In 1972, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—UNESCO for short—created a program to protect culturally and historically significant sites across the globe. Today there are over 1,000 World Heritage Sites, from ancient ruins to natural wonders, and the possibilities for your next adventure are endless. Keep reading for the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to visit in 2018!
The city of Angkor is one of Southeast Asia’s most important—and beautiful—archeological sites. It was the capital of the prosperous Khmer Empire from the 9th to 15th century and still holds valuable insight to the kingdom today. Surrounded by lush forest, the site is over 100 sq miles and has a seemingly endless amount of temples and monuments. Visit the famous Angkor Wat at sunrise, as vibrant hues dance along the reflecting pool, then head to Bayon Temple and gaze upon the statuesque faces carved into stone. Another must-see destination is the ethereal Ta Prohm. If you’ve seen Tomb Raider, then the winding passageways and giant tree roots twisting around the structure will look familiar—the movie was filmed here!
The Acropolis of Athens is one of the most iconic sites of ancient Greece. Resting atop a rocky hill, the Acropolis holds numerous historical monuments and buildings, including the Parthenon. It’s perfect for history buffs hoping for a closer look at ancient Greek civilization. Wander through the remains of the Propylaea, marvel at the architecture of the Temple of Athena Nike, and imagine listening to sweet melodies in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus—there’s no end of excitement! But most importantly, remember to take a moment to stop and admire the breathtaking sight of the city below.
Machu Picchu (Peru)
A trip to Peru is not complete without a trek to Machu Picchu. At almost 8,000 ft, this Inca-built citadel is a sight to behold. Situated where the Andes and Amazon Basin meet, the natural beauty is unparalleled. As you walk amongst the clouds, you’ll find a rich landscape or diverse flora and fauna. Make sure you have a camera handy to capture the ancient buildings, mind-blowing views, and local llamas!
Kilimanjaro is one of the most famous mountains in the world, and with good reason. The journey to the 19,341-foot summit will test your physical, mental, and emotional strength like never before, but the destination is oh, so worth it. Take in Tanzania’s beauty, wildlife, and culture along the way to truly make the most of this adventure. You’ll be forever changed by this experience, finding an inner-strength, perseverance, and sense of fulfillment you never knew.
Sigiriya (Sri Lanka)
Many people stick to more popular destinations when booking a vacation, but don’t be afraid to explore the countries less travelled; go outside your comfort zone with a trip to Sri Lanka and the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya. Known as the Lion’s Rock, you can ascend a winding staircase commencing between giant paws carved into stone. You’ll pass vibrant paintings as you make your way to the top of the rock, where you’ll find one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world, with water, boulder, and terraced gardens, and a stunning panoramic view of lush greenery, distant mountains, and bright, azure skies.
Okavango Delta (Botswana)
Botswana’s Okavango Delta is unique in that it doesn’t flow into any sea but results from seasonal flooding. This expansive wetland is one of the best places to safari, and if you’re intrigued by diverse wildlife, then look no further. The delta has everything, from rare birds to roaming lions to bathing elephants—to name a few! As you ride through the region, you’ll spot many other animals, including giraffes, cheetahs, buffalo, antelope, and zebra.
Cinque Terre (Italy)
When one thinks of Italy, cities such as Rome, Venice, and Florence come to mind—but Cinque Terre is the country’s true hidden gem. Located on the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is made up of five coastal villages built into steep cliffs. The buildings are painted in bright colors, creating a dramatic image set against sparkling turquoise waters. While tourism has grown in recent years, there’s still a peaceful charm that’s harder to find in more populated Italian destinations. If the views aren’t enough to entice you—although with just one look, they will be—imagine the mouthwatering cuisine, from fresh seafood to sweet wines.
Few areas are as picturesque as Southern Spain. Head to Granada to get a look at Alhambra, a marvelous palace and fortress complex originally built in 889 and renovated in the 13th century. The architecture is a mix of Moorish and Christian styles, as design elements changed with those inhabiting it at any given time. This impressive palace has been home to numerous rulers, such as Muhammad I of Granada, Ferdinand and Isabella, and Charles V.
Kinkaku-ji Temple (Japan)
Kyoto, Japan is famous for its magnificent temples and shrines. One of the most visited sites in the country is the Zen Buddhist temple Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion. This building sits on a calm lake and is iconic for the gold leaf covering the top two floors. Each floor showcases a different style of architecture, and the opulent details represent the lavish age of its construction. Plan a trip to Kyoto during the cherry blossom season, and stroll from temple to temple under delicate, blush-colored petals.
Þingvellir National Park (Iceland)
Few places hold as much pure natural beauty as Iceland, and Þingvellir National Park is a perfect example. Located in a rift valley, the breathtaking landscape holds important historical significance. From 930 to 1798, it was the backdrop of an open-air assembly for the entire country. Every year for two weeks the assembly would come together to create laws and settle disagreements, and you can still see a handful of buildings from that era scattered across the land today. The park lies northeast of Reykjavík and is one of the most popular tourist spots; it’s the perfect destination for any time of year!