If you've not yet had the pleasure of travelling in the esteemed company of our expert guide, Oliver Gilkes – you're missing out. His charm, humour and seemingly limitless knowledge greatly enhances any tour he leads, and he has rounded up his top 10 bucket-list archaeological destinations.
Guide Lecturer Oliver Gilkes Shares His Top 10 Bucket-List Destinations
31 January 2020
1) Sicily, Italy
This destination is home to incomparable sites and monument of all ages, and is one that you can return to time and time again. Along with the glorious weather, incredible food and stunning landscapes, the history on offer here never fails to enchant and fascinate. On our 11-day Classical Sicily tour, you’ll visit the Norman-Byzantine cathedral and abbey at Monreale, the temples at Selinus, the magnificent Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, the beautifully decorated church of La Martorana, the Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina with its incredible mosaics, Neapolis Archaeological Park, and the catacombs of San Giovanni in Syracuse. Additionally, we will also treat you to a very special private evening visit to the glittering Cappella Palatina.
2) Rome, Italy
This really is the home of imperial grandeur and we offer a selection of ways in which you can experience its historic wonders and archaeological treasures. If you’re on a budget, choose our Bare Bones Rome tour. At just £1,075 for five days, you’ll discover the delights of the ‘Eternal City’ in the company of a local expert, visiting the likes of the Colosseum and Sistine Chapel, and also spending time examining the little-known Porta Asinaria. Elsewhere, join esteemed novelist Lindsey Davis on her Falco’s Rome tour, visiting palaces, slums, ports and country estates; book a place on our Rome – the Heart of the Empire tour, which explores Emperor Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, the Ara Pacis and Portus; follow in the footsteps of the Etruscans, discovering the unique Banditaccia cemetery at Cerveteri, the painted tombs of Tarquinia and the medieval city of Orvieto; or experience our Hidden Rome tour, taking in the underground ruins of Nero’s infamous Golden House, the well-preserved port city of Ostia Antica and the Circus of Maxentius.
3) The Aegean Coast of Turkey
Lose yourself in the splendours of the Hellenistic world on our 11-day Aegean Coast of Turkey tour. Our itinerary has been designed to showcase some of the most evocative remains in this part of the country, ranging from the well-preserved Classical cities of Pergamon and Miletus to the mighty walls of Troy and the special access we’ve secured to the Roman-era houses of Ephesus.
A real bucket-list destination for anyone in love with history and archaeology, Egypt is a place that once seen, is truly never forgotten. We have three tours on offer that can take you there. The first of which departs on 31st August – our luxurious In the Wake of the Pharaohs cruise. At 17 days long, this is a mammoth tour that can introduce you to every aspect of ancient Egypt. From the rarely visited sites of Beni Hasan and Amarna to Seti I’s temple at Abydos and the temples of Abu Simbel, join expert Egyptologist Lucia Gahlin on this extensive adventure aboard a Nile cruiser. Then, on 31st October we have our classic Pharaohs & Pyramids tour, which, at 16 days, will take you to the seldom-visited pyramid complexes at Dahshur and Abusir, the great temples of Abu Simbel, the UNESCO-listed Giza Plateau, the site of Karnak, and along the Nile to visit Kom Ombo’s double temple, Aswan’s Philae Temple and Luxor’s Valley of the Kings and Queens. Additionally, we have our Highlights and Discoveries tour, which departs in both October and November. This is shorter at just 12-days long, but it visits the Great Pyramid of Khufu (with special access to its royal burial chamber and grand gallery), the impressive Abu Simbel temples and the preserved tomb of Nefertari, and it also includes a Nile cruise aboard the M/S Tulip.
Discover the sites and cities along the legendary Silk Road and you’ll experience the tread of history. This route, which once ran all the way from China to Europe, saw goods, knowledge, ideas and even cultures pass from East to West, and a visit to Uzbekistan will always leave a lasting impression on the intrepid traveller. On our tour, which departs on 18th September, you’ll visit a selection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites – including Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva – and you’ll enter the magnificent Bibi-Khanym Mosque.
6) The Etruscans, Italy
If you’re after an alternative view of Classical Italy, why not trace the stories of the Etruscans and delve into Italy’s unknown past? Their great cities today are either abandoned or lost beneath the iconic medieval and renaissance towns of central Italy. However, central Italy is the source of the fantastic artefacts with which the wealthy surrounded themselves – Greek vases, Phoenician gold and glass, cunningly crafted terracotta pieces, chariots, and the cast bronze sculptures which were the Etruscan’s speciality. There is, quite simply, so much to discover.
7) Epirus & Macedonia
Explore the kingdoms that made Greece on this memorable 10-day tour, which takes in visits to the magnificent Meteora monasteries, ancient Pella and the tomb of Philip II. This trip offers a chance to discover northern Greece, filled with archaeological sites and marked over the centuries by a cornucopia of peoples and cultures.
Nothing compares with an exploration in Peru – the Empire in the Andes. We have a selection of tours that can take you there, ranging from a 7-day whirlwind tour that starts from £2,625pp to a full 18-day adventure, starting from £6,495pp. Book a place on our Northern Peru discovery and you’ll experience a part of the country typically missed by most visitors. Go in search of the Sicán, an ancient civilisation that developed in northern Peru between 800 and 1300 CE; visit the UNESCO-listed site of Chavín de Huántar in the company of the site director; and uncover lesser-visited sites like the Tucume Pyramids and Huanchaco Pampa, the largely intact northeast capital of the Inca Empire.
This is a truly incredible destination – another world, really. We are lucky enough to operate one tour to Ethiopia, which will depart this year on 26th October. At 14 days, you will explore the labyrinthine churches and palaces of Askum, Lalibela and Gondar; there will be time to pore over artefacts at a range of museums, including the National Museum of Ethiopia; and you will stand before the majestic Blue Nile Falls. Ethiopia is a land of striking contrasts, defined by the peaks of the Simien mountain plateau and the depths of the Rift Valley, home to the modern city of Addis Ababa and the granite stelae of Aksum, landlocked and yet refreshed by the waters of the Blue Nile. This ancient land, source of fables and stories since antiquity, is full of exciting archaeology to explore.
One of my favourite destinations – still very much an unknown and even hidden country unlike any other in Europe, and still off the mainstream tourist trail, Albania is home to pristine ruins, a rich archaeological story and great museums. On our ever-popular Land of the Eagles tour, which departs both in May and in October this year, you’ll discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint, you’ll explore Tirana – the country’s vibrant capital, and there will be time to wander around the wonderful Church of Saint Mary in Apollonia.