When they were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the "megalithic temples" of Malta were called "the oldest free-standing monuments in the world." There are seven on the UNESCO list. Mnajdra and Hagar Qim near the town of Qrendi on the island's south coast are arguably the best of the group -- plus, they're included on a combined price of admission.
The oldest structure at Mnajdra could date back to 3600 BC, the most impressive was built before 2500 BC and the orientations of all the Mnajdra temples coincide with the position of the sun at the summer and winter solstice. Hagar Qim was built around the same time.
In 623 BC, Queen Maya rested in the serene gardens of Lumbini. She bathed in the Pushkarini Pond, and there, in the shade of a sal tree, Prince Siddhartha Gautama -- the Buddha -- was born. In 249 BC, Emperor Ashoka erected a pillar at Lumbini to mark the precise place of the Buddha's birth. He also declared that residents of Lumbini no longer were required to pay taxes and only owed the government one-eighth of their harvests.
Since then, Lumbini has been a pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Remains of monasteries and walkways from the 3rd century BC are still there, and recent archaeological excavations have unearthed evidence that the site was in use much earlier. Active monasteries and temples fill the surrounding area.
In the third century BC, when the Romans conquered just about everything they cared to, Hannibal, the military commander and strategist from Carthage who famously crossed the Alps on an elephant, made them quake in their sandals.
Even though they sacked it in 146 BC, the Romans rebuilt Carthage, and it remained a trading port on the Gulf of Tunis for centuries. Highlights of the site include the Roman era Antonine Baths and the Punic era Tophet burial site once thought to be the scene of ritual child sacrifice -- a theory that, thankfully, has been debunked.
Hattusha was the capital of the Hittite Empire, whose relics include an archive of more than 25,000 cuneiform tablets. Most famous of these is the Treaty of Kadesh, guaranteeing "eternal peace" between the Hittites and the Egyptians.
There's evidence that Hattusha was attacked and burned in 1700 BC -- indicating that it was established and important enough to be a target that early, although the empire was at its strongest from around 1600 to 1200 BC.
Today, Hattusha is an open-air archaeological museum, and the ancient sanctuary at nearby Yaz?l?kaya has extraordinary religious rock carvings. In 2011, the nearby Bo?azköy Museum added to its collection two Hittite Sphinxes, one of which had been taken to Germany "for repairs" 94 years earlier.