Destinations, Travel List, Travel Tips

The 9 best countries to see mystic megalithic sites

Every time we find ourselves unable to explain something, more than feeling powerless we feel fascinated and attracted to that particular something. This is also the case of the strange  beautiful megaliths that can be found all around the world and whose history is still an open case. There are more types of monoliths: firstly, there are the menhirs, a term used for the first time in  France ( in Breton men=long, hir=stone) that refers to huge stone pillars erected long time ago by ancient civilizations. The dolmens on the other hand, include 2 or more such pillars, supporting another one placed on top of them and which may have been used as tombs. Moreover, there are also numerous temples and similar constructions made of stone that still manage to sparkle our imagination even nowadays. If you’ve ever been attracted by these stone giants or have some interest for them, here’s where you should go.

United Kingdom

It is the place where the most famous stones in the world are hosted: the Stonehenge. This setting includes 4 circles that are made out of rocks as tall as 6 meters and as heavy as 50 tons. The mystery is very complex: firstly it’s hard to explain how people could transport such giants 5000 years ago from a couple of hundreds of kilometers away.

See also: Stonehenge Still Rocks

Secondly, the purpose of the setting is still to be unveiled; various explanations exist, from time measuring and the purpose of a burial and religious site to alien involvement an strange magic rituals. The history of the site is closely connected to the druids, an ancient population that existed long before the Romans arrived, but many questions are still to be answered. Now the place is protected as visitors started to threaten the integrity of the stones as they either wanted a souvenir or they wanted to leave a mark of their passing.

But the Stonehenge is far from being the only place to find megaliths in the UK; in fact, this country is one of the richest in such constructions in the world. The menhirs and the dolmens all have their special names and histories, but the most interesting are the legends behind them. As an example, the Crousa menhirs, close to the town called Mullion, are said to return to the spot during the night if ever taken from there.

The sites are spread all over the country and it’s really worth checking out the less-known megaliths especially because of the tranquility they can transmit, away from a maddening crowd of tourists trying to get a better look.

France

This country is also famous worldwide because of the giant stones turned into monuments by the ancient peoples. The most famous of all the sites in France is definitely Carnac, where more than 3000 stones have been erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany. They may be as old as 6500 years and the site definitely holds another record: it is the biggest of its kind known so far.

But if historians haven’t found all the explanations so far for the density of the stones, a Christian legend claims that the rocks were soldiers pursuing Pope Cornelius and that they were turned like this by him. Like in the case of Stonehenge, the public proved to be very interested in the site, but protection measures were needed in order to preserve it the way it is. However, organized tours can get access to Carnac, so you can enjoy the experience.

Other sites are just as interesting: an example is Filitosa, located in  Corsica. The menhirs are remarkably well preserved and what’s surprising about them is the fact that they were sculpted so as to have human characteristics. France has also managed to break a few records: Le Grand Menhir Brise measures 20 meters and 300 tonnes, having been for a long time one of the biggest in Europe. Now it’s unfortunately fallen and scientists are still puzzled by the means used to transport the giant stone a few thousands of years ago.

Sweden

Even though they are not just as famous as the sites in U.K. or France, the ones in Sweden are just as interesting and if you get to travel to this country you should try and visit them, you won’t have anything to regret an you should meet no difficulties, except maybe for the attempts to pronounce their names.

This time, the stones are related to the viking history, many times serving as burial places, the most famous being the stone ships. The dead were all burnt at the time and over the place where the ashes were put to rest a stone was to be erected.

Two such settings you can choose are Getlinge and Hulterstad. In Gettlinge, numerous artifacts were discovered, giving a good idea of how life was at the time and also of how advanced people really were from a technological and cultural point of view. The site is also protected because of the numerous species of rare plants, some species being true relics that can be found only here. The situation is similar in Hulterstad, the site being declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Argentina

Now we leave the old European continent for a trip into South America as the megalithic art seems to be far from singular in the world. In fact, the entire South America is filled with such constructions, some of them being among the most impressive in the world. In Argentina there are numerous menhirs, many of them sculpted in a manner characteristic to the populations that inhabited the region in the past. One of the best places to see them is called Parque los Menhires which  is accessible to tourists all around the world.

The site includes about 117 menhirs, some of them sculpted so as to make them look like human faces or like animals. The blocks of stone were moved from their original places and collected here, which unfortunately made them lose some of their initial meaning. However, tourists can still enjoy the beauty of the stones, all concentrated in a single place. The blocks were estimated to be older than 2000 years and many of them have an impressive size, their sculptures giving them a mysterious air. The site is open every day, and the entrance is 3 pesos, a small price for a high reward.

Egypt

Few other places hosted a civilization as advanced culturally and scientifically as Egypt and that is also proved by the megalithic constructions that can be seen all around the country. Millions of tourists are attracted every year by the beauty and magnificence of some of the most impressive man-made sites, the result of tens of years of continuous work of entire generations. In no other country were the gods or the kings offered such megalomaniac proves of obedience like here.

One of the most impressive sites must definitely be Karnak, the temple built here being the biggest religiously-purposed building in the world. The temple was dedicated to the ‘god of the gods’ Amon Ra and its goal was to make people feel small and totally insignificant in comparison to the power of the god. The temple definitely met its goal as even now tourists stare in awe at the huge columns that seem impossible to move, even using today’s cranes. Even though the name of Karnak is immediately associated with the one of the temple, there are also constructions dedicated to other gods here.

Tourists can feast their eyes with numerous paintings and sculptures, many portraying gods’ life or aspects from the pharaoh’s existence. The sanctuary, where the god’s statue was kept, was a holy place and priests had to shave their heads and bodies and also wash three times every day in order to purify before entering there. The other people were not allowed to enter the temple and they could only see the god’s statue once a year at a special holiday. The temple was built in such a manner so that the sun’s  light would create a special atmosphere that is still kept even now when religious rituals don’t take place here any more.

Another place worth visiting is the double representation of the pharaoh Amenhotep III called the Colossi of Memnon. The two giant statues were built about 3400 years ago and now they are quite damaged, however not less impressive. The eastern colossus was claimed to “sing”, the ones who heard the noise produced by it being struck by luck after that. Even Strabo claimed to have heard it, but the exact origin of the sound it is not known. Since then, the sound hasn’t been heard, maybe because the colossus was repaired.

Russia

Russia is not exactly the first location that comes into your mind whan you think about megaliths. However, if you happen to visit this country you have the opportunity to see some very interesting dolmens, different from anything they could have witnessed before and yet very similar to others from other regions of Europe. The dolmens cover the Western Caucasus, are made of very large stones and usually present a hole in their walls. Many of the dolmens were used as tombs, archaeologists discovering artifacts and human remains here. However, they were unable to find out who exactly built them and what happened to them.

One interesting site is on the coast of the Black Sea in the Krasnodar area, near Gelendzhik. Here, other items were found as well – big stone balls and animal sculptures. The dolmens were considered to have magical powers and to be some kind of gates between worlds, so the people would often leave offerings here.

Some of the ancient traditions are still kept today, especially the ones that are said to help increase fertility. Unfortunately, vandalism affected the dolmens severely, and if measures will not be taken fast, there is the risk of losing these ancient remains before the other generations will get to see them.

Lebanon

The most famous location to see in this country in order to taste a piece of history is Baalbek, a town situated at the altitude of 1170 m. Numerous cultures interacted and made the place what it is now: the point where cultures mixed and left traces of their common existence. The first human settings appeared here about 5000 years ago, the first temple dedicated by the Phoenicians to their god Baal (who also gives the name of the site) being built in 2000 b.c. Later, when Alexander the Great conquered the place, its name became Heliopolis, “The city of the sun”. Then, the city became a Roman colony, numerous temples being built for most of the gods.

The temples remained to this day, blocks bigger than 100 tons being used for their construction. How they were built remained quite a mystery for some time until modern experiments proved that by using ancient cranes even such giants could be moved, even if the move required a lot of people.

Now the place is a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO. The most impressive are the three huge stones from the temple of Jupiter Baal, known as Trilithon, which are the biggest ever used in an ancient construction. The stones weigh each about 800 tons and maybe this is why numerous people believe aliens had something to do with the constructions.

Bolivia

Bolivia is the place to find the constructions left by another ancient civilization of the world. And one of the most famous sites is Tiwanaku (also known as Tihuanaco  or Tihuanacu), where ancient temples were left up to this day to puzzle scientists. The first time the site was recorded 1549, when it was discovered by the conquistadors.

The name of the place is believed to come from the ancient word taypiqala , meaning “stone in the center” because of the belief that it was the center of the world. The architecture of the Tihuanaco is characterized by an extraordinary craftsmanship not to be seen in many other places.

The blocks match perfectly with each other, even though they sometimes weigh over 100 tonnes. Many anthropomorphous, but also puma heads are to be seen, giving an insight into the spiritual life of the population who lived there. However, many things could not be clarified as this people had no written language whatsoever. Their main activity was agriculture and this also caused their collapse: once the food source dried up, so did the civilization. Now the site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and both scientists and tourists can enjoy a sunrise at the Gateway of the Sun.

Easter Island

The island is also known as Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua, as it was discovered in 1722 in a Easter Sunday. It is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world, the closest coast being the one of Chile. Even though not very large, the island has a very complex history that includes many tragedies.

The inhabitants fought with each other, lead the environment into collapse and also faced slavery, all before they disappeared. What makes the island famous worldwide is the discovery of numerous human statues made of giant stones, many of which wore hats.

It is again very difficult to explain how the stones were transported, and also their purpose, even if most scholars believe it to be religious. Again, the aliens were involved in the story as the biggest statue had about 70 tonnes, which is not at all negligible;  but it seems that ancient techniques may have been sufficient to finish the job.

See also: Where to Blog From Before You Die – Easter Island

The monuments are called ‘moai‘ and their strange physiognomy has puzzled scientists ever since, thus giving way to new theories. About 887 moai have been discovered and it seems that they also has colored eyes made of coral, which started to be recreated. Now the site is protected, a tourist who wanted to take a souvenir being fined 17,000$.

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