Forts are fantastic to visit. They’re full of history and grandeur. When walking towards a fort, I’m always in awe. You usually don’t have to travel far to find a fort or fortress. Since there are numerous forts in the world. India alone has over 1000 forts. Not everything with fort in the name is an actual fort though, like Fort Worth in Texas. The largest town named after a fort.
Best Forts in the World: Middle East
We start with the forts in the Middle East. A region with lots of strive and history.
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Masada or Massada is a citadel on a rock near the Dead Sea in Israël. King Herod fled to this rock in 40 BC. Between 40 and 4 BC he built the fort to become a safe haven. The next big thing happened in 70 AC, during the Jewish resistance against the Roman occupiers. Zealots were the ones resisting the Romans on Masada. There are many stories surrounding the resistance at Masada and it’s unknown which one is true.
The fort is on a large, impressive rock in the desert of Judea. The tableland is 600 meters in length and 240 meters in width. Because of this it belongs to the biggest forts in the world. For the ones that want to visit everything on the UNESCO world heritage list, it’s a must visit. But also for others who love great views and history.
The fort is reachable with a funicular, which only takes a few minutes. There’s also an ancient snake path up to the top, for the more adventurous ones. On the rock are the palaces of Herod surrounded with Roman fortifications open for visits. The fortification wall is 1400 meters long and 4 meters in width. It has 27 towers and 3 entrance gates. When standing on top of the tableland the views and fort are impressive.
A visit to Masada can easily be combined with floating in the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi and Qumran.
Nizwa Fort, Oman
Contributed by Cathy from Mummy Travels.
Four centuries ago, the Sultans of Oman only reigned over its coast, while the Imams ruled inland – leaving behind a string of historic fortresses, including Nizwa Fort, the most visited of Oman’s forts. Built in the 1650s, on the foundation of an older building, Nizwa was once the capital of Oman and is around 90 minutes from Muscat. The town is famous for its sticky sweet halwa as well as silver jewellery, and the historic souk, which operates as a market today for both locals and tourists, still sits in the shadow of the fort’s towering mud brick walls.
A visit is a perfect introduction to some of the country’s history, as well as to understanding the area’s other fortresses, with more information on show. You can explore some of the more everyday rooms, including one designed for washing, velvet cushions in another for sleeping, yet another to store huge sacks of dates, whose juice was boiled and used as a weapon if needed (and the fruit eaten if not).
At its heart is a huge 30m high tower, a reminder of Nizwa’s importance and its impressive defences. Climb up onto the roof to see other cunning traps to stop invaders, including holes in the staircases where attackers would have plunged into deep dark pits below. From the top, cannons still look out to the mountains.
There’s also a small museum here, with more background about everyday life in 17th century Oman, along with traditional clothing and other artefacts on show.
Alamut Fortress, Iran
Contributed by Ellis from Backpack Adventures.
The Alamut fort in Iran has one of the most spectacular locations of the country. The story goes that in the 11th century a prince followed an eagle who landed on top of a rocky outcrop that overlooked the beautiful Alamut valley. The prince decided that this would be the location of his castle.
In the 12th century the Assassins took over. This somewhat mysterious Ismaili sect and military order used the Alamut fort as their headquarters. During this time the fort truly developed into a city of its own with gardens and libraries.
The fort was made so strong that the assassins believed it could withstand any military attack. Sadly the Mongols were able to conquer and destroy most of the Alamut fort in 1256 after which it never regained its former glory.
The ruins leave much to the imagination, but the location is still as spectacular as ever. As you climb up the rocky hill you will be rewarded with sweeping views over the Alamut valley where the cherry blossoms bloom in spring and the trees turn golden in autumn.
The Alamut fort can be visited from Qazvin. It is a 2 to 3 hour drive by shared taxi to the village of Gazor Khan where you can do the short hike up to the fort.
Karak Fortress, Jordan
Contributed by Maartje from The Orange Backpack.
The town of Karak in Jordan – or Al-Karak of Kerak – is home to one of the must-visit forts around the world. Most people visit Jordan to explore the famous Treasury monument in Petra and float in the Dead Sea, but Jordan also has the most amazing desert castles you can imagine. Karak is the biggest one and a must-visit on your Jordan visit.
The Karak Castle was an important stronghold in the crusader’s time. The fortified castle has seen many battles and sieges since the construction in the 12th century by the crusaders. Not long after its construction the castle, it was already sieged and conquered by the Muslim sultan Saladin. The new owners expanded it in their own style, creating an interesting mix between Western and Arab design.
What remains today is a maze-like structure on top of a hill, overlooking a big part of Jordan. Much of the ancient castle is gone, but the underground passage-ways, arches and corridors that are still in place are impressive.
Karak is in the heart of Jordan, not even a two-hour drive from capital Amman. There’s not really any other highlight or accommodation close by, but distances in Jordan are short. You could combine your visit with a mini road trip along the King’s Highway, a scenic route across Jordan. Both Petra and the Dead Sea, but also the nature reserve at Dana are near enough to combine with your visit.
The entrance fee for Karak is included in the Jordan Pass, a must-have for your Jordan trip. It costs 70 to 80 JD – depending on how many days you’d like to spend in Petra – and includes most highlights of Jordan and your visa. It is already worth your money if you’d only visit Petra and need a visa.
In India are some of the largest and most popular forts in the world. Not so strange since it has the most forts in the world. But don’t forget about the rest of Asia, which is also dotted with forts all around.
Mehrangarh Fort, India
Contributed by Bradley from Dream Big, Travel Far.
Without a doubt, Mehrangarh Fort is the most famous place to visit in Jodhpur. It dominates the city and can be seen for miles in all directions. And unsurprisingly so as it was deliberately built this way. For hundreds of years the fort was home to rulers of the area, and played a critical role in wars against neighbouring Jaipur.
Parts of the fort you see today were originally constructed all the way back in 1459. It was (and still is) an imposing fortress, incredibly hard to conquer. Not least because of the thin winding road that leads all the way up to the city. Attackers must fight fearlessly the whole way up, constantly being harrowed by cannons and arrows in order to meet the gates.
Upon visiting, you can hire an audio guide which leads you through the winding path and into the complexes within the walls. It guides you past cannonball holes in the walls and through elaborate museums home to some of the finest artifacts anywhere in India. From my experiences, one of the nicest ways to experience the fort is at night time.
Jodhpur is known as the Blue City and, from a well-perched restaurant or balcony you can experience views over the city with the Mehrangarh Fort lit up in the background.
Jaisalmer Fort, India
Contributed by Subhadeep from My Travel Frames.
Jaisalmer Fort is situated in the state of Rajasthan in India. Rajput king Rawal Jaisal built this massive fortress in AD 1156 in the middle of the Thar Desert to establish an important pit stop in ancient trade route from central Asia. The city was named Jaisalmer from two words Jaisal (name of The King) and Meru (the mountain of Gods in Himalaya).
This Fort is one of a kind in India. It is the only “Living Fort” of the country. Although it had been generations since any Rajput King ruled here, descendants of ancient inhabitants of the fort still reside here. This uniqueness draws many tourists to Jaisalmer Fort every year.
This Fortress is 1500 ft long and 750 ft wide. It is made of sandstone which appears golden yellow during sunrise and sunset, glittering like gold, giving it the name “Golden Fort” or “Sonar Quila” as local call it.
The Fort Palace is the prime attraction inside Jaisalmer Fort. Once the residence of Rajput Kings is now converted into a museum which houses a great collection of artefacts reflecting rich culture and heritage of the kingdom. Next thing to see is the Seven Jain Temples which are famous for their Dilwara style paintings and architecture. These temples were built between the 12th and 15th century. A number of old cannons are still placed at the edge of the boundary wall of the fort as were centuries ago. The majestic view of Jaisalmer City and the Thar Desert from those vantage points are spectacular.
Jaisalmer Fort is 570 km from Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan and 280 km from Jodhpur. Jaisalmer has direct flights from Jaipur which is connected by flights with other metro cities of India. The driving time from Jaipur to Jaisalmer is 10 hours.
Mirjan Fort, India
Contributed by Sandy & Vyjay from Nirvan Diaries.
Barely 22 kilometres away from the famous seaside town of Gokarna in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, lies a fort with an intriguing history. The fort is known as Mirjan Fort and it is believed that the original fort dates back in history to the 13th century.
However, the fort came into prominence in the 16th century when a queen named Chennabhairadevi held sway over the region. The Mirjan Fort was then the hub of activity and the power centre from which the Queen ruled the region. In those days the region was rich in spices including pepper and the queen controlled the spice trade from the seaports in the vicinity with Portugal. The Portuguese gave her the name of “Rainha de Pimenta” or Pepper Queen. At a time when women were relegated to the confines of their homes, this brave woman blazed a fiery trail of her own and ruled the region for 54 years.
The Mirjan fort sprawls over an area of 10 acres and consists of a double wall with entry through four gates. The fort was surrounded by a moat and had a drawbridge, however, these are not visible now. The fort stands as a tribute to its builders and their engineering skills. A group of interconnected wells in the fort supplied water to the moat as well as catered to the needs of the inhabitants of the fort.
Ruins of a market place and Durbar Hall or Assembly hall are proof of the fact that a big settlement once lived inside the fort. Many secret passages can be seen inside the fort that was part of an escape route for the queen and her associates in times of enemy attack. The Mirjan Fort stands as a silent ode to the valour of a queen who left her mark on the sands of history.
Amber Fort, India
Contributed by Anjali from Cheerful Trails.
The Amber Fort is one of the most majestic forts that exhibit the grandeur and power of the royal’s era in India. This fort is located at a small hilltop town called Amer which is just at 11 kms from the city Jaipur. Amber Fort overlooks the lake Maota and is surrounded by the spectacular Aravalli mountain ranges. The Maota lake itself is a beautiful sight with a saffron garden, named Kesar Kyari, located just at the centre.
The town Amer was originally the capital of Rajasthan until the 18th century. The Amber Fort was constructed in the 16th century by Raja Man Singh I who was one of the Navratnas (nine gems) of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. The fort served as Royal residence to Rajput kings until Jaipur was declared the capital city of Rajasthan.
The Amber fort is built of red sandstone and marble. It’s architecture is a blend of the traditional Rajput (Hindu) and Mughal (Islamic) styles. The grand layout of the fort comprises royal courtyards, temples, palaces, gardens and chambers. The intricate mirror works, designs, artworks and carvings on the pillars, gates, walls and ceilings of the fort would definitely amaze you.
The Amber fort has several noteworthy attractions which includes the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace), Ganesh Pol (Uniquely designed entrance gate), pillars with the magic flower fresco, Kesar Kyari (Saffron Garden), Sila Devi Temple, Diwan-e-Aam (Public Hall) and Jaleb Chowk (Main Courtyard). The Sheesh Mahal is decorated with thousands of mirror cut works and stained glasses. The women used to lit one candle during the night in Sheesh Mahal, that in turn reflected on the ceilings and illuminated it to look like a night sky full of twinkling stars.
The Amber fort is easily reachable through cab, tuk tuks or city buses that are very easily available from the Jaipur city.
Fort Margherita, Malaysia
Contributed by Beth from Frugal Female Abroad.
Fort Margherita is in Kuching, on the island of Borneo in Malaysia. It was constructed in 1879 by the then Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Brooke. Fort Margherita was built on top of a hill and overlooking the Sarawak River. It was built to defend Kuching from pirate attacks. The fort is named after the Rajah’s wife, Margaret.
The fort is no longer the protector of Kuching. It now contains the Brooke Gallery which is a museum and gallery about the history of Sarawak under the Brooke dynasty.
The fort is a must-see if you are visiting Kuching. It is a beautiful colonial building built in the style of an English Castle. The museum has many artefacts on display from the Brooke dynasty from 1842 to 1946.
The whole building is open to the public and you can climb up the remarkable spiral staircase to stand atop the fort. There are incredible views over Kuching city from the top of the fort. There are also the old cannons, now silent, that stand guard over the building.
Kuching is an amazing city and it offers so many attractions for tourists to visit. Kuching is also famous for its amazing food. If you love forts and are prepared to travel, then Fort Margherita in Kuching should be high on your list of places to visit.
Hwaseong Fortress, South Korea
Contributed by Marie from Be Marie Korea.
The Suwon fortress was built in 1796 by King Jeongjo in honor of his father, who was accused of treason and killed at the age of 27. The fortress is absolutely stunning and has become the filming location of many Korean dramas, music videos and films. The walls of the fortress stretch for about 5.74 kilometers, surrounding a big part of Suwon city. It’s not only a great site with lots of historic value, you can also enjoy walking all along the fortress walls.
To get the best view of the fortress, it is highly recommended to take the Flying Suwon experience, which is a hot air balloon experience that rises up to 100 meters above the fortress and allows you to see the whole fortress and other points of interest in Suwon.
Visiting the fortress is free, but if you want to visit the palace which lies along the fortress walls, there is an entrance fee of 1$. The palace is stunning and it is highly recommended to pay a visit.
Hwaseong fortress is open 24/7, but some parts of the fortress walls might be closed during night time. There are many things to do in Suwon, but Hwaseong fortress is one of the highlights.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Sri Lanka
Contributed by Juliet from Live Your Dream.
Sigiriya is one of the best places for hiking in Sri Lanka. It’s famous thanks to the Lion Rock Fortress, that’s been king Kashyapa’s residence during his reign years (from AD 473 to AD 495) and is now a widely known UNESCO World Heritage site.
Also called Sigiriya Rock Fortress, it was built in the strategically chosen place, on top of a huge rock that gives a 360-degree view of Sigiriya and all the surroundings. What was before a humble Buddhist monastery, then became a king’s palace with beautiful gardens, lakes, and fountains. The palace itself didn’t survive the time, but the gardens are still there and the ruins give a good understanding of how the place looked at the time.
A good guide will tell you what each room was for and show the place where king’s concubines were living. You’ll see the lion’s paws that form an entrance, the famous Mirror Wall where Buddhists paid their respects in writing through the years of pilgrimage, and unique ancient frescos.
The hike itself is 1200 stairs to the top and 600 back with another route. It takes about four hours from Colombo airport to get to Sigiriya by car and if you stay the night in the area you can also climb Pidurangala Rock that has the best view of the Lion Rock.
Bhangarh Fort, India
Contributed by Meenakshi from Polka Junction.
Situated in the lap of the world’s oldest fold mountains -the Aravallis, the Bhangarh Fort is a 17-century old structure with beautiful Hindu temples inside its premises. Often termed the most haunted fort in India, the Bhangarh fort has spooked visitors, and many are said to have experienced paranormal activities when exploring the fort over the years. So much so, that the Archaeological Survey of India has restricted the entry or stay of visitors during the night.
Built in the 17th century by Raja Man Singh for his brother, and named after his grandfather, Bhansingh, the Bhangarh Fort is a well-planned township of yesteryears in the Indian state of Rajasthan. An aerial view and map of the fort show structured market places, alleyways, various quarters, palaces, and temples, although many remain as mere ruins now.
The temples inside the Bhangarh fort premises are built in the Nagara style of Indian architecture replete with well-built water tanks. The source of water supply to these tanks is widely believed to be a natural spring that arises from tree roots of an oasis fringed by palm trees. One can visit the spring area and feel the drastic drop of temperature and wonder at the potable water that oozes from the roots of a tree. It is quite a wonder since Rajasthan is a desert state!
The Bhangarh fort could be reached by road from Delhi, Agra as well as Jaipur. Although, the nearest airport is in Jaipur. And it takes approximately 90 mins by road from Jaipur.
October to March is the best time to visit Bhangarh fort.
The Spanish and Portuguese built forts throughout Southern America. To defend the trade and goods they had there. That’s not all there is to see in South America, it also has some beautiful waterfalls.
Forte do Presepio, Brazil
Contributed by Mario from Rest & Recuperation.
Positioned at the mouth of the Amazon River (or better, one of its mouths), Belem is the exit port for all the goods leaving the region. It is no surprise that the first building of the city was a fort. Built in 1616, the Forte do Presepio is named after the nativity scene (“presepio” in Portugues) because the expedition that arrived there had left on Christmas Day.
At the beginning it was made of wood, but right after the construction, some stone walls were built. Around the fort, the city of Belem grew, at the beginning with the name of Feliz Lusitania, until reaching nowadays one million and a half inhabitants.
The fort had to protect the trade of many goods, but mainly sugar which made Belem a rich city. At a later stage also cocoa and cotton became prevalent.
The Forte do Presepio was gradually abandoned due to the reduced military needs around the area of Belem. At the beginning of the XIX century it was almost in ruins. Despite its state, it was never demolished and in 1995 the authorities decided to renovate it.
Nowadays it hosts a little museum about Tapajos and Marajoara indigenous people, together with some artifacts from the pre-colonisation era. It is a perfect spot for a walk as well, with its restored cannons lined on the shore as if they still have to defend the numerous boats entering or leaving Belem.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, Colombia
Contributed by Ilona & Daniel from Top Travel Sights.
If you like forts, you should visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, which you can find on a hill in the city of Cartagena, Colombia. The fortress dates back to 1536 but was expanded multiple times into the triangular shape that you can see today.
Our favourite part by far, when exploring the fort, was the exhibition and video about the Battle of Cartagena de Indias.
In 1741, British naval ships and troops tried to conquer Cartagena. They outnumbered the Spanish army by far, but the Spaniards had one advantage on their side – Blas de Lezo. This navy officer might already have lost his left eye, left hand, left leg, and complete mobility of his right arm, but that didn’t stop him from winning the battle against the British.
After you’ve learned everything about this crazy story, explore the courtyards and then go down into the corridors and listen. The Spanish engineers constructed them in such a way that sound carries on over great distances so that no enemies could sneak inside.
You can reach the Castillo de San Felipe fortress after a short walk from the Old Town of Cartagena. Climb to the top of the fort, and you’ll have a great view of the colonial buildings! We recommend that you come early in the morning to beat the heat. Bring enough water and maybe a few Colombian street food snacks, so you don’t go hungry or thirsty.
Fun fact: Europe houses the country with the most castles in the world: Germany. It has a long history of fighting within it’s own borders. Some of the most beautiful forts of the world are still standing today.
Bourtagne, The Netherlands
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Bourtagne is a fortress town in the province of Groningen, which is in the North of The Netherlands. It’s one of the star forts around the world. During the Dutch Revolt Willem of Orange gave the assignment in 1580 to build a fort. The fort was important for defence until it was dissolved in 1851. The fort was never taken. After the dissolvement a village revolved around the fortifications. From 1967 on, efforts have been made, with success, to restore the fortress. The villagescape is now protected, while people live in the village.
The sights in and around the fortress are numerous. You can visit a pastor’s home, cannons, two entrance gates, strongholds, bridges, canals, a church, the ramparts, guardrooms, a peat shed, several mills, bridge tender’s houses, a forge and so on.
In Bourtagne are several museums where you can learn about the history of the fortress town. There’s Terra Mora, a museum that explains the history between the bog and the fortress. Museum De Baracquen, a soldier’s home from around 1742. A captain’s home, which displays the style of that period. In the synagogue is a Jewish museum. The powder house houses changing expositions.
Entrance to the museums is € 8.50 for adults. For kids aged 6-11 € 4.50 and for free for kids 5 and under.
Unique is that you can stay over inside the fortress town in a captain’s or soldier’s room.
Alcázar fortress, Spain
Contributed by Chrysoula from Travelpassionate.
The Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs in Córdoba is one of Spain’s most important and impressive fortresses, with its rich and varied history spanning from the time of the Roman empire up until the present day.
The castle that you see today was constructed by the order of King Alfonso XI of Castile in 1328, but even before that the Alcázar was home to the Visigoths, the Umayyads and Abd ar-Rahman I who created the Caliphate of Córdoba. This is why the structure has a mix of Christian and Moorish influences, with Arab baths and the Moorish courtyards contrasting with the Baroque Hall of Mosaics and Gothic Tower of the Lions.
While the fortress itself is, of course, magnificent, it is actually the gardens that leave many visitors astounded. The grounds feature towering palm trees, picture-perfect topiary, large ponds and fountains, and even orange and lemon trees, which create a tranquil haven in the middle of the city.
Visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site when exploring Córdoba is an absolute must, spending time wandering through the fortress and gardens and even taking in views from above by ascending the various towers on site.
Guests can visit the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs from Tuesday to Sunday year-round and can choose to take a guided tour or explore at their leisure. The Alcázar can also be visited as a day trip from Seville and Granada if you don’t have time to stay longer in Córdoba.
Castillo Sohail Fuengirola, Spain
Contributed by Paulina from Paulina on the road.
Built in AD 956 by Abd-ar-Rahman, the Castillo Sohail, Fuengirola fort is a must-visit tourist attraction in Fuengirola, Southern Spain. Despite being destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions, it still stands today as one of the finest castles in Spain.
Initially built to strengthen the coastal defenses, the castle has turned into a free tourist attraction where several live functions, concerts, and other festivals such as the medieval market and the beer festival are organized every year.
The fort remains closed on Mondays. On weekdays is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It remains open on weekends too.
Inside, there is a museum that enlightens the history surrounding this place.
The museum is not the biggest in Spain but it is a very interesting visit making it one of the things to do in Fuengirola. The museum perfectly displays the history of Costa del Sol and gives us an insight into what the fishing was like back in those days.
There are four rooms in the museum one of which displays the most interesting exhibits kept in the museum. The world-famous statues which were discovered in the seventies during the excavations are displayed in the museum. Another very striking exhibit of this museum is the fishing boat. There are carpenter tools and an old taxi-cart which still has its registration card on it. The museum is well set up. The only disappointing thing about the museum is that none of the exhibits is labeled in English.
However, you wouldn’t mind loitering for a few minutes in the park nearby, would you?
Contributed by Joanna from Andalucia in my Pocket.
Malaga’s Alcazaba is one of the best-preserved forts in the South of Spain. The fortification was built around the 10th century on the highest hill in Malaga, and reinforced during the Nasrid Dynasty, in the 12th century and again in the 14th century. The Alcazaba is not only a defence fortress, but also a beautiful Palace, with interior gardens full of flowers and orange trees, patios, fountains, and water pools.
The first thing you notice when you look up towards the Alcazaba, from the ground, will be the massive walls climbing uphill, which were meant to protect the fort from the attacks coming over the sea. It has over 100 towers, turrets, arrow slits, battlements, which make it one of the most advanced Arab military forts, in today’s Spain. There used to be three defence walls, but today only two remain. Even the gate is doubled on itself, to make the entrance to the Alcazaba very difficult during an attack. The fort is divided into the outer and the inner citadel, with the access to the latter being made through a single gate, on an uphill path.
The Alcazaba is part of a larger complex, together with the Gibrlfaro Castle and the remains of the Roman Theatre, at its foothills. The Alcazaba is a must visit during any Malaga itinerary.
Akershus Fortress, Norway
Contributed by Ella from Many More Maps.
Overlooking the stunning Oslo Fjord, the medieval Akershus Fortress in Oslo, Norway is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s not known exactly how long the Akershus Fortress has been standing, but experts agree that building commenced sometime around 1299 under King
Håkon V. It was strategically positioned to protect against sieges, and to provide a royal residence for the city. Despite numerous siege attempts over the years, the Fortress has never been besieged.
Just a few minutes’ walk from Oslo’s city centre and the Oslo Central train station, the Akershus Fortress is an essential stop on every Oslo itinerary due to the amazing views the fortress offers over the Oslo Fjord and central Oslo.
After snapping some photos of the view, step inside the fortress to discover its fascinating and varied history. The fortress contains ornately decorated banquet halls, reception rooms still used by the
Norwegian Government, and the Norwegian Royal Mausoleum. Exploring the interior of the castle will take around 1 hours, with tickets costing 100 NOK. Once you’ve explored the fortress, enter the Norwegian Resistance Museum, which is also housed in the fortress, to learn about Norway’s fascinating resistance movement during the Second World War.
Kazan Kremlin, Russia
Contributed by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan.
Most people know what a kremlin is, or at least they think they do. Since the word has become synonymous with the Russian government, much like the words “White House” are used to refer to the United States government, many people outside Russia believe that the kremlin in Moscow is the only one that exists. Not so!
In fact, historically there was a kremlin at the heart of pretty much every Russian town. Nowadays, 20 of these kremlins, which are essentially large forts or citadels, remain completely intact. One of the best-preserved of these is the kremlin in Kazan, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Tatarstan. It was built in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible over the ruins of the fortress of the Kazan Khanate, which he had just conquered.
Kazan’s unique cultural and religious history makes its kremlin one of the most interesting to visit in Russia. For one, it’s the only kremlin that contains both a cathedral and a mosque within its walls. The Kul Sharif Mosque was built in 2005 on the site of the original mosque destroyed by Ivan the Terrible. Noon Friday prayers are held here, and it’s open to visitors seven days a week.
In addition to the Kul Sharif Mosque and the Annunciation Cathedral, there are a number of small museums within the Kazan kremlin complex. The Tatarstan Presidential Palace is also inside the kremlin and can be viewed from a distance. You could easily spend half a day exploring the nooks and crannies of this large complex.
Tossa de Mar Fortress, Spain
Contributed by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel.
Located on the Costa Brava Coast, Tossa Del Mar is a beach town with an impressive fort of the same name. Tossa Del Mar fortress was built in the 12 century and overlooks the modern town and coastline. It is the only surviving walled city on the Catalan coast.
The historical landmark is free to enter and you can climb the perfectly preserved walls the same way soldiers would have done hundreds of years ago. Stop at Joanàs Tower, Clock Tower, and Codolar Tower. They all have their own unique views which are nothing short of breathtaking. Codolar Town looks out onto the coastline and beach.
Inside the walls you can find the remains of the old city. It is filled with historical buildings and narrow, cobblestone streets. Many of which have been converted into restaurants and shops.
While in the old town, visit the Church of Sant Vicenç which is a gothic style church. It was built on the site of an older Romanesque church and has stunning views of the sea.
For a greater understanding of the history of the area head to The Municipal Museum of Tossa de Mar in the old city. They have historical exhibits which explain the history of the town dating back to the Romans.
Housesteads Fort, England
Contributed by Monique from Trip anthropologist
After a brief foray into Scotland, the ancient Romans retreated to northern England and built the biggest wall they could manage. Hadrian’s Wall was built in 122AD and spans the whole of northern England, from Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast to Wallsend on the East Coast.
Hadrian’s Wall was Roman Brittanica’s northernmost border and it was heavily fortified with dozens of forts, towers, gates and garrisons. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hadrian’s Wall Trail has become of the most popular hiking trails in the world.
The best places to begin walking along Hadrian’s Wall are at the 16 fortified permanent bases. Housesteads is a Roman Fort at Haydon Bridge, Hexham, in Northumberland that sits in dramatic northern borderlands scenery. Housesteads Fort is the best preserved Roman Fort in all of Britain. The remains of barracks, baths, toilets and a hospital can all be seen at this Fort. The Wall rises with the escarpment and there is a long view out to Scotland from the top of this windy site.
Part of what makes this Fort one of the best sites to visit on Hadrian’s Wall is the facilities that have been built to help understand what it would have been like to be stationed at Housesteads. A National Trust Visitor’s Centre and an interactive museum has been built to house the weapons, jewellery, religious altars and other object found inside the Fort.
Tower of London, England
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
The Tower of London is situated near the river Theems.
In 1078 William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a White Tower. Later on extra fortification walls were added, this led to an extensive building complex. This complex was simply named The Tower. A larger castle was built around the original fort.
The Tower has had several functions over the years. The most notorious being a state prison. Where some famous persons have been held prisoner and were executioned. Other functions have been a fort, a royal palace, a mint, a garrison, a museum and an arsenal.
Nowadays the Tower of London is a famous and important tourist attraction. Everyone wants to see the crown jewels on display. Expect long waiting lines for this, but it’s worth it, in our opinion. For army enthusiastics there’s a rich collection of weaponry and harnesses on display. Another attraction are the raven, who live on the fort. People think that as long as the raven are staying in the Tower, England won’t experience attacks from outside.
Entrance is £ 25.00 for adults and £ 12.50 for kids.
Northern America has a lot of Spanish forts in the New World. Notably in the Caribbean and the South of the USA. The British and French on the other hand built forts in the North, in Canada and the USA.
Brimstone Hill Fortress, St. Kitts
Contributed by Steph from Book It Let’s Go!
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site and is one of the top attractions on St Kitts. Designed by British military engineers and built and maintained by African slaves. It is one of the best-preserved historical fortifications in the Americas. The earliest use of Brimstone Hill for military purposes was in 1690 when building began and the British installed a canon on top of the steep volcanic hill to protect the coastline from the French.
Although some buildings were demolished when the site was abandoned by the British in 1853, most of the significant structures dating from the 18th century are still intact and visible today. Including bastions, barracks, cisterns, walls, roads and pathways all occupying different levels of this extensive historical site.
At the heart of the fortress lies Fort George also known as the Citadel. This impressive structure dominates the landscape and perches on the very top of the hill overlooking the entire site. Completed towards the end of the 1700s, this is the earliest surviving example of the “Polygonal System” of fortress design. Fort George today houses a museum showcasing life and works at the fortress over the years, including the treatment of African slaves. Some of the citadel rooms have also been restored to replicate what they would have been like when the fortress was in use. The entrance fee is $20US or $27XCD for adults and due to the size of the site it takes a good few hours to look around the whole thing but it is worth the visit.
Fortress of Louisbourg, Canada
Contributed by Jenn from Will Save For Travel.
On the island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, you’ll find the Fortress of Louisbourg, still looming large over the small community of Louisbourg. The fortress was built by French settlers between 1720 and 1740 to protect the community from English invasion. However the fortress had many weaknesses and was captured twice. In the final capture in 1758, the English dismantled the fortress. In the 1960s and 1970s archaeologists reconstructed the site to what is now known as the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada.
Currently the fortress acts as a living museum. Where you can experience what life was like in the 1740s for the French Settlers. It is fully immersive with reenactments happening throughout the day, and actors available for questions throughout the fort.
The Military Chapel is especially beautiful, although simple. And don’t forget to get a loaf of bread if you are hungry, it is delicious!
When visiting Cape Breton, and Nova Scotia in general, the fortress is a must visit because of its history of sieges between the English and the French. Nova Scotia still has a thriving French population despite the fact that the British ultimately ended up controlling the area.
Planning a trip in Nova Scotia on Cape Breton, don’t miss one of the 30 waterfalls in North America, one of them is close by.
Halifax Citadel, Canada
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
The Halifax Citadel or Fort George is in Halifax which lays in Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada. It’s a National Historic Site.
The fort was built during the Father Le Loutre’s war in 1749. It’s function was to protect the protestant colonists against the French Acadians and the Wabanaki-confederation (mostly the Mi’kmaq tribe). It’s one of the many star forts in the world, which are fun to look at from above. The fort is situated on a hill. It has a strategic location on top, with a perfect view of the harbour. With this the fort was destined to protect the city of Halifax.
The fort has been restored to the Victorian era. You can learn about how it was for the soldiers and their families to live and work here. The 78th Highlanders and the 3rd Brigade Royal Artillery are the soldiers that will take you back in time.
There are several things to do on a visit to Halifax Citadel:
- Guided tours;
- Self-guided tours;
- Noon day firing of the gun (don’t miss this, a tip from us);
- Listening to the sounds of bagpipes (also one to enjoy on your visit, it adds to the ambiance);
- A Signature Experience to become part of the 78th Highlanders for the day;
- Ghost tours;
- Army museum.
The army museum has a rare collection of weapons, medals and uniforms from the army history of Nova Scotia. For army enthusiastics this is well worth your time.
Last but not least, Australia has some amazing forts.
Fort complex Magnetic Island, Australia
Contributed by Kerrie & Woody from Just Go Travelling.
The Fort Complex sits atop of the beautiful Magnetic Island in Queensland, Australia.
We can climb to the top of the Fort Complex and admire the views today but it is a stark comparison to the past.
The Fort Complex was built in 1943 during World War II as a means of protection from the Japanese invasion of Australia. It oversaw the protection of the harbour and town containing French M3 guns, a popular coastal defence weapon.
Thankfully, today the Fort Complex is not needed for any wars but can be enjoyed by the public. It is one of the most sort-after destinations on the island.
The walk to the top of the fort is known as ‘The Fort Walk’. The walk takes around 30 min to reach the top. It is popular amongst tourists because you can spot wild koalas in the tall trees as you blissfully walk up the paths. It is not common to see them in the wild as they are nocturnal animals, so this is a treat.
If that wasn’t enough, at the top of the Fort you are rewarded with 360-degree panoramic views of Magnetic Island.
It is especially good for sunset as you watch the sky transform into different colours dipping below the green mountains
Fort Nepean, Australia
Contributed by Leah from Officer Travels.
When visiting Australia Point Nepean National Park is a must-do day trip, roughly 2 hours south of Melbourne, with a bit of a difference. This whole area has played a huge part in Australian history but also offers some incredible views of the rugged coastline along the way.
Located on the Mornington Peninsula, Point Nepean National Park is home to Fort Nepean. This fort is the location of the first British Empire gunfire in world war I, making it an important part of military history. Fort Nepean was a critical defence point for Australia right up until the end of world war II, as well as an important training area for new military soldiers.
That’s not all though, there are other buildings here that date back to the 1840s which have been used as quarantine stations for early European settlers and even Kosovo refugees during the 1998-9 Kosovo war. It also looks over the spot where the Australian Prime Minister, Harold Holt, went missing in 1967… see, there’s a lot of history here!
A visit to Fort Nepean today is more than just a quick walk around some ruins though. The gun shelters, military tunnels and fortresses here are all very well preserved, with detailed signs highlighting the history behind each building. The whole 6km loop track around Point Nepean will take 2-4 hours, and is free to access from Gunners Point Cottage, however, there is a shuttle that takes passengers to the furthest point (for a fee) or bikes for hire too.
Queenscliff fort, Australia
Contributed by Audrey from See Geelong.
About 1 ½ hours’ drive south of Melbourne sits the cute seaside village of Queenscliff. On its rugged cliffs sits Queenscliff Fort one of the largest and best-preserved forts in Australia.
It was built in 1860 to defend the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, eventually becoming the headquarters for a chain of forts around the heads. The fort is now a popular tourist attraction and much work has been done to restore the old guns, magazines, and buildings.
The only way to see the fort is on a guided tour. Visitors get to hear stories about an artillery soldier’s life, see the artillery garrison, and visit ammunition magazines buried under the cliffs. A highlight are the gun emplacements where you can see the gun crew’s incredible views of the Rip. There is even a chance to dress up in military gear!
One of the things that makes Queenscliff Fort so special is the rare black lighthouse that sits in its grounds. One of only three in the world it’s the only one found in the southern hemisphere. Making this a truly unique fort and a must visit for anyone travelling in this part of the world.
So there you have it: a roundup of the best forts in the world. I hope you enjoyed it and get to visit them all. I know I want to!