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10 must-see historical sites across the globe that are less well-known

From the Taj Mahal to the Great Wall of China, millions of people travel the globe every year to visit some of the oldest historical sites in the world. Even if you’re not exactly a history buff, their incredible architectural feats, cultural significance, and breathtaking surroundings are sure to win you over!

In a previous article, we looked at 10 must-see historical sites around the world. It’s definitely worth giving a read if you haven’t already.

But this time around, we’re looking at 10 more must-see historical sites that aren’t as spoken about. So to give them some well-deserved recognition, and take you on a little journey of some amazing places with incredibly rich histories… we have 10 must-see historical sites that are less well-known.

Let’s dive in!

1. Imperial Palace – Kamigyo Ward, Japan

Not to be confused with the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the Imperial Palace in Kyoto is just as magnificent and definitely worth a visit. Once the residence of the imperial family, the Imperial Palace showcases classic Japanese architecture, meticulously kept gardens, and serene courtyards.

The current palace was rebuilt in 1855 following a fire, and was originally only accessible by booking a guided tour long in advance. Nowadays, however, anybody can enter the palace at any time for a small fee. Totally worth it!

2. Chichen Itza – Yucatán, Mexico

This next one is a A UNESCO World Heritage Site… Chichen Itza is famous for being home to the iconic Kukulkan Pyramid – also known as El Castillo – a step pyramid with precise astronomical alignments. If the fact that a shadow serpent appears only during equinoxes wasn’t enough, there’s also the Great Ball Court, the Temple of Warriors, and the Observatory.

With all of that, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

3. Versailles Palace – Versailles, France

The Versailles Palace, is an iconic masterpiece of French architecture and history that was built during the 17th century. It was the home of the French monarchy, and symbolised the extravagance the monarchy enjoyed at that time. Must be nice. The palace is world famous for its Baroque architecture, intricate interior designs, and expensive landscaped gardens.

Today, the Versailles Palace remains a symbol of French cultural heritage and attracts visitors from around the world every year.

4. Lalibela – Amhara Region, Ethiopia

Lalibela is a UNESCO World Heritage site in northern Ethiopia.
The attraction is its rock-hewn churches, carved directly into the solid rock of the ground, which creates a stunning, one-of-a-kind architecture. Lalibela’s churches are split into two main groups, which represent earthly and heavenly Jerusalem, and it’s often referred to as “New Jerusalem” because of its religious significance for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.

Pilgrims and tourists alike visit Lalibela to observe the ancient churches (some connected by tunnels and passageways) that contain intricate carvings, huge pillars, and distinctive architectural heritage.
The churches are still actively used for festivals, worship, and religious events.

5. Skara Brae – Orkney Islands, Scotland

Fans of human history will love the village of Skara Brae. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is considered one of the best-preserved Neolithic settlements in Europe. The village is made up of a series of interconnected stone houses and passages, all constructed with locally sourced materials, dating back over 5,000 years.

Skara Brae’s ability to transport visitors back in time to get a peek into the lives of its Neolithic residents, has made it a go-to for history enthusiasts, and anybody with an interest in humankind’s evolution.


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6. Great Mosque of Djenné – Djenné, Mali

The Great Mosque of Djenné is an architectural treasure, and is a testament to Islamic heritage. At 52 feet high, it’s the largest mud-brick building in the world, and once presided over one of the most Islamic learning centers in Africa throughout the Middle Ages.

To give you an idea of the historical significance – it’s got an annual maintenance ritual known as “Crepissage”, which involves reapplying layers of mud plaster to preserve the integrity of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

7. Derinkuyu Underground City – Cappadocia, Turkey

In 1963, an anonymous Turkish man took a sledgehammer to his basement wall to make more space – and got much more than he’d hoped for. He’d discovered Derinkuyu’s Underground City. This subterranean city is up to 76 metres deep, and large enough to house 20,000 people. The city’s engineering marvels extend beyond the underground design, including rolling stone doors, carved passages, and even wells that provide essential resources.

While it’s not inhabited today, visitors can still visit Derinkuyu Underground City and explore this testament to a civilisation that existed below the earth.

8. Lumbinī – Lumbini Province, Nepal

Lumbinī holds incredible spiritual significance as the home of Siddartha Gautama – commonly known as Gautama Buddha. Buddhists and visitors from around the world take the sacred pilgrimage to this site to experience the origins of Buddhism.

Lumbinī can be identified by the chanting and meditation performed from early morning to early evening, and is the perfect location for anybody looking to connect with their higher self.

9. Lamu Old Town – Lamu Island, Kenya

Filled with narrow, winding streets lined with intricately carved wooden doors, coral stone buildings, and bustling market places, Lamu Old Town is one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. It showcases the best in Swahili culture, history, and architecture, while still highlighting the cultural vibrance of its Arab, Indian, and European influences.

Visitors can explore historical sites, museums, and see local traditions, all while enjoying a scenic coastal backdrop.

10. Ravenna Mosaics – Ravenna, Italy

Characterised by vibrant colours, attention to detail, and complex designs, the Ravenna Mosaics stand out as a truly unique scene. These mosaics can be seen across various churches, chapels, and monuments in Ravenna, and highlight the city’s historical and artistic abilities. Dating back to the late Roman / early Byzantine periods, the Ravenna mosaics are a World Heritage site, and a captivating journey into the creativity that flourished in this city over a millennium ago.

Have you been to any of these sites? Let me know what your experience was like!

Efrat Sagi-Ofir

Efrat Sagi-Ofir is CRO & Founder of Air Doctor. Air Doctor is a startup that connects travelers to a global network of 20,000 local medical doctors through an easy-to-use app, to receive appropriate medical care from anywhere in the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. I wouldn’t say that Versailles palace is less well-known. The Royal Palace has to be one of France’s best town tourist attractions. Anybody who has queued for entrance wouldn’t call it less well known.

    1. Hi Kev,

      Totally subjective, I think. :)

      That’s the beauty of travel, what’s lesser known to one traveller, could be another person’s most travelled to destination.

  2. You’ve touched on an open wound here. I was due to go to Ethiopia in April 2020. Yes global pandemic time. Lalibela was on the itinerary. Sadly, the opportunity hadn’t arisen since.

  3. If you haven’t been to Chichen Itza it really is worth a visit. The knowledge of astronomy and maths that that Mayans had all those centuries ago is to be wondered at.

    After I’d visited Chichen Itza I started reading about the Mayans. A lot of the appeal is that we know so little about the Mayans. For centuries they were a lost civilisation. How the ball game was played is still a great mystery.

    1. It would be a fair guess to say that most visitors to Chichen Itza are doing it as a day trip from Cancun or the hotels strung along the Mayan Riviera. That can make it a long day, 2 hours there and sometimes 3 getting back if you hit the Yucatan evening traffic. Whatever, it’s still a lot more accessible than it used to be.

    2. This is just amazing!

      It’s so great to hear this spot is so well-loved. It’s definitely got a special place in my heart.

      Thank you so much for reading this post, and leaving these lovely comments.

  4. When I saw the Ravenna mosaics a long time ago I was really impressed. I’m surprised that I haven’t more about them in the media since. They really are stunning.

    1. Hi Gaynor,

      Definitely agree with you there. Many places just don’t get the exposure they should be getting.

  5. After a safari I called in on Lamu. It’s a really unique place, a time warp in many ways. I’d like to think that it’s still as unspoilt as when I dropped by.

    1. Hi Michael,

      I’d like to think so too. Places like that need to remain untouched. :)

  6. Friends who’ve been to the Orkneys say that it is like nothing else, at places like Skara Brae you’re stepping back into the past.

    The only problem is that it’s so remote and takes so long to get to. Though I almost feel guilty that I’ve never visited such a unique place.

    1. Hi Graham,

      Yes, many locations like this are less travelled to because they’re in such remote spots.

      Which just makes it all the more worth the journey. . .

  7. Add in another 2 places and you could have a calendar. It would make a perfect gift for all those adventurous travellers out there who are always on the lookout for places that are rarely heard of and are away from the beaten track.

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