If walking in the footsteps of ancient civilizations and discovering clues to humanity’s past sounds appealing to you, then you should consider a guided archaeological tour for your next vacation. Since the past is an important clue to understanding the present, a guided tour focusing on archaeological discoveries and preservation will be an educational experience to remember.
By going on a guided archaeological tour, you will have a professional archaeologist guide you through the past and help you interpret the meaning of some of the world’s most emblematic places. On a guided tour you won’t simply visit ruins like Stonehenge or Angkor Wat -- you’ll learn about the ongoing discoveries made in these important places by the people wielding the trowels and pickaxes.
These tours bring the stories of the past into the present. You'll see that, while archaeology is nothing like it is in the movies, it is every bit as exciting!
Where to Go
The ancient civilizations of Mexico left behind many mysterious and fascinating cities that await your exploration. Massive pyramids aligned to track the movement of the sun and moon, enigmatic hieroglyphics of a lost age, and world-class museums make Mexico a great destination for archaeology enthusiasts. It’s best to go between November and May to avoid the rainy season and enjoy milder temperatures.
While Southeast Asia, in general, holds some of the most spectacular historical monuments on the planet, Cambodia's treasures are particularly well-regarded. The jungle-shrouded stupas of Cambodia and Angkor Wat are only the beginning. Most travelers visit Cambodia in the dry season, which lasts from November through March. However, if you prefer to avoid the crowds and don't mind a brief afternoon shower, then May through October is still a great time to go.
This ancient land has an archaeological experience at every turn. Many excavations are still ongoing, meaning you can be on the front-lines of discovery as you watch, or even help, archaeologists excavate Iron Age cities and Roman fortresses. April and May offer the most comfortable weather in Israel, but you should consider going in the summer when excavations are taking place.
The United Kingdom has seen its fair share of conquerors and civilizations who all left an indelible mark on the landscape. The Romans left their walls and baths. The Saxons and Vikings built fortified cities. The Normans constructed imposing castles, and the Tudors erected impressive palaces. The people of the U.K. are proud of this heritage and eager for you to discover it on an archaeological tour. A summertime tour will give you the best weather and the most daylight hours to delve into this country’s past.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look for in an Archaeology Tour
There is a lot to consider when choosing an archaeology tour. Many tours are led by professional archaeologists and feature expert lecturers. They can offer a lot of insight into the archaeological process and the history of the sites you visit.
You should also consider the types of activities involved on any one of these tours. How long will you be visiting each site? Can you grab a trowel and lend a hand at an active excavation? Will there be lectures and lessons as part of the tour? Will guided museum visits be part of the itinerary? Asking these questions will help ensure that you find the tour that's perfect for you.
Average Archaeology Tour Cost & Length
Guided archaeology tours typically last anywhere from ten days to three weeks, although shorter tours do exist. Obviously, the longer the tour, the more in-depth you will be able to dig into the ancient history of your destination.
Depending on the destination and length of the trip, an archaeology tour can cost as low as $1,000 and as much as $7,000. This is quite a range so consider what is included in the price. More expensive tours usually include all excursion costs, museum entry fees, and have more archaeological experts involved.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
You don’t need to be equipped like Indiana Jones to go on an archaeology tour, so leave your whip at home -- but a fedora, or any proper hat, is a good idea for being out in the sun. Plan to spend a lot of time on your feet. Comfortable and supportive shoes are a must. Pack along gardening or leather work gloves if your tour includes participation in an excavation.
Plan to dress in layers for being outside in the sun among the ruins and transitioning indoors to air-conditioned museums and lecture rooms.
You probably won’t need to rent anything on an archaeology tour. Most tours will include everything you might need beyond personal effects.
Archaeology tours have limited space and popular ones book up early. It’s best to do your research well ahead of time and make your reservations as soon as possible.
Most destinations can be visited on a simple tourist visa, but it's a good idea to check with the tour operator to see if there are any special visa requirements for your destination.
While it may be tempting to take home an artifact as a souvenir, please refrain. Even a simple pottery sherd belongs in its proper historical context and removing it from a site can be damaging to archaeologists’ understanding of the past. Anyway, it is usually illegal to remove cultural heritage items in any country.
A proper archaeological tour is run with the guidance of professional archaeologists and professors. Unfortunately, many archaeological sites are under threat because some unscrupulous or careless tour companies have not taken the precautions to protect them. Ask your tour operator how they support the preservation of historic sites for future generations to enjoy.
Qualifications & Training
There are no special qualifications required to go on an archaeological tour other than a keen interest in the past and a desire to learn.
Don’t worry about boobytraps and ancient curses at archaeological sites. They really are quite safe. Of course, always heed the advice of your guides. Sites with active excavations may have open pits or fragile artifacts, so watch your step. Protect yourself from the sun and heat when outside for extended periods by wearing a hat, sunscreen, and carrying a bottle of water.
When preparing to go on an archaeological tour you should take the same precautions you would for any trip abroad. Check with the CDC to see if any vaccinations are recommended for your destination and with the State Department to see if there are any specific warnings you should know about.