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Java, Indonesia vintage travel poster

Vintage travel posters that have stood the test of time

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21 March 2017 by Simon Langley

With railways in full swing, and the beginnings of commercial flight following shortly after, world travel was becoming a real possibility at the start for the 20th century. It's an enthusiasm captured in the era's iconic posters, all bold colours and optimistic perspectives. But, there's many that hold true to this day, offering you destinations unchanged and plenty of old world charm.   

The Lakes of Northern Italy


Once the preserve of the moneyed elite of the 17th and 19th centuries, the Italian Grand Tour was a rite of passage for Europe's aristocratic youths. However, the advent of rail travel in the mid-19th century opened the Continent to a wider audience, with the Italian Lakes a particular favourite. And, their Belle Époque hotels, vineyards, idyllic fishing villages and villa getaways remain much the same as when Winston Churchill holidayed here. While the poster above is of an unspecified location, it surely draws its inspiration from Lake Garda – pictured – where snow-capped mountains frame shimmering waters.

The Golden Temple, Amritsar


Along with colonial rule, Britain brought its passion for all things trains to India, and the eagle-eyed among you might be able to make out the India State Railways Bureau logo in the bottom right of the above. As the largest railway network in Asia at 71,000 miles in length, it brings tourists out to the country's wonders that would be difficult to reach in any other way. One such highlight is pictured above, Amritsar's Golden Temple. Explore on a tour of the Himalayas, or indulge with the country's private trains with a luxury Indian rail journey.

Nara, Japan


Forming the end of the Silk Road, Nara has a rich history of welcoming weary travellers to its stunning collection of manicured parks, shimmering lakes and age-old shrines – this was where Buddhism first made land in Japan. It even features the world's oldest wooden building in the Horyuji Temple. However, while it continues to be beautified each season by the spectacular cherry blossom, the deers have learnt a new trick, bowing for tasty treats. What's more, those famous Japanese railways have only improved with age, with bullet trains connecting its city greats.

Machu Picchu, Peru


Hidden among Peru's mist-shrouded Andean peaks, it took until 1912 for Machu Picchu to be 'discovered' by explorer Hiram Bingham. And, this 15th-century citadel – surely the Inca's greatest achievement – quickly found a place in the imagination of world travellers. Today, controlled visitor numbers have kept impact to a minimum; it's not difficult to find a royal quarter or spectacularly terraced hillside to yourself. 

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah


 Blessed with perhaps America's greatest collection of national parks, Utah was a key destination for America's fledgling tourism industry, booming in the early 20th century thanks to those Roaring Twenties and the rise of the automobile. The state's showpieces are the toweringly deep Canyonlands, the twisting eponyms of Arches National Park, the ancient petroglyphs of Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon's spiralling rock formations and Zion's carpeted rock valleys. Together, they form the 'Mighty Five'. However, the above focuses on Metate Arch in the lesser-visited Grand Staircase-Escalante. It offers a more off-the-beaten-track charm to the day.

Amalfi, Italy


The Amalfi Coast's green-dappled cliffs are the host to a series of pretty, pastel-coloured towns, with Amalfi itself ranking among its highlights. Although the region has certainly grown in popularity, limited space has meant that all of the charms of staying in a sleepy Italian fishing village have been preserved. Fresh seafood, piazza-side cafés and truly stunning coastal drives compete for your attention. You'll also have Pompeii's archaeological spectacle, Capri's island paradise and a series of golden-sand beaches on your doorstep.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express


Although not a destination as such, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a true icon of the golden age of travel. And, today, white-gloved waiters still serve up Bellini cocktails as it plies its signature route from London, via Paris, to Venice. Tuck into a gourmet brunch as the Kent countryside rushes past before plunging through France to enjoy four-course dining and Champagne Bar indulgence. Then, you'll settle into your wood-panelled private before breakfast welcomes you to the Alps and afternoon tea sees you, across that famous lagoon, into Venice.

The Yangtze River, China


The Yangtze River has long been a highlight of world travel and it continues to offer a breath of rural fresh air in the face of China's great cities. As the largest water system in China, it brings travellers to remote villages where traditional sampan boats are punted between local markets and hidden temples. Both of the photos above are of the dramatic Three Gorges region, where great cliffs act as imposing sentinels to today's luxury cruises.

Yellowstone National Park, USA


This venerable grandfather of America's conservation effort is the world's first national park. But, the records don't stop there, with Yellowstone host to most of the planet's geysers. This includes the pictured Old Faithful – so called for its near-hourly eruptions that reach up to 44 metres in height. But, with around 10,000 thermal features ranging from hot springs and steaming fumaroles to bubbling mud pools and bright-green ponds, there's much more to explore on spectacular hikes and scenic drives.

All travel posters have been licensed, via Wikimedia, under Creative Commons or are are part of the public domain. The author of the 'Visit India' poster is trialsanderrors.

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