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Holiday ideas for history buffs

Choose any of the regions below, and not only will you discover alluring landscapes and timeless villages, but a rich and enthralling history too. For further suggestions, browse our castles page – many of the fortresses and châteaux listed there have many stories to tell.

Legendary tales

  • The superb acoustics of the 4th century BC theatre in Epidavros; the ancient city of Olympia, whose centrepiece is the Temple of Zeus, complete with sculpted panels depicting the labours of Hercules; the cave that is one of the mythological entrances to Hades; the forbidding Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae; the Byzantine town of Mystras… these are just a few highlights of a holiday in the Peloponnese, an enticing region where many civilisations left their mark. Even on the walks, the sense of history is palpable – you follow ancient paved kalderímia, some of them 3,000 years old!
  • Our walking holiday in western Crete may be among the more demanding routes in our selection, but you will still have plenty of opportunity to take in the island’s rich history. Ancient cities, tales of marauding pirates, Venetian fortresses and frescoed churches, along with reminders of the Cretan-Turko wars (1822-1908) and the more recent German occupation during WWII, add an intriguing extra dimension to the walks through rugged mountains, spectacular gorges and along the coast.
  • Linking Seville, Córdoba and Granada, our A Trail of Three Cities train journey is essentially a discovery of the legacy of the Moors, who ruled for almost 800 years until well into the 15th century. The monuments they built – the Giralda and Alcázar in Seville, the great colonnaded Mezquita in Córdoba, and Granada’s iconic Alhambra – testify to their great craftsmanship; the intricacy of the tiles and stucco decoration is amazing. The detailed notes which we provide to guide you through the streets bring each city’s history alive for you, from the expulsion of the Jews to Seville’s conquistador links.
  • The joy of a holiday in Puglia, Italy’s ‘heel’, comes in wandering through the distinctly southern towns and the surrounding sea of olive groves, stumbling across treasures that tend not to feature in guide books. Menhirs, dolmens and even the well-preserved remains of a Palaeolithic woman in labour, testify to the fact that the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Since then, the Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Normans and Aragonese have all left their mark. Not to be missed is Lecce, whose Roman amphitheatre is juxtaposed with its Baroque architecture.
  • Cyprus has one of the longest recorded histories in the world, and its archaeological sites vie for your attention with the panoramic paths across the pine-clad mountain slopes in the heart of the island and the enchanting Akamas Peninsula in the north-west corner. The two most important sites are Kourion, where mosaics abound, and Nea Pafos, a huge complex containing monuments from prehistoric to medieval times, but there are plenty of other sites too, including the ‘tombs of the kings’, complete with Doric columns, and places connected to the cult of Aphrodite.
  • The holidays above aren’t the only ones with a strong emphasis on history. Other holidays which you might like to consider include: Sicily which was ruled in past centuries by Elymians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans; Lake Constance, at the heart of Europe, where you can visit medieval towns and museums devoted to Bronze Age settlers and Zeppelin airships; and the Harz Mountains, which are steeped in folklore and which are dotted with reminders of the post-war era.
  • Often closely related to a region’s history are its architectural treasures. If you’re looking for other holiday ideas in areas with a rich architectural heritage, we recommend Burgundy, where the vineyards hide Renaissance châteaux, an ancient pharmacy and the intricately tiled hospice in historic Beaune; the Pont du Gard, testimony to the Romans’ engineering prowess; the Aracena Sierra in Andalucia, where seemingly every village, however small, boasts an architectural gem; and On the Waterfront, visiting Lisbon, Coimbra and Porto.

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