“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” ― Michael Crichton
For history lovers, there is no better way to rediscover the passage of time since civilization began than to travel to the places where it all happened, to marvel at the monuments, to wonder at the artifacts. Here are 5 must-visit destinations for those seeking a glimpse of the past –
Egypt, the cradle of civilization, where history first emerged, with Hieroglyphic records dating back to about 3200 BC and fascinating tales of the time of Pharaohs, pyramids and the Sphinx is an amazing place to visit and learn about an ancient civilization along the Nile. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone, inscribed in both Greek and Egyptian, rekindled interest in Ancient Egypt in the West that remains undiminished to this day.
For the pyramid trail, moving your way south from the capital city of Cairo, you can stop at Giza where the famous Great Pyramid stands. Built by Pharaoh Khufu in the year 2550 BC, this 147m high pyramid was the largest and most ambitious structure built in ancient Egypt requiring 2.3 million stone blocks to construct. Also at Giza, you can see the Pyramid of Khefre, home of the Sphinx, built 30 years after the Great Pyramid. The third pyramid located at Giza is the Pyramid of Menkaure. Further south, Saqqara is home to the Step Pyramid of Djoser built in 2630 BC. Pyramid of Pepi II, also located at Saqqara was the last pyramid built by ancient Egyptians. In Dahshur, the Bent and the Red Pyramids are located. And down south at Maidum, the Maidum Pyramid can be found.
Egypt has temples, mummies, tombs, hieroglyphics, and Valley of the Kings and the Queens which can keep you occupied and amazed for months. A cruise along the Nile is a pleasant and relaxing way to get close to the attractions of antiquity, and also get a glimpse of rural Egypt. Try one here.
Historically, Peru was the location of the dominant early cultures in South America. As the hub of the Inca civilization, Peru is a great destination for discovering the continent’s past. Peru has a strong Inca and pre-Inca heritage, which includes the famous Lake Titicaca area, the Nazca Lines, Caral and the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, with its Inca Trail to the lost city of Machu Picchu.
Lima, founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro to became the “City of Kings”, has everything from 17th century colonial architecture to glass-faced skyscrapers. In the centre (or ‘Old Lima’ as it is often known) you can find some of the best colonial and neo-colonial architecture Peru has to offer. Hundreds of stunning colonial buildings line streets bustling with every type of person and business. As well some superb churches, museums and other public buildings, the busy streets lead to some tranquil squares where you can relax. About 31km from Lima, Pachacámac is a huge temple/palace area originally devoted to the namesake God. The site includes a partially-restored Temple of the Sun in a huge complex originally dating to 1350.
The city of Caral has pyramid remains dated to between 2000 and 2600 BC, which may make it the oldest city in the world. Peru is also the home to the Nazca Lines, football field size drawings in the ground that are only apparent from the air.
Machu Picchu, the Lost city of the Incas, is a mystical, sacred place, with one of the most enigmatic and beautiful ancient ruins in the world. Rediscovered on July 24, 1911 by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu (meaning ‘Old Peak’ in Quechua, the language spoken by the Incas) was thought to be a sanctuary for the preparation of priestesses and brides for the Inca nobility. The dramatic setting in a remote area of the Peruvian Andes enhances the shroud of mystery even more. The Inca life can be retraced in the exciting Inca Trail. Walk to the Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman, Machu Picchu, and Pisac.
In many areas along the Andes, you can still hear Quechua – the language of the Incas – spoken as a first language and the spiritual ideals of Inca culture remain strong. Today cities like Cusco combine stunning Inca and colonial architecture with thoroughly modern services but just a short distance away from the major urban areas, life carries on in a way which would be instantly recognisable to the Incas.
Greece has a lot more to offer than its stunning beaches. Greece is a land of mysteries, mythologies, tales of man’s ancient past and the immense developments it has garnered over the last three millenniums. Walk practically anywhere in Greece and you are walking in the footsteps of antiquity. Home to such historical figures, as Plato and Homer and considered as the center of modern civilization, Greece is the abode of art, philosophy and many other aspects of culture. The historical sites in the country are impressive. Still, Greece also has modern touches making it a good travel destination.
As the center of knowledge, government, and system in the ancient world, you would be amazed at how the ancient city of Athens grew and evolved. You can visit Acropolis, Agora, Library of Hadrian, Kerameikos, Olympieion & Southeast Athens, Pnyx, Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds, Arch of Hadrian, City Eleusinion and other ancient sites in this ancient city of Athens.
The island of Amorgos, one of the most visited islands in the Cyclades, has a very rich and interesting past, and therefore all those who enjoy historic spots would be able to have a great time while visiting it. Anciently called Minoa, the origins of this city and its population can be found strongly attached to the Cretans who are believed to be the first inhabitants in this island. Many centuries ago, Amorgos was used by the Ionians in order to go from their islands to mainland Greece. Many constructions and elements from such époque can be still observed nowadays since was important in shaping the island’s culture and traditions. Three of the main and most antique cities in Amorgos – Militos, Efessos, and Alikarnasos are strongly attached to the époque in which the Ionians used to go through this island in order to reach mainland Greece in such a way that each one of them can tell a bit of the history of those days. The city of Arkesini, one of the main spots in Amorgos, has several appealing and unique characteristics such as the antique walls that surround it and which were part of many important historical events.
Chania is thought to be settled by the humans since the Neolithic times before being ruled by several known empires. It was the place where the Minoan settlement took place – remains of the Minoan city were excavated during the last hundred years beneath the ground where the district of Kasteli stands right now. The invasion and occupation of Chania by Hitler’s army during the Word War II is yet another significant aspect of its modern history. Since the 1970s, Cretan tourism began soaring and Chania was brought to the attention of the world for the very first time.
Italy, with its culture, food and Renaissance has had a long and colorful historical significance dating back to the times of the Roman Empire.
For 3,000 years Rome has stood at the forefront of civilisation. Rome presents the living timeline from the Roman Empire to the shift of the Middle Ages, to baroque and renaissance, to the dawn of the romantic period and enlightenment, with well-preserved temples, churches, arts, and invaluable paintings and murals. At the core of the once mighty Empire, The Roman Forum was the nucleus of government where aristocracy would socialise and decide the course of history during lavish banquets. The Colosseum, undoubtedly the most famous ancient Roman landmark, was built by Jewish slaves and has a marked place in the city’s history as the arena for gladiator fights. The Pantheon from 2nd century AD and the catacombs along Via Appia Antica all stand witness to the story of this city on seven hills.
Located roughly an hour outside of Florence, built as a fortified city in gothic medieval architectural style behind large, thick walls on a small mountain, Siena oozes history, with the centre of the city being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Piazza del Campo housing the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia is an architectural marvel considered as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. The Palazzo Pubblico has an art museum with Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s significant series of frescos on government. On the Piazza Salimbeni is the medieval headquarters of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, one of the oldest banks in continuous existence and a major player in the Sienese economy.
A rich city in history and life, Verona is well known from Shakespeare’s play. Verona hosts many events and shows, including the famous lyric festival every summer which has been on since 1913 when it was inaugurated with Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida. Apart from the famous arena of Piazza Bra, you should certainly see Grasses’s Square and Piazza dei Messrs’s square to immerse yourself in the history of the city.
The town of Civita di Bagnoregio, with orthogonal alleys in Etruscan and later Roman style, has several structures from the medieval age. The San Donato square, on which the 7th century cathedral dome rises, is at the heart of the town and has a passage that leads to the building of medieval jails. The town was almost untouched by Renaissance and preserves its medieval soul.
Travel Far East and discover the history of the ancient eastern civilization. China is one of the oldest states in the world and the only, surviving till today. You can follow the traditional Silk route, sailing down the Yangtze River, or travel to just the few major historical places.
Beijing, the capital for over 800 years now, has been an important trading city from its earliest days. You still can see the traces of the Chinese history at the Forbidden City, the largest and best-preserved imperial palace complex, the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven, the largest sacrificial complex in the world.
The Chaotian Gong with a 4th century Confucian temple in Nanjing, the Giant Buddha of Leshan, the royal Behai Park, the 10th century Longhua temple in Shanghai, the Ming tombs are all examples of the richness and breadth of Chinese history and culture. The Terracotta Warriors in Lintong, a World Heritage Site with a collection of about 7000 amazing life size sculptures of soldiers, horses and infantry dating back to 210 BC is a must visit for all art and history lovers.
There is no possible way to summarize all the places of historical interest in this vast country – there is so much diversity in the different regions, each with a different story, that you simply must go to this sprawling country to discover its Oriental past.