Our diverse and wonderful world is certainly not short on history, heritage and culture rich sites, cities and traditions. With over 1000 Unesco World Heritage Sites alone, this can be a good place to start when it comes to global history treasure hunting. The famous icons of Machu Picchu in Peru, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Taj Mahal in India, Chichén Itzá in Mexico and Petra in Jordan, quite rightly have very well trodden paths, and should not be dismissed for their tourist-pulling trade, but visited for their sheer wonder and historic significance.
In fact, Machu Picchu, along with Mont Saint-Michel in France and the towns of Omori in Japan and Lijiang in China, are the latest World Heritage destinations to find themselves on the endangered list, so it is certainly worth making these iconic trips before it is too late. Other lesser known places and historic destinations often overlooked in the past, are also worth exploring, with many hidden historic gems found off the beaten track...
For unspoilt encounters: Myanmar, Asia
As the political situation continues to improve in Myanmar (formerly Burma), this long unexplored destination has now emerged from military rule and is back on the global radar. This truly unspoilt country has much to discover, from the famous temples of Bagan, Inle Lake, the former capital of Yangon and the ancient walled city of Mandalay, to remote jungles, isolated Indonesian tribes and the stunning Mergui Archipelago.
For sacred city seekers: Sri Lanka
Sigiriya, Sri Lanka © Claire Rowland/FLICKR
Sri Lanka is not just a surfer’s paradise of palm fringed beaches, but also a cultural hotspot bursting with ancient temples, palaces and cities. Home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ancient and sacred cities of Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Sigiriya with its stunning rock fortress and ruined palace, Kandy and its magnificent temples and the old town of Galle, which for comfort purveyors, is also home to a new luxury hotel Tri Lanka, Sri Lanka is steeped in historic highs.
For colonial enthusiasts: Quito, Ecuador
Quito Ecuador © Jaime Golombek/FLICKR
Wander along the cobbled streets of Ecuador’s capital Quito’s Old Town (another Unesco World Heritage site) and stumble across the remnants of the country’s colonial times, including magnificent gilded churches, spectacular walkways and picturesque plazas.
For ancient relics: Angkor, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia © Ariel Atega/FLICKR
The ancient city of Angkor in Cambodia and its tourist-magnate temple of Angkor Wat, was once the centre of the South East Asian ruling Khmer empire, but was later abandoned and only rediscovered in the 1860s. This vast site, including the fortified city of Angkor Thom and the maze Preah Kan, can still be crowd-free if you are willing to explore of the well-trodden tourist trail.
For lost city wanderers: Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Chichen Itza © Mr. Theklan/FLICKR
Ceremonial temples and palaces, stepped pyramids, including the iconic El Castillo pyramid, observatories and columned arcades make up the myriad of stone structures of Chichén Itzá in Mexico - one of the largest cities of Mayan civilisation hidden in the jungles of the Yucatán Peninsula.
For heritage scholars: Salamanca, Spain
Salamanca Spain © Brianna Laugher/FLICKR
Salamanca is to Spain what Oxford is to the UK, so as you can imagine plazas, cloisters, churches, palaces and its two stunning cathedrals make up the many buildings that define this historic city, the capital of Spain’s northern Castile and León region.
For adventure explorers: Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Micchu © Bruce Tuten/FLICKR
If you can stomach the four-day hike along the Inca Trail on the Eastern edge of the Andes Mountains, the hidden ancient ruins of Machu Picchu built in 1462, offer some of the world’s finest archaeological and architectural relics of the Incan Empire.
For architectural pioneers: Petra, Jordan
Petra Jordan © Gary Bembridge/FLICKR
The vast and unique city of Petra in Jordan, carved into dusky pink rock by the Nabataean tribe of Arabs who settled in this desert landscape more than 2000 years ago, still remains a truly awe-inspiring feat of architecture. Don your walking shoes, because as well as the highly visited sites including the treasury, monastery and theatre, there are many other less-frequented sites, which are equally as fascinating to explore.