If it’s history, culture and heritage you’re looking for, the world is full of destinations where you can soak in some wonderful experiences that are enlightening, enjoyable and educative as well. Behind each structure, monument or site is a story. Of a past that has played a great role in shaping the present.
Take a pick from five countries steeped in history…
Our own country is a land steeped in history. From the north to the south and the east to the west, India abounds in destinations that take you back in time in myriad ways. It’s not called Incredible India for nothing. Perhaps the first name that comes to mind is the Taj Mahal in Agra, Emperor Shah Jahan’s tribute of love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The Ajanta and Ellora caves are known for its amazing architecture and date back to the sixth and 11th centuries AD. The capital New Delhi is home to the Qutub Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage monument and a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture. Matching its grandiosity is the Red Fort on the banks of the river Yamuna. Further down South is another UNESCO World Heritage site at Mahabalipuram where the biggest attraction is the spectacular Shore Temple. Other must-see attractions on your Indian historical itinerary are the Sun Temple at Konark, the Buddhist monuments at Sanchi, the Elephanta Caves at Mumbai and many more. One trip is simply not enough!
The United Kingdom has a rich and diverse history and since the beginning of civilisation has seen the rise and fall of tribes, kingdoms, empires and nations. They are both diverse and wondrous and encompass the length and breadth of the land. The Tower of London is a 900-year-old palace and fortress at the heart of which is the White Tower with its ornate fairy-tale turret roofs. The Edinburgh Castle was one of Scotland’s foremost royal castles during the Middle Ages and now encloses the National War Museum of Scotland, two regimental museums and the Scottish National War Memorial. Besides these, walk down literary lane at the Shakespeare House at Stratford that will captivate both readers and history buffs. The Buckingham Palace is of course one of the touristy things you must do. Built in 1703, the castle became the royal family’s residence in 1837. Then there’s the Stonehenge, Britain’s national icon and consistently voted ‘Britain’s Best Historic Site’. It is surrounded by the remains of ceremonial and domestic structures and covers some 2,600 hectares and 400 scheduled monuments. Learn some of the world’s most famous history lessons in the UK.
Say China and it’s impossible not to say, ‘The Great Wall of China’. From Shanhaiguan, northeast of Qinhuangdao City in Hebei Province on the east coast, the Great Wall) rises and falls with the contours of the mountains westwards, crossing nine provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions over 6,700 kilometres, to end at Jiayuguan, southwest of Jiayuguan City in Gansu Province. The Forbidden City also called the Imperial Palace, located in the heart of the capital Beijing is another top historical attraction. If you are the intrepid traveller, do make it a point to visit the Yungang Grottoes situated in the southern foot of Wuzhou Mountains that constitutes 252 caves and 51,000 statues. Also worth a visit is the old town of Pingyao, a town in central Shanxi province that dates back to 2,700 years. It’s an extremely well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city. Other Chinese attractions include the Taoist buildings in Hubei province, the Classic Gardens in Suzhou and the ancient town of Lijiang at the bottom of the Yulong Snow Mountain.
If you want to enjoy some fascinating history, make a few short stops around some famous Italian cities. In Italy, you can soak in as much as history, culture and heritage as you want. It is difficult to narrow down the best but we’ll try anyway. The Colosseum at Rome is imposing indeed. Standing 165 feet tall and measuring 600 feet long, this legendary historical site was the scene of many gladiator combats. The ruins of Pompeii have, over the last 200 years excavated to reveal an incredibly preserved city that’s both fascinating and haunting as well. Florence is home to a beautiful church and is one of the most tranquil cities of the country. And besides Basilica di San Miniato al Monte who can forget the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a marvellous architectural and engineering feat. And if the wonders of water you seek to drown yourself in, you can cruise down the Grand Canal in Venice in water taxis or the gondolas.
Think Peru, think Inca. Peru symbolises the Inca civilisation and therefore is a treasure-trove of archaeological wonders. The most well-known of them all is the Machu Picchu one of the most interesting creations of the Inca Empire that stands 2,430m above sea level. It has giant walls, terraces and ramps that seem to have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments. The Arequipa-Colca Valley also known as the White City stands out for its beautiful colonial homes, churches and monasteries. Lima, the capital has some beautiful colonial constructions, famous museums and some pre-Hispanic archaeological locations such as the Caral. A visit to Peru is incomplete without a trip to Trujillo, a city of old colonial heritage, an excellent destination for archaeological tourism.