In Brief

Forgotten wonders of the world

Overlooked sites beyond the main tourist trail to explore post-pandemic

Japanese tourist Jesse Katayama recently experienced what most of us can only dream about – a Unesco World Heritage Site all to himself. He had bought a ticket to visit the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru in March, before Covid-19 struck, says BBC News. But the site was closed before he could use his ticket and owing to travel restrictions, Katayama was stranded in the country.

Macchu Pichu, Peru

871291618

© iStockphotos

Seven months later, however, Peru’s Culture Minister Alejandro Neyra acceded to a special request from Katayama that the ruins of Machu Picchu be reopened early for him - allowing the Japanese national to have a site that would normally be swarming with visitors all to himself. The ruins are expected to reopen to other visitors at reduced capacity next month. 

A marvel in Lebanon

“Anyone who has visited the Inca citadel – and has had to share it with hundreds of others, jostling for space on every photo – will appreciate that the 26-year-old has been granted a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity,” says Chris Leadbeater in The Daily Telegraph. But even after the coronavirus pandemic has passed, “you can repeat Katayama’s experience”.

© iStockphotos

As long as you are “prepared to put in the miles or venture towards the edge of the map”, there are plenty of forgotten cultural wonders that do not get anywhere near the attention of Machu Picchu. Take Baalbek (above and main image) in Lebanon, for example. Admittedly, it is a “tricky proposition for tourists”.

Owing to its proximity to neighbouring Syria, the town has slid on and off the UK Foreign Office’s safe-to-visit list. “This is a very considerable shame.” Baalbek is home to “what may well be the greatest set of Roman ruins anywhere outside Italy”. The Temple of Bacchus, built in the second century BC, when the city was known as Heliopolis, is a “marvel”.

Petra

1142801882

foto4all.com.ua

© iStockphotos

Even better-known sites in the region are likely to see fewer visitors, at least for a while, once it is safe to travel again (watch for updates on gov.uk). All the same, “the lost city of Petra” in Jordan, “where Indiana Jones searched for the Holy Grail”, should be on anyone’s bucket list, says Oliver Smith in The Times.

It is “more revealing when seen in the company of a real-life bona fide archaeologist”, though a guided tour (organised through coxandkings.co.uk – eight nights’ B&B from £2,645 per person, including flights) takes you through the “Rose City”.

“But instead of whips, fedoras and car chases, you get erudite historical insights on Roman temples, Byzantine mosaics and Crusader castles.”

The Eden of ancient woodland

There are forgotten spots closer to home that deserve a visit too. “Well-heeled ‘down-from-Londoners’ flock to honeypot Cotswold towns and villages such as Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water, attracted by their beauty and the prospect of mingling with celebrities at Soho Farmhouse,” says Marianna Hunt for Spectator Life.

But “the chalk escarpment known as the Chilterns, on the other hand, is far less glitzy and tends to draw a hardier set of dedicated walkers, cyclists and birdwatchers”. This area is “remarkably quiet… and you can easily wander along many of its prettiest high streets without spying a single tourist”.

Avebury, Wiltshire

182831557

oversnap

© iStockphotos

The region offers plenty of hiking trails through open fields, wild flower meadows and ancient wooded valleys. “One of the best is the Ridgeway National Trail, said to be Britain’s oldest road.” It starts at the World Heritage Site of Avebury (“Stonehenge’s lesser-known sister”) and runs for 87 miles.

Another option, a few miles from “the prehistoric wonders of Avebury and Silbury Hill”, is the “Eden of ancient woodland”, says James Canton in The Guardian. Here “in the wilds of Savernake Forest”, near Marlborough, in Wiltshire, it is possible to get “gloriously lost”. Just be sure to check for local coronavirus restrictions before heading out.

Eshaness, Shetland

460192361

MaxMichelMann

© iStockphotos

Scotland’s hidden gems

Of course, “when it comes to natural wonders, Scotland has us spoiled”, says Susan Swarbrick in The Herald. At Eshaness on Shetland, “you can feel the raw power of nature pulsating from what has been described as one of the most high-energy coastlines in the world”.

The peninsula is formed from the remnants of a 400-million-year-old extinct volcano – the cliffs you see today reveal layers of lava and pyroclastic rock. Or there are the “emerald waters” of An Lochan Uaine in Glenmore Forest Park in the Cairngorms and the “mysterious” Fingal’s Cave on the uninhabited Hebridean island of Staffa, to name but a few of Scotland’s “lesser-visited gems”.

This article was originally published in MoneyWeek

 

Recommended

Sleep in style: new hotels and places to stay
Nomad London © Sydell Group
The wish list

Sleep in style: new hotels and places to stay

The Scarlet: a perfect tonic for tough times
The Scarlet hotel in Cornwall
The big trip

The Scarlet: a perfect tonic for tough times

Craufurdland Castle: a hidden treasure in rural Scotland
Craufurdland Castle
The big trip

Craufurdland Castle: a hidden treasure in rural Scotland

Luxury travel bucket list: dream holidays and destinations
Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi - The Private Island
The wish list

Luxury travel bucket list: dream holidays and destinations

Popular articles

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021
Line of Duty series six returns to BBC One in 2021
In Depth

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021

Quiz of The Week
Boris Johnson chairs a session of the UN Security Council
Quizzes and puzzles

Quiz of The Week

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 1 March 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 1 March 2021