If lost cities and buried ruins get your pulse racing, you owe yourself a date with history. So, head for some famous sites that have caught the worlds imagination with their excavations and discoveries of what lies beneath. Whether you trudge up a mountain to an Inca site or walk the streets of a town preserved by volcanic ash, it will be the adventure of a lifetime. Some package tours are bunging in historic sites as part of extensive itineraries, so just take your pick.
Buried under layers of ash for over a millennia-and-a-half, the Roman town of Pompeii was lost to the world when Mt Vesuvius — which looms over it — erupted in AD 79. Pompeii was rediscovered by accident in 1599, but it was only in the 18th century that excavations began. These revealed paintings and buildings preserved intact as well as ash moulds containing the remains of Pompeiians killed when the volcano erupted.
The 6-night, 7-day Ela Italy package by SOTC takes you to Rome, Naples, Capri, Pompeii and Venice. Youll visit Pompeii on the third day. The Temple of Apollo, Villa dei Misteri, Museo Gracco di Arte Contemporanea e Fotografia and Casa del Fauno are highlights of the visit alongside a trip to Mt Vesuvius. Tagged at about Rs 71,455 per person on twin-sharing basis, the package includes 4-star accommodation with breakfast, insurance and all transfers. Valid till September 31. One-way airfare from Calcutta to Rome starts from about Rs 32,822. Go to www.sotc.in.
Flanking the tomb-sanctuary of Antiochus I of Commagene on the summit of Mt Nemrut in south-east Turkey, are colossal headless statues of Iranian, Greek and Armenian gods, lions, eagles and the monarch himself. The heads themselves, believed to have been damaged as a result of iconoclasm, lie scattered about the site that dates back to the Hellenistic period.
A 13-night/14-day package by Nemrut Tours, priced at about Rs 1.45 lakh per person on a double occupancy basis, takes you to Istanbul, Cappadocia, Nemrut, Antalya, Pamukkale, Ephesus, Pergamon and Troy. On day six of the tour, you get to watch the sun rise behind the gigantic ruins and explore the statues. Valid till November 1, the package includes 4-star accommodation, meals as per itinerary, surface transfers by bus, an air ticket from Istanbul to Kayseri and museum fees. One-way airfare from Calcutta to Istanbul starts from about Rs 22,649. Go to www.nemruttours.com.
The spectacular pre-Columbian Inca site of Machu Picchu in Peru is on the must-visit list of every history buff. Built in the 15th century at 2,430mm above sea level in the Peruvian Andes, the place was abandoned during the Spanish Conquest and remained unknown, except locally. It was discovered by Yale scholar Hiram Bingham in 1911.
The Train to Machu Picchu tour by Cox & Kings is priced at about Rs 1.54 lakh and onwards per person for eight days till August 31. Itll take you to the ruins, Lima, Cuzco and Sacred Valley. You take the train to Machu Picchu on the fourth day and tour the Inca ruins before retiring for the night. You get the next morning as well to explore the site (or opt for an excursion at an extra cost) before returning to Cuzco. The package includes 5-star accommodation on double occupancy basis, flight and train transfers, meals and sightseeing as per itinerary. Go to www.coxandkings.com.
At the western edge of Chinas Taklamakan desert lies Damoko Village where a miniature 5th century Buddhist temple has been excavated. The Damoko Temple, with its beautifully preserved murals, was opened for public viewing in 2008. The village boasts of a small site museum.
Top China Travels Urumqi-Turpan-Korla-Kuqa-Aksu-Kashgar-Hotan-Urumqi tour spans 12 days. Visit Damoko on the penultimate day. The package, priced from Rs 83,943 per person, includes accommodation on double occupancy basis, airfare from Hotan to Urumqui, bus transfers, meals as per itinerary and entrance fees. The tour includes stops at the Jiaohe and Subashi ruins. One-way airfare from Calcutta to Urumqi starts at about Rs 15,316. Go to www.topchinatravel.com.