If you’re a history buff looking for your next vacation, pack your bags. From the Persian Empire in the Middle East to the towering castles and cobblestone alleyways of Europe to the reminders of ancient civilizations of the Americas, we invite all history buffs to travel back in time at these destinations.
1. Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru
Visit the historic heart of the Inca Empire in Cusco, Peru. Set nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, the city in the sky was built in the 15th century as the home of Emperor Pachacuti, who reigned from 1438 to 1472. The site was deserted, however, by the 1550s, around the time of the Spanish conquest of modern-day Peru.
Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has recently limited the number of visitors to 2,500 per day. To get to be one of the lucky thousands, it’s best to buy tickets for a tour in advance, as spots can fill up fast. Take the train to the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, then a bus to the famous site. You can also hike right into Machu Picchu on the four or five day Inca Trail. While in Cusco, visit the city of Cusco itself, famous for colonial architecture, colorful Peruvian crafts and culture, and stunning natural beauty set in the Andean mountains.
2. Silk Road, East-Central Asia
Travel down the most famous trade routes that linked Asia to Europe centuries ago. The Silk Road was integral in forming international relations and trading partnerships from around the 2nd century until the 14th century; bringing goods such as spices and silks across borders, as well as the spread of art styles and religions.
Today, you can visit much of these areas, but it can be hard to choose which. We recommend the Chang’an Tianshan Corridor, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Chang’an Tianshan Corridor takes you on a cultural experience through northern China and Central Asia. With extreme lows (500 feet below sea level), to high peaks (up to 24,000 feet above sea level), this 3,000-mile journey is full of incredible views. Check out ancient Khan capital cities, Buddhist temples, the Great Wall of China, Kashgar market, and more.
3. Berlin Wall, Berlin Germany
The most famous symbol of the Cold War in the 1950s – 90s, is now one of Berlin’s top tourist destinations. The wall separated East Berlin, controlled by Soviet East Germany, from West Berlin, controlled by the Western Alliances of West Germany. The wall went up in 1961 as a curtain between the communist and capitalist states. While the Berlin wall fell over 25 years ago, sections of it still stand as a reminder of the period.
Head to Berlin today to see the city, united and thriving since the fall of the wall, and be sure to stop by the famous historic sites. The sections that stand are covered in colorful murals painted by various graffiti artists from around the world. You can take a bike tour along the route the wall once took to get a history lesson while seeing more of the city. If you look carefully, you can still tell apart the former East from West Berlin.
4. Mesa Verde National Park, Mesa Verde, Colorado
Check out one of the United States’ most unique Native American heritage sites at Mesa Verde National Park. Located in the southwestern corner of the state, the park is home to the over one-thousand-year-old village built by the groups living in the four corners region of modern-day Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The village of the Ancestral Pueblos peoples still stands, after being preserved as a National Park by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909.
Visit the park today, open to the public for ranger-guided tours with hours changing depending on the season. A full schedule of the park can be found here. Tickets for the park include tours of the Balcony House, Cliff Palace, Long House, twilight tours of the region, and visits to the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, and the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center. The park is 35 miles south of Durango, CO, making the city an easy access point to get to Mesa Verde.
5. Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California
In the middle of the bay, off the great city of San Francisco sits the historic prison island of Alcatraz. Built in 1847, the island began as a military island then later a military prison, before becoming a federal prison in 1934 until its closing in 1963. During its time as a federal prison, Alcatraz held the likes of Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Alvin Karpis, and more.
While in San Francisco, head to Fisherman’s Wharf and catch a boat on the dark blue waters to ride out to the old island. The only way there is on a ferry with the Alcatraz Cruises LLC, through the National Park Services. Take a guided tour and see the cells and guard houses, while learning all the history and insider secrets of the prison island. Tour options include the early bird tour, the day tour, the night tour, the behind the scenes tour, and the Alcatraz and Angel Island tour. Check out more info here.
6. Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it’s called in its native Polynesian, is an island in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile. The island is best known for its nearly 900 giant statues, or, moai. The statues can get up to 30 feet tall, and were carved with traditional chisels called tokis to honor important members of society after their death. Easter Island was first inhabited between 700 and 1100, but by 1500, was mostly isolated. Nowadays, there are Chileans and Rapa Nui living there.
Easter Island is one of the most remote locations in the world, making a trip out difficult. Start your journey in Chile, where you can learn more about Latino culture and pre-Columbian cultures that ruled the Andes. From Chile’s capital, Santiago, catch a LATAM flight to Hanga Roa, Rapa Nui’s capital town. The island is a beautiful location, with privacy, rolling green hills, and breathtaking Pacific beaches.
7. Great Pyramid of Giza, Giza, Egypt
Surely no travel list of historic places is complete without Ancient Egypt. And for a history buff like yourself, the Great Pyramid of Giza is a must-see. The pyramids are the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, built around 2580 BC to 2560 BC. Of the three structures, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and the tallest, housing pharaoh Khufu of the fourth dynasty. The pyramids are ancient tombs built to bury pharaohs, along with many of their possessions. The pyramid contains over two million blocks and today, more than 3,000 years after it’s creation, is still largely intact.
Head to Egypt to see the iconic structures with your own two eyes. Fly into Cairo where you can explore the sprawling city, visit the colorful bazaars, and admire the mosques and citadels. From Cairo, you can take a bus or a cab out to Giza, and take a camel or a horseback ride to the pyramids. While in the area, don’t forget to check out the Sphinx!
8. Acropolis of Athens, Athens, Greece
Athens, the birthplace of democracy, is a trip fit for any history-lover. The home of Ancient Greece, and one of the most classic, iconic societies, is full of incredible sites straight out of your history textbook. The most iconic spot, of course, is the Acropolis of Athens. The ancient citadel sits above watching over the city of Athens. The mini city contains several buildings, including the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.
Visit the city of Athens, a mix of ancient, classical, and modern styles all mixed into one incredible city. To get to the Acropolis of Athens, you should buy tickets in advance. Tickets include entrance to the Parthenon, as well as other temples. To visit the Acropolis Museum, you should purchase a separate ticket. The Acropolis can get crowded, so beat the groups by heading either early in the morning, or much later in the evening.