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History-themed holidays

History    

Legendary tales
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.

 

Prehistory in the Dordogne’s Vézère Valley
Grand taureau cave painting copyright Semitour Perigord
Known as the ‘Valley of Man’, the Vézère Valley boasts Europe’s greatest concentration of prehistoric sites – you can visit caves adorned with engravings and paintings of mammoths and bison, as well as the National Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies, home to tools and sculptures. But it’s not all about the Palaeolithic. During a holiday at Les Collines Rouges you can also visit castles and fortified villages that were caught up in the Hundred Years War. There is even an underground ‘cave town’, and museums devoted to medieval siege warfare and 19th-century rural life.
Ancient and classical ruins in the Peloponnese
Mystras
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!
Lycia, the world’s first democratic federation
Lycia
Follow the long-distance Lycian Way and you will discover not only Turkey’s dramatic south-west coast, but also captivating archaeological sites, not to mention a remarkable ‘landscape of legend’, where the eternal flames of the mythical chimaera emerge from the ground. Ruined sarcophagi, Crusader castles and Greek temples dot the route in between the extensive ruins of ancient cities, of which the jewel in the crown is Simena, parts of which have long since sunk below the sea. A trip in a glass-bottomed boat to view the submerged city is a fantastic end to a fascinating holiday.
Crete’s history in a nutshell
Chania
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.
A trail of three cities
Alhambra, Granada
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.
Forgotten treasures of Puglia
Ostuni
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, an island with a long history
Kykkoy Abbey
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.
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Tharros, Sardinia
Sicily, which was ruled in past centuries by Elymians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans; Sardinia, which is dotted with Phoenician ruins, and nuraghi dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages; and Gascony, whose history, and hence its towns and villages, has been shaped by war and religion.
For architectural treasures, we recommend…
Beaune, Burgundy
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; Umbria, where Romanesque chapels abound; the Aracena Sierra in Andalucia, where seemingly every village, however small, boasts an architectural gem; On the Waterfront, visiting Lisbon, Coimbra and Porto; and our Italian rail journeys.