The Pyramids of Giza, The Colosseum and Machu Picchu are all great, but, they are often overcrowded, overpriced and just a little bit to touristy for some travellers. Here are 10 alternatives to popular tourist destinations that you should definately check out. These spots will give you the same experience of visiting the ‘Big Boys’ of the tourism world but without the crowds and overpriced package tours.
1. Instead of Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
Visit Pyramids of Meroe, Sudan
The Pyramids of Giza have a good claim to be the world’s oldest tourist sight ever since Greek historian Herodotus wrote about them in the 5th century BC. They are unfortunately dealing with very rapid urban sprawl that has seen houses and fast-food chains expand to the very edge of the ancient site, where an unbroken line of tour busses greet your line of sight.
The Pyramids of Meroe in Sudan are a lot newer in their construction, which ranged from 260BC to 350AD, and not as grand in size but still equally as beautiful. It is a collection of steep-sided, chocolate-coloured marvels. Even though this may be Sudan’s most iconic site you are guaranteed to have the tombs all to yourselves as well as the peacefulness of the Sahara Dessert.
2. Instead of Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Visit Agrigento and Selinunte, Sicily, Italy
The Acropolis towers 150m above sea level. Its main buildings, including the Parthenon (a temple to the goddess Athena) were built in the 5th century BC when Athens was at the height of Its power. Although beautiful in design it is always crowded with tourists and what’s more the sculpted figures on the Erechtheum (a temple just north of the Acropolis) are copies of the real thing.
Although the Acropolis gets most of the attention, more than 100 years before it was built the cities of Sicily built many marvellous temples and structures, which can still be seen in Agrigento’s Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) and at Selinunte. The temples of Agrigento are surrounded by picturesque Arcadian fields of olive and almond trees on the one side and the Mediterranean coastline on the other and the temples are a spectacular site at night when they are lit up. The structures In Selinunte may not be as well preserved as those of Agrigento but they situated in a equally picturesque landscape surrounding by wild flowers and a dazzling blue sea.
3. Instead of The Colosseum, Italy
Visit El Djem, Tunisa
Tourists have been enthusing about the Colosseum since the 18th century Grand Tour of Europe, which was popularized by the English elite. It however is only a partial ruin and it is always crowded with long lines due the fact that it is Italy’s most visited sights.
The amphitheatre in El Djem dominates the town, visible for miles from the surrounding desert . It is the largest amphitheatre outside of Italy and was probably the last to be built ,in the 3rd century AD. It is wonderfully preserved and it clearly shows how the animals, gladiators and actors entered the arena, through passages that come from the outside into the underground galleries.
4. Instead of Machu Picchu, Peru
Visit Isla del Sol, Bolivia
Anyone interested in the ancient people of the Incas will want to visit the beautiful ruins of Machu Picchu . It has unfortunately become a bit of a money making scheme and it ain’t cheap. The entrance fee is very pricey not to mention transportation to and from the site. Add the price of food and water and you have spent quite a small fortune before you even enter the site. In addition there is also only a certain amount of people allowed in a day.
Contrary to popular belief the origins of the Inca civilisation is not located at Machu Picchu but a few miles southeast on an island in the middle of the stunning Lake Titicaca. The lake is so clear it is said the original inhabitants believed that they could see the entrance to another world at the bottom. The tiny island itself is littered with remnants of the Inca and is covered in nearly 200 ruins most in pristine condition.
5. Instead of Angkor, Cambodia
Visit Borobudur, Java
Angkor boasts some of the most jaw-dropping Buddhist monuments in Southeast Asia and is situated in wild jungles and glass-like paddy fields. Nowadays it is hard to appreciate the majestic architecture without escaping the large crowds.
Equally spectacular, but far less touristy, Borobudur in Indonesia, will fill you with wonder. This Buddhist monument was built to represent the cosmos and as you climb the structure you pass through the different realms of existence. . The sheer scale of this structure often gives it the title of the largest stupa in the world and the biggest ancient monument in the southern hemisphere.
6. Instead of Chichen Itza, Mexico
Visit Tikal, Guatemala
Here again we come to more ancient pyramids of wonder, these ones situated in South America instead of Africa. Iconic Chichen Itza was crowned one of the New Seven Wonders of the world in 2007 and is a Mayan must see. It is however simply far to accessible and crowds are abundant.
The city of Tikal is a majestic complex of ancient buildings and pyramids. This was at one time the epicentre of Mayan civilisation around the 6th century AD during the regions late classic period. The most impressive of Tikal’s structures are its six huge step pyramids, some of which tower over 61m (200ft) above the humble tourist. Taking a visit here is like stepping into an ancient world long forgotten.
7. Instead of Basilica San Marco, Venice, Italy
Visit Haghia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The San Marco, is a awesome 11th-century basilica, designed as the final resting place of St Mark Evangelist, and is one of the world’s most lavishly decorated churches, but being one of Europe’s visited places, it is always swarming with curious tourists. So don’t come for peace and quiet.
For nearly a thousand years Haghia Sophia was thought to be the most glorious church in Christendom filled with numerous treasures and artefacts. The basilica served many different purposes throughout the ages under many empires. This majestic building which has withstood earthquakes and wars, is an enduring tribute to Byzantine art.
8. Instead of Uluru, Australia
Visit Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, U.S.A
Uluru stands out as an massive sandstone megalith in a surprisingly flat landscape. It towers 348m (1140ft) up and has a circumference of 10km (6miles). It is a true giant. Climbing Uluru is now discouraged though out of respect for the local people. They locals have a spiritual connection to the place and ask tourists to respect their culture and beliefs.
Devil’s Tower is an imposing structure that is one’s of nature’s finest structures. It is 264m (867ft) up and has a 1.6km (1 mile) circumference. It is also considered a sacred site for locals You can do the trail to the top which is comprised of ladders hung from pegs or if you are a little more adventurous you can rock climb up, although it is a very strenuous route. This mega structure is a true marvel of nature.
9. Instead of The Grand Canyon, Arizona, U.S.A
Visit Bryce Canyon, Utah, U.S.A
The beauty and scale of The Grand Canyon is unmatched at 446km (277 miles) long, up to 29km (18 miles) wide and 2km (1 mile) deep. Five million visitors flock to the canyon every year, but sadly almost all head to the same crowded, commercialized spot on its South Rim known as Grand Canyon Village. Crammed into the hectic look-out points and dwarfed by the colossal, silent chasm, they experience the canyon as a remote spectacle.
Looking upon the beautiful Bryce Canyon you will see a splendid display of colours, orange, yellow and red. Despite its name, Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon at all, but a succession of spectacular natural amphitheatres chiselled out of ice, water, wind erosion. Unlike the Grand Canyon, an hour long hike here can lead you into the very heart of this monolithic labyrinth. It is truly a sight to be hold.
10. Instead of Niagara Falls, U.S.A and Canada
Visit Iguacu Falls, Brazil and Argentina
Niagara Falls is one of North America’s most celebrated natural attraction. It is immensely touristy and developed. Not exactly the place to go to connect with nature. What’s more, the waterfall is nowhere near the size of the biggest in the world.
Niagara is impressive, but Iguacu is unforgettable. Widely considered to be the Planet’s finest set of waterfalls, Iguacu comprises a complex system of no less than 275 cascades, spanning a 3km (2 mile) stretch of the Iguacu river, on the border between Brazil and Argentina. What’s more Iguacu is immersed in natural beauty and wild jungles and is full of wildlife. To travel to Iguacu is a true adventure as opposed to a hour or two visit to Niagara.