1. Do more at the Great Wall of China
Most travelers take a day trip to this iconic structure. It’s an undeniably awesome experience, and the door to door (well, wall) service doesn’t hurt, either. Most day trips, like this one, include access to the Mutianyu Great Wall and include options to hike trails off the beaten path or toboggan your way down when you’re done.
If you’re looking to do something a bit different, a climb up one of the wall’s watchtowers guarantees a breathtaking view. Night hikers will want to explore the Sintanlai section of the wall, which is illuminated after the sun goes down. Outdoorsy types can consider camping overnight on the wall’s rugged Jiankou section, while extreme athletes won’t want to miss the 26.2 mile Great Wall Marathon, held in May each year. If you’d rather take it easy and delve deeper into the history of this fascinating monument, this tour will take you back in time to Imperial China.
2. Explore Petra a little differently
This ancient city in the desert sands of Jordan is unmissable, but it’s not exactly a well-kept secret. To avoid the crowds, try an overnight tour: you’ll experience the city bathed in a sunset glow. For added authenticity, ditch traditional accommodation for a night or two to sleep under the stars in a Bedouin camp.
If you’re looking to explore some more, you’re in luck. There are plenty of places nearby where the tour buses don’t stop. Little Petra is Petra’s often-overlooked sister site: the ruins here are equally stunning, but far less crowded. Driving the longer King’s Way route to visit the city will take you past pristine forts and temples. And the nearby village of Wadi Musa offers excellent Jordanian food and artisanal wares.
3. See Christ the Redeemer from a new perspective
You can’t visit Rio without making a pilgrimage to the city’s most famous landmark, the awe-inspiring Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado mountain. Most travelers take the cable car to the top, but why not make like a millionaire with a private helicopter tour instead? For a different, but equally impressive, view of the statue, take a guided sunset sailboat trip in Rio’s Guanabara Bay.
Avid Instagrammers should keep an eye out for local early-bird photography tours that all but guarantee a perfect snap of the statue. Want to take in the famous landmark with a side of death-defying thrills? Take a rock-climbing course on neighboring Sugarloaf Mountain: the views are well worth the effort.
4. Take the path less traveled at Machu Picchu
Deep in the Peruvian jungle lies Machu Picchu, the legendary lost Incan city where llamas graze on ancient stone terraces. No matter how you choose to visit it, Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But, to get a true taste of this legendary landscape, why not skip the tour bus and walk the Inca Trail instead? On this multi-day hike, you’ll explore the jungle, spy local wildlife, and pass by less-visited ruins.
If trekking sounds too rough and ready, try arriving by the Hiram Bingham Express. Bingham was the explorer who uncovered the city in the 19th century, and the Hiram Bingham Express brings the period’s opulence into the 21st century: a first-class way to experience these out-of-this-world ruins. But that’s not all — there’s much more to this region than Machu Picchu. When you’re done exploring the ruins, check out Cusco, the Moray salt mines, or the stunning Sacred Valley.
5. Wake up early for Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is the most famous of Mexico’s Mayan ruins for good reason. This monumental complex is almost perfectly preserved, and it’s located on the lush Yucatan Peninsula to boot! Make the most of your trip to Chichen Itza by beating the crowds. A sunrise tour is a spectacular way to experience these ancient pyramids. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the spring or autumn equinox, you’ll even see the sun glide like a serpent up the side of the main pyramid, El Castillo.
Not an early bird? Catch the evening Light and Sound spectacular, where pyrotechnics light up the pyramids. Once you’ve toured the ruins, swim in the sacred underground lakes, or cenotes, at Ik Kil.
6. Get the Colosseum all to yourself
Ah, Bella Roma! When there’s a charming ristorante serving mouthwatering spaghetti carbonara and cacio e pepe on every corner, it’s tempting to make a single circuit around the Colosseum and then head straight back out for more pasta. But the famous landmark is soaked in fascinating history. Go the extra mile and you’ll have an unforgettable Roman experience at this monument.
It goes without saying, you’ll want to skip the line. If you really want the Colosseum to yourself, book an early-morning tour and beat the crowds. Not an early bird? Opt for a romantic late-night experience, enjoying aperitivo in the illuminated ruins. Channel your inner Spartacus when you enter through the Gladiator’s gate and tour the arena. Or dig a little deeper — quite literally — into the Colosseum’s history when you visit its secret underground chambers.
7. Wake up with the Taj Mahal
Of all the world’s wonders, this might just be the most romantic. The Taj Mahal was built in pure white marble by the Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved queen, Mumtaz. It’s also one of the most-visited sites in the world — thousands of people pour through its gates each day. But, with a few tricks up your sleeve, you can still have a relaxed and personal experience at this popular landmark.
Sunrise is the best time to visit: an early morning guided tour ensures you’ll see the Taj Mahal while its grounds are near-empty. The locals know that the best view of the stunning building is from the serene neighboring gardens of Mehtab Bagh. Whatever you do, don’t leave without visiting the equally impressive and far less crowded Agra Fort.Plan your trip