You already know big name destinations like the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge, the Great Barrier Reef, Machu Pichu, and the Taj Mahal. But these lesser-known treasures are also worth the trip.
Cueva de las Manos, Rio Pinturas
This cave in Santa Cruz, Argentina, may be the world’s oldest art gallery. Neolithic paintings and drawings of hunting scenes date back 13,000 years. The big draw, though, is the haunting stenciled silhouettes of human hands on the rock wall. The ancient Patagonians pressed their left hands against the rock and sprayed painted them by blowing into a bone pipe. Spray paint has been around longer than you think!
Wedged in a canyon between the Dead Sea and Red Sea, a handful of 6th century BC buildings are carved into a rosy sandstone cliff. An artificial oasis, Petra was the capital of the Navataean Empire for 500 years until the Romans took over. It was recently named one of the seven new wonders of the world.
Prehistoric Alp Pile Dwellings
To the untrained eye, these look like sticks poking out of the mud. But they’re actually the remains of the oldest settlements in Europe. What’s left of 111 Bronze Age stilt houses can still be found across Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, and Switzerland. The stilts—called piles—have been waterlogged and preserved by creeping wetlands and lakeshores, giving an amazing look at early European society.
Old City of Salamanca
If you need to study up on your European architecture, ditch the books and head North of Madrid to Salamanca, Spain. The city is dotted with ancient-yet-still-functional architecture. Reaching back as far as 2000 years, you’ll find every style from the pages of your old art history textbook—including Moorish, Renaissance, Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque. The buildings are most stunning near Salamanca University. Founded in 1134, it’s the third oldest university in the world.
Flint Mines of Spiennes
6000 years ago, Neolithic people in Belgium started digging their way out of the Stone Age. They dug a labyrinth of flint mines—the largest and earliest mines on the Continent. The flint harvested was knapped into axes and adzes, which were used to build Europe’s earliest huts, establishing the first settled communities. This is where the Bronze Age began!
Calakmul was a Mayan superpower. It was the capital of the Snake Kingdom and was a major player in Mesoamerica for more than 12 centuries. Home to nearly 7000 ancient structures—including a remarkable pyramid—the architecture is the best preserved in Mexico. You’ll just have to hike far off the beaten path to get there.