Though in modern times the idea of invading, conquering and claiming an already inhabited land as your own seems archaic and barbaric (and wrong!), it is worthy to note that this is how much of the world as we know it came into being. From Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés’s curiously quick defeat of the mighty Aztec empire to Genghis Khan’s extensive sweep through Asia to William T. Sherman’s historic march to sea, check out our list of tours that allow you to follow these bloodthirsty conquerors on their trailblazing campaigns to claim others’ land for themselves and the empires they built.

Genghis Khan

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Picture courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The brutal Mongol leader Genghis Khan came to power by uniting the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia in the 13th century and leading them to huge victories – eventually conquering most of Eurasia. His campaigns were defined by their murderous nature, often massacring whole populations of citizens in the different cities that he and his armies ravaged. Khan personally conquered most of Central Asia and China. At the time of his death, he split the lands he’d conquered between his children, who furthered his conquests to Russia, Southeast Asia, Korea and Eastern Europe. Destination China, a Beijing-based travel company, offers a 12-day Genghis Khan motorcycle tour that loops from Beijing to Mongolia and back. For nearly $7,000, visitors ride through the lands of Khan’s conquests, camping in small villages and admiring the sweeping beauty of the Mongolian countryside that Khan once thundered through as he wrote himself into history.

Alexander the Great

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Picture courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Though he only lived to the age of 32, Alexander of Macedon, more commonly known as Alexander the Great, ascended to the Macedonian throne at age 20. From there, he ran an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and Northern Africa, claiming the territories for himself and bearing the royal titles of both King and Pharaoh. By the age of 30, his empire spread from Greece to Egypt and across to the corners of India. In the years following his death in 323 BCE, civil war tore his empire apart, though his legacy of cultural diffusion (spreading and sharing aspects between cultures) remained. Luxury travel group Ker & Downey offers an extravagant tour through Egypt, from Cairo to Alexandria to the Red Sea, following in the ancient conqueror’s footsteps. Travelers pay nearly $10,000 to be led through the region to see the ancient wonders and learn of the wild tales that Alexander the Great left in his undefeated wake.

Hernán Cortés

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Picture courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Born into a family of lesser nobility, Hernán Cortés decided to pursue a better life in the New World in the early 1500s, eventually sailing for what is now known as modern-day Mexico. His motley crew of Spaniards somehow emerged victorious from its confrontation with the mighty Aztec empire. Little is known of what exactly happened and historians only have the word of Cortés’s shipmates to go by. The conquistador returned to Spain in 1541 and died peacefully six years later. UK-based travel agency Historical Trips offers a trek that follows Cortés’ route via a 10-day journey from the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico City with historian guide Dr. Keith Brewster. For about $4,500, the group explores cities important to the eventual Spanish victory, reflecting on the implications and circumstances surrounding the curious defeat of the Aztec empire.

Napoléon Bonaparte

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Picture courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

A political and military leader who rose to great prominence during the French Revolution, Napoléon Bonaparte eventually spread his empire throughout continental Europe until its eventual collapse in 1815. He remains a controversial political figure, whose military techniques and campaigns are still studied today. Though his successes on the battlefield are perhaps the most lauded of his achievements, it was his ideas that have had the most impact – his Napoleonic Code still sees a strong influence in modern laws and ideologies. His invasion and destruction of Russia in 1812 marked the turning point of his reign, prompting the Russians to form allies around Europe who eventually defeated Napoléon at the infamous Battle of Waterloo. He was later exiled by the British and died on the remote island of Saint Helena in 1821. Ride and Seek, an adventure biking company, offers an epic journey from Paris to Moscow, meant to follow in the footsteps of Napoléon and his army of nearly 700,000 troops. Divided into three parts (Paris to Bautzen, Bautzen to Vilnius, Vilnius to Moscow), each segment takes 15 days and costs nearly $6,000.

William Sherman

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Picture courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Legendary General William Tecumseh Sherman was born in Ohio in 1820 and was a businessman, educator, and author before he became the stern face of the Union military. He started his military career at a young age before joining the Civil War as a Colonel, serving under Ulysses S. Grant, and was eventually promoted to lead the Union troops in the West in 1864. Shortly thereafter, he began his destructive march from Atlanta to Savannah, an important Southern port city, burning and pillaging everything in his path until he successfully reached the Atlantic Ocean. His bloody campaign is his most well-known achievement and was a debilitating blow to the Confederacy. For travelers interested Sherman’s campaign, Jim Miles’ To the Sea: A History and Tour Guide of Sherman’s March gives a detailed account of the history, intention and implications of Sherman’s disastrous march. The book also guides readers through an itinerary of where to go and what to see for history buffs looking to visit the site.
Which conqueror’s path do you most want to follow? Let’s chat about it in the comments!

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About The Author

Mary Zakheim
Content Writer

When she is not figuring out what the middle button on her headphones is for, explaining the difference between Washington State and Washington D.C., arriving to the airport too early or refusing to use the Oxford comma, you can usually find Mary in the mountains, at a show or on her couch. Mary is a content writer at Fareportal and likes annoying her coworkers with weird GIFs throughout the day.