Discover ancient architecture, Unesco World Heritage Sites and stunning scenery with this selection of tours for 2020
Friday, 31st January 2020, 1:02 am
Mexico, Puebla, the Church of the Great Pyramid of Cholula (Photo: Leah Whitfield)
Art and Architecture of Puglia
This group trip introduces you to the architectural and artistic heritage of Puglia. Led by an art specialist, it takes in mosaics, frescos, art galleries and Byzantine churches. You’ll also visit Alberobello, a photogenic spot with 1,500 round stone “trulli” dwellings, and Lecce, with its extravagant baroque buildings and remains of a 20,000-seat Roman amphitheatre. One week from £1,995pp with flights, departs Sept, aceculturaltours.co.uk.
Treks and trains through Roman Gaul
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A new self-guided trip takes you by train through southern France, discovering ancient Gaul, which was ruled by the Romans for more than 500 years. Walk part of the Via Domitia, built to link Italy and Hispania; visit Nimes and its striking Pont du Gard aqueduct; and explore the Unesco World Heritage Site of Arles. This autumn, you will also be able to see the Roman Museum of Narbonne: it’s due to open in September. Six nights from £925pp excluding travel to France, inntravel.co.uk.
Archaeology in Turkey
Combine a cruise on a traditional gulet sail boat with guided walks to some of the most striking sights in southern Turkey. There are opportunities to hike sections of the ancient Lycian Way and explore archaeological sites such as 2,500-year-old city Sidyma. The trip also takes in the haunting ghost town of Kayaköy – abandoned in 1923 by its Orthodox inhabitants during the Turkish/Greek population exchange. Eight days from £2,465 pp excluding flights, departs May and Sept, petersommer.com.
Culture and heritage in Ethiopia
Gain a fascinating insight into the rich cultural heritage of a land once ruled by the Queen of Sheba. Join a private, escorted tour that includes visits to sites such as Melka Kunture in the Awash Valley, where two-million-year-old fossils and ancient stone tools have been found. You’ll also visit tribes of the Omo Valley, such as the Dorze in Arba Minch and the Hamer in Turmi. One week from £2,095pp excluding flights, 2by2holidays.co.uk.
Saga still has some availability on its trip to the Oberammergau Passion Play this summer, which also includes highlights of Bavaria and the Tyrol such as the fairy tale Neuschwanstein Castle. Performed every 10 years, the Passion Play was first enacted in 1634, when villagers gave thanks for being spared from the plague. Covering Christ’s last days from his entry into Jerusalem, it is one of the great cultural events of Europe and involves nearly half of the village. One week from £1,499pp including flights, departs June and Sept, travel.saga.co.uk.
Take a cycling tour of the Scottish Borders (Photo: Colin White)
Cycling the Scottish Borders
The Scottish Borders are often overlooked, as visitors head straight for the Highlands, but the region is a beguiling mix of stunning scenery and rich history. An escorted cycling tour takes you to sights such as Traquair House, the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, and Rosslyn Chapel – long thought to have associations with the Holy Grail and the Knights Templar. Six nights from £1,897pp, departs May and Aug, wildernessscotland.com.
Flanders and the Flemish Masters
Led by Paula Nuttall, an expert on 15th-century Flemish painting, this trip to Flanders illuminates the art and world of the Flemish masters. As well as exploring Bruges, with its Gothic Belfry, it visits Ghent to see the major new exhibition Van Eyck: an Optical Revolution, which includes almost half of his extant oil paintings. Five days for £1,175 including travel, departs Mar, ciceroni.co.uk.
Armenia can feel more remote than many more distant destinations. An escorted tour introduces you to its history through sights such as the ruins of the 7th-century cathedral of Zvartnots, Khor Virap monastery and the monastery at Geghard, partly carved from a mountain. There is also a pagan temple and memories of a tragic period in Armenian history – the museum to the genocide of 1915 in the capital Yerevan. Ten days from £1,175 without flights, departs Apr, May, Oct, undiscovered-destinations.com.
Khor Virap on a tour of ancient Armenia (Photo: Aled Evans)
First World War battlefields
Poignant reminders of the First World War embroider an escorted tour which takes you by train to Lille, and then on to locations such as Tyne Cot cemetery, where more than 11,900 Commonwealth servicemen are buried, and the German cemetery Langemark, which includes a mass grave of nearly 25,000 troops. You’ll also see the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres: it bears the names of 54,000 soldiers who have no known grave. Five days from £625pp including travel, departs Apr, Jun and Sept, greatrail.com.
Ireland’s troubled history
From Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol, where rebels were executed in 1916, through “Bandit Country” and on to the Bogside with its memories of Bloody Sunday, this tour takes in the complex histories of the Troubles. It is led by Patrick Mercer, a former army officer and historian. The tour ends in Belfast, where guests stay at the Europa Hotel – home to the press corps during the Troubles. Six days for £1,860pp excluding flights, departs July, martinrandall.com.
Berlin and the Cold War
There are compelling reminders of the Cold War in this tour of Berlin led by former army officer Nigel Dunkley, who once worked behind the Iron Curtain, gathering intelligence for the British. As well as taking in the grim Stasi prison museum, you’ll also visit Checkpoint Charlie, see the locations of escape tunnels, discover places where spy swaps took place and visit the site of a former listening station. Six days for £1,945pp including flights, departs Aug, theculturalexperience.com.
Culture and history in Mexico
G Adventures partners with National Geographic for a number of its tours; a new offering this year is a cultural tour of Mexico. The itinerary takes in Mexico City’s Aztec-era Zocalo square and Xochimilco canals, the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan, the Spanish colonial architecture and Talavera pottery of Puebla, artisan crafts and cookery in Oaxaca, the Zapotec burial ground of Mitla and a mezcal tour. Nine days from £1,599pp excluding flights, gadventures.co.uk.
The mummy of Ötzi the iceman, discovered in the Italian Schnal Valley (Photo: Andrea Solero/AFP/Getty)
Italy and the Ice Man
The Alpine area of Valle Camonica in Northern Italy contains one of the largest collections of prehistoric rock art in the world. A guided tour introduces you to these fascinating works, which depict all aspects of daily life, from hunting to initiation rites. It also includes a visit to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, where you can see the preserved body of the ice man Ötzi, whose 5000-year-old remains were discovered by walkers in 1991. Five nights for £1,995pp, departs May, andantetravels.co.uk.
Walk the Balkans
Balkan history is notoriously complex, but the scenery is stunning. Explore both on a guided trip, which focuses on Bosnia Herzegovina and includes seven country walks. The trip takes in sights such as the walls of an ancient fort built by Illyrian tribe; the Radimlja necropolis with its 15th-century carved tombstones; and the Stari Most, the old bridge at Mostar which was destroyed in the conflict of 1993 and later rebuilt. Twelve days from £2,890pp excluding flights, departs Sept, kudutravel.com.
Adventure on the Nile
With Tutankhamun’s treasures drawing huge crowds as they make their final appearance in London, the Pharaohs are casting their spell on Britain once more. A Nile cruise, pitched at solo travellers, visits some of ancient Egypt’s most celebrated sights, from the Temple of Luxor to the Valley of the Kings. Also included is a visit to Kom Ombo, an unusual double temple dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and the falcon god Haroeris. One week for £1,815pp including flights, departs Apr, solosholidays.co.uk.