Travelling teaches us to appreciate the world we live in, and nothing embodies this notion quite like UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, which exists to identify and preserve places all around the world that are of outstanding value to humanity. The list is endless (and gets added to every year), but here are a few of our favourites…
Steeped in history and culture and dotted with impressive hilltop forts and magnificent palaces, Jaipur is a glittering example of the grandeur of Rajasthan. This is one of UNESCO’s 2019 additions and is known as the ‘pink city’ thanks to the soft hues of its architecture.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN PARKS
Comprising the national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are studded with mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves. An endless adventure playground of outstanding natural beauty, this is Canada at its finest.
The ancient city of Petra is one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites, where numerous caves, temples and tombs reveal an impressive civilisation. Walk through the imposing red cliffs of the Siq to come face to face with the Treasury, a huge temple carved into the valley walls.
Located in the little-visited southwest of Colombia, the San Agustin Archaeological Park is home to over 500 statues carved from volcanic rock to depict sacred animals and gods. The unique insight that these provide into the pre-Columbian civilisation that inhabited the area is unmatched anywhere in South America.
One of the 12 original UNESCO sites declared in 1979, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are architectural masterpieces. Dating back to the 12th century, 11 individual churches are carved down into red rock outcrops in the mountains of central Ethiopia and are still used by Christians for religious practice today.
Bagan is one of Asia’s richest archaeological sites and arguably rivals the iconic temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Home to vast plains bestrewn with over 2,000 gracefully aged and utterly unique temples, Bagan was added to UNESCO’s list this year. You can’t beat a hot air balloon ride over the temples at dawn.
The Okavango Delta offers some of the best wildlife sightings in Africa, thanks to the fertile flood plains created as the Okavango River fans out over 15,000 square kilometres. A labyrinth of waterways weave their way between islands, and the best way to explore the area is by mokoro (a type of dugout canoe).
PARATY & ILHA GRANDE
Newcomers to the UNESCO list this year are Paraty and Ilha Grande. Located on Brazil’s southern coast, Paraty is a beautiful colonial town surrounded by rugged beaches and jungle-clad mountains. Ilha Grande is a small island off the coast and one of our favourite beach destinations in Brazil.
A historic city nestled among stunning countryside, Luang Prabang is the former royal capital of Laos and the jewel in the country’s crown. The allure of this charming small city lies in its faded colonial mansions, gilded temples and saffron-robed monks collecting alms.
CAPE FLORAL KINGDOM
The Cape Floral Kingdom has the highest concentration of plant species in the world and is famous for its distinctive vegetation known as fynbos. From May to July, during the South African winter, the rolling hills of the region are covered in a beautiful blanket of pink, as the unique Erica irregularis comes into bloom.
Located on the northern stretch of Kenya’s coast and dating back to the 14th century, Lamu is one of the best-preserved Swahili towns in existence and is characterised by its tall narrow buildings and winding alleyways. Wander the charming streets perfumed with cardamom and cumin and watch the fishermen at work on their dhows.
The ancient ruins of Teotihuacan are one of Mexico’s most impressive ancient monuments. This enigmatic Toltec (and later Aztec) ceremonial complex provides a fascinating insight into the rituals of the Meso-Americans before the Spanish arrived. For a truly unique perspective, you can fly over the site in a hot air balloon.