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Enduring Attractions

From a rediscovered prehistoric village to the world's largest temple,
these eight legendary landmarks have withstood the test of time

By Lucy Spicer

Vacations Magazine: Enduring Attractions
Emerson Hankamer

(Scroll down to see a slide show.)

Beachfront relaxation undoubtedly constitutes a successful vacation, but sometimes travelers crave a little more substance. Archaeological sites not only let us see the staggering architectural abilities of those who came before us, they also provide clues about their culture and way of life. History and anthropology buffs especially will appreciate the chance to walk among relics of the Roman Empire or fly over curious, 2,000-year-old geoglyphs.

Read on to uncover eight stunning attractions and four tours and four
cruises that will enable you to explore them. For more information about booking your adventure into the past, contact the travel experts at Vacations To Go through the links provided.

Floating southeast of Greece in the Mediterranean Sea, the island of Crete is home to impressive historic architecture. On the outskirts of its largest city, Heraklion, lie the ruins of the ancient palace of Knossos. First erected around 1900 B.C., this symbol of the Minoan civilization had to be rebuilt over the years due to damage from natural disasters and invaders, until it was finally abandoned around 1375 B.C. Explore the ruins' painted walls and stately columns, then visit the nearby Heraklion Archaeological Museum, which contains a large collection of artifacts excavated from the palace and its surroundings.

Luxury cruise operator Cunard Line offers several sailings in 2017 that stop at Heraklion, a major port for Crete. Enjoy a shore excursion on a seven-night cruise departing Venice on July 8 to visit the Greek Isles; prices start at $1,442 for this journey full of Mediterranean monuments like Olympia, site of the original Olympic Games.

The Cambodian town of Siem Reap is the gateway to an archaeological structure so significant that it adorns the country's flag. The temple of Angkor Wat was built in the early 1100s by King Suryavarman II and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. To this day, the intricately decorated stone temple is considered the largest religious monument in the world, and it has been in continuous use since its initial construction. A perfect example of the scope of Khmer artistic styles, the larger Angkor complex comprises several temples and ruins, with many surrounded by a moat.

Spend three days exploring the site on a 15-day journey with Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, " Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong." In addition to Angkor Wat, notable stops at Angkor Archaeological Park include Bayon, adorned with massive carved faces, and Ta Prohm, cloaked in tree roots. Departures take place through December 2017, with a break from April to August to avoid the rainy season. Prices start at $5,359.

Colorado impresses with its snowcapped peaks and lush forests, but an equally enthralling landscape awaits in its drier climes. Roughly 35 miles west of Durango, Mesa Verde National Park contains one of the largest archaeological sites in the U.S. The Ancestral Pueblo people inhabited the Mesa Verde area from about A.D. 600 to 1300, notably carving their homes
into the sides of canyons during the last century of their time there. These cliff dwellings are some of the best preserved in the country and can be explored on both guided and independent tours.

Collette dedicates a day to this UNESCO World Heritage Site during "The Colorado Rockies," which spends nine days traversing the state's mountainous terrain and visiting several national parks. Prices start at $2,399 for trips from May through September 2017; there also are a handful of departures this September starting at $2,329.

When Emperor Hadrian came to power in A.D. 117, the sprawling Roman Empire covered most of modern-day Europe and parts of Africa. In order to protect his frontiers from "barbarians" to the north, Hadrian ordered the construction of his namesake wall. Several sections of this stone barrier, which stretched 73 miles across northern England upon its completion, still are standing today, despite the difficult building conditions that Hadrian's soldiers faced.

The nine-day "Real Britain" escorted tour from Trafalgar visits a portion of Hadrian's Wall near Newcastle upon Tyne before journeying northward to Scotland. The tour begins and ends in London and features many photo-worthy spots along the way, including England's Lake District and Stonehenge. For those who can weather U.K. winters, Trafalgar's schedule for the season includes departures from November through March 2017, with prices from $1,642. In April and beyond, rates start at $2,025.

In 1850, a powerful storm ripped up a section of grass on the western coast of Mainland, the largest of Scotland's Orkney Islands. The squall revealed what now is considered to be one of the most well-preserved Neolithic village sites in Europe. Skara Brae comprises several houses with intact stone walls and various artifacts such as pottery, beads, tools and dice. The site was in use from roughly 3000 to 2500 B.C., making it older than the Egyptian pyramids.

Visit this archaeological marvel on a shore excursion from the neighboring port of Kirkwall and you'll feel yourself travel more than 5,000 years in time. Four sailings with Cruise and Maritime Voyages ranging from 10 to 11 nights are available in April 2017, with prices starting at $1,039 for an inside cabin. These British Isles jaunts also make time for Amsterdam, the Channel Islands and Honfleur in the north of France.

Known as Rapa Nui to its residents, Easter Island has become synonymous with its towering stone inhabitants, the moai. There are hundreds of these iconic statues on the Chilean island, which sits isolated in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 2,300 miles west of Chile. Carved from hardened volcanic ash, most of the moai that people visit today were sculpted between A.D. 1400 and 1650. The impressive structures (which, contrary to popular belief, have bodies in addition to their giant heads) likely represent the spirits of departed chiefs and other important figures in the community.

Dedicate two days to soaking in the majesty of this volcanic island on Monograms' "Brazil, Argentina and Chile With Easter Island." Daily departures are available through March 2018 for the 15-day journey, with prices from $3,099. Your Easter Island adventure will cap off a trip already filled with rainforests, waterfalls, historic architecture and more.

When Italy's Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, it famously covered Pompeii in a thick layer of ash and volcanic debris. Pompeii, however, was not the only city to suffer this fate: Herculaneum was one of several communities to be similarly buried. Fossilized by the eruption, various artifacts and human remains have since been excavated, giving us insight into first-century life. Though Pompeii is larger, Herculaneum's site is better preserved than its popular counterpart, containing wall paintings, skeletons, mosaics, pottery and more.

Princess Cruises offers guided tours of Herculaneum as an excursion option for sailings that visit the Italian port of Naples, which is less than 10 miles northwest of this archaeological site. Consider a seven-night Mediterranean itinerary next summer aboard the Royal Princess; four departures are scheduled, with inside cabins starting at $1,489 for the June 17 trip. The whirlwind journey between Athens and Barcelona will give you a taste of Greece, Montenegro, Italy and Spain.

On the coastal plain of southwestern Peru, mysterious paths are carved into the earth. When viewed from above, these large lines depict shapes, plants and animals and are spread over more than 150 square miles. The geoglyphs were created some 2,000 years ago by the Nazca (sometimes spelled "Nasca") and Paracas people. Some believe that the area, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, is linked to astronomy, while others favor the theory of religious rituals.

Get an aerial view of the enigmatic lines on a flight across the desert with the 11-day "Affordable Peru With Nazca Lines" from Gate 1 Travel. This escorted tour also features stops at the Incan sites of Machu Picchu and Cuzco, once the empire's capital city. A handful of departures are available through December, with many more offered in 2017. Prices start at $2,169, but keep in mind that the rainy season peaks between January and April.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in September/October 2016. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 680-2858 for current rates and details.

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