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Top 5 Places To See On An Ancient History Holiday

Jun 6, 2008
With Indiana Jones back in the cinemas once more, an interest in ancient civilisations is no longer confined to professors and archaeologists. Indeed, cultural heritage holidays are growing increasingly popular, with many AITO tour operators offering trips that look at some of the most notable ancient ruins in the world. While most of the great monuments of ancient civilisations have been eroded or destroyed, some still survive, and visiting one of these sites is like going on a holiday in ancient history. In addition to being spectacular structures in their own right, they form an invaluable part of any cultural heritage holiday, giving a glimpse of a way of life that has long since disappeared.

If you fancy yourself as the next academic adventurer and are considering a cultural heritage holiday abroad, here are five of the most important places to visit around the world.

The Parthenon, Greece

Anyone on a specialised classical Greece holiday will see many amazing sights, including the Temple at Delphi and the ruins of the Temple of Zeus at Mount Olympus. But dwarfing them all is the Parthenon in Athens, often regarded as the most important classical monument that is still standing today. It is an ancient temple to the goddess Athena, and is one of the finest examples of ancient Greek architecture and artwork. The inside is a treasure trove of sculptures (though much of its content now resides in the British museum), and the temple is placed in an unforgettable location on the Acropolis, looking down over Athens.

Machu Picchu, Peru

This "Lost City of the Incas" was only rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century, and is an essential place to visit for those interested in past civilisations. Situated on top of a mountain above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, this excellently preserved site is the one of the finest remaining examples of Inca architecture and has been voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

You can reach Machu Picchu by train from Cusco, but for a really adventurous cultural heritage holiday you can walk the Inca Trail, a multi day hike through a number of Inca ruins that reaches Machu Picchu at sunrise on the fourth day.

Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt

Out of the Seven Wonders of the World listed by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one that can still be seen today on an ancient history holiday to Egypt. Built over 4500 years ago, the Pyramid was built as a tomb for the Egyptian pharaoh Cheops. It took over twenty years to construct, and was the tallest man-made structure in the world for several thousand years.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Cultural heritage holidays to Mexico inevitably tour the ruins of ancient Mayan civilisation, and Chichen Itza is one of the most important Mayan sites in Mexico. The temple complex was built over 2000 years ago, and most of the buildings remain intact today, including the Temple of Kukulkan, the Great Ball Court and the Temple of the Warriors. It was the capital of Mayan civilisation for almost a thousand years - why Chichen Itza was abandoned is not known, but archaeological research suggests its downfall was violent. The site is truly a must-see for those with an interest in ancient Mayan culture, with some of the best preserved Mayan architecture left standing today.

Coliseum, Italy

Situated at the centre of Rome, this colossal amphitheatre (the largest ever built in the ancient Roman empire) is almost 2000 years old. Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Coliseum could hold over 50,000 spectators, and hosted gladiatorial contests, performances and historical enactments. Despite damage from earthquakes and robbery, it has stood the test of time and remains one of the landmark sights for a cultural heritage holiday to Italy.
About the Author
Kieron Sellens is the marketing manager of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AiTO). With AITO's cultural breaks you can choose from tailor-made cultural heritage holidays, historical tours, musical trips and many more. The independent tour operators that AITO represent specialise in worldwide holidays tailored to their customers' requirements.
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