Football fans rejoice! The World Cup is finally upon us.
Whether the idea of 32 national teams competing for a 38-centimetre-high, 18-carat gold trophy excites you or not, there is no escaping this festival of football and furore that comes with it.
Optimism regarding our own national team may not exactly be at an all-time high, but the World Cup is still a fantastic way of bringing people across the globe together over their love for sport and life in general.
The competition also serves as a great way for countries to put themselves in the spotlight from a tourism point of view. So, let’s do some marketing on their part by highlighting some must-visit attractions in each country. Starting with Group A…
The iconic onion-domed architecture of St. Basil’s Cathedral attracts many visitors to the Russian capital every year. You can bet that many fans will want to see its striking colours for themselves in between cheering their team on.
Having started to issue tourist visas again in April and relax certain worldviews (women driving cars), Saudi Arabia is hoping to position itself as an attractive tourist destination. The Masjid Al Haram, where millions of Muslims go each year to perform Hajj, is the largest mosque in the world and certainly a sight to behold.
An immediately recognisable sight, The Great Pyramids of Giza inspire awe and confusion in equal measure. Built as a final resting place for Pharaohs and important members of Ancient Egyptian society, we still don’t know how they were put in place. If Egypt somehow pull off the impossible and win the World Cup, expect a fourth to be erected in honour of Mo Salah.
This UNESCO World Heritage town was once the most important settlement in Uruguay. Located along the south coast, west of current capital Montevideo, it features beautiful colonial buildings and seaside vistas.
Inside the old city walls of Marrakech’s Medina, a bustling world of markets, street entertainers and everyday life awaits. A melange of Morocco is presented before you and will stimulate each of your senses.
The earliest ruins at this UNESCO World Heritage Site bate back to 515 BC. It is an ancient Persian city located in Fars Province believed to have been used to celebrate the Persian New Year and bestow gifts upon the king. However, the true function of Persepolis remains a mystery.
One of the lesser-known projects from engineer Gustave Eiffel (of Paris’s tower fame), the bridge welcomes tourists to the city of Porto. It is part of a beautiful harbour area lined with restaurants, port wine warehouses and traditional Rabelo boats.
Grenada’s breathtaking Moorish fortress looms over the city from its lofty position. Visitors flock from all over the world to see its palatial rooms, exquisite gardens and peaceful courtyards. It is one of the best-preserved examples of Islamic architecture on the planet. Spanish fans will certainly be wanting ‘Moor’ from their team after 2016’s disappointing European Championships campaign.
With around £15 million visitors every year, the Happiest Place on Earth is also France’s most popular tourist attraction. Mickey and friends welcome you to two separate parks, eight different hotels and an entire village dedicated to fun, food and family memories.
Often mistaken as the capital, Sydney is where most of Australia’s tourists tend to head – at least to start with. The iconic Opera House that dominates the harbour and is one of the most distinctive buildings in the world. It may only hold 2,679 people in its main concert hall, but thousands more flock to the area to take that all important picture.
In a land marked by fascinating ancient civilisations, it is Machu Picchu that stands out as the most popular bucket list experience. Constructed by the Incas as a citadel, it is reached via the Inca Trail, which takes you high up into the Andes Mountains. Abandoned during the Spanish Conquest, it wasn’t highlighted on the world stage until 1911. Peru will be hoping to make the most of their time on the world stage after qualifying for the first time in 36 years.
Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens is the second-oldest theme park in the world. It has a fairytale atmosphere, especially at Christmas, and is home to rides such as The Demon, The Odin Express and The Golden Tower. The beautiful gardens, aquarium and an Old Danish market known as The Alley offer a peaceful escape from the thrills.
The small town of El Calafate plays host to adventurous tourists from around the globe looking to head out to Patagonia and the Los Glaciares National Park. It’s here where you’ll find the Perito Moreno Glacier, the third-largest resource of fresh water on the planet, which can be climbed as part of organised treks.
Part of the Golden Circle Tour, which takes tourists to three different natural wonders from Reykjavik, Gullfoss is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland. As well as volcanos, lakes, glaciers and other beautiful sights, waterfalls litter the landscape and this is one of the easiest to reach.
Helped by an increased number of cruise ship arrivals, tourism in Dubrovnik has grown tremendously in recent years. There is plenty to do in his historic city but a chance to see the iconic red-roofed buildings from the city walls is one few visitors pass up. A date for your diary is 26th June, when two of the principal Game of Thrones filming locations (Croatia and Iceland) go head to head in a battle that won’t decide who sits on the Iron Throne but may decide who makes it out of the group behind Argentina.
Nigeria may not be your first choice when looking for a safari holiday, but the country is definitely home to some excellent game reserves and national parks. Yankari has the advantage of being home to soothing hot springs, as well as being the perfect place to spot lions, elephants and other animals.
Costa Rica continues to grow as an eco-tourism destination and offers many different kinds of adventures. The Arenal Volcano is considered to be one of the most active in the world and is an awesome sight when viewed from afar. The area also has some stunning waterfalls, lakes and caves to explore.
Belgrade’s famous fortress highlights the different empires that have ruled over the city in the past. The building has been adapted by Romans, Serbs, Turks and Austro-Hungarians throughout history and offers fantastic views of the confluence between the Danube and Sava rivers.
Visible from practically everywhere in Rio, Christ the Redeemer proudly looks over the city with his arms outstretched. A railway takes visitors up to the top, though many also choose to get off at the half-way stage to explore the Tijuca National Park. A chapel at the base of the sculpture is popular for weddings. The statue is sure to greet the national team with open arms should they return with their sixth World Cup.
Whilst the surrounding region of Zermatt is a popular ski resort, the Matterhorn towers above everything and steals the limelight. Cogwheel railways and cable cars help you explore the area and, thanks to a ban on motorised vehicles in the village, the serenity is never broken by the sound of an engine.
Named as the top thing to see in 2018 by the German Tourism Board, Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland may be a surprise choice at the summit of the list. However, this quirky attraction never disappoints and is great for the whole family. Cities around Europe are brought to life in miniature form and feature thousands of moving parts in the form of vehicles, people and interactive lighting.
When it comes to Mayan ruins in Mexico, Chichén Itzá may get most of the attention, but many visitors actually find Tulum’s coastal location to be more impressive. Reminiscent of a military structure, it stands close to the beaches of Cancun and features towering walls and the interesting Temple of the Frescoes.
Sweden’s most popular museum tells you all you need to know about the country’s maritime heritage and features some fascinating displays. The exhibitions are focussed around the Vasa battleship which sunk in 1628 and was later recovered in 1961. It acts as a time capsule, giving you an insight into the 17th century. Swedes will be hoping that their campaign doesn’t sink quite as fast this summer.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the best-preserved palaces in South Korea, with all four original gates still intact. Situated in Seoul, it was built during the Joseon Dynasty as a place for the king to relax and features restored pavilions, bridges and royal courts.
This bustling city square has been declared a World Heritage Site thanks to the blend of architecture it offers. The buildings date from the 14th to the 17th centuries and include the Town Hall, the King’s House and various other guildhalls. In August, a flower market carpets the middle of the square to bring it alive with colour.
Beginner divers and avid snorkelers flock to Bocas del Toro, an archipelago of nine islands, to explore the beautiful coral reefs in the shallow waters. The area is also home to wild beaches that offer paradisiacal surroundings away from the crowds.
This dramatic amphitheatre highlights the extent of the Roman Empire and how it stretched as far as Northern Africa. With visions of gladiators battling to the death in your mind, you can climb to the top tier and look down on the arena, or head into the corridors underneath and try to imagine what the people would be thinking and feeling before emerging in front of the crowd. There’s no doubt that the Tunisian team have a battle on their hands too if they’re to get out of Group G.
The Salt Cathedral started life as a place for the minors to pray but has since turned into a major tourist attraction for Bogotá and Colombia in general. Telling the story of how the town of Zipaquirá made its wealth, the structure is almost entirely created from the substance being mined – salt. Amazingly, thousands of people still attend a religious service every Sunday.
At the centre of Krakow, you’ll find a castle built for King Casimir III the Great. The structure is one of the largest castles in Europe and features a blend of different architectures that were found all over the continent at the time. It was home to the Kings of Poland for hundreds of years until it was turned into a museum in 1930. It has since also been named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Staggeringly, more than one million people climb to the top of Mount Fuji every summer to watch the sunset, whilst many more make their way to the summit at other times in the year. The peak is revered so much in Japan than its cultural heritage has been recognised by UNESCO and it has appeared in Japanese art for centuries. You can decide to start your ascent from the bottom or hop aboard a bus and begin from the popular 5th Station.
This cultural museum can be found in the capital of Dakar and offers a clear insight into the history of this West African Nation. You’ll see traditional masks, musical instruments and intricately carved statues. Because of its status as the premier museum for art in this part of Africa, you will also see artefacts from countries such as Mali, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso – three nations that Senegal left in their wake during qualification.
If you would like to visit any of these attractions around the world, the team at TravelQuest are also happy to help plan your holiday. Call us on 0800 021 3237 or click here to submit an online enquiry.
Oh, and come on England!