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Colonial Cornerstones

From Baroque architecture to Mexican ruins to African UNESCO sites, take a trip back to yesteryear with our collection of top colonial cities that are filled with magnificent old-world vestiges.

15 - CUSCO - Peru, Cusco

Originally the capital of the Incan empire, Cusco’s historical ruins date back to the fourteenth century, promising you a wealth of colonial and religious grandeur. Besides the cobblestone streets of the Peruvian city, the lost citadel of the Incas, Machu Picchu, and the impressive Sacred Valley are also nearby, making Cusco the archaeological heart of the Americas.

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14 - HUE - Vietnam, Hue

A charming fusion of the old world and the modern age, the imperialist city of Hue is home to royal tombs, temples, pagodas, palaces and pretty gardens. Harking back to the colonial era, the Vietnamese city boasts an array of regal wonders such as Dai Noi and Thien Mu Pagoda giving it UNESCO World Heritage status.

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13 - PARATY - Brazil, Paraty

This small and attractive colonial town sits on the costa verde and is particularly easy to get around. The peaceful cobbled streets of Paraty are closed to motor vehicles and therefore offer delightful opportunities to stroll around wonderfully preserved whitewashed buildings and ancient architecture.

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12 - STONE TOWN - Zanzibar, Stone Town

UNESCO declared Stone Town is the cultural and tropical gem of Zanzibar, being the historic trading post of the Indian Ocean. Wander around the labyrinth of narrow streets to discover the bazaars and strong culture which is echoed through the mix of Indian and Arabic influenced architecture and religious landmarks of cathedrals and mosques.

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11 - CHIANG RAI - Thailand, Chiang Rai

Once the ruling nation of Northern Thailand, among other areas, the Lanna Kingdom originated in the thirteenth century and was a hub for education, culture and trade. The lush Chiang Rai was a capital of this kingdom and holds many of the cultural and religious remainders of the traditional Thai Lanna culture.

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10 - CARTAGENA - Colombia, Cartagena

Step back in time as you enter the walled city of Cartagena. Rich in beauty and culture, this fascinating old port town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Historical vestiges of the colonial Spanish rule can be seen throughout with sights impressively preserved; must-sees include the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas and the Palace of the Inquisition.

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9 - LUANG PRABANG - Laos, Luang Prabang

Soak up the majesty of this former capital with the French colonial architecture as you cycle or walk around vibrant temples and age-old monasteries. Colourful Luang Prabang is home to lots of history, with the ancient buildings well preserved and a wealth of natural splendour such as unusual caves and idyllic waterfalls.

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8 - OAXACA - Mexico, Oaxaca

Besides its lovely UNESCO colonial centre with its baroque cathedral and the former monastery of Santo Domingo, Oaxaca also boasts the history of the ancient Zapotec and Mixteca civilisations. These antique sites, such as Monte Alban and Mitla, sit close to the city and offer an alluring insight into Mexico’s old world.

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7 - VARANDA - Mozambique, Varanda

Just ten minutes from the UNESCO-protected old Portuguese capital, Ilha de Mozambique, Varanda has heaps of unique culture and history to explore. Aside from a lovely beach and lots of water sports, visitors can also enjoy the striking style of the old fortress and religious and defensive buildings that are made up of Portuguese, Indian, Arab and local architectural influences.

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6 - JAVA - Indonesia, Java

Located in central Java and surrounded by volcanoes and fields, Borobudur is the glorious ninth century Buddhist temple. A Buddhist pilgrimage and one of the world’s best temples, 504 life-size Buddha statues are found here plus thousands of ornate relief panels. Witness this astounding monument at dawn for amazing Java views and an unforgettable, spiritual experience.

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5 - AREQUIPA - Peru, Arequipa

This Peruvian destination is home to the colonial Santa Catalina Convent which dates back to the fifteenth century, as well as many Baroque designed archways and courtyards. With views of the Andes and a variety of historical and cultural sites, Arequipa is a delightful UNESCO city to discover.

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4 - BANGKOK - Thailand, Bangkok

Near Bangkok, Sukhothai is the original Thai capital of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the golden age of Thai civilisation. Therefore the old city brims with ancient ruins of temples, monuments and elegant Buddha figures that are now considered cultural gems. Translated as ‘dawn of happiness’, Sukhothai has lots to explore from religious art to classic Thai architecture.

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3 - CAPE TOWN - South Africa, Cape Town

South Africa’s oldest city Cape Town is home to a myriad of cultures and a distinct history. Sitting in the city centre, old buildings such as City Hall and the Houses of Parliament enjoy Italian Renaissance and colonial architecture while the World Heritage Site, Robben Island, offers an insight into the apartheid era. What’s more, a trip out to the gorgeous winelands provides a look at Dutch colonial style with attractive whitewash buildings surrounded by glorious mountain views.

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2 - QUITO - Ecuador, Quito

The original UNESCO city, Quito was founded in the sixteenth century and remains Latin America’s most well preserved and least changed historic city with a huge amount of classic Spanish architecture.

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1 - SIEM REAP & ANGKOR WAT - Cambodia, Siem Reap & Angkor Wat

The majestic Khmer ruins of Angkor range from the ninth to fifteenth centuries and are considered one ofSouth East Asia’s most important archaeological sites. The ancient complexes include the iconic Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Beng Melea and the East, West and Victory Gates, with all boasting astounding religious sculptures and statues.

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