Discovering a destination full of history is always rewarding, but how do you build as much immersion as possible into your vacation? Might we suggest a cruise. When you sail with Royal Caribbean, you get the best of both worlds: Learn all about a country’s culture with a lineup of shore excursions—whether your idea of adventure is through food, festivals, hiking, or kayaking—and enjoy one-of-a-kind thrills on board our ships.
Ready to venture out but not sure where to start? Below, we’ve mapped out five spots rich in history that we think every traveler should visit. Remember to pack your camera and smartphone!
San Juan, Puerto Rico
With its idyllic beaches, world famous cuisine and rum and the only tropical rainforest in the United States, it’s no surprise that Puerto Rico is a top Caribbean destination. The city of San Juan happens to be one of the most historic sites in the New World: Settled 15 years after Columbus’ monumental first voyage, Old San Juan is considered an immaculately preserved example of Spanish colonial architecture. Admire the pastel-hued buildings and cobble-stoned streets on a walking tour, capped off by a visit to the magnificent Castillo San Felipe del Morro—one of the oldest and largest Spanish-built forts. With 140-foot-tall walls, the structure fended off invasions by both the British and Dutch in the 16th and 17th centuries. Soak up more history by exploring sister fort Castillo San Cristobal, a castle built in 1765, or La Fortaleza–The Fortress—the oldest governor’s mansion in the Western Hemisphere, built between 1533 and 1540.
You can also volunteer your time by giving back to the local community, whether that’s serving a meal, participating in arts and crafts or planting a tree in a community garden, through our Give Back to La Perla shore excursion.
Find a cruise to Puerto Rico here.
Malta’s capital was one of the first cities in Europe to be constructed on untouched soil. In fact, many cities in the United States mimicked Valletta’s grid system, which was painstakingly designed to accommodate water and sanitation. Taking turns under the rule of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginian, Romans, Byzantine and Arabs, Valletta—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—boasts a extraordinary range of landmarks. You’ll be transported to the 1600s on a tour of the Red Tower, once used as a fortress by knights (be sure to take in the sweeping views of Mellieha Bay from the roof), and become mesmerized by the 18th-century tapestries at the Grand Master’s Palace, the official residence of the Maltese president. Those looking to explore by sea can unwind with a boat ride to the iconic Blue Grotto.
Want to explore Valletta for yourself? Head here to find out more and book your cruise.
The charming mix of festivals, music, dance and food in Corfu dates back to the medieval era: The tiny island has been occupied by Italy, France and Britain, which explains the combination of influences you can’t find anywhere else in Greece (where else in the world where you’ll see an Asian art museum, a 16th-century church and a 300-year-old synagogue in the same town?) In Palaiopolis—also known as the Old City of Corfu—marvel at ruins from 8th century B.C. and the famed Venetian Fortress, whose labyrinth-like underground tunnel system from the 1500s makes it the most famous monument on the island. At Esplanade Square—the largest town square in Greece—you’ll find renowned British, French and German architecture, as well as more than 200 beautiful varieties of flowers at Boschetto Garden.
Find your perfect sailing to Corfu here.
Known as a British Overseas Territory, this island (and its famous rock) off the coast of southern Spain is the last remaining colony in Europe. Discover centuries of history as you take in landmarks like the Convent—the governors’ residence since the 18th century, King’s Bastion, an ancient-fortress-turned-leisure-center; and the ‘secret’ tunnels, made legendary during World War II when they were transformed into underground hospitals. Of course, a trip to Gibraltar is only complete with a visit to the rock: Getting to the top of this wonder, standing at nearly 1,400 feet, is a piece of cake on our guided mini-bus tour, where you’ll spot military ruins and Game of Thrones-like castles on your way up.
Fun fact: While you’re out and about, don’t be surprised if you encounter a Barbary macaque (pronounced muh-kak). They represent the only wild monkey population in all of Europe (their origin is a mystery to researchers), and they’re not afraid of people!
Nab your spot on a cruise to Gibraltar here.
Singapore’s futuristic skyline looks like it’s out of a sci-fi movie, but make no mistake: This modern city off the southern tip of Malaysia (that’s also recognized as an island and a country) is packed with intriguing history. We recommend exploring colonial structures like the Parliament House, the Victoria Theatre, the Empress Place building and the 158-year-old Singapore Botanic Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get a taste for the local transportation on a bumboat tour of the Boat Quay waterfront, then hitch a ride on a cycle rickshaw to the storied Raffles hotel (once the hotel re-opens after renovations in August 2019, try a world-famous Singapore Sling at the Long Bar). Animal lovers will flip for the world’s first park for nocturnal creatures, where you can spot lions, tigers and the elusive banded palm civet—a rare species of mammal found only in Southeast Asia.