Aphrodisias, Turkey: Situated amidst rolling hills, 30 kilometers from the town of Denizli in southeastern Turkey, the splendid ruins of Aphrodisias contain what was once the preeminent temple of the goddess Aphrodite in Asia Minor. Yet long before the Greek sanctuary of Aphrodite was constructed in the 1st century BC, the site was a holy place and pilgrimage destination of immense importance to other cultures. Archaeological excavations conducted in 1913, 1937 and 1961 indicate the existence of a settlement since at least the fifth millennium BC, with separate layers identified as belonging to the Chalcolithic, bronze and iron ages.
Baalbek, Lebanon: Long before the Romans conquered the site and built their enormous temple of Jupiter, long even before the Phonecians constructed a temple to the god Baal, there stood at Baalbek the largest stone block construction found in all the world. In the Seleucid (323-64 BC) and Roman (64 BC-312 AD) periods, the town became known as Heliopolis, the City of the Sun.' The sky/sun god Jupiter became the central deity of the shrine during this time. Arguably the most important deity of the Romans and taking over the role of Zeus in the Greek pantheon, Jupiter was probably chosen to replace the much earlier worship of the Phonecian god Baal who had many characteristics in common with the Greek Zeus. Many Roman emperors were of Syrian birth, so it would not have been unusual for them to have promoted the worship of the country's indigenous deities under their adopted Roman names.fuge for thousands of species of plants and animals. Pez Maya's two miles of coastline comprise breeding grounds for least tern, osprey, American crocodile, manatee, and loggerhead and green sea turtles. Nourished by inland mangrove swamps, the coastal waters of Pez Maya harbor one of the world's most pristine coral formations and are renowned for their abundance of sport fish such as tarpon, bonefish, snook and permit.
Nemrut Dagi, Turkey: Rising 2150 meters from the Anti-Taurus mountains in south central Turkey stands the archaeological site of Nemrut Dagi (pronounced NEHM-root dah-uh). Thought to be the burial tumulus and Hierotheseion (Holy Seat) of the 1st century BC Commagene king, Antiochus I Epiphanes, the site is as awe inspiring as it is enigmatic. In 80 BC, with the Seleucid Empire weakening, the governor of Commagene declared his kingdoms independence. Soon thereafter, a Roman ally named Mithridates I Callinicus proclaimed himself king, set up his capital at Arsameia, and began the short-lived Commagene dynasty. Mithridates died in 64 BC and was succeeded by his son Antiochus I Epiphanes who ruled for 26 years. Commagene was thereafter ruled from Rome or by puppet kings until 72 AD when it was fully incorporated in the Roman Empire.
Oracle Shrine of Didyma, Turkey: Hidden among rolling hills only a few miles from the scenic coast of southeastern Turkey, the ancient site of Didyma is famous from legendary times. Here was a natural spring where the beautiful Leto is supposed to have spent an hour of love with Zeus, then giving birth to the twins Artemis and Apollo (didymoi in Greek). The most important oracle site in Asia Minor, its pronouncements to Croesus, Alexander the Great and other great kings altered the course of human history. Didyma was originally a pre-Greek cult sanctuary centered around a sacred grove and holy spring. The remains of the earliest temples, which lie within and beneath the later buildings, have been dated to the 8th and 7th centuries B.C.
Mount Sinai, Egypt: TIn the Judeo-Christian region of the Middle East there are four primary sacred mountains: Mt Ararat in eastern Turkey, the traditional landing place of Noah's ark; Mt. Sinai in the Sinai peninsula, the peak where Moses received the Ten Commandments; Mt. Moriah or Mt. Zion in Israel, where lies the city of Jerusalem and the temple of Solomon; and Mt. Tabor in Israel, the site of the transfiguration of Jesus. Mt. Sinai, also called Mt. Horeb and Jebel Musa (the Mountain of Moses) is the center of a greatly venerated pilgrimage destination that includes the Monastery of St. Catherine and the Burning Bush, Elijahs Plateau, and Plain of ar-Raaha. Moses, the traditional founder of Judaism, was born in Egypt, the son of a Hebrew slave. The Hebrews had been in bondage in Egypt for four hundred years from approximately 1650-1250 BC.
The Moai statues of Rapa Nui, Easter Island: One of the world's most famous yet least visited archaeological sites, Easter Island is a small, hilly, now treeless island of volcanic origin. Located in the Pacific Ocean at 27 degrees south of the equator and some 2200 miles (3600 kilometers) off the coast of Chile, it is considered to be the worlds most remote inhabited island. The oldest known traditional name of the island is Te Pito o Te Henua, meaning The Center (or Navel) of the World. Archaeologists believe that Easter Island was initially settled sometime around 318 AD by a small group of Polynesians lost on the open sea.
Tulum, Yucatan, Mexico: Eighty miles south of Cancun, in the Yucatan state of Quintana Roo, stand the ruins of the Mayan city of Tulum. Tulum is a Nahuatl term meaning 'walled city'. While occupied from as early as the Mayan pre-classic period (BC 300-AD250), nearly all the existing structures date from the late post-classic period (1200AD - Conquest) when Tulum was a maritime trading center. Recent research has shown that Tulum was also a pilgrimage site for Maya women on their way to the holy island of Cozumel, where stood the sanctuary of the goddess IxChel (pronounced eesh-chel). IxChel was the preeminent goddess of the Maya pantheon from 100-900 AD and her shrine at Cozumel was visited by large numbers of women from throughout the Maya territories, making it one of the greatest pilgrimages in the pre-Colombian world. Ix Chel figures prominently in the Tulum temple murals and the coastline in the Tulum region is fascinatingly female, with a multitude of coastal towns having the feminine Ix (eesh) prefix in their names.
Men-an-Tol, Cornwall, UK: Remotely located near Penzance in the west Cornish moors is the unique and enigmatic Men-an-Tol stone. Archaeologists suggest that the three stones that comprise the Men-an-Tol are the remains of a Neolithic tomb because various types of holed stones have been found near the entrances to many burial chambers. Ancient folklore of the surrounding region, however, explains that the center stone has fertilizing and energizing properties capable of curing almost any ailment when crawled through towards the sun.uthmost Preserve encompasses one of the last stands of native sabal palm trees in the country. This land has been called the "Jewel of the Rio Grande Valley" and many would argue that Southmost Preserve is one of the most ecologically important pieces of land remaining in the Valley.
Cerne Abbas Giant, Dorset: Upon a hill rising from the small Dorset village of Cerne Abas, the 60-meter tall Cerne giant and the Maypole mound above his head have marked a fertility power place since ancient times. The deep trenches (cut into the chalk rock of the hillside) outlining the giant's form have been maintained by generation after generation of local inhabitants since at least the 2nd millennium BC. The giant, whose name may derive from the Celtic fertility god Cernunnos, has the legendary power to cure barrenness in women, and childless couples still copulate while lying on the grass in the giant's phallus. A sight line taken up the giant's penis on May Day points directly at the sun as it rises over the crest of the hill.