Viewing The World Through A Local Lens

Thursday, July 05, 2018
By Azamara

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Why do we travel? Not just to check items off a bucket list, or snap selfies at famous landmarks. Not simply to post enviable social media updates, or escape the routine of everyday life. These are perks of travel, of course. But our true motivation? We travel to expand our horizons, immerse ourselves in new cultures, and connect with people we’d never otherwise meet.

If you travel with a passion for culture, history, and art, an Azamara voyage is for you. On our Cruise Global, View Local shore excursions, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the places you visit by delving into their histories.

What are the best museums, archaeological sites, and historic locales around the world? Here are ten of our favorites.

The Vatican

When we think of cities for history lovers, we think of Rome. The great thing about the Eternal City is that you’ve never truly seen it all.

Our Cruise Global, View Local shore excursion in Rome takes guests to the Vatican. Think you’ve been there, done that? This tour goes beneath the surface—literally.

Beneath the breathtaking St. Peter’s Basilica lies the Vatican Necropolis. Excavations during the 1940s revealed this hidden treasure. This rare tour is a chance to see pagan and Christian tombs that date back to ancient times, as well as what is said to be the tomb of Peter the Apostle. In fact, it was Pope Pius XI who requested the excavations, as he wished to be buried as close to Peter the Apostle as possible.


Ephesus, located in modern-day Turkey, was once one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire, second only to Rome itself. Today it’s one of the most magnificent ancient sites in the world.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, though only the foundation and sculptural fragments remain today. The Library of Celsus is in better condition, as archeologists reconstructed the façade in the 1970s. Ephesus’ theater is thought to have been the largest in the ancient world, with an estimated seating capacity of 25,000. It’s been a magical setting for past AzAmazing Evenings.

Read an Azamara guest’s account of the evening here.

Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins

Chichen Itza was one of the largest Mayan cities during the Late Classic to early Postclassic periods. The city’s ruins, in present day Yucatan, are one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico.

Guests of our Cruise Global, View Local shore excursion will get to explore the fascinating site, which covers six square miles and boasts hundreds of buildings in a variety of architectural styles.

The site’s most iconic monument is the Temple of Kukulkan, commonly referred to as El Castillo. The step pyramid was constructed sometime between the 9th and 12th centuries CE, as a temple to the Yucatec Maya Feathered Serpent deity known as Kukulkan.

Other highlights include the Great Ball Court, the Temple of the Warriors, and the fascinating El Caracol observatory. This temple is believed to have been a proto-observatory, with doors and windows aligned to astronomical events.

Musée Carnavalet

Paris is home to some of the world’s most impressive galleries and museums, including the Louvre. But for a deeper understanding of how the city itself has evolved over the centuries, pay a visit to Musée Carnavalet in the 4th arrondissement.

Housed in two neighboring mansions, the museum was established in 1880 and dedicated to the history of Paris. Its collection of over half a million objects includes a sculpture of Louis XIV, a famous incomplete painting by Jacques-Louis David from the beginning of the French Revolution, and a reconstruction (with original furniture) of the room where Marcel Proust wrote In Search of Lost Time.

With so much to see, it’s no wonder that Musée Carnavalet was recommended both in our 36 Hours In Paris guide and Jean Newman Glock’s Explore Paris Like A Pro article.

The Guggenheim

There are a few reasons to visit Bilbao, Spain. First, there’s wine. Just a short jaunt from Bilbao is the town of Haro, the heart of Spain’s renowned La Rioja region. The town is home to some of the region’s top wineries and is an open-air museum with statues and sculptures at every turn. Another reason to visit? The food. Discover the delights of Basque cuisine while you’re here— think an abundance of fish and seafood, smoky Idiazabal cheese, cured meats, and locally grown peppers.

Of course, the most famous and perhaps most compelling reason to visit Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum. Opened in 1997, the museum turned Bilbao into a cultural mecca. The iconic titanium building, outdoor sculptures, and incredible exhibitions make it a must-visit museum for art lovers.

Angkor Wat

The breathtaking temple complex of Angkor Wat is located in central Cambodia, but that doesn’t make it inaccessible to cruisers. At least, not to Azamara cruisers. Our immersive itineraries mean guests can spend more time in port, and therefore experience more. On our Cruise Global, Stay Local shore excursion, guests can depart Bangkok, Thailand to enjoy two days exploring Angkor Wat, before returning to the ship.

Angkor Wat is a UNESCO Heritage Site, the largest religious monument in the world, and a remarkable representation of Hindu and Buddhist history in Cambodia. It was originally constructed during the Khmer Empire as a Hindu temple to the god Vishnu. Towards the end of the 12th century, it gradually evolved to become a Buddhist Temple.

Situated on two square miles in the lush Cambodian jungle, Angkor Wat is equally impressive for its grand scale, its beautiful natural surroundings, and the intricate detailing of its stone carvings.

Art Gallery NSW

Sydney’s renowned Art Gallery of New South Wales is the perfect place to immerse yourself in Australian culture and history. It boasts an impressive collection of Australian art and a world-renowned section devoted to Indigenous art.

Admission is free to the general exhibition space, though some of the gallery’s temporary exhibitions require an entrance fee. Inside, the restaurant and café provide views of Sydney Harbor. In our How To Spend 36 Hours In Sydney guide, we suggest following up your visit to the Art Gallery NSW with a stroll through Sydney’s Botanic Garden, which features enlightening displays that celebrate Aboriginal culture.

Kuala Lumpur National Museum

Is Kuala Lumpur on your travel radar? If not, it should be. It’s at the heart of the thriving Malaysian food scene, renowned for its unique, multiethnic influences. Sightseeing opportunities offer a mix of both new (the Petronas Towers, the Islamic Arts Museum) and old (the Batu Caves, Sri Mahamariamman Temple).

Guests on our Cruise Global, View Local tour will dive into Malaysia’s rich and fascinating history with a visit to the National Museum. The museum’s ground floor is dedicated to the Malay Peninsula during the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age, as well as the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms and Muslim Sultanate of Malacca. The second floor covers Malaysia’s colonial history and Independence. The museum’s impressive collections provide visitors with a deeper understanding of a captivating region.

Ancient Temples of Bagan

Like Angkor Wat, the Ancient Temples of Bagan are located inland, yet not inaccessible to Azamara cruisers. On our Cruise Global, Stay Local shore excursion, guests can depart Yangon, Myanmar on an overnight adventure to one of the world’s greatest archaeological discoveries.

Founded in 849 AD, Bagan boasts an astonishing 3,000 temples and pagodas across 26 square miles. Typically, pagodas served to store relics while hollow temples were meant for meditation and devotional worship. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to some of the site’s most iconic structures:

Ananda Temple: Built in 1105, this is one of the most famous temples in Bagan. It houses four standing Buddhas, each facing a cardinal direction.

Dhammayangyi Temple: This is the largest temple in Bagan and was built between 1167 and 1170.

Gubyaukgyi Temple: This temple was built in 1113 and is noted for its well-preserved frescoes depicting scenes from the many lives of Buddha. The frescoes are captioned in the language of Old Mon, providing one of the earliest examples of the language in Myanmar.

Htilominlo Temple: This temple, built in 1218, is three stories and 46 meters tall. It’s notable for its elaborate plaster moldings.

Manuha Temple: Built in 1067, this is regarded as one of the oldest temples at Bagan. Inside are three images of seated Buddhas and one image of Buddha entering Nirvana.

Myazedi Pagoda: This pagoda, located near Gubyaukgyi Temple, is where two pillars known as the “Rosetta Stone of Burma” were found. Inscriptions were made in four languages: Burmese, Mon, Pali, and Pyu. The discovery of these pillars was key in deciphering the Pyu language.

Nann Myint Viewing Tower: This modern day structure should not be missed, as it provides the best vantage point to enjoy panoramic views of Bagan.

Shwesandaw Pagoda: This pagoda, built in 1057, features five terraces and is most popular for its stunning sunset views.

Shwezigon Pagoda: This is perhaps the most famous of all the structures at Bagan, thanks to its gorgeous circular gold leaf-gilded stupa. Construction of the pagoda was completed in 1102, and is believed to enshrine a bone and tooth of Gautama Buddha.

Thatbyinnyu Temple: At 61 meters, this is the tallest temple in Bagan.

Fabergé Museum

St. Petersburg, Russia, is bursting at the seams with art. It’s nearly impossible to choose just one museum or historic site from the city to feature on this list. We’re highlighting a lesser-known attraction in the Fabergé Museum, which can be explored during our Cruise Global, View Local shore excursion.

The museum is located in the beautifully restored Shuvalovsky Palace along the Fontanka River in the heart of the city. It’s home to over 4,000 works of decorative applied and fine art, including paintings, porcelain pieces, and gold and silver items. The highlight of the collection is nine imperial Easter eggs crafted by Peter Carl Fabergé himself for Russia’s final two tsars.

The artwork on display at the museum highlights both Russia’s royal excess and folk culture, providing visitors with a profound and balanced insight into Russian history.

Have you been to any of these iconic places? Share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #AzaLocal, and you could be featured in our online gallery.

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