Adventure travel is booming—as Robb Report previously reported. But don’t just take our word for it. According to Allied Market Research, the market value of trips that take you out of the resort, and your comfort-zone, reached $366.7 billion in 2022. By year’s end, it’s expected to grow another 28.7 percent.
But adventure travel doesn’t just mean shark dives, hunting, and heli-skiing. It can have a more educational flavor as well. Thanks in part to the revival of the Indian Jones franchise, operators are whipping up archaeology-focused itineraries that are as intrepid as they are thought-provoking.
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Here’s a look at five luxury trips that let you live out your archaeological fantasies, from Europe to the Middle East. Just don’t forget to pack your Herbert Johnson “Poet” hat.
In Dial of Destiny, Indiana Jones traverses Europe. So why not follow suit? National Geographic Expeditions runs a Human History itinerary (10 days from $7,995) that was designed with paleoanthropologist Donald Johnson and is led by expert archaeologists. Experts guide you through some of the earliest known civilized areas on the continent, from Spain’s Basque Country to France’s Dordogne.
The journey begins in Madrid before heading to the Cantabria region to visit Atapuerca, where Europe’s oldest known hominin fossil remains were discovered. Other highlights include visiting El Castillo’s cave paintings that date back 40,800 years (they were recently identified as the oldest cave artwork in the world) and the cave art in Las Monedas Cave, another of Cantabria’s UNESCO World Heritage–listed cave art. Crossing over to France, there’s a trip to Castel-Merle’s prehistoric stone shelters and a meeting with leading Paleolithic art expert Christine Desdemaines-Hugon before departing from Bordeaux.
Play the Classics
In recent years, the allure of Mykonos and the rest of the Cyclades Islands often overshadow Greece’s historical areas. But needless to say, the country is home to some of the most significant archeological sites in the world.
Exodus Travels operates the Highlights of Ancient Greece journey (nine days from $2,249), led by an archaeological guide. The experience allows you to access sites such as the Acropolis, Mycenae, and Epidaurus. The expedition starts off in Athens and moves to Nafplio, including a stop at Corinth Canal—where a Roman forum, temples, and fountains have been excavated—along the way. Next up is the Venetian fortress of Palamidi, also in Nafplio, followed by Mystras, a UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Wonder of the Morea. Then, you’ll visit ancient Messene (first inhabited in the Late Neolithic or the Early Bronze ages); the site of the first Olympic Games; Delphi; and, finally, the cliff–top monasteries of Meteora.
Call It Constantinople
Turkey and archaeological wonders are synonymous. With wonders that date from ancient Greece to the Ottoman Empire, the area has a rich past, one that Abercrombie & Kent explores with its Journey Through History (11 days from $7,995). Starting in Istanbul, travelers explore the famed Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, and the Topkapi Palace, which was constructed between 1460 and 1478 and served as a home to Ottoman sultans until the middle of the 19th century. The trip then moves south to Bodrum; here, the ancient Theater of Halicarnassus and Museum of Underwater Archaeology (hosting the oldest shipwreck ever discovered) await. Other highlights include exclusive, private access to the research and conservation laboratories at Underwater Archaeology Museum and exploring the archaeological park in Ephesus, formerly a part of ancient Greece and where the temple of Hadrian remains.
For history buffs who can’t stand the beaten path, Scott Dunn’s Authentic Morocco (11 days from $7,900) offers something more.
Touchdown is in Casablanca, before moving to the blue city of Chefchaouen. Then it’s Fez, the country’s oldest imperial city, for visits to Bab Boujloud, the fountain at Place Nejjarine, and the Mellah Jewish Quarter. The journey continues to Marrakech, ticking off ancient sites such as the Koutoubia Minaret, Bahia Palace, and UNESCO Heritage Site of the medina. You’ll conclude in the Atlas Mountains, for culinary and trekking activities with the local Berber communities.
Extend your stay to explore the lesser known archaeological sites found throughout Morocco, such as the 12th-century Tinmel Mosque in the High Atlas Mountains (where the Almohad dynasty once flourished) or the Taforalt caves in the eastern part of the country, close to the border of Algeria. The caverns are renowned as the oldest cemetery in Africa, and in 2018, human remains were found from 15,000 years ago.
Éire of Sophistication
Ireland is teeming with ancient archaeological sites, and Audley Travel’s Ancient Ireland itinerary (10 days from $5,515) leads you to them. You’ll visit medieval ring forts, Neolithic standing stones, and wedge tombs. Starting in Dublin, you’ll also make your way through Kilkenny, Shanagarry, the Dingle Peninsula, and Celbridge. Dingle Peninsula is one of the most populated areas of ancient ruins, including: St. Manchan’s Oratory, inscribed with early medieval Irish alphabet; Slea Head, where beehive houses date back to the eighth century; and Caherdorgan Stone Fort. For any day travelers, the team also offers a three-hour tour of the Dingle Peninsula, led by a local archaeologist.
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