing stones, Neolithic houses, explore the ancient landscapes, visit the museums and exhibitions
- Nearby things to do: Explore Avebury Complex, Wiltshire town and villages, water-based activities on the Kennet and Avon Canal
- Best tour: Stonehenge and Bath Day Tour
Image: Intrepid Travel
12. Ayutthaya, Thailand
The historical city of Ayutthaya is characterized by large towers and monasteries which serve as an indicator of the past glories of the Siamese empire. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Ruin highlights: Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit, Wat Phra Mahathat, Phet Fortress, Phra Chedi Suriyothai
- Nearby things to do: Shop in Bangkok, explore Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, visit the Royal Palace ruins
- Best tour: Ayutthaya Historical Park Private Tour
13. Luxor, Egypt
Luxor lies on the site of the ancient city of Thebes and is dotted with many well-preserved ruins. Explore temples, sphinx statues and funerary tombs of some of the most powerful figures in ancient Egypt.
- Ruin highlights: East Bank Ruins, West Bank Ruins, The Valleys, City of Temples, Tombs of the Nobles
- Nearby things to do: Luxor museum, relax on Banana Island, visit the Temple of Horus
Image source: New Grange
14. Newgrange, Ireland
This 5,200 year old passage tomb is located in Ireland. Older than the Stonehenge and Egyptian pyramids, it is a place of prestige and worship and used as a burial site for dignitaries.
- Ruin highlights: Mound and passage tombs, Neolithic rock art, illumination by winter solstice sun, Knowth, Dowth
- Nearby things to do: Hill of Tara, Trim Castle, Duleek Abbey
- Best tour: Newgrange and Hill of Tara Tour
15. Mount Nemrut, Turkey
The burial complex atop a mountain in Turkey is home to the beheaded gods of the past. This magnificent religious sanctuary was built so that the ancient kings can be closer to the gods.
- Ruin highlights: Well preserved statue heads of kings, ancient heroes and animals
- Nearby things to do: Tigris River Roman Bridge, Diyarbakır city walls, town of Elbistan
- Best tour: Complete Turkey Tour
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