Nancy B. Varghese
Did you know that each point of the star on the Vietnam flag represents the five different sections of the population in the country? How about the fact that each individual stair of the sites in Machu Picchu was carved out of stones that were pushed to the summit and positioned manually by a hundred men on the steep slopes of the mountain? If these wonderful tidbits get you all excited and itching to know more about our world’s fascinating past, then these are the top destinations across the globe that you have to check off your bucket list as an avid history buff!
While the origin and the meaning of the name has been debated on for a while - some sources citing it as ‘conqueror’, some ‘the victorious, and others ‘land of the sun - the beauty and grandeur of the place hasn’t ever been up for discussion as the vote is unanimous - the City Of A Thousand Minarets is absolutely breathtaking!
Why you should go: The region has been a settlement for various civilizations over the centuries, including Greeks, Arabs, Romans, and Babylonians, and if you’re a fan of places that have risen from the face of a tragic historical past, Egypt definitely tops the list.
Whether it’s famed history with the shattering plague called the Black Death, or the scandalous life and times of Egypt’s beloved queen Cleopatra - reasons for visiting the country are plenty, and laced with just the right amount of mystery and fact.
Places to explore: The Hanging Church - one of the oldest churches of the city built in the 3rd or 4th century AD; Al Azhar Mosque - also the world’s second oldest university for the study of Islamic law; Cairo Opera House - inaugurated 17 years after the Royal Opera House was destroyed by fire; Khan Al-Khalili - one of the largest local souks in the world, the marketplace is your ultimate guide to all things authentically Egyptian that can be yours at a steep price, unless you learn to bargain like a pro!
How to get there: Thankfully, Cairo is easily accessible from international airports in all major cities in India including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai.
Where to stay: Novotel Cairo Airport for Rs 2,959 per night
Did you know that according to the Quechua Indian language, Machu Picchu means ‘Old Peak’ or ‘Old Mountain’? Sitting at approximately 7,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains, the region contains more than 100 different flights of stairs - the individual ones carved out of a single slab of stone! How’s that for a ‘wow’ factor?
Why you should go: Some of the stones used to build the beautiful city weighed more than 50 tons, and yet none of them were transported using any kind of wheels or machinery to the top of the mountain. So, how did they get up there? Hundreds of men pushed the heavy rocks up the steep mountainside. And you thought your daily commute to work was tough.
Places to explore: Phuyupatamarca - Also called the Town Above The Clouds is a restored ruin which has a gorgeous series of ceremonial baths and is known for the perfect spot to catch the sunset; Intihuatana - loosely meaning ‘Hitching Post of the Sun’, refers to a carved rock pillar on a hill that was used by astronomers back then to predict the summer and winter solstice using the angles of the pillar; Royal Tomb - a natural rock cave, almost hidden to the naked eye, that was carved by the stonemasons of Inca, the purpose of which is questionable as no mummies were actually found there.
How to get there: Stop-over flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad are available to Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco from where you can take a four-hour train journey from Poroy station or take a two-hour journey from the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo station) to Machu Picchu.
Where to stay: Don Andre for Rs 1,931 per night
As done-to-death it is to mention Rome wasn’t built in a day, it still gives me goosebumps when I envision the centuries of hard work that men have carved into the stones of the grand fortresses, fountains, and palaces that deck up Rome in all its glory. Not to mention how romantic Shakespeare made the city to be, in all his tales of Caesar and his loyal subjects.
Why you should go: For all the stories it holds! Fun fact: legend has it that Romulus, who founded Rome in 753 BC, had a twin brother called Remus, and were both abandoned in a place that was later called Rome. A she-wolf found them and raised them, but when they were both old enough, Remulus fought and killed Remus to become the first ruler of the city! Nobody knows if this legend is true to its word, but as history buffs, it certainly piques your interest, doesn’t it?
Places to explore: The Palatine Hill - the aristocrats and emperors of ancient Rome lived here and The Domus Flavia and Domus Augustana were the official residences of the emperors for over 300 years; Pantheon - the temple of Rome’s pagan gods is Rome’s best-preserved building which is now surrounded by a lively piazza where you can grab a drink; Baths of Diocletian - once considered the largest public baths of ancient Rome, you can now see the remains as a part of the National Roman Museum.
How to get there: There are a number of non-stop flights to Rome that you can take from Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad.
Where to stay: Hotel Regent for Rs 3,394 per night
Why you should go: To explore the parts of history that textbooks don’t tell you! Did you know that each of the five points of the star featured in the Vietnam flag represents farmers, workers, intellectuals, youth, and soldiers, with the red backdrop as a tribute to the bloodshed that occurred during the war? Or that the culture is an amalgamation of Japanese, Chinese, American, and French colonial influences? So much to learn about a country than just the history of its war!
P.S: One rupee is the equivalent to 352 Vietnamese Dong; do you need another reason to leave ASAP?
Places to explore: Notre Dame Cathedral - named after the Virgin Mary, the beautiful interiors walls of the cathedral are inlaid with devotional tablets, and you can attend the weekly mass that takes place at 9:30 am every Sunday; Jade Emperor Pagoda - built in honour of the Taoist god Ngoc Hoang a.k.a King of Heaven or Jade Emperor, the pagoda has stunning wood carved interiors and statues depicting characters from lores of Buddhism and Taoism; War Remnants Museum - the most popular attraction for tourists, the disturbing photographs on display that show the brutality of US military action is hard to stomach, but worth a visit for all history lovers.
How to get there: Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport is accessible from all major Indian cities of India, and all you have to do is book your flights immediately!
Where to stay: Sunland Hotel for Rs Rs 1,105 per night
Why you should go: With the second largest number of museums in the world after London and its metro system being the largest ever built in Latin America with lines along 226 km, Mexico City holds a pretty impressive number of records known to civilizations. Home to two World Cups, and eight archeological zones, you gotta visit the place to witness the culture and the tradition of the eras gone by, if nothing else!
Places to explore: Templo Mayor - serving as a religious centre for the Aztecs, the temple was destroyed and built over, and is now an active archeological site where over 7,000 artifacts were discovered and places in adjoining museum houses; National Museum of Anthropology - the house that treasures iconic symbols of the past and Aztec lore such as that statue of Xochipilli - the Aztec god of art, games, beauty, dance, and maize - and the legendary Aztec Calendar Stone, the place is vast enough to spend an entire day looking through the exhibits and exploring Mexico’s rich cultural past; Zocalo (Plaza de la Constitucion) - one of the popular tourist squares in Mexico City, it hosts popular religious events during Holy Week and for Corpus Christi, and also consists of some of the most important buildings of the city including the National palace, the National Cathedral, and several federal buildings.
How to get there: Land in Mexico City International Airport from an international flight from any major city in India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bengaluru
Where to stay: Hotel Siesta del Sur for Rs 2,016 per night
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