Cultural holidays can be thrilling, but exhausting as you try to absorb all the information and take pictures of all the important sites you might never visit again. Here are some of the best destinations where you can combine culture with relaxation for the perfect holiday.
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Cuba is one of those countries you have to visit to really appreciate the culture and people and their traditions. Many holidaymakers will first experience Cuba on a package holiday – and most of these are now all-inclusive and consist of one or two weeks at a holiday resort, with at least a day trip to the capital Havana. Some of the main excursions in Cuba are the Monument to Che Guevarra at Santa Clara, the Christopher Columbus Cemetary and the Old Square (Plaza Vieja) in Havana, plus the Plaza Mayor in Trinidad, and the natural sights of El Nico Waterfalls at Cienfuegos – or Playa Paraiso beach at Cayo Lago, to name but a few excursions in between sessions sunning yourself round the pool.
Egypt is an essential visit for culture buffs and Luxor is the main centre for cultural tourism, where the grand temples of Karnak and Luxor are based on the East Bank – while on the West Bank of the Nile in Luxor are the mortuary temples of the Pharoahs, including Tutankhamun. Other places to visit in Egypt are CairoMuseum – where Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus now rests. The sites of Aswan, Denderah and Abu Simbel are also essential and are best visited on a NiIe Cruise. Red Sea resorts offer welcome relaxation after a week or more spent on revisiting ancient history – but these are not without historical interest either, including trips to Sinai, MountMoses and St Catherine’s Monastery in the desert.
Turkey is the home of UNESCO World Heritage site the ancient city of Ephesus, dating from 12BC – until 1500AD, Turkey was at the centre of civilisation and is one of the most important cultures in the development of civilisation as we know it. The ancient city of Troy is also in Turkey and dates from 4BC – most people will know the ancient classical story of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world. Other sites to visit include Pergamum, which was a centre for administration for the Romans and was famous for its library way back when. Other sites of interest include the Virgin Mary’s House above Ephesus – which is where legend says she was taken in secret to live out her days after the Crucifixion.
Mexico is an exciting and vibrant country to visit for a holiday – and the home of the Aztecs is fascinating for both culture vulture holidaymakers and children. Mexico has a wealth of natural parks, as well as archaeological monuments such as the sacred site of the Aztecs Teotihuacan (a few miles from Mexico City), the Zapotecs’ capital city Monte Alban, the ancient city of Palenque, Uxmal on the Yucatan Peninsula (where pyramids and temples are found) the major archeological sites of Chichen Itza and the Mayan cite of Coba. Mexico also offers fabulous beaches and fantastic food for when you need to rest your weary traveller’s feet.
Tunisia is fast becoming a popular holiday destination for package holidaymakers and golfers – but Tunisia is a must visit for lovers of classical history, as it is the site of the ancient cities of Carthage and an important outpost for the ancient seafaring Pheonician civilisation. Anyone who has read the Aeneid by Vergil will know the story of the tragic queen of Carthage, Dido, who fell in love with the Trojan Prince Aeneas. There are 250 Roman sites to visit in Tunisia, including the breathtaking amphitheatre at Djem and important Roman mosaics in the BardoMuseum in Tunis. You can also visit the UNESCO World Heritage site The Medina of Tunis, the ancient ruins of Makthar and the Holy City of Kairouan.
Rome is known as the EternalCity – and almost every monument you ever read about in Roman history or heard about on a TV programme on the Romans will be found in Roma. The Forum is the most prominent landmark and is near the Colosseum and Circe Maximo, as well as Trajan’s Column and the old Roman marketplace, so it is easy to take in the main sites in an afternoon. The Vatican City is across the River Tiber – and you can visit the Castel Sant’ Angelo en route, where the Emperor Hadrian is commemorated. Rome’s ancient sites are interspersed with some great shopping areas, such as the Via Condotti near the Spanish Steps. The Trevi Fountain is just off the main street, the Via del Corso, which leads on to the Victor Emmanuelle II Monument and the entrance to Roman Forum – one thing the Romans really knew how to do was lay out a convenient city street plan.
When out visiting attractions and going on excursions it’s easy to be distracted by the culture and not focus on your immediate surroundings. This is the time when accidents such as slips and trips can occur.
Peter Anderson – I love to blog about different types of holidays abroad.