Extreme Travel | Adventure Sports

Secret sites for smarter tourists

Cultural tourism company reveals four brilliant alternative sites to let you avoid the crowds
The tomb at Amarna

Seasoned travelers tend to avoid the world’s most famous cultural sites like Giza and Machu Picchu, so tour experts The Traveller have listed alternative destinations to let you avoid the masses.

Often, there’s a much less crowded, comparable location elsewhere.  The trick is knowing where they are, and visiting before the secret’s out. The seriously-connected lecturers working with The Traveller can direct you to these unappreciated gems – and they have been persuaded to part with their secrets.

Swap Giza for Amarna, Egypt

We’ve all heard of Giza’s Pyramids, and millions of visitors to Egypt see them every year. But very few travellers carry on to Middle Egypt, and the historical gold-mine that is Amarna. It was here that Tutankhamun’s father, Akhenaten, built the royal city of Akhetaten, only to abandon his new capital shortly after.  Due to the total exodus which followed, Akhetaten is the only ancient Egyptian city preserved in great original detail, including major, cliff-cut tombs and the royal tomb.

Swap Petra for Madain Saleh in Saudi Arabia

The Nabateans’ capital of Petra is a global super-site, but their second city, Madain Saleh in Saudi Arabia, receives only a trickling flow of visitors.  This despite their southernmost city boasting 131 monumental, rock-cut sandstone tombs with elaborate façades and UNESCO protection. You can have the place more or less to yourself, right up to when the setting sun turns the surrounding sands pink.

Swap Rome’s Pantheon for Baalbek’s Temple of the Sun, Lebanon

Rome’s Pantheon’s amazing but, strictly speaking, it has been reconstructed, like a lot of Roman ruins. One exception to that rule is Baalbek in Lebanon.  Very well preserved and just as vast, these vast ruins are famous for massive, exquisitely detailed Roman temple ruins. Foremost among these is the one sacred to Jupiter, known as the Temple of the Sun and credited as being the largest religious building in the whole Roman Empire.

Swap Machu Picchu for Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Machu Picchu’s unbeatable for scenery, but when it comes to Peruvian archaeological significance, it pales in comparison to Chavin de Huantar.  A little-known underground temple complex linking coast and jungle, it was a ceremonial centre of cults and carvings that served as a place for locals to come and perform worship rituals. Other northern Peru sites include Caral, the oldest city in South America, and the enormous fortress at Kuelap.  All of them pre-date Machu Picchu by over 2,000 years.

The Traveller is the UK’s leading specialist in cultural tours (group or bespoke), offering destinations from Saxony to Saudi Arabia via Easter Island and Wessex.  The Traveller’s lecturers are a stellar line-up of global ground-breakers, many of whom are, or were, curators at the British Museum, or at other museums and universities worldwide.