Bucket list destinations regularly top the lists of the most intrepid world travelers. Chief among these destinations are some of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So, what is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
Set up to preserve sites that have contributed to the world, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was established in the aftermath of World War II. The initial 12 sites were announced in 1978. Since then, over a thousand global locations have joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The importance of UNESCO World Heritage Sites is their commitment to preserving cultural, scientific, and educational landmarks and promote cultural acceptance.
We fly to 187 worldwide destinations. Helping you tick off your UNESCO World Heritage Sites checklist, no matter how remote they are. To get your started on your definitive travel bucket list, we have curated our selection of the world’s top UNESCO World Heritage Sites to visit at least once in your lifetime.
Not quite as famous as its fellow Peruvian UNESCO Site, Machu Picchu, Caral-Supe is a lesser-known listed location that doesn’t disappoint. Once the capital of the Norte Chico nation, Caral-Supe dates back almost 5,000 years.
The pyramids here predate those in Egypt by five centuries. Caral-Supe sits high on an arid desert terrace overlooking the verdant Supe Valley, just 200 kilometers north of Lima. Don’t miss the impressive 28-meter tall Templo Mayor, the largest structure in Caral-Supe.
Wudang Mountains, Shiyan, Hubei
As the birthplace of Kung Fu, Wudang Mountains in Shiyan were added to the UNESCO list as a place of cultural significance in 1994. Perched high up on the mountain slopes, Taoist temples that date back to the seventh century still function as a martial arts school.
Some 2,000 steps ascend a steep incline to reach this UNESCO World Heritage Site in China, so come prepared to hike. For a taste of the traditional, you can hire someone to pull you uphill in a wheelless sedan – just as they have done for centuries.
Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island, Chile
As one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South America, Rapa Nui is dominated by the iconic Moyai statues. Located on one of the most remote islands on the planet, Easter Island is a five-hour flight from Santiago.
Inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995, Rapa Nui National Park is best seen by car. Set off from the island’s only town, Hanga Roa, and drive around the park and stop off at the individual, monolithic structures as you go.
Mesa Verde National Park, USA
One of the original 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Mesa Verde National Park comprises a vast concentration of Native American dwellings build between the sixth and 12th centuries. In all, 4,400 sites have been recorded here, making it one of the largest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.
Located in south-west Colorado, Mesa Verde sits at 2,600 meters above sea level. These ancestral Puebloan ruins can be reached by car just 14km east of Cortez, about 600km south of Denver.
Old Havana, Cuba
Having turned 500 years old comparatively recently, Old Havana made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in North America way back in 1982. Originally founded by Spanish colonialists in 1519, Old Havana is awash with dreamy disheveled Spanish colonial mansions, leafy plazas, vintage cars, salsa music, and an appealing sense of dilapidation.
Old Havana is best explored on foot and the city is currently undergoing restoration to return it to its former glory. Easily accessible, the city is just over an hour’s flight from Miami.
Okinoshima, Fukuoka, Japan
Since the fourth century, the tiny island of Okinoshima has been the site of devout religious rituals. Historic shrines and a wide array of religious artifacts make this sacred island worth putting on your bucket list.
One of the newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan, Okinoshima is located at the southern end of Japan, near Fukuoka. However, due to sacred tradition, the island is only open for male visitors.
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