Knowing our history allows us to understand fellow cultures, to learn from the past, and helps us to make sense of current affairs. In short, history has shaped our lives and will continue to do so. If you are hungry for facts about the past -- why, how, when? -- a history tour might just be for you.
Joining a guided history tour will ensure that your entire experience is arranged for you and you’ll have professional support if something should go wrong on the trip. Experienced tour guides can skip the lines, provide precious insights into your destination, and offer in-depth background information on what you’re seeing and experiencing.
Alternatively, organizing a self-guided history tour may save you money but you’ll have to arrange your accommodations, transport, and itinerary from scratch. Most importantly, there’ll be no safety net in the unlikely case of an emergency.
Where To Go
Organize a history trip to Mexico to discover the birthplace of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations, whose cultures have left their breath-taking mark on the landscape at monuments including Tulum, Chichén Itza, and Teotihuacán as well as the bizarre round pyramids at Teuchitlan. In fact, Mexico has 33 UNESCO World Heritage Sights in total, including the ethereal rock paintings at Sierra di San Francisco. It’s best to go between December and February when there is little rain and temperatures are around 55-60°F in Mexico City.
A history trip around the eastern Mediterranean Sea takes you right to the cradle of western civilization. First stop Greece, where democracy was born 7,000 years ago, with its ancient temples on the Acropolis and majestic hillside amphitheaters. In the first century BCE, the might of the Roman Empire spread across Europe, witnessed at the spectacular Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia, and in the grandeur of Rome’s ancient ruins. Spring or autumn are great times to visit, as tourist numbers are lower than summer and the weather is dry and sunny.
Budget-friendly and packed with architectural treasures, highlights of a Southeast Asian history tour include the 12th-century stupas of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the ornately gilded Royal Palace in Bangkok, and the spectacular Hindu temples on Bali. Leave the cities behind to explore remote areas and you’ll meet peoples still living as they did centuries ago, far removed from 21st-century life. March and April can be unbearably hot and humid and the rainy season runs right through summer so plan your trip to Southeast Asia for fall.
Inhabited in turn by prehistoric Britons, Celts, Vikings, Romans, and Normans, the United Kingdom is awash with evidence of ancient cultures. Start your history tour at mysterious Stonehenge and time-travel past Roman villas, turreted Norman castles, and vast medieval cathedrals. You’ll come across half-timbered Tudor towns, ornate Royal palaces, and museums packed with artifacts drawn from three millennia of history. Visit the UK in spring or fall, when fewer visitors clog the main attractions and the temperature hovers around 40–45°F.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look for in a History Tour
Overseas history trips come in many guises, so work out what you’d like to see and learn about before committing to a specific tour.
Once you’ve determined what you want to see and what era of history you'd like to experience, look for tour operators who use local guides and offer immersive travel experiences. Compare itineraries to find out which ones offer longer stops at historic sites; if you're a history buff, you'll prefer the three-hour walking tour over a 30-minute photo stop. Reviews from past guests can be a great way to get a sense for how well the itinerary allows fellow history lovers to experience the culture and history as they hoped.
Average History Tour Cost & Length
Depending on your chosen destination and the length of your trip, guided history tours can cost from US$500 to upwards of several thousand dollars.
There’s not an average length for a history trip, which could last from two days up to several weeks. Use your budget as the guiding factor in choosing the length of tour you want to do.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
What you pack alongside your passport and travel documents depends on where your history trip is taking you, but always take less than you think you’ll need. Traveling light makes for easy traveling and you’ll also have spare room in your bag for that last-minute souvenir.
Take lots of light cotton layers and a waterproof jacket, sturdy walking shoes and a fleece for early-morning starts. Scarves come in useful as cover-ups for visiting temples and other holy sites.
Wherever you’re headed, take insect repellent and anti-histamine lotion in your wash bag, along with any prescribed medicines and a first-aid kit.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be required to rent anything on a guided history trip as all aspects of your travel, from accommodation to food and transport, should be covered in the cost of the vacation.
Qualifications & Training
You won’t require any qualifications to go on a history trip, other than an active curiosity and a deep interest in the tour you have chosen.
Traveling overseas on a history trip is generally unlikely to expose you to many risks but it’s always wise to heed medical requirements for individual countries so you are protected from diseases such as malaria or dengue fever.
Be vigilant when traveling, even in a group, and never, ever leave your luggage unattended. Not even for a minute.
Always take out appropriate insurance before going overseas. After arrival, stick with your group to stay completely safe on your history trip.
Try not to draw attention to yourself by wearing beach clothes in cities, as this will immediately mark you down as a tourist. Likewise, dress appropriately when visiting religious sites and always follow local customs of dress.
Take sturdy luggage that can be locked and carry copies of your travel documents, insurance certificate, and passport on your person. Secure the zips on your daypack with zip ties.
In crowded places such as airports and train stations where pickpockets are active, carry your daypack on your front, and girls, wear your pocketbook on a long strap across your body.