Being a history buff is sometimes a difficult thing. While the internet provides you with an abundance of information and images to tide your curiosities, there’s still that desire to see it all up close and personal. Where do you travel to first? How do you get to such exotic destinations? The logistics can be a nightmare.
While there’s no real rectifying the latter question, to answer the first, your attention should be turned to South America. The southern half of the Americas is brimming with fascinating places to see, many of which would greatly satiate the wants of any history buff. Grab your passport and prepare for a trip south as we explore four dream locations in South America that any history buff would love.
Streets of cobblestone line this 16th-century village, located within the Brazilian city of Salvador. Known as the “city within a city,” Pelourinho is a trip through time with its colonial architecture, ornate churches, and even a name that links it to a somewhat darker past.
Under the control of the Portuguese, Pelourinho became the first slave market in South America in the 1500s. Nearby sugar plantations were the worksites of African American slaves, who’s punishment gave Pelourinho its name, meaning "pillory," or "whipping post." In this case, it’s referring to the whipping post in the central plaza, where slaves were brought to be publicly punished.
The city thrived on slavery, so much so that, after it was abolished in 1835, the city started to fall apart. Despite years of deterioration and a grim past, Pelourinho was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Since 1993, the city has undergone restorations to combine the city’s historic charm and cultural importance.
Finding an intriguing spot to see in Colombia isn’t a difficult task. Deciding which one to visit on a tight schedule is a different story. For this trip through the southern continent, your itinerary stops at Cartagena, a walled city with a history dating back to the early 16th century.
Founded by Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena’s location along the coast immediately made the city a booming trade center. Being a port city that thrived on trade, it wasn’t long before slavery became a big part of Cartagena’s success. Its location near the coast also made Cartagena a target for piracy, and the first pirate attack came about not long after the city’s founding. Huguenot Roberto Baal seized the city, which had no port defenses, and immediately left when paid a ransom.
As for the name? It’s believed it was chosen because much of Heredia’s crew hailed from Cartagena, Spain. Some historians think it was more about the appearance of the coastline and bay, which were similar to the Spanish city.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Long before modern civilization ruled the world, small settlements controlled the most remote pieces of land. During the 15th century, the Inca had a footing in South America. While much of their culture has been lost to time, Machu Picchu serves as one of the most important Incan sites still standing today.
Located nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu was built into the tropical mountain forests of the Andes. Featuring sizable walls, ramps, terraces, and other structures, Machu Picchu is an impressive creation of an ancient civilization. Approximately 200 structures still stand, giving insight into the culture and way of life of the Inca.
After being abandoned in the 16th century, vegetation threatened the integrity of the site, but recent restoration attempts and a place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site has ensured its continued existence. Though it’s so isolated, it’s still possible to visit this incredible link to the ancient Incan culture. It’s costly and requires your body to get acclimated to the high altitude, but it’s a trip worth taking.
The Nazca Lines, Peru
Thought to have been part of a rain ritual to the gods, the Nazca Lines are one of the greatest mysteries in the world. Etched into the ground, these ornate works of art depict birds, plants, and mammals found throughout the region. There are other abnormal creations, too, like a humanoid figure known today as "The Astronaut." The sizing of each of the more than 300 etchings differs, but some are as long as 1,200 feet.
Created between A.D. 1 and 700, the Nazca Lines indicate the sophistication of the earliest civilizations. Though, there are some that believe a much more advanced race of aliens was involved in their creation.
Viewing the Nazca Lines requires a chartered flight, as there are too many and they are too grand to view from ground level. From your higher altitude, you’ll clearly see where the Nazca people removed the first pieces of rock on the desert floor to create the surprisingly intricate designs.