It seems like in any conversation about travel a few questions come up again and again: Where have you been? Where are you going? And what places did you love? I have asked and been asked these questions many times, which now prompts me to try a new feature: Three of our favorites. This time around, I’ve chosen three places that are all noted for their history.
The places listed below aren’t our only favorite places in the world, but if you’re looking for a quick recommendations, these are sure (and somewhat-off-the-beaten-path) bets.
Why it’s great: Salvador was Brazil’s first capitol city, and in the historic Pelourinho neighborhood dates back to the 1500s. Today it maintains it’s original European layout. It’s a place with a complicated past; the “Pelourinho” gets its name from the pillory where slaves were once punished. And even today, Salvador struggles with significant poverty. As a result, a visit to this part of Brazil is educational and enlightening. And of course, the Pelourinho is today a visually arresting space filled with Rococo churches, lively squares, and cobbled alleys.
Why it’s great: Aosta is an ancient Roman city at the foot of the Alps. As a result, it’s filled with massive stone ruins and surrounded by dramatic scenery. We arrived by taking gondolas from France over the Alps near Mont Blanc, then hopping on a bus to town — an experience I highly recommend. In addition to being both ancient and visually dramatic, Aosta is also a charming living town that lacks a substantial tourist crowd. When we were there, for example, the ancient ruins were being used for a cello concert that seemed to be mostly attended by locals.
Why it’s great: When it comes to Mayan ruins, Palenque and Tikal often nab all the attention. But Calakmul is a perhaps more rewarding for being both remote and comparatively less developed. The ruins are set deep in a forest and, because they receive fewer visitors, feel less manicured and sequestered. In short, visiting Palenque feels like a trip, but visiting Calakmul feels like an adventure.
— Jim Dalrymple II