The past may be in the past, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot experience history in the present day. Our world boasts an endless array of astonishing heritage sites that can be visited by the modern traveller, ranging from the ancient pyramids of Egypt to the contemporary Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.
Of the 897 awesome cultural sites recognised by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), only 33 are in the UK, so pack your bags and head to unknown lands to discover the world’s most incredible travel destinations for history lovers.
1. Giza, Egypt
Is there a heritage site more iconic than the Sphinx-protected pyramids of Giza? These ancient structures date back to the 26th century BC and took approximately 30 years to build. More amazing history sites can be seen on Egypt tours which travel the Nile to the nearby Nubian lands of Sudan.
2. Machu Picchu, Peru
Active travellers can take the three-day trek from Cusco in the Peruvian hills to the hidden site of Machu Picchu, the 15th century ‘Lost City of the Incas’ that remained unknown to much of the world until its rediscovery by Yale professor Hiram Bingham in 1911.
3. Terracotta Army, China
Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, was laid to rest in a tomb surrounded by thousands of life-sized troops. Also not discovered until the 20th century, these astonishingly detailed terracotta soldiers were buried beside the emperor’s body to guard him in the afterlife.
4. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
At over 400 acres in size, Angkor Wat is the largest religious site in the world. This Cambodian temple complex was constructed for King Suryavarman II in the early 1,100’s as capital of the Khmer Empire but the architecture is still stupendous 900 years on.
5. Agra, India
Visit Agra in India’s colourful Rajasthan Province to see the relics of the once-mighty Mughal Empire. Most famous is the Taj Mahal, a dome-shaped mausoleum constructed out of pure white marble. The neighbouring Red Fort is contrasting in appearance but just as spectacular to see.
6. Athens, Greece
The Greeks are one of the most iconic ancient civilisations, survived by a legacy of myths and beliefs that have continued to influence European culture right up to the present day. Visit Athens to see two 5th century structures that have also survived: the Acropolis and Parthenon.
7. Colosseum, Italy
Said to have been able to hold up to 80,000 spectators at its most prominent point in history, Rome’s immense ancient amphitheatre was the site of gladiatorial contests, storytelling, and even staged naval battle reenactments. Although now 2,000 years old, it is the world’s largest amphitheatre to this day.
8. Petra, Jordan
If you are willing to go well and truly off the beaten track, do not miss out on a tour of Petra in Jordan. Known as the ‘Rose City’, this 300 BC site is a network of temples and tombs carved directly into pink sandstone cliffs in the middle of the desert, hidden behind a striking Greek style façade.