It is often said that the past shapes the present, which in turn shapes the future. Think about it. What is the advice that we’re given every time we stray too far from our paths? We’re asked to go back to our roots — back to our mother’s embrace, back to the first kiss, back to a hometown that built us. Same is with the world too. Today, we’re taking you back to the world’s most ancient places. By Quoyina Ghosh

1. Petra (4th century BC)

A UNESCO site from 1985, Petra lies in southern Jordan on the Jebel al-Madhbah slope. Archaeological reports say that the city was established as the Nabataean capital in the early fourth century BC. Today, Petra lies hidden in the shifting sands of the desert. The sheer raw beauty of the space makes it a popular site. In fact, Petra is an incredible rock architecture which boasts of a water conduit system, a majestic church, and a monastery — among other things — making it a truly intriguing dive into the past. Some reports also suggest that a vast majority of its sprawling grounds, 85% of it in fact, still lies beneath the sands.

2. Göbekli Tepe (11,000 BC)

Up until recently, it was believed that humans began settling permanently across places 10,000 years ago. This belief was shattered with the discovery of Göbekli Tepe — the world’s most ancient temple, predating other similar structures by thousands of years. Dating back to 11,000 BC, this site was discovered in the 1960s, but failed to receive much traction until 1994. A second glimpse at this site revealed not only its ancient roots but also the massive effort that must have gone into constructing it. This site is being restored and studied even today.

3. Nalanda University (500 AD – 1200 AD)

Nalanda University stands tall as the world’s most ancient educational institution. It flourished under the patronage of kings Ashoka and Harshavardhana in the historic city of Rajgir. When the books of Chinese scholar Xuanzang were accessed, it was discovered that the University was frequented by about 2,000 teachers along with 10,000 students and monks studying. A plethora of subjects spanning astronomy, philosophy, medicine, metaphysics and more found a space in the classrooms here. In fact, the institution was so highly revered that it was also visited by the likes of Gautama Buddha himself. This university flourished for years, till the 12th Century when Muslim invaders burnt it down. Legend has it that Nalanda’s collection of books and manuscripts was so vast that the fire raged on for six whole months.

Nalanda was believed to be an institution where one could experience the coexistence of man and nature. Considering we see so little of that in our daily lives, a trip to the place might just be what we need.

4. Persepolis (6th century BC)

Situated a few kilometres from the city of Shiraz in Iran, Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. The mesmerising architecture of Persepolis is indicative of the supremacy inherent in it. Despite it being in ruins, it continues to have an air of sheer grandeur. One can feel this when you walk its grounds surveying the Tachara Palace, the Apadana staircase, and the splendid carvings to name a few attractions. When you breathe in the air from these sprawling grounds, you almost become a part of what once was. Give it a go!

5. Sigiriya (4th century BC)

Situated in Sri Lanka, this site is often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World by locals. Rightfully so, seeing as this place is about 370 metres above sea level and is surrounded by dark forests that lie 200 metres below it. Carved from a bedrock, Sigiriya boasts of near vertical walls soaring high up to a flat top which is considered the epicentre of the ancient civilisation of Kassapa. Moreover, Sigiriya is also renowned for the gorgeous frescos decorating the space and a gateway shaped like a majestic lion structure, the Lion Rock. In fact, Sigiriya derives its name from this structure.

Related: These Ancient Highways Around The World Are As Old As Time