Peru is undoubtedly famous for its Incan site, Macchu Picchu, and the Inca Trail that takes visitors there. However, there are a wealth of sites just outside of Macchu Peru in Cusco, that are well worth a visit with fewer crowds. Continue reading
Every country has that particular historic site, quirky monument or metropolitan centre that epitomises the country and inspires people to visit. Once there however, the teeming crowds, tourist hawkers and the stress of maintaining constant vigilance against pick-pockets can erase the once romantic visions of gazing at the architectural design in solitude.
Spending so much time focusing on visiting only the most popular sites of a country can also mean you miss out on seeing the lesser known destinations, which often times gives the visitor more freedom to explore and provides a better account of the history and culture of the country. Before jetting off to another world-famous attraction, take the time to sit down and discover some of the country’s more interesting alternative attractions. Listed below are just a few to give you some inspiration!
SWAP: Petra, Jordan FOR: Siq Al-Berid (Little Petra), Jordan
After featuring in blockbuster film franchises like Indiana Jones and Transformers, Petra has grown in popularity to become Jordan’s most popular site, and rightly so. This expansive city was carved into the rose-hued mountains by the Nabataeans as early as 312 BCE, and the city’s water conduit system is a testament to the Nabataeans’ ingenious engineering skills.
While the site’s tourism has given Jordan a much-welcomed financial boost, Petra’s popularisation has caused it to deteriorate rapidly. The constant stream of horses and carts pounding down the siq (entrance) to ferry people to Petra’s entrance has caused the stone to erode at an alarming rate, as have the uncapped crowds and the lack of rainfall. Combined with the hordes of salespeople flogging cheap tourist tack and the bottlenecks that occur on the narrower paths, the beauty of Petra can be sometimes marred by its commercialism.
Only ten minutes from Petra lies Siq Al-Berid, or ‘Little Petra’ as it is commonly known. Although tourist buses still deposit groups here, the site has not lost its tranquil atmosphere, and is far less crowded than Petra. The area was once a thriving suburb of Petra during the Nabataean times, and it’s relatively small number of visitors means much of its architecture is in good condition.
SWAP: Stonehenge, England FOR: Avebury, England
No one truly understands the purpose of the rock formation, which is perhaps equally its attraction to visitors. While several arguments are made for religious functions, and neopagans flock to the site every solstice, it remains a wonder to people of the engineering capabilities of prehistoric humans.
Today however, the stones are cordoned off by rope, and it is apparent upon seeing the graffiti and chipped section from visitors wanting a cheap souvenir that the site has suffered permanent damage. Unless you book previously with a tour group, little information about the site is available to visitors, and the nearby motorway erases any atmosphere the site once had.
Located in the small village of Avebury in Wiltshire lies an expansive series of Neolithic stone circles, free from cordons and left to sit in their natural landscape. Visitors are free to get up-close and touch the stones, and there is also a helpful museum nearby explaining the Neolithic environment in which the stone circles were constructed, artefacts from past archaeological excavations and the nearby Avebury Manor is open for visitors too. When visiting, make sure you follow the Neodruids to see crop circles and the nearby Neolithic monuments of Silbury Hill and the West Kennet Long Barrow, a Neolithic tomb.
SWAP: Alcatraz Island, California FOR: Dry Tortugas, Florida
California’s notorious prison island, Alcatraz, is renowned for its prisoners and exhilarating tales of escapes that have become the subject of various Hollywood films. Although the prison was abandoned in 1963, it continues to ignite interest and attracts visitors from all over the world. However this worldwide popularity also makes it difficult for many to purchase admission tickets, particularly if logistics isn’t your strong point and booking tickets 90 days in advance isn’t on the top of your list.
Every American student is taught about the assassination of President Lincoln by the physician Samuel Mudd. However, none are taught about what happened to him afterwards; his imprisonment at Thomas Jefferson fort on Dry Tortugas National Park, in the middle of the Carribean Sea. While some might question the suitability of his being sent to a tropical island as punishment, today the remains of this expansive fort complex is only accessible by seaplane or boat. Located approximately 70 miles west of Key West in the Florida Keys, Fort Jefferson is America’s largest, not to mention unfinished, masonry building.
Construction started in the late 1800s, yet the Civil War and bureaucratic delays prohibited construction from ever being completed, and it eventually fell into disuse. Besides giving visitors full reign to explore the fortress, the island chain is also a part of the Florida Keys reef system, which is the third largest in the world and free to visitors to snorkel, swim and explore.
SWAP: Taj Mahal, India FOR: Badshahi Mosque, Pakistan
Arguably the most famous landmark in India and one of its biggest attractions, the Taj Mahal’s beauty and expansive size is a big draw for tourists to India. However the crowds that are attracted to this site have also caused the unfortunate side-effect of pollution, and increased the already needed restorative work to the site. Additionally, poor crowd control and security means many visitors can spend only a limited time visiting the tomb, and constant attention must be paid to possessions.
Look to India’s neighbour, Pakistan, and in particular, the Badshahi Mosque, as to what the Taj Mahal used to be like before tourism struck. As the second largest mosque in Pakistan and the fifth largest in South-East Asia, the Badshahi Mosque can accommodate 150,000 worshippers to its site.
The Badshahi Mosque was built by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1671 and finished construction 1673, at a period when the Mughal empire comprised the Indian Subcontinent, including parts of Pakistan that are today known as Lahore. The religious building’s size is rival to that of the Taj Mahal, with its four minaret towers measuring 4.2 metres taller than the Taj Mahal’s, while the Taj Mahal’s front platform can fit inside the Badshahi’s courtyard alone.
The building contains architectural influences from Islamic, Persian, Central Asian and Indian influences, and its curved dome roofs are reminiscent of the Taj Mahal’s own. Entry to the site is free, but female visitors are advised to wear covered clothing and to bring a headscarf along to cover their heads when inside.