Even if you don’t know what a UNESCO World Heritage site is, you’ve been to at least one if you traveled to any popular city throughout the world. From Yosemite National Park to the Parthenon, cultural and physical sites that are deemed by the United Nations as World Heritage sites not only protect it, but it also means their pretty damn cool. Popular places like the Taj Mahal are included on the prestigious list, but there are 1,007 other sites you might not have heard of. Here are 20 you should consider planning an entire trip around.
If you don’t exactly know what a UNESCO World Heritage site is that’s okay, because if you traveled to any popular city throughout the world, I bet you’ve already been to at least one. From Yosemite National Park to the Parthenon, cultural and physical sites that are deemed by the United Nations as World Heritage sites not only protect the site, but it also means their pretty damn cool. Popular places like the Taj Mahal and the Galapagos Islands are included on the prestigious list, but there are 1,007 other sites you might not have ever heard of. Here are 20 you should consider planning an entire trip around.
Not only will you feel like you stepped into a early medieval town complete with architecture that strongly influenced northern Germany and Hungary, it’s got German beer. Like, a lot of it. The city is known for it’s historic breweries, and that’s because Bamberg lies in the heart of Franconia, a region in northern Bavaria that still has nearly three hundred breweries. There are breweries that even date back to the 1700s that are still operating. Now that’s some history I think we can all get behind.
If you’re a Southeast Asia history buff, you’ll know why the temples of Angkor are regarded as one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. It’s clued historians in to what the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, that reined from the 9th to the 15th century, were really like. But if you’re like me, this might be a great trip if you’re just really into exploring forgotten, ancient places and want to pretend your in Lara Croft Tomb Raider. Plus, who doesn’t want to try Cambodian food?
I don’t know many people who wouldn’t like chilling on a historic Southeastern European island in in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. So if you’re looking to get away in South East Europe without visiting the tourist frenzy of Athens (avoid it), you should check out Valletta, Malta. Yeah, the city that dates back to the 16th century is cool, but its famed Blue Grotto is where you need to be. A number of sea caverns on the south coast, Blue Grotto is diving and boating heaven. This is that one time you need a GoPro selfie stick.
Of course The Great Wall is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, but another Chinese marvel you should also visit is Potala Palace in Tibet. Now a museum, it was the winter palace of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century and is central to Tibetan Buddhism. The views won’t disappoint, either. The palace was built on Red Mountain in Lhasa Valley, at an altitude of 12,100 feet.
With active and extinct volcanoes,waterfalls, diverse wildlife and some incredible landscapes, heading to New Zealand to see Tangariro National Park would be a trip you’ll talk about for a while. If you’re a hiking and camping enthusiast and want to go down under, this is the place to do it. You can even stay in New Zealand back country in the park’s network of eight serviced huts with campsites.
Hitting up Amsterdam for any reason is sort of a no-brainer, but if you really need one, its historical canal ring is a good enough reason to book a ticket right now. Built in the 17th century inside the Singelgracht, the canals are recognized as being one of the most successful examples of city planning. So go marvel at the canals during the day, and then hit up the bars and clubs at night. Amsterdam is a place you need to go at least once (or twice), trust me.
Riding around a boat island hopping with a drink nearby sounds like one of the best vacations ever, so Ha Long Bay in the gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam sounds like a place I need to be at ASAP. With 1,600 islands and islets, you’ll be boating in the middle of a turquoise seascape filled with limestone pillars. Most of the islands are completely uninhabited too, so there really are no rules.
I know I said go to Angkor if you want to feel like you’re in a real life version of Tomb Raider, but the Ellora Caves in India will make you really feel like you’re Laura Croft or Indiana Jones. It’s composed of 34 monasteries and temples, and has monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000.
Exotic and warm places are great and everything, but experiencing icefjords just north of the Arctic Circle is an unexpected treat. The Ilulissat Icefjord is on the west coast of Greenland, and is one of the few glaciers through the Greenland ice cap that reaches the sea. It’s been studied for over 250 years in an effort to understand climate change and icecap glaciology. And well, if you don’t believe in either of those things, you’ll at least get some incredible Instagram pics out of it.
This park is one of the last areas in eastern India that can brag about being untouched by the human foot print. You’ll be able to watch one-horned rhinoceroses, tigers, elephants, panthers, bears and thousands of species of birds naturally interact in their environment. Who said you need to go to Africa to go on a safari?
If you’re a waterfall and forest enthusiast, you will have an endless amount of things to do in the beautiful Canaima National Park in Venezuela. From rivers to beaches, the 12,000 square miles of national park boasts a range of wildlife and the world’s highest waterfall. Not many people can say they’ve been to the remote park, so it’ll be a cool stamp to have in your passport.
Going to churches with a group tour while you’re in Europe sounds like the absolute worst, but I can promise you from personal experience this is one of the most beautiful places you’ll go to. You won’t need to understand Serbian Orthodox history to appreciate the history this monastery has to offer, either. Established sometime in the 12 century, the bus ride up the mountain to it will leave you in awe. And once you enter the giant double doors, you’ll be greeted by a flowing garden with the Rugova gorge mountains in the background. If you’re weirdly (ever) in Kosovo, make the trip.
Photo from Wikipedia Commons
Lord Howes Island, New South Wales, Australia
If you enjoy Australia and you like tropical islands, than Lord Howes Island is worth the lengthy trip. They are an incredible example of isolated oceanic islands, which were born from volcanic activity more than 6,000 feet below the sea. Think Tom Hanks in Cast Away, minus the volleyball and lack of people. Pretty perfect, huh?
Experiencing Muslim culture was one of the coolest things I ever tried in college while I was abroad, and taking a trip to the historic city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan is the perfect way to start. Situated on the Silk Route, it is the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia, which is pretty amazing. It showcases 10th-century Muslim architecture, and not to mention, I can only imagine how incredible a sunset looks on the ancient city.
Right now might not be the best time to take a trip to Yemen, but in the future, you’ll want to experience the alien landscape of Socotra Archipelago. Situated in the northwest Indian Ocean with four islands and two islets, you’ll feel like you’re in another world with its crazy scenery and wildlife. If you like weird animals, 90% of its reptile species and 95% of its land snail species do not happen anywhere else in the globe. No wonder why so many travel sites regard it as one of the places you need to go to before you die.
Photo from Wikipedia Commons
Sumatra Rain Forest, Indonesia
Since rain forests all over the world are severely in danger from deforestation and environmental issues, centering a trip around visiting one in the near future would be a smart thing to do. And the Sumatra Rain Forest, which has 3 national parks in it, would be an amazing place to see. With highly endangered species that you can’t find anywhere else in the world, the park is a hiking and camping heaven. Just watch out for leopards.
Most people probably couldn’t point out Burma on a map, but once you see how beautiful the historic city of Bagan is, you’ll want to know where it actually is. Again, this would be a trip for someone who is obsessed with ancient, deserted places (who wants to go with me?) The city was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan from the 9th to the 13th century, and is the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later become modern Myanmar. Of the 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagados and monasteries that were constructed during that time, over 2,200 temples still survive today.
The best pubs around exist in Bryggen, Norway, founded around 1070 within the original boundaries of a place I absolutely cannot pronounce, Tyskebryggen. The town is a series of Hanseatic buildings lining the eastern side of the fjord coming into Bergen. You’ll be able to browse ancient houses, museums, shops, and yes like I said, great pubs.
Mexico is known for it’s amazing temples and ancient cities, but the archeological site of Monte Alban, which has terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds from the Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs people, is little known. Its impressive ruins have attracted visitors and explorers throughout the colonial and modern eras, and still continue to do so today.
I feel like Avatar was based off this UNESCO World Heritage site, which has over 3,000 narrow sandstone pillars and peaks that make you feel like you’re actually in the movie. With more than 40 caves and ravines and waterfalls that beautifully go in between the peaks, the site is visited by thousands of visitors a month. I’m totally down for going, but I better be able to ride a dragon that attaches to my hair.