From ancient ruins to living cultures, from trade routes to battle sites, from castles to temples, from hieroglyphics to grand monuments, travel can make history come alive like nothing else. SpecialtyTravel.com’s co-founder Andy Alpine adds some interesting perspective to this claim. “When Mark Twain said ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,’ he undoubtedly had in mind the delightful cultural diversity of this planet and the wisdom that is evident from other cultures. But language, traditions, and everything else associated with culture all have deep historic roots. Travel is a way to broaden our perspective of both geography and history—and therefore helps us understand and love our fellow human beings.” The tours featured by Specialty Travel Index, a one-stop source for special interest travel, can expand our mind and broaden our horizons, he says.
Here are some of the tour offerings with a history focus being highlighted:
• Breathe China’s Rich History and Cultural Diversity: China is one of the oldest and most successful civilizations on Earth. Champion Holidays offers a tour of the Treasures of China, a 15-day itinerary that will make you feel you’ve lived this history yourself. Featured locations include Beijing, Lhasa (Tibet), Chengeu, Lijiang, Kunming, Suzhou, and Shanghai. Itinerary includes attendance at cultural events and many opportunities for interaction with locals. Some Tibetan highlights include the awe-inspiring Potala Palace in Lhasa (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Norbulinka, the summer palace for the Dalai Lama. In Beijing you’ll see the Temple of Heaven, where the emperors used to pray for a good harvest. Lijiang’s Old Town has earthen-walled houses, stone bridges and cobbled streets crisscrossed by rivulets and canals. Near Kunming the tour takes you to one of China’s great geological wonders—an unearthly “Stone Forest” of 270-million-year-old rocky gray outcroppings. You’ll cruise the world-famous 2400-year-old Grand Canal. On the way to Shanghai, you’ll take an excursion to Zhujiajiao, a 1000-year-old water village. While in Shanghai, “the Paris of the East,” you will visit the Bund and the world-renowned Shanghai Museum of Art and History, and cruise the Huangpu River to enjoy a fascinating night view of this great metropolis. CHAMPION HOLIDAYS
•Relive History’s Great Battles: Nothing tells the history of a country or a period like military history. And whether you’re a war veteran, a relative of a veteran, or a history buff, nothing keeps memories of key battles and the heroes of those battles alive like expertly organized tours of those battle sites, air fields, and naval bases. The following is a sampling of upcoming tours provided by the veteran battle-site tour operator, Valor Tours Ltd.: World War I Italian Front (July 17–31, 2011); Return to Guadalcanal (July 31–August 9, 2011); 70th Anniversary of Attack on Pearl Harbor (December 2–8, 2011); 70th Anniversary of Battle of Wake Island (December 8–13, 2011). VALOR TOURS LTD.
• Tour the “Free Trade” Route of Antiquity: Experience a 16-day journey along one of the most historically significant routes in the world, the legendary “Silk Road”, across the deserts of western China to Kashgar. For centuries, this long and hazardous trade route linked the markets of Western Europe to the ancient Chinese capital of Xian. This tour re-traces part of that epic journey, traveling along the fabled Hexi Corridor, then out across the deserts of western China, with a detour to Xiahe, a place of pilgrimage for Tibetan Buddhists. You will also visit the awe-inspiring Forbidden City in Beijing, sections of the Great Wall of China, the renowned Terracotta Warriors of Xian, and the superb Buddhist murals of Mogao Caves—and you will meet numerous ethnic groups along the way. ADVENTURE CENTER
•Morocco and Andalusia—What Artists’ Dreams Are Made Of: Just 8 miles across the Strait of Gibraltar lies a land of astounding contrasts, in scenery and culture, that have altered the artistic vision of Henri Matisse, Jacques Majorelle, Paul Bowles, and countless others. It is a land where the mystical roots of Sub-Saharan Africa mingle with European chic, where snow-clad mountains rise above the dunes of the desert, where millennium-old cities feature outstanding examples of Moroccan architecture and busy bazaars brimming with life. With Cross Cultural Adventures’ Morocco/Andalusia tours, you can explore the remains of what was Africa’s greatest city until the 14th century; see the remote mountainous lair of a Berber chief who controlled most of southern Morocco until the mid-1950s; examine prehistoric rock art sites in the desert or mountains; and enjoy the very best of Morocco’s renowned cuisine and boutique hotels. The tours and tour guide—and the outstanding pre-tour information kit—have won high praise by Dena Kaye in Travel and Leisure. See their website for sample 1-week, 10-day, and 2-week itineraries. CROSS CULTURAL ADVENTURES
•Experience Britain’s Rich Historic Legacy: If you want a dose of British history and culture, The British Connection offers a range of cultural and historic adventures, from guided tours of castles to historic literary tours in the footsteps of authors and destination weddings at ancient Scottish castles. Tours can also be designed to include UNESCO World Heritage sites, village life, castles, cathedrals, churches, and other historic structures. In keeping with The British Connection’s environmental philosophy, tours are also provided of landscape-restoration zones and projects involving restoration of historic buildings. BRITISH CONNECTION
• A Sensory Experience of Paris—for Women Only:The French Traveler has created a Paris for Women trip that reveals the City of Lights as a sensory delight. Run by two travel professionals whose passion for this city runs deep, this trip is designed to awaken the female psyche in a city that is the very definition of the feminine mystique. You will stay in a boutique hotel steps away from the Eiffel tower, with its very own chocolate bar in the lobby; and you will experience the irresistible neighborhoods of Paris. Activities include antiquing, wine tasting, cooking, shopping, make-overs, and other sense-heightening indulgences. Check website for dates. FRENCH TRAVELER
•North India—Temples and Architectural Wonders:This 7-day tour—called “North India with a Classical Twist”—features some of India’s greatest architectural monuments and spiritual shrines. It starts at Delhi, a curious blend of modern and traditional with a rich legacy of monuments left by past rulers. Some highlights of this part of the tour include visits to Gandhi’s Memorial at Raj Ghat; the famous Chaddni Chowk Bazaars, once the shopping arcade of Mughal royalty; and Humayun’s Tomb constructed in 1570, the first garden tomb built in the Indian subcontinent. On day 3 of the trip, you will visit one of the great architectural wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal in Agra. The half-day Agra tour also includes the magnificent and well-preserved Agra Fort, first built in 1565, with its vineyards and rose garden—like the Taj Mahal, a reminder of the glorious yet sorrowful reign of the Mogul emperors. The tour also visits the famous erotic temples of Khajuraho, representing some of the finest examples of temple architecture in northern India; and the holy Hindu city of Varanasi—crowded with temples and throngs of worshippers—with its Kashi–Vishwanath Temple, Bharat Mata Temple, and Durga temple, among others. Most unforgettable is a sunset boat ride on the Ganges River to view the temples lit up for the evening prayer and the huge crowd of religious devotees assembled for this ceremony. SKY VACATIONS IN INDIA
•Explore the Irish Heritage:The Irish Connection offers custom Irish Heritage tours that explore the Pagan, Gaelic, Celtic and Scotch Irish heritage of Ireland with expert guides. There is also a Myths and Legends tour that focuses on little known legends and folk tales of Ireland. Special tours (for example, the W.B. Yeats tour) deal with Ireland’s Literary Heritage. Genealogical tours to the North and South of Ireland focus on shared culture and experiences, and explore links to the United States, Canada, and Scotland. All group tours are currently customized. IRISH CONNECTION
•Create Your Perfect Custom Tour of Italy: Given the right expert guidance, Italy has all the makings of a perfect personalized vacation. Under the Italian Sun creates custom tour itineraries for family groups, groups of friends, individual travelers, and organizations of all kinds. Some examples of tours they have created include: cooking tours with Ciao Italia; a “Michelangelo in Italy” tour with the American Institute of Architects; concert tours of Italy with school choirs; Jewish heritage tours; and an incentive tour of Italy with Beringer-Blass Wine Estates. Your custom tour is only limited by your—and their—imagination. UNDER THE ITALIAN SUN
Special-interest operators are just that: they are specialists in a certain field and bring their expertise to tailored travel programs.
At the Specialty Travel Index, you can research travel companies according to special interest or activity or by destination. There is also a section for special deals.