Some of the Wonders of the world and the most staggering historical sites – have recently been made accessible thanks to tour operators, hoteliers or infrastructure developments. In the coming years, these places will find their way onto global travellers’ travel lists – places that have long existed as local secrets.
The Lost City of Colombia
This 1000-year-old ruin in the Colombian Sierra Nevada is 650 years older than Machu Picchu and has perhaps with even more mysterious appeal. Built by the Tayrona people atop a mountain pass that’s dotted with palm trees, it was believed to have claimed as many as 10,000 residents in its heyday – but the surrounding jungle swallowed it up until the early 1970s, after a group of bird hunters turned tomb-raiders dug into the earth and found heaps of golden artefacts. At least that’s how the locals tell the story. Adventurous hikers can traverse a five-day equivalent to the Inca Trail to arrive at the dramatic terraces of La Ciudad Perdida (literally, the Lost City). But now, luxury Colombia tour outfit Galavanta choppers guests in and out from their namesake lodge in the nearby mountains. They will also arrange cultural exchange experiences with the indigenous Kogui communities, which are said to have descended from the monuments’ creators.
The Remains of a Royal Empire in India
It wasn’t that long ago when visiting the 14th-century ruins of the Vijyanagar Empire in Hampi, India, meant taking an overnight train from Bangalore and sleeping in a three-star inn. The lost city is situated in central Karnataka, placing it almost midway between that southern Indian tech hub and the beach town of Goa. In the past two years, a handful of independently owned, small-scale resorts have opened, crowned by the recent arrival of Kamlapura Palace. This five-star hotel is the area’s first, with 46 rooms that offer a modern-day re-imagining of the area’s historic remains. This will definitely attract high-end travellers.
As for the monuments themselves, expect 265 square kilometres of terrain to explore, speckled with mysterious-looking boulders. The Hindu temple of Virupaksha, dedicated to Shiva, is said to be one of the oldest structures in the empire (and possible in the country), dating to the 7th century, while exquisitely preserved sites such as the Sule Bazaar, the Queen’s Bath and the elephant stables offer a remarkable glimpse into old Indian life.
The Onetime Mayan Capital in Guatemala
El Mirador is five times the size of Tikal, the ruins which bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Guatemala each year. But given that the ruins are still being unearthed by a team of archaeologists, it’s hard to know exactly how large and how important they really are. For now, the answer to both is “very”- the head scientist on site has said that unearthing it has been like “finding Pompeii.” After all, this is believed to be a one-time capital of the Mayas.
Getting there has been very dangerous, a five-day trek. A travel company, Big Five Tours & Expeditions are sidestepping that by taking travellers to the region by helicopter. The chopper lands in a tiny village nearby, where guests can engage with locals who have rarely encountered foreigners; then they saddle up atop donkeys for a three-hour trip through a still-active dig site. It is said that it will take another 10 years before they have the place fully cleaned up, but seeing a place like this totally untouched is something incredible.
Sprawling Roman Mansions in Portugal
They were created in the 2nd century BCE, renovated under the reign of Emperor Augustus, and then buried under hundreds of years of debris – but now, 100 years after their rediscovery, the Roman ruins of Conimbriga are ready for the 21st-century spotlight. With tourism to Portugal hitting an all-time high, overlooked sites such as Conimbriga are gaining awareness – along with places to stay nearby.
The ancient city of Conimbriga is the largest Roman settlement in Portugal and is well worth visiting. It is classified as a National Monument. Like many archaeological sites, Conimbriga was built in layers. Some of the earliest layers date back to the first Iron Age in the 9th Century B.C. The Romans arrived in the 2nd Century A.D., conquering the Celtic inhabitants and establishing a city that grew, flourished, and then fell victim to barbarian invasions until Conimbriga’s residents fled to nearby Coimbra in 468.
Pyramids on Steroids in Sudan
Sudan has twice as many pyramids as Egypt and yet many people couldn’t point to the vast nation on a world map which is a short ride down the Nile from Luxor and Aswan. Tourism infrastructure here is still in its infancy because of a prolonged civil conflict that led South Sudan to split off in 2011, but it’s become an object of fascination practically overnight for luxury outfits such as the Explorations Company.
More than 200km from the Sudanese capital Khartoum, the remains of an ancient city rise from the arid and inhospitable terrain like a science-fiction film set. Nestled between sand dunes, the secluded pyramids seem to have been forgotten by the modern world, with no nearby restaurants or hotels to cater for tourists.
An Ancient Seaside Capital in Morocco
Volubilis, the capital of the Mauritanian empire, couldn’t have been built in a prettier place on the Moroccan coast, between the capital of Rabat and the blue-and-white beach town of Essaouira. Yet it’s on hardly any itineraries. Now that’s starting to change, as travel operators such as Intrepid Travel are adding it to more tried-and-true stops such as Marrakesh and Chefchaouen. Even in a country that’s steadfastly held onto tradition, Volubilis feels like a true time machine. Its impressively ornamented ruins, which date to the 3rd century BCE, bore 10 centuries of occupation, with Romans, Christians, Muslims and Berbers all leaving their mark.
A Lion-Shaped Fortress in Sri Lanka
When King Kassapa ruled over Ceylon in the late 400s, he decided to place his capital atop a 600-foot-high granite boulder smack in the centre of modern-day Sri Lanka – a country that’s slowly been reborn to tourists after a prolonged civil war ended in 2009. The whole thing doubled as a massive piece of sculpture: Not only did workers carve stone staircases leading all the way to the top; they also added brick and plasterwork to create the illusion of a gigantic lion emerging from the forest. The first two flights of stairs are straddled by enormous, clawed paws; another flight emerges from the lion’s mouth. At the summit, visitors can explore what’s left of Kassapa’s palace, gardens, fountains and ponds.
We hope that the above has inspired you to take an adventure in 2018. So when you next fly, park your car with Ace Airport Parking. We offer 24/7 security monitored undercover and outdoor airport car parking with a range of options such as valet parking, car washing and servicing which is rounded off with our award-winning customer service and great prices!