Colorful domes top Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.
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When visiting the Great Wall of China, you’re best off coming to it at uncrowded Mutianyu, where you can see remnants of the wall built in the 6th century. Equally historic are the Ming dynasty tombs, whose harmonious beauty results from the principles of feng shui. A short flight to Xian lands you inside history as it’s being written. The city’s famous terra-cotta warriors—crafted to guard China’s first emperor in the afterlife—have been joined this year by 110 newly unearthed figures. End your 10-day journey in cosmopolitan Shanghai.
The Iberian Peninsula
Cracks from a 1531 earthquake are still visible in the walls of Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal, constructed with funds provided by King Manuel I out of trade taxes from Africa and the Orient. The city’s Belém area is now a popular spot for outdoor concerts, perhaps best enjoyed with local olives and sheep’s-milk cheese from Azeitão, a nearby village. This 10-day trip also takes you to Seville, less than 300 miles away in Andalusian Spain, where tapas were invented and Moorish architecture meets traditional flamenco.
Spring in Alaska
Breakup is the term Alaskans use to describe the snow thawing and the span of daylight slowly lengthening from four hours to 15. Spring may be the best time to glide past Hubbard Glacier, whose snout has been advancing for the last 100 years. Ideally you’d view it from a chaise longue on your ship’s deck during this seven-day Celebrity Cruise voyage. Disembark at Ketchikan to explore the natural canals at Misty Fjords National Monument by kayak; view pictographs (native rock art) created by the region’s Tlingit people; then return to sea, bound for the Inside Passage. And don’t forget to look for orcas and humpback whales just offshore.
In Russian, the word for red also means “beautiful.” Though the color carries good and bad connotations, Moscow’s Red Square is clearly beautiful. One look at Saint Basil’s Cathedral on this seven-day tour shows that. In 1987, glasnost brought rock concerts to the square, formerly the site of military demonstrations. The rest of Russia’s capital is similarly monumental, with St. Petersburg its poetic counterpart. There, the State Hermitage Museum houses more than 3 million pieces, from Paleolithic figurines to Peter the Great’s 18th-century carriage.
Vietnam and Cambodia
Nearly 1,000 years ago, only the king himself could walk down the central path on the grounds of Hanoi’s Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s oldest university. Today, visitors on this 13-day tour can follow the path, which traces the country’s intellectual history—from the temple itself, built to honor Confucius, to Thiên Quang Tinh, an open space for quiet reflection. Cambodia’s historic Khmer Empire is just a plane hop away. Banyan trees have overtaken Ta Prohm, the country’s “jungle temple,” so you’ll need a flashlight to explore its recesses even during the day. The world’s largest temple, Angkor Wat, awes visitors with a miniature replica of the universe in stone.
Photography by Alaska Stock/Alamy (ice caves); courtesy of Alvesgaspar/Wikipedia (Saint Basil’s Cathedral)
This article was first published in September 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
For more information about these or any other travel destinations, visit any AAA branch.