Tuesday, 12 May 2009
If you're tired of hearing about the world's more traditional spectacular sites, then consider a visit to some of these little-known gems picked from around the globe.
Colca Canyon, Peru
Makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack in the road.
With a passing glance, the scale of Colca Canyon could easily be missed. It doesn't possess as many startling drops as its American counterpart and its sloping climbs can be deceiving but don't let your eyes fool you; statistically there's no contest between the two. Colca Canyon is over 3,000m (9,842ft) deep; that's more than two times the depth of the Grand Canyon.
Most of Colca Canyon is uninhabited but a number of colonial villages are sprinkled across lower parts of the valley. Although there are endless stunning views and a huge variety of seasonal colours in Colca Canyon, the Andean Condor is the major draw for tourists. The Cruz del Condor is the most popular location to watch condors ride the canyon's thermal waves.
Ciudad Perdida (Lost City), Columbia
All the mysticism of Machu Picchu without the crowds.
After days of hard trekking, you pause for a moment before the final descent to Machu Picchu. As the morning fog clears you wait with baited breath for the first view of the astonishing Inca settlement, only to find an army of buses parked directly in front of you.
It's not unreasonable to expect something a little more personal after all that effort and the Lost City in Columbia is the perfect alternative. There are no roads for miles around the Lost City, so there'll be no unwanted bum bags in your holiday photos. The three-day trek through undulating jungle to reach the Lost City is hard going, and culminates in a climb up 1,200 near-vertical steps. It wasn't discovered until 1972, despite being older than Machu Picchu, although local tribes have visited the site for much longer. The city itself is made up of ascending terraces and circular platforms. Helicopters frequently land on the highest point of the city and for a tidy sum those who can't face the walk back can hitch a lift.
Instead of desert think rainforest for the Central American version of the Egyptian pyramids.
The Egyptian pyramids may be the most famous pyramids in the world, but the endless miles of sand hardly make the most intriguing of backdrops. Tikal, the most important of all the Mayan cities, was inhabited until the 10th century AD and is surrounded by rainforest containing a huge variety of wildlife. Animals ranging from jaguars to toucans can be found in Tikal National Park, and a glimpse of them certainly beats a face full of sand.
There are thousands of different structures at Tikal and many have yet to be excavated, despite 30 years of archaeological work. There are a number of palaces and public open spaces in the ceremonial centre of the site but the pièce de résistance is the six Mesoamerican pyramids, some of which are over 60m (200ft) tall.
Tufi, Papua New Guinea
Unchartered diving awaits in Papua New Guinea's version of the Great Barrier Reef.
Visitors to Tufi have the chance to explore some of the world's most pristine underwater delights. Tufi is only accessible by boat or plane and divers can take their pick from WWII wrecks, inland fjords or coral reefs. Even the outer reefs, many of which have yet to be mapped, can be reached by boat in 30 minutes. The mixture of soft and hard coral makes for overwhelming underwater diversity. Finally, the 30m (100ft) visibility and year-round water temperatures of over 25°C (77°F) mean you won't miss a trick.
Kumbhalgarh Fort, India
The Great Wall of China minus a few thousand miles.
Kumbhalgarh Fort was not designed with easy access in mind. It was built on a steep hill in 1419 by Maharana Pratap, one of Rajasthan's heroes, and remains unconquered to this day. The main reason is that it's circled by a 36km (22miles) continuous wall, the second longest in the world behind the Great Wall of China.
Given that the walls are up to 7m (25ft) thick and seven fortified gateways protect Kumbhalgarh, it's surprising anybody tried. Find a suitable perch when the sun goes down- the fort is spectacularly lit up for a few moments each evening.
Arènes d'Arles, France
The glory days of Rome's Colosseum are long gone, but this Roman amphitheatre is still used today.
It doesn't boast the 50,000 capacity or the same grand history as its Rome counterpart, but Arles's Roman amphitheatre has all the same ingredients and it is wonderfully well preserved. Most importantly, it's still used today as a bull-fighting venue so with a leap of imagination there's still a chance to soak up some of the atmosphere generated in ancient Rome. When you've stopped shaking your fist, there are many other examples of Roman architecture to explore in Arles.
Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul
The Taj Mahal was built for one lucky lady, but Istanbul's Dolmabahçe Palace stands toe-to-toe for sheer opulence.
For every claim the Taj Mahal can make for being the most elaborate palace in the world, Dolmabahçe Palace can match it. The Taj Mahal may be decorated with precious stones, but Dolmabahçe has its very own crystal staircase built in the shape of a double horse shoe. The crystal fixation doesn't end there though; the palace contains the world's largest bohemian crystal chandelier with 750 lamps and weighing 4.5 tonnes. Sultan Abdülmecid built it in 1843 for the princely sum of 35 million tonnes of gold and another 14 tonnes were used to gild the ceilings.
If you want to book a hotel in another amazing city, go to www.medestino.com.