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2by2 for holidays that will change your life
2by2 for holidays that will change your life
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Archaeology Holidays South Africa Bushman Zimbabwe Mexico Peru India

Archaeology Holidays

Africa, Latin America & Indian Subcontinent
Our Archaeology Holidays will introduce you to some of the most interesting regions on our planet, allowing you to explore our ancient past in a wide variety of great locations. Combine your historical explorations with a safari or general sightseeing, to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Southern & East Africa
Our archaeology holidays in South Africa explore the origins of man at the Cradle of Humankind and the Sterkfontein Caves. You can visit the Mapungubwe archaeological site, where the golden rhino was found, and walk to see ancient San Bushman Paintings in the Drakensberg Mountains.
In Namibia, the Bushman Rock Art at Twyfelfontein is truly astonishing and in Zimbabwe you can visit the mysterious Great Zimbabwe ruins.
In Tanzania you can combine a safari in the famous Serengeti with a visit to Olduvai Gorge, the site of the ground breaking work done by the Leakeys.
Latin America
For truly outstanding archaeology holidays, Mexico has the finest and largest collection of ancient sites in all the Americas. These include the numerous Mayan ruins found on the Yucatan Peninsula and the astonishing ancient pyramids found outside Mexico City, which also has a world class archaeological museum.
South America is also a treasure trove of archaeological sites - from the incomparable Inca citadel at Machu Picchu in Peru, to the gigantic Moai statutes found on Chile's Easter Island.
Indian Subcontinent
India's Golden Triangle is home to numerous forts and palaces that will take your breath away, as well as the amazing Taj Mahal. In southern India, the temples of Tamil Nadu are also amazing. Sri Lanka too has many ancient Buddhist cultural treasures.
For expert advice on archaeology holidays to South Africa with its Bushman paintings, Great Zimbabwe, Mexico, Peru, India & Sri Lanka, contact our friendly team on 01582 766122 today. We can also tailor make a holiday to your exact requirements.
Selling archaeology holidays for over 15 years.
More information on archaeology holidays to South Africa with its Bushman paintings, Great Zimbabwe, Mexico, Peru, India, Sri Lanka & beyond:
Our archaeology holidays South Africa explore the origins of man at the Cradle of Humankind. This includes the stunning Sterkfontein Caves and the Maropeng Centre, a brilliant museum showing Earth’s progress over the last 4.5 billion years and the fascinating story of human development.
Further north on the Botswana/Zimbabwe border, you can visit the Mapungubwe National Park and the World Heritage site where the famous Golden Rhino was found in an ancient royal grave on the iconic Mapungubwe Hill. The rhino, a tiny but beautiful ancient artefact, is on show in the superb Interpretation Centre.  
On archaeology holidays in South Africa, your next stop should be the famous San Bushman Paintings in the dramatic Drakensburg Mountains. There are also over 300 archaeological sites in the Kruger National Park, ranging from the Stone Age to more recent and including more Bushman rock art. A small number are open to the public.
Zimbabwe also offers amazing archaeology holidays, as this country is home to the Great Zimbabwe ruins, a late iron-age city dating from 4th century and a World Heritage site. The country abounds in such remains, but this is the largest, with drystone walls up to 5 metres high.
Namibia has over 2,500 outstanding Bushman rock carvings and some paintings at Twyfelfontein, a World Heritage site that has been inhabited for over 6,000 years. This is one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in Africa and a must-see on archaeology holidays in Africa.
In Tanzania you can combine a safari in the famous Serengeti with a visit to Olduvai Gorge to explore the ground-breaking archaeological work of the Leakeys at this world-famous site. It was here that the first acknowledged human fossils in East Africa were found.
Ethiopia offers an abundance of wonderful sites for archaeology holidays, including the Simien Mountains and Axum, which is said to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Explore the amazing rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the monasteries of Lake Tana and the palaces and castles of Gongar. The capital, Addis Ababa is the fourth largest city in Africa, with multiple churches, mosques and museums. The city’s National Museum houses the fossilised remains of Lucy, the famous skeleton of one of our first human ancestors.
The entire continent is brimming with innumerable, stunning examples of colonial architecture and culture – religious, domestic, military, political and commercial. Many of these extraordinary sites are close to beautiful beach resorts, so you can mix culture and customs with sea and sand!
Mexico tops the list for archaeology holidays, as it probably has the finest and largest collection of archaeological sites in all the Americas. There are hundreds, spanning a succession of sophisticated civilisations, from the Olmec in 1,000 BC, through Teotihuacan, Toltec and Mayan to the Aztec in 1200 AD.  The huge area which they populated, from Southern Mexico to Nicaragua in Central America, is known as Mesoamerica.
Among the best-known site is Chitchen Itza, the Mayan city in the Yucatan peninsula, with its Temple Pyramid, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, with a magnificent Ball Court. Another famous site is Palenque, a World Heritage Site still largely buried by the jungle and one of the best examples of Mayan architecture. Tulum is a Mayan fortress in a stunning Caribbean setting not far from the Riviera Maya, as is Coba, another Mayan centre with the tallest pyramid, at 40 metres, in the entire Yucatan Peninsula.
Only 30 miles from Mexico City you will find the huge city of the Teotihuacan, founded in 100 BC. Called the Birthplace of the Gods, it includes the massive, climbable Pyramid of the Sun, the third largest in the world. It is connected to its sister Pyramid of the Moon by the mile-long Avenue of the Dead. In the heart of Mexico City, you will find the Aztec remains of Temple Mayor.
The lively university town of Cholula, not far south of Mexico City, is said to be the oldest city in America with a 390-acre archaeological area. The outstanding feature here is the Great Pyramid, built by the Aztecs 2000 years ago and the largest pyramid by volume in the world. It is rather overgrown but accessible, as is the five miles of tunnels threading through the interior. The Nuesta Sencra de los Remedios sanctuary sits on the top, commanding fantastic views of the surrounding country.
Monte Alban near the beach towns of Huatulco and Puerto Escondido, is one of the earliest Mesoamerican cites, boasting a pyramid complex and ball court. Well known Tula, near Mexico City and the former capital of the Toltec empire, houses the famous Allantes. These are 4-metre basalt columns carved in the shape of Toltec warriors.
Rare circular pyramids dating from 300 BCE can be found at Guachimontones, near Guadalajara, and Uxmal in the Yucatan is home to the Pyramid of the Magician. La Venta, built by the Olmecs, has another Great Pyramid and several huge carved heads over nine feet tall. Archaeologically speaking, Mexico is extraordinary and must be on everyone’s archaeology holidays bucket list!
Together with southern Mexico, the western half of Central America was home to the great Mayan civilisation, and the area is brimming with their fabulous remains.
In Guatamala pride of place goes to Tikal, near Flores. The ruins here are enormous, beautiful and painstakingly excavated. There are numerous temples rising above the lush rainforest canopy and from the tallest you can enjoy magnificent sunrises and sunsets over the jungle. At Aquateca the ruins are located on a 90-metre cliff. They are accessible only by boat, which makes for an exciting trip. Yaxha is another popular site, situated on the Yaxha Lagoon with its famous Morelett crocodiles, and the Quiringua site includes outstanding stelae, or upright stone slab monuments and sculpted Mayan calendars.
Just over the border in Honduras you will find Copan, which is a little off the beaten track and less busy. It is well worth seeking out however, with its mysterious underground tunnels - and massive local parrot colony! The largest Mayan site in Belize is at Caracol, where the 4-metre tall main pyramid is the tallest Mayan building in the country. The excavation here is less complete but that only adds to the site’s interest for archaeology holidays.
Neighbouring El Salvador offers one of the most complete ruins at Joya de Ceren. A complete pre-Hispanic community was buried and preserved here by a volcano in 590 CE, leaving an amazing record of 6th century life. For remains of a different sort, visit Managua in Nicaragua where its 6000-year-old human footprints attest to the antiquity of civilisation in the region.
Costa Rica adds to its outstanding wildlife with Chiriqui ruins at Guayabo de Turrialba, where huge rock foundations are overgrown with rain forest, creating a wonderful natural location to wander and explore. At Palmar Sur you will find the chiefdom settlement of the country’s Dequis culture, with their characteristic perfect shaped stone spheres, or Las Bolas.
Archaeology holidays in South America are dominated by the Inca remains of Peru, with their massive, precision built dry stone structures. Chief among these is the magnificent Machu Picchu, the so called Lost City of the Incas. It was never discovered by the Spanish and as a result this vast site is now in superb condition, with unbelievable views of the surrounding mountains. The lovely former Inca capital of Cusco is also full of Inca remains and close by you will find the astonishing monumental stonework of Sacsayhuaman, a huge fortress built partly into the natural rock of the site. The revered Sacred Valley of the Incas includes the historic centres of Calca, Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
More ancient cultures can be explored at Caral, the oldest architectural site in Peru, with 19 pyramid structures and the oldest urban site in the Americas. Also Chavin de Huanter, the heart of the Chavin society from 1200 to 400 BCE, where you can see a gigantic granite monolith and symbolic wall sculptures and carvings.
Chan Chan, in northern Peru, is also less famous but it comprises the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. It was the centre of the Chimor kingdom for centuries before the Incas and it is the largest adobe city in the world, displaying a remarkable record of the Chimu culture.
Not to be outdone by its illustrious neighbour, Equador also boasts a series of magnificent ruins and museums for archaeology holidays. Chief among these is the Pumapungo complex, located in the historic centre of the beautiful World Heritage city of Cuenca. Dating from the late 15C, many believe that this was the most impressive of all Inca cities. It houses the Temples of the Sun and of the Sun Virgins, plus a fascinating 30 metre tunnel which was used a mausoleum. 50 miles from Cuenca is the majestic Ingapirca Archaeological Complex, which beautifully illustrates the culture of the Canar people, from 500 BC. The site, which shows the later development by the Incas, has superb views of the surrounding highlands and mountains.
An hour from the capital Quito you will find the Tulipe Archaeological Site and Museum. This large, comprehensive site tells the story of the pre-Inca Yumbo civilisation, dating from 800 to 1660 BC. There are aqueducts, swimming pools, ceremonial mounds, trails and rivers and many complex petroglyphs – altogether a fantastic cultural legacy not to be missed on archaeology holidays.
Even closer to the capital is the amazing Cochasque Archaeological and Research Site, incorporating the remains left by the pre-Inca Quitu-Cara people. You can explore 15 pyramids, walls, terraces, artificial lakes, canals, roads and some 20 burial mounds. This exceptional 200-acre complex also offers great views of the surrounding volcanoes, plus access to a truly rich assortment of Ecuadorian animal and plant life.
To the north of Quito, look out for Rumiccucho, a hilltop structure built on an east-west axis at the exact location that the sun crosses during its equinox. With its five pyramid-shaped stone terraces and excellent strategic location, it was used as a military base during struggles against the Incas and then as a fort by the Incas themselves.
Columbia is very much a tourist destination now and one reason is the variety of amazing sites suitable for archaeology holidays. In central Columbia, the World Heritage Site of San Augustin has 500 religious monuments and sculptures depicting gods and spirits, the largest in South America. Up to 2,000 years old, they were made to decorate the elaborate local tombs of the wealthy.
Another World Heritage Site, the Tierradentio National Archaeological Park in the southwest, has pre-Columbian tombs up to 8 metres deep, accessed by spiral staircases. They are covered with stunning red, black and white indigenous art dating from the 6th to 9th century.  The site is also famous for its collection of pre-Hispanic statues.
Cerrijon is now one of the world’s largest open pit coal mines, but 58 million years ago it was a vast swampy rain forest. The jungle gathered and preserved the remains of giant turtles, huge crocodiles and a titanboa, a 40-foot long snake weighing over a ton, and thousands more creatures and plants. A permanent team of archaeologists is excavating this unique site.
Villa de Leyva, north east of Bogata, is a 400-year old pristine colonial town frozen in time. As a result, it has been declared a National Monument, where an almost complete skeleton of a kronosaurus, a giant lizard, was found in 1977. The huge fossil is displayed with a smaller version discovered later, in the local museum which was built especially for the purpose. Not far from the town you will find Infrernito, the site of standing stones reminiscent of Stonehenge.  They were built by the Muiscas people as a calendar and for funeral and religious ceremonies.
For something different try Villavieja in the south west. The town is the jumping off point for the Tatcoa Desert, a World Heritage Site which is more of a dry tropical rainforest, of 116 square miles. The area is one of the most prolific sources of vertebrate fossils in the world and the unusual geology, museum and observatory are worth a detour, if you don’t mind roughing it a little on archaeology holidays.
You can start with the megaliths of the Rego Grande archaeological site, on the Atlantic near Calcoene in the far northeast. This astonishing construction of immense standing granite stones is known as the Amazon Stonehenge. The 27 blocks, some 4 metres tall and up to 2000 years old, line up with the sun’s winter solstice. Construction of such an astronomical observatory was thought to be far beyond Amazon cultures and it is an amazing achievement.
Also in the north, near the Venezuala border, look out for the Painted Stone, a 35-metre tall rounded stone and a cave with paintings, pottery and tools. On archaeology holidays you will be guided round the sites by the local indigenous people.
Further down the east coast near Campina Grande you will find the Inga Stone, huge rocks with refined relief carved drawings. There is a museum of natural history on site with a comprehensive collection of 10,000-year old fossils. Not far away near Perrambuco is the outstanding Catimbau National Park, the second largest archaeological park in Brazil. The park boasts 30 sites with paintings, prehistoric artefacts and over 2,000 caves, 23 of which are cemetery caves.
The Serra National Park in Piaui in the east, another World Heritage Site, has over 1,000 sites dating back over 6,000 years. This is one of the greatest collections of archaeological sites in the Americas, with multiple rock paintings and artefacts. A bonus is the amazing local landscape of canyons, caves and underground lakes.
Archaeology holidays of a different kind are on show at the extraordinary Sao Miguel Arcano, on the border with Uruquay. Another World Heritage Site, these are the beautifully preserved and presented Jesuit missions and the seven villages which housed them.
Near Lake Titicaca and only some 40 miles from the capital La Paz, you will find Tiwanaka, revered by the Incas as the birthplace of mankind. Founded by the Tiwanaku people, it enjoyed its heyday from 500 to 900 AD and the site abounds with stunning sculptures, monoliths and religious artefacts, including the imposing Akapana Pyramid. On archaeology holidays you can explore the amazing Inca precision cut stones and engineering and the Museo del Sitio De Tiwanaku displays a wide range of remains excavated from the site. To the north, nearby Kasasasaya has an open temple and the enormous Gate of the Sun Arch.
Fuerte de Samaipata near Santa Cruz is a World Heritage site with a magnificent carved rock sculpture and a tall hill. The site offers a rare combination of Chane, Inca and Spanish cultures and the hill provides exceptional views of the surrounding country.
The Isla del Sol in the southern area of Lake Titicaca is extraordinary. The Incas considered it to be the birthplace of their Sun God and their most revered site. It is peaceful and spiritual, full of amazing ruins and still home to over 5,000 indigenous people living in several traditional communities. The island is accessed from Copacabana on the shore of the lake.
Another sacred place to the local people is Calacala, near Oruro in the west of the country. The rock art here is fantastic and dates back more than 1000 years. To the southeast of Oruro at Sucre, the huge site of Cal Orcko is famous for the 68 million-year-old tracks of dinosaurs and 300 other species. This amazing site is the largest in the world for so much evidence of these iconic creatures. If the Cretaceous Period is your thing, then this is an absolute must-see on archaeology holidays.
Easter Island, the iconic mid-pacific island in Polynesia is a territory of Chile, and is accessed from the capital Santiago. It is a long flight but for lovers of mysterious ancient cultures and archaeology holidays, this is a wonderful trip. Known as Rapa Nui after the indigenous people, the island is home to around 900 oversized sculptured human heads, varying from 10 to 40 feet in height. You can also visit the Raro Raraku volcano, where most of the heads were carved between the 13th and 16th centuries, the temple ruins at Vinapu and numerous ceremonial sites.
A little closer to home visit San Pedro de Atacama and discover the Purara de Quitor, and the Chu Chug petroglyphs of the Tiauanaco culture. This popular tourist town is also home to the superb Gustava Le Paige Museum, with its vast array of over 300,000 archaeological pieces from the Atacama culture. Also in the north of the country, look out for the Bahia Ingleasa Formation, a site rich with the fossils of over 70 species, including a 10-million year old whale skull in the Caldera Paleontological Museum. On the Peru border, in Arica, you will find the mummies of the Chinchorro people. Over 5,000 years old, they are said to be the oldest mummies in the world!
On the way south to Santiago, you must explore the Archaeological Museum of La Serena. There are over 12,000 fascinating examples of tools and handicrafts from all over Chile, including ancient seafaring canoes, marine fossils and a genuine Moai statue from Easter Island. In Santiago the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, cleverly arranged to represent geographical cultural regions throughout Central and South America. This small but prestigious museum offers an impressive collection of pottery, intricate silver and copper handicrafts, stone carvings and wooden statues – as well as a 5,000-year old Atacamena mummy, making it an essential stop on archaeology holidays.
While in Santiago do not miss the National Museum of Natural History, one of many in the beautiful, multi-centre Quinta Normal Park. Look for the Carnotaurus Sastrei dinosaur, a replica of the Plomo mummy, a mummified Inca child, Mesozic fossils, boats and hunting weapons from Tierra del Fuego, and a wealth of other artefacts from around the country.
Further south, the Monte Verde archaeological site near Puerto Montt is possibly the oldest human settlement in South America at 33,000 years old and at Puerto Natales explore the caves of the pre-historic Milodon.
It is not far to the Mapuche Museum of Pucan, near popular Osorno, which celebrates the local Mapuche people. They are the largest of Chile’s indigenous groups and the museum houses a wonderful range of stone sculptures, dozens of ritual masks and pipes, musical instruments and intricate silver jewellery.
On archaeology holidays, India's Golden Triangle is home to numerous forts and palaces that will take your breath away, as well as the unforgettable Taj Mahal. In southern India, the temples of Tamil Nadu are also astonishing.
You can begin in Rajasthan, in India’s northwest, with the magnificent Kumbhalgarh Fort, one of the largest hilltop forts in the world and standing 1,100 metres above sea level. A World Heritage Site, it was built in the 15th century, with massively thick stone perimeter walls which extend 36 kilometres around the hilltop. After the Great Wall of China, it is the longest ancient wall in the world, enclosing 360 Jain and Hindu temples.  Also in Rajasthan, near the Pakistan border, visit Jaisalmer Fort in the Thar Desert. Constructed earlier, in the 12th century, the yellow sandstone buildings of this huge site look stunning in the desert sunshine and include royal quarters, temples and carved merchants’ houses.
In the north, south of Delhi and Jaipur, you will find the extraordinary Khajuraho Temples at Madhua Pradesh, another World Heritage Site. They date from the 10th and 11th centuries, built by the Chandela Rajput dynasty for the Hindu and Jain sects. They are famous for their elaborately carved figures, some of which comprise explicit erotic art associated with the Hindu tradition of Kama. This is a must see on archaeology holidays.
If you pass through Delhi, do not miss the Qutub Minar, the 73-metre-high tower erected in 1193 to mark the defeat of what was then the last Hindu kingdom by the Mughal emperor. It remains a striking feature of the Delhi landscape.
You are not far here from the magnificent Taj Mahal, at Agra. This stunning mausoleum was completed in 1648 and though not strictly speaking an archaeological site, it is a comprehensive and beautiful blend of Muslim, Hindu and Persian architecture and decoration. This famous World Heritage Site beauty spot is a fascinating complex.
On the other side of India, southwest of Calcutta in Odisha, on archaeology holidays do not miss the Konark Sun Temple, yet another World Heritage Site and famous for its Black Pagoda. It is designed in the form of an Indian chariot, complete with 12 sets of stone carved wheels which also serve as sundials. The site originated with the Eastern Ganga Dynasty in the 13th century and sits on an even older site from 500 years earlier.
Not far from the Nepalese border, the Nalanda University of Bihar dating from the 5th century, is one of the oldest centres of higher learning in India. It was built by the Gupta and Pala empires and it was also a Buddhist monastery. In its heyday the university housed 10,000 students, including many from China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Turkey and Persia.
Maharashtra province in central India, is home to the massive Ajanta and Ellora Caves at Marathwada. These huge, beautifully preserved rock cut-outs and murals were made by Buddhist, Jain and Hindu monks when they established themselves on this ancient trade route. On archaeology holidays there is more Buddhist architecture and sculpture at the Buddhist Monuments of Madhya Pradesh, including the Sanchi Stupa. The monuments date from the 3rd century BC to 1,200 AD and tell of the Buddha’s many past lives.
In Karnataka state, do not miss one of the largest archaeological sites in India - the famous World Heritage Site of Hampi Village. This is the location of the ruins of the city of Vijaynagar, which include the immense Virupaksha Temple. Dating from 1 AD, there are several Hindu temples inside, plus many fascinating civil buildings and structures.
Equally famous is the astonishing Meenakshi Temple of Tamil Nadu at Madurai in the south of the country. This is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and the temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Parveti. It is renowned for its gopurams, which are stunning multi-storey gateway towers up to 60 metres high, covered with thousands of brightly painted carvings of animals, gods and demons. There are 33,000 sculptures and the Hall of a Thousand Pillars. A truly extraordinary achievement and a must see on all archaeology holidays.
Sri Lanka
As well as outstanding natural beauty, the island of Sri Lanka has 3000 years of recorded history, six World Heritage Sites and a wide range of stunning historical sites, especially from the country’s Buddhist heritage. This makes it another fascinating destination for archaeology holidays.
Among the most popular is the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, where the remains of King Kasyapa’s palace from the 5th century sits on top of an enormous, 200-metre-high granite outcrop. Sigiriya was a capital city and the impressive remains include the defensive moat and fortifications, a monastery, stunning frescoes and beautiful landscaped gardens, which are thought to be the oldest in the world.
In contrast, the world famous Dambulla Cave Temple is 2000 years old and the largest and best preserved in Sri Lanka. The magnificent statues and paintings of the Buddha and past kings make it one of the finest examples of religious art in South East Asia. There is an amazing mural and 157 religious statues in various poses, the longest of which is 15 metres long!
Kandy is a now an attractive modern city, but it was once the last capital of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka and is famous as the home of the Temple of the Tooth Relic, a tooth of the Buddha. On archaeology holidays you can also visit the National Museum of ancient Kandy and the British Colonial period.
Anuradhapura was founded in 4th century around the tree of enlightenment. The tree is said to have grown from a cutting from the actual tree where the Buddha experienced his final enlightenment. While you are here do not miss the Ruwanwelisaya, the largest and oldest stupa, or shrine, still in use as a place of Buddhist worship.
Polonnaruwa is a fabulous garden city from 12th century, with Brahmanic monuments and temples to Shiva the Hindu god. This beautiful World Heritage Site is also home to its own population of Toque Macaque monkeys, who have been there since it was built.
On archaeology holidays try not to miss the astonishing Avakana Buddhist statue near Kekirawa. Standing 12 metres high, this 5th century masterpiece is finely carved from a solid granite outcrop. It is one of Sri Lanka’s finest standing statues.
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