From beautiful churches to ancient military wonders, there are many top historical sites and ancient creations that attract travelers from thousands of miles away. But while travelers may flock to the Egyptian Pyramids or Great Wall of China in their millions, many of the world’s most amazing historical sites are surprisingly quiet.
Free of huge crowds, kitsch souvenir stands, and annoying tour guides, these quiet and enjoyable historical attractions are every bit as stunning as their peers. If you’d like to have a unique, largely unvisited attraction in your travel photos this year, try visiting one of these seven underrated and under-visited historical attractions.
1. Hovenweep National Monument, Utah
Did you know that there are thousand-year-old ruins in the state of Utah? While the idea of ‘ancient attractions’ in the United States might sound somewhat silly due to the country’s young age, there are several remnants of previous civilizations spread across the United States.
Hovenweep National Monument was discovered accidentally in the mid 19th century, and has been a historical monument since the 1920s. Photo by Graeme Churchard
One of the most remarkable is the Hovenweep National Monument in Utah. A small cluster of buildings discovered during a missionary trip in the mid 19th century, the monument itself is made up of ruined buildings that once housed an ancient Pueblo culture.
Historians believe that the buildings were used from 900 to 1300 AD as part of the second Pueblo culture. However, evidence in the area suggests that ancient people might have settled on this patch of land over 10,000 years ago during the final era of the Paleolithic period.
If you’re searching for an ancient monument in the United States with very little in the way of crowds, Hovenweep National Monument is the perfect choice. While it’s certainly not as famous as Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, this exotic and highly interesting historical attraction is certainly worth visiting.
2. Catedral de Granada, Nicaragua
The historic city of Granada is one of Nicaragua’s top spots for history and culture buffs, boasting more churches and cathedrals per capita than any other city in the region. The city’s top religious attraction, by far, is the Catedral de Granada – the Cathedral of Granada – in the city’s Parque Central district.
While Granada Cathedral in Nicaragua may not boast as many visitors as its namesake in Spain, it’s just as interesting to look around. Photo by ruben i
If the long lines of Rome or the rebuilt churches of Eastern Europe aren’t to your liking, this immense cathedral is one of the best places in the world to experience the majesty and scale of traditional architecture in person. With few visitors and several other historical attractions nearby, it’s one of Nicaragua’s true gems.
In fact, the entire city of Granada is a gem of a destination, offering a rare look at life in Spanish Colonial Nicaragua. Named after the well-known city in Spain’s Andalusia autonomous community, the city was a major base for Spanish forces during their South American colonial period.
3. Tangier Kasbah, Morocco
In ancient Northern Africa, cities were constantly at war for resources. To defend against the constant threat of attack from foreign forces, elevated fortresses known as ‘kasbah’ were constructed to give local leaders a bird’s eye view of the action and a fortified position.
Tangier’s historic fortified Kasbah is a welcome change of pace from the city’s crowded and dirty modern areas. Photo by andre.zgora.pl
The Tangier Kasbah is one of the biggest, and most stunning, examples of an ancient African kasbah in the region. Found in the Moroccan port city of Tangier, the kasbah is easily accessible from Southern Europe via one of the many ferries that frequently transport travelers to Morocco.
Tangier itself is a fantastic destination, combining incredible beaches and natural beauty with a reputation for fun and indulgence. The long-term home of acclaimed writer Paul Bowles, the city offers an interesting look at Moroccan port life that’s sorely missing in many other North African destinations.
4. Schindler House, Los Angeles
When you hear the term ‘modern home,’ what image pops into your mind? For most of us, it’s a home built in the last twenty years using the principles of modern design – clean living spaces, natural light, and open living plans. The Schindler House in Los Angeles combines all these principles… in a home built over ninety years ago.
Los Angeles’ Schindler House was built using design principles that didn’t become standard until fifty years after its construction. Photo by IK’s World Trip
Known to architecture and design gurus as the ‘first modern home,’ this remarkable house is one of Los Angeles’ most interesting historical attractions. Built in 1922 for two families, the home is split into two separate suites – the Schindler and the Chace suites. Each contains two living spaces, connected by a small utility room.
The house is renowned for its before-its-time modern design principles, including the complete lack of dedicated living and sleeping spaces. Despite the density of its neighbors and the rapid increase in pricing in the neighborhood, this preserved and locally appreciated home is unlikely to disappear any time soon.
5. Guia Hill and Fortress, Macau
Most visiting to Macau begin and end their trip at one of the area’s many casinos, spending big and missing out on the territory’s incredible historical value. From close to five hundred years spent as a colony of Portugal, Macau is packed with historical locations, colonial buildings, and remnants of its amazing history.
Guia Chapel and Fortress offers a rare unblocked view over Macau’s entertainment and business districts.
One of the best is the Guia Fortress, a fortified military complex, chapel, and ship lighthouse built during a conflict with the Dutch Empire. After being attacked by Netherlands forces in the early 17th century, the Portuguese forces constructed a large fortified military complex and lookout tower to better defend themselves.
Today, it offers one of the best views over bustling downtown Macau and a nice break from the bustling lifestyle of the city itself. Situated on a small hill close to Macau’s waterfront area, the complex is home to a chapel dating back almost 400 years, a large fortified defensive wall, and a 150-year-old lookout lighthouse.
6. Ostia Antica, Rome
Skip the long lines at the Coliseum and the endless conmen at the Forum, and make your way to Rome’s historic port district. An incredible look at commerce and trade in Ancient Rome, Ostia Antica is home to former trading posts and ruined buildings dating back as far as the fourth century BC.
The best way to understand a culture is to look at its economy. Ostia Antica, Rome’s port district, offers a look into Ancient Roman trading. Photo by Chris Lewis
While Rome is packed full of historical sites, none capture the region’s former glory quite as well as Ostia Antica. Literally ‘ancient mouth,’ – or ancient port – the city is a great example of Rome’s huge reach during its period of dominance. From churches to public latrines, the complex captures Rome’s former glory in an incredible state.
While the Coliseum and Palatine Hill may rank near the top of most visitors’ travel itineraries, this rare gem is rarely visited by non-Italians. As such, it’s one of the few attractions in Rome that’s genuinely quiet for most of the year, with crowds rarely appearing outside of public holidays and special occasions.
7. Albi, France
Don’t visit southern France for the beaches – visit for the region’s innumerable top quality historical sites. While Paris may be the world’s top city for lovers, many of the best ancient sites and historical locations are found in France’s southern region.
Albi, a small town in the Pyrénées, is one of France’s most remarkable and underrated historical attractions. Seen here: Albi Cathedral. Photo by Pierre-Selim
Albi is a quiet town in southern France that’s been settled since the early days of the Bronze Age. Sacked by the Romans, the Gauls, and finally dominated by the Catholics in the 13th century, Albi is rich with historical attractions. The most well known and locally important is the Cathedral of Saint Cecilia, now known as Albi Cathedral.
Constructed over a record period of two hundred years, the cathedral is the largest all-brick building in the world. A large Gothic building that towers over everything else in the area, it’s an icon of the town and one of southern France’s top historical sites. Amazingly, it’s also a surprisingly quiet and uncrowned place to visit.