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FAVOURITE PLACES #2

Here’s the second in a series of posts featuring some of my favourite places around the world.  This post focuses on a few of the most spectacular man-made historic sites that I’ve loved visiting.

MACHU PICCHU, PERU. Granted, part of the joy of visiting this magical place is its spectacular setting in the Andes. The scenery takes your breath away. But then you have to consider that this citadel was built by the Incas hundreds of years ago, that every stone had to be transported up the steep slopes and you’ll be impressed by the precision the Inca craftsmen achieved. You'd be hard-pressed to slot a credit card between any of the stones. It’s a lot busier than when I first visited, and there are now limits to the numbers of visitors allowed here at any one time. However, despite the other travellers, I challenge anyone not to be amazed by this atmospheric site.

BAGAN, MYANMAR. The current political situation in Myanmar means that this country’s not on the tourist map at the moment. When I visited, in the brief period between the fall of the military and its subsequent resurgence, I was absolutely blown away by the temples of Bagan. There are over 2000 stunning and pagodas and temples, most of which were built by the ancient kings and leaders of Burma. It’s a truly amazing place – it’s almost as if the temples are growing up organically from the plains. It’s the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world. And one of the highlights for me was flying over the area in a hot air balloon – one of my all-time favourite experiences.

RAGUSA, SICILY. This lovely town is located in the Val de Noto in the South East of the island, and when I stayed here a couple of years ago, I absolutely loved it. With its numerous Baroque buildings in a fairly compact centre, it’s like walking around a film set. It’s a patchwork of elegant townhouses, ornate churches, bench-lined squares, stylish boutiques and restaurants. Set on a hillside, steep steps link the narrow, winding streets and their extravagant palazzi and tranquil chapels. And at the heart of everything is its impressive Baroque cathedral with its beautiful façade. If you’re in the area it would be well worth visiting the other Baroque towns of Modica and Noto.


AMBER FORT, JAIPUR, INDIA. This magnificent 16th century fort is set on a hill outside Jaipur and comprises an extensive palace complex, built from pale yellow and pink sandstone, and white marble, and is divided into four main sections, each with its own courtyard. The architecture and décor of this place took my breath away. The sheer artistry shown in the stone and wood carvings, the beautiful, mirrored walls and ceilings – it felt like I was walking around fairyland. I visited the Taj Mahal on the same trip, and for me there was no comparison. Absolutely not to be missed.

DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLES, SRI LANKA. It’s a bit of a climb, but it’s definitely worth trudging up the hundreds of stone steps to get here. The earliest cave temples at Dambulla are thought to date back to the first century BC but successive kings added to them over the years to form the present impressive complex of 5 separate cave temples. There are around 150 Buddha statues, including an enormous 52-metre-long reclining Buddha in the largest cave. As well as being a historic monument, the temples are also a pilgrimage site: the experience is even more atmospheric as you mingle with devotees placing symbolic offerings in the laps of the Buddhas, with the scent of incense hanging in the air. I really loved it here.

I've restricted myself to 5 places here. Others that nearly made the top 5 are Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan, Sainte Chapelle in Paris and the ancient Mayan site of Tikal in Guatemala.

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