The UNESCO World Heritage Sites are some of the world’s most well-preserved spots, each one having its own unique characteristics. This Vacayholics article brings forth some of the most beautiful World Heritage Sites to visit.
In 2013, 19 new properties have been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, out of which 14 are of cultural importance, and the remaining 5 are of natural importance.
With the adoption of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1972, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) began inscribing various sites of outstanding cultural and/or natural significance from around the world onto its World Heritage List. As of today, as many as 981 sites from across the globe have been listed, and these are being protected and promoted, either fully or partly by UNESCO. A good number of these World Heritage Sites have now become popular tourist destinations, and attract a hefty monetary influx each year. Considered to be the common heritage of humanity, these sites have a lot to offer to visitors, right from scenic beauty to man-made wonders to an exciting glimpse into history.
Most Beautiful World Heritage Sites
UNESCO has divided the World Heritage Sites into three broad categories, viz., natural heritage sites (natural surroundings/landscape, created without any kind of human intervention), cultural heritage sites (sites having cultural/spiritual importance for humans, and/or created by men), and mixed heritage sites (sites that possess elements of both natural as well as cultural heritage). We have compiled a list of some of the best sites to visit in each of these categories.
Best Natural Heritage Sites
Natural heritage refers to all the elements, which constitute the biodiversity of a particular region. This includes everything from flora and fauna to different ecosystems to geological landforms, water bodies, and so on. Given below are some of the best natural heritage sites listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List:
Located in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of thirteen islands and six isles. These islands are located at a conflux of three ocean currents and are considered to be a “living museum and showcase of evolution.” Known for their absolutely stunning marine life, enchanting bird species, and pristine beaches, the Galápagos keep attracting large number of tourists year after year.
Things to Do: Other than cruising to some of the remotest islands of the archipelago, most tourists are attracted to the Galápagos, as they are an excellent destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. Plus, you can get a glimpse of the amazing Galápagos Penguins on the Isabela and Floreana Islands.
Best Time to Visit: From mid-June to early September and from mid-December to mid-January
Yellowstone National Park
Country: United States of America
Covering a total area of about 898,349 ha, the Yellowstone National Park is a World Heritage Site in its own right. It contains over 300 geysers (two-thirds of the total number of geysers on earth); more than 10,000 geothermal features (nearly half of all those in the world) and a fabulous concentration of wildlife including bison, grizzly bears, and wolves. The park spans across the American states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, with about 96% of it lying in Wyoming.
Things to Do: The Yellowstone National Park offers numerous activities for tourists, which include wildlife viewing, horseback riding, camping, fishing, boating, and swimming. It is also a fantastic place for hiking and cycling. And, it is needless to say that the park is heaven for photography enthusiasts.
Best Time to Visit: Between June and August; however, if you are interested in skiing, visit between November and February
Country: Belarus, Poland
Also known as the Białowieża Primeval Forest, this national park is the only surviving primary deciduous and mixed forest in the European lowlands. Situated on the watershed of the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, this lush forest range has some of the most exotic species of broad-leaved trees and evergreens. Moreover, the forest reserve also boasts of remarkable fauna that includes some rare mammal species, such as the lynx and the European bison, which were reintroduced here.
Things to Do: The forest offers plenty of activities to do for tourists. The forest museum organizes guided tours; however, it is not allowed to roam through the wilderness on your own. You can also embark on a bird watching/bison watching tour with one of the local guides. Horse carriage rides through the forest are also sought after by tourists.
Best Time to Visit: Between March and September
Great Barrier Reef
One of the most well-known marine ecosystems in the world, the Great Barrier Reef contains the world’s largest collection of corals. It boasts of 400 different coral species, alongside some 1,500 fish species and about 4,000 mollusk species. What makes the reef even more special is the fact that it is home to the dugong, a rare marine species that is now threatened with extinction. Added to this, six out of seven species of sea turtles in the world are found in the reef. With such a huge variety of marine life, the Great Barrier Reef is undoubtedly the largest living thing on earth!
Things to Do: The Great Barrier Reef is the snorkelers’ and scuba divers’ paradise. However, if you are not an adventure seeker, you can join one of the guided reef tours and cruises, which will enable you to not only see the region, but also give you good information about the reef and marine environment.
Best Time to Visit: From June to November
Los Glaciares National Park
The best place in South America to witness the glacial activity live, the Los Glaciares National Park is truly a marvelous place. You can actually see the icebergs launching and melting in the glacial waters of lakes Argentino and Viedma. The site of exceptional beauty, it boasts of towering mountain peaks and as many as 47 large glaciers, which form a part of the Patagonian ice field, the largest mass of ice outside Antarctica.
Things to Do: Hiking is, by far, the most popular tourist activity in the region, followed by mountaineering. If you are just a keen sightseer, you can also join one of the boating excursions, which will allow you to venture between the icebergs. There are also a number of designated campsites in the park, where you can stay overnight.
Best Time to Visit: Between October and March
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
This World Heritage Site includes four national parks―Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho―and three provincial parks―Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine, and Hamber―located in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. These parks are known for their absolutely stunning landscapes that feature mountain peaks, glaciers, canyons, waterfalls, hot springs, and many more awe-inspiring features.
Things to Do: Tourists are often seen indulging in activities such as hiking, horseback riding, etc. If you are an adrenaline junkie, you can also try out some dog sledding through the snowy plains. If you are a history enthusiast, don’t forget to visit the Burgess Shale fossil site, best known for the fossilized remnants of some marine species, which existed millions of years ago.
Best Time to Visit: Between September and October or May and June for hiking; in December or April for skiing; otherwise choose any time in summer to have the best of the Canadian Rockies
Sundarbans National Park
Located in the Indian state of West Bengal, the Sundarbans (meaning beautiful forests) comprises the world’s largest area of mangrove forests, covering about 1,000,000 ha of land and water. Apart from being just mangrove swamps, the Sundarbans also feature some of the last surviving belts of jungles, which were once spread across the Gangetic plain, which is why since 1966, the forest has been declared a wildlife sanctuary. The Sundarbans National Park is home to some exotic and endangered fauna, including tigers, reptiles, birds, and aquatic mammals.
Things to Do: Apart from walking and cruising through the forest trails, tourists are often found doing numerous other things in the area, such as taking a bicycle trip to the local village or visiting a local school. Don’t forget to join one of the crab-catching and fishing expeditions, in which you can go around the village on a country boat.
Best Time to Visit: Between September and March
Located in the Kagoshima Prefecture, in the interior part of the Yaku Island, this biotic region displays about 1,900 different species and subspecies of vegetation. The region also contains extremely rare, ancient specimens of the Japanese cedar (sugi). But these are not the only things, which have enabled Yakushima to make its way onto the World Heritage List. The main highlight of this biotic environment is a small area that showcases a remnant of an ancient, warm temperate forest, which is the only one of its kind in the region.
Things to Do: Hiking and following the forest trails are the most exciting activities to do in Yakushima. Alongside this, there are also a few white sand beaches in the vicinity, where tourists can indulge in scuba diving. Visitors can also bathe in the hot springs, just a few kilometers away from the site.
Best Time to Visit: The months of May, October, and November
Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves
The Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago, comprising 21 islands and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, whereas the Rocas Atoll is the only South Atlantic atoll. What makes these two reserves remarkable is their importance in the breeding of tuna, turtle, shark, and several marine mammals. The Baia de Golfinhos beach is known for its resident dolphins, a main tourist attraction here. Plus, the tropical seabirds and a spectacular view of the seascape during low tides, all make this region stand out.
Things to Do: Apart from several boat and buggy tours, the site also offers plenty of opportunities for dolphin watching and diving. If you are an adventure freak, you can book one of the guided kayak tours, or indulge in some snorkeling and surfing. Trekking is also an option, but several restrictions apply.
Best Time to Visit: From April to November
Pitons, Cirques, and Remparts of Reunion Island
Covering the land area of about 100,000 ha, which accounts for about 40% of the total area of the Reunion Island, this natural heritage property lies within the precincts of the La Réunion National Park. The site consists of subtropical rainforests and cloud forests, and is home to various flora and fauna, most of which are endemic to the region. With two high-rising volcanic peaks, gigantic walls, cirques, and absolutely mesmerizing view, the site is truly a visual treat.
Things to Do: Guided hiking, rock climbing, and sightseeing tours are available in the park, which can give you good information about landforms and wildlife. While you can trek on your own, this is not advisable as there are a number of protected areas that you may unknowingly trespass. You can also take an aerial tour of the park.
Best Time to Visit: From May to October; November to April is the cyclonic season
Best Cultural Heritage Sites
Cultural heritage includes tangible property and intangible attributes of a society, preserved for the benefit of the future generations. It typically includes things such as art, architecture, literature, artifacts, etc., and intangible aspects such as language, traditions, music and dance, etc. While the intangible cultural heritage does not form a part of the UNESCO World Heritage program, here are some of the best tangible cultural heritage sites, worth a visit:
Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
These colossal ancient Egyptian monuments present to us an immense archaeological area which, in fact, can be referred to as a grand open-air museum. The magnificent structures, which include, apart from others, the Great Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, and the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae are completely awe-inspiring. Located in the present-day Egyptian Governorate of Aswan, the entire region encompasses a feel of the ancient Pharaonic times.
Things to Do: Besides visiting the grand monuments, ensure that you don’t miss the Sound & Light Show at Abu Simbel―you will be provided with headphones through which you will be able to hear the commentary in your language. Don’t forget to take a camel ride; it will be a fascinating experience. Also, make it a point to see the Aswan Dam.
Best Time to Visit: From November till February
Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore
Located in Lahore city in the Punjab state of modern-day Pakistan, the Lahore Fort and the Shalamar Gardens are splendid examples of the Mughal architectural genius. The two masterpieces were constructed during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan and are major tourist attractions in the city today. The fort complex features numerous marble structures, such as palaces and mosques, embellished with colorful mosaics and gilt. The elegance of the gardens is showcased by various waterfalls, fountains, and ornamental ponds, alongside cascades and terraces.
Things to Do: Tourists are allowed to roam freely in the precincts of the fort and the gardens. Local guides are available, but don’t take a guided tour unless you are there for some kind of research work. There is a lot of place to sit back and relax. Explore the restaurants near the fort area; they serve some really delicious local dishes.
Best Time to Visit: Between October and April
Country: Vatican City
One of the holiest places in Christendom, the Vatican City State is full of architecturally colossal, religious, and secular edifices. At its center is the St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest religious building in the world. The circular piazza in front of the basilica is surrounded by beautiful palaces and gardens. A World Heritage Site in its own right, the Vatican city is jam-packed with a large amount of history and artwork, rarely found in any other city in the world.
Things to Do: Take a guided tour to the major churches and basilicas around the city, and to the city’s numerous museums. While you can go around independently, a guided tour is advised so that you can learn more about the state and its etiquette. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the famous Sistine Chapel. Go to one of the Italian-style bars and enjoy some of the selected alcoholic beverages available in the city.
Best Time to Visit: From April to June and from September through October
One of the most famous World Heritage Sites in the world, Petra is an ancient caravan-city, located at the junction of the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. The city’s strategic placement on the crossroads of Egypt, Arabia, and Syria-Phoenicia indicates that it was indeed an important settlement during ancient times. Partly carved and partly built amidst a mountainous terrain, Petra is also one of the most important archaeological sites, showcasing a subtle blend of eastern and western architectural styles.
Things to Do: Owing to the fact that Petra is located high in the mountains, there are several hiking routes that lead up to the city. While you can do an independent hike, it is more advisable to join a guided one. You can also explore the bordering desert areas on horse or camel. Do not forget to buy some bottles of decorative sand art as souvenirs.
Best Time to Visit: From March to May and September to November
City of Bath
Bath is an ancient Roman spa city, located about 100 miles west of the English capital of London. The Romans and later, the Georgians developed Bath as a thermal spa center. There are several Roman period baths located in the city, hence the name. In the Middle Ages, wool industry flourished in Bath, and from then on, it began to be developed economically. Under the reign of King George III, the city saw a rise of several beautiful neoclassical structures, which blended well with the ambiance created by the Roman spas.
Things to Do: The city of Bath offers a plethora of things to do for tourists. Apart from bathing in the hot natural waters of the spas, you can take one of the guided tours around the city; the ghost tours and the pub crawls are specially interesting. The city is surrounded by a picturesque countryside, which can be best explored by foot.
Best Time to Visit: From April to June, and in September
Borobudur Temple Compounds
The largest free-standing Buddhist temple complex in the world, Borobudur is a colossal monument located in Central Java. The sheer scale of the place and the great attention to detail signify how rich this complex may have been, when it was erected. A curious visitor is also overwhelmed by the astonishing backdrop of active volcanic peaks that add to the sense of drama.
Things to Do: If you are in Borobudur in May, catch the Buddhist festival (on the full moon night), held on the occasion of the Buddha’s birthday. Join the candlelight procession that takes place at the end of the festival, and walk through the Javanese countryside. In June, the park authority that manages the complex organizes a ballet telling the tale of the conception and construction of the temple. It’s a lavish show, so don’t miss it if you happen to be there. Muntilan is the nearest market town to Borobudur, so if you have an extra day to spare, you can go there and buy some stone statues as souvenirs.
Best Time to Visit: Between April and October
Royal Domain of Drottningholm
Literally meaning the “Queen’s Islet”, the Drottningholm palace and all the other royal structures surrounding it form part of the Royal Domain of Drottningholm. Situated on a small man-made island in Lake Mälar in a suburb of Stockholm, the domain comprises, apart from the palace/castle, the royal gardens, a palace church, a palace theater, and the famous Chinese pavilion. The palace is, by far, one of the finest examples of North European architecture of the 18th century and shows an obvious influence of the architecture of the Château de Versailles.
Things to Do: The palace serves as a residence of the current Swedish royal family, owing to which, its large part is not open to public access. However, people are allowed to see some rooms of the palace, and a trip of the gardens, theater, and the Chinese Pavilion can be quite an experience. Visit the “Great Hall” of the palace; it’s the biggest room that displays huge, larger-than-life portraits of various European monarchs. There is a nice coffee shop next to the garden, where you can spend a great afternoon.
Best Time to Visit: From May to September
Covering the land area of about 40,000 ha, Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. The Angkor Archaeological Park also contains a densely forested area, which once covered a majority of the excavated ruins. The park is an ensemble of the remains of the Cambodian Khmer Empire that include a number of temples and sculptural evidence. The world-renowned temple complexes of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Bayon are also parts of the park.
Things to Do: See the various temples and sculptures. Local guides can also be hired, so see how you prefer to go around the place. Stroll through the wilderness on your own―it’s a truly mesmerizing experience. Buy souvenirs sold outside the temples, but don’t forget to bargain hard. Indulge in some local fast food near the park.
Best Time to Visit: Between November and February
Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn
One of the most outstanding Baroque complexes in Europe, the Schönbrunn palace located in Vienna, served as the summer residence of the Habsburg emperors from the 18th century to the early 20th century. Together with its absolutely stunning gardens, it is a perfect example of the late European decorative art. A major tourist attraction since the 1960s, even its gardens display a beautiful ensemble of colorful flowers, sculptures, and a Roman ruin that give them a rather dramatic look.
Things to Do: Tourists are encouraged to take one of the guided tours through the palace and the gardens. If you are lucky enough, you can catch one of the classical music concerts in one of the palace’s spectacular halls. You can also take a stroll through Vienna, take a canal cruise, and indulge in some duty-free shopping.
Best Time to Visit: From May to October
Mountain Railways of India
Popularly known as the Indian Toy Trains, this so-called World Heritage “Site”, includes three mountain railways, running through the seemingly difficult terrains of the Indian mountains. These are―the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and the Kalka Shimla Railway. Currently managed by the Indian Railways, their role is vital, in that they connect the important hill resorts with the foothills, and are thus, intimately linked with the development of these hill stations.
Things to Do: These toy trains are the must-go places for nature lovers. Take a joyride on one of these trains, and enjoy the captivating views of the mystical mountains, dense forests, and complex grids of tunnels, all through your journey. It will surely be a one-of-its-kind experience.
Best Time to Visit: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway―from September to June; Nilgiri Mountain Railway―from February to June; Kalka Shimla Railway―from April to August and from December to January
Best Mixed Heritage Sites
The term “mixed heritage site” includes all those sites, which involve both natural beauty as well as that which is created by man. The UNESCO has made a distinctive category of such sites so that they can be safeguarded in the best possible manner. Such sites often portray the harmonious relationship of man with his surroundings, and show how both are responsible for the development and/or changes that happen in them over a period of time.
Tikal National Park
Situated amidst a lush, dense jungle is one of the most important centers of the ancient Mesoamerican civilization of Maya. Now turned into a national park, Tikal boasts of some of the most imposing architectural remains of the Mayan people. Inhabited from the 6th century BCE to about the 10th century CE, the site seems to have been an important religious center, comprising awe-inspiring palaces and temples, sacrificial platforms, public squares, and some fragmented remnants of Mayan dwellings.
Things to Do: Visit the Sylvanus G. Morley Museum, which is the site museum of Tikal, featuring artifacts recovered from the archaeological excavations on the site. Sightseeing and adventure enthusiasts can also join a jungle canopy tour, but ensure that you book in advance. Jungle camping facilities are also available if you are interested.
Best Time to Visit: Between November and April
Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu
A 15th century CE Inca city located amidst a tropical mountain forest, about 8,000 ft above the sea level―this is a kind of setting that Machu Picchu offers to visitors. The highlight of Peru, this World Heritage Site boasts of gigantic walls, ramps, terraces, all built in such a way that they seem to be a part of the natural landscape. Moreover, owing to its location on the eastern slopes of the Andes, the forests have an extremely rich diversity of flora and fauna.
Things to Do: Hiking is the best way to go around Machu Picchu, if you are energetic enough; however, make sure that you are well-accustomed to the elevation. Take a guided tour to the various Inca sanctuaries and caves, and learn a bit of local history―some stories are really interesting! You will also come across some really exotic wildlife species on your way up, but do respect the sanctity of the place.
Best Time to Visit: In July and August
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia
Nevşehir Province in Central Anatolia, Turkey is famous the world over for its Byzantine period remnants of rock-cut architecture of the various dwellings and underground settlements, dating back to about 4th century CE. While the erosional processes have formed the perfectly sculpted landscape of the Göreme valley, the rock-hewn structures of Cappadocia testify what happens when natural forces and human hands work in apposition with each other.
Things to Do: While hiking and sightseeing continue to remain the major attractions of this World Heritage Site, the highlights of the tour remain the most fascinating hot air balloon tours, which tend to last for about an hour. There are about 15 balloon companies functioning in the region, imparting an experience of a lifetime to the tourists. Moreover, Cappadocia is one of the biggest wine-producing regions of Turkey, so don’t forget to go on a wine-tasting spree to some local wineries.
Best Time to Visit: From April to mid-June and from September to November
Uluru-Kata Tjuṯa National Park
Home to the world-renowned sandstone monolith, the Uluru―a.k.a. Ayers Rock―this World Heritage Site is located in the Northern Territory of Australia. The site boasts of some spectacular geological formations, including the rock domes of Kata Tjuṯa. Both Uluru and Kata Tjuṯa have spiritual connotations according to the aboriginal belief systems. In fact, one can also find several aboriginal inscriptions carved on the surface of the Uluru.
Things to Do: While rock climbing is a major attraction in the area, there are also several guided walking tours that tourists can indulge in. Taking a base walk is the best way to see the Uluru. You can also engage in a camel trek through the surrounding desert for some splendid views of the entire region. Those wanting to have a bird’s-eye view of the area can take a helicopter tour that will make your experience even more memorable. Visit the Cultural Center for some nice souvenirs to take back home.
Best Time to Visit: The months of April and May
Located in the Thessaly region of modern-day Greece, Meteora is a one-of-its-kind site that has some of the most seemingly inaccessible sandstone peaks on earth. It is an absolute wonder how as many as 24 monasteries were built on this difficult terrain in the 15th century. It is even more difficult to imagine that the Eastern Orthodox monks indeed settled on these peaks, which are often referred to as “columns of the sky.” The monasteries boast of some remarkable 16th century frescoes, marking a crucial stage in the development of painting after the Byzantine era.
Things to Do: Meteora is a haven of adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies. Rock climbing, canoeing, hiking, and rafting are the major attractions at this site. Moreover, sightseeing enthusiasts may also take a Meteora sunset tour that will be a wholesome experience in itself. You can also visit one of the nearby villages and try some traditional cuisine. Don’t forget to try some homemade pies with a glass of house wine. You will be absolutely overwhelmed by the experience!
Best Time to Visit: From July to mid-October
Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)
One of the most impressive sites in West Africa, the Bandiagara plateau in the Mopti Region of Mali is not only an imposing landscape, but is also home to some beautiful African architecture. Besides houses, granaries, altars, temples, and community centers, the region also preserves a good number of age-old traditions of the Dogons in the form of masks, rituals, religious ceremonies, and so on, thus, making the landscape an ethnological and geological gem.
Things to Do: While hiking and rock climbing are the major attractions at Bandiagara, there are plenty of other things that tourists can do during their trip. The village of Borko that lies en route is an oasis in the desert landscape. Visit the village on one of the market days, and buy some authentic Dogon handicrafts. Do some desert treks and click a lot of photos. Also, visit one of the village households and try some local cuisine. Ride in a donkey cart; it’s really worth it!
Best Time to Visit: From November to March
Tongariro National Park
Country: New Zealand
The oldest national park in New Zealand, the Tongariro boasts of a spectacular landscape that is home to numerous active and dormant volcanoes and a rich diversity of ecosystems. The site holds a record of being the fourth national park established in the world, but what makes it significant as World Heritage is the fact that there are a number of Māori religious sites within its premises. In fact, the entire landscape is spiritually associated with the Māori people.
Things to Do: Walking across the park is the best way to see the entire region. Due to its spiritual connotations, some parts of the area are not open to public access, so make sure that you either take a guided tour or know how to read maps, in order to avoid trespassing. If you are interested in Earth Sciences, visit the Whakapapa Visitor Centre that has two audio-visual displays about the park and the surrounding area, and also a nice souvenir shop.
Best Time to Visit: Between November and May
Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area
Situated in the southern part of Sichuan in China, Mount Emei is a marvelous place portraying both natural as well as man-made wonders. The mountain is particularly remarkable for its diverse vegetation, and really old trees (some are more than 1,000 years old). From the 1st century CE onwards, Buddhist structures started being built on the summit of the mountain, probably owing to the serenity of the place and the scenic beauty. Gradually, the place became one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites and turned into a pilgrimage center. The special attraction of this World Heritage Site is the colossal statue of the Buddha, carved in the mountain. This is the largest Buddha statue in the world.
Things to Do: The main attraction at Mount Emei is undoubtedly hiking. People love to hike to the mountain’s peak, which offers an absolutely mesmerizing panoramic view of the entire area. Those who visit the place just for sightseeing or pilgrimage can take cable cars to the summit and enjoy the picturesque views. Tourists can also join one of the bird and animal watching tours. Those visiting in winter can also try doing some skiing in the special designated area near the summit.
Best Time to Visit: All through the year, but April and October are the best months to go, if you are planning to enjoy the views
Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture
Ibiza, more famous for its party culture and nightlife, in fact, encompasses two distinct worlds in one. The hub of commercialization on one hand, a large part of the island is now a World Heritage Site, and thus, protected from development and commercialization. Home to numerous protohistoric archaeological sites, this World Heritage Site also has some outstanding examples of Renaissance military architecture, and some Spanish colonial, fortified structures. On the other hand, it is also home to Posidonia, a kind of seagrass, endemic only to the Mediterranean Basin that supports a large diversity of marine life.
Things to Do: Explore the beautiful countryside; it will surely be a unique experience. Boating and parasailing are also major attractions. Try traditional Spanish street food for some exotic flavors, and shop at numerous street-side stalls for wooden statuettes and other hand-crafted items.
Best Time to Visit: Between April and June
Rock Islands Southern Lagoon
445 volcanic islands made of limestone, all of them uninhabited, and placed in lagoons, surrounded by extensive coral reefs―it is needless to mention how aesthetically beautiful the mushroom-shaped Rock Islands are. Featuring more than 385 species of coral, a huge diversity of marine life, and the highest concentration of marine lakes on earth, these mighty islands are known to sustain immense endemic populations, and a discovery of a new species every now and then. As if this was not enough, there are also numerous archaeological remains of villages, burial sites, and rock art, which may be as many as three millennia old. It is a classic example of how coastal communities thrive and eventually perish on account of climate change.
Things to do: The Rock Islands are, by far, the most popular diving destinations in Palau. From wall diving to high current drift dives, the islands offer all kinds of adventurous experiences for the diving enthusiasts. Plus, the colorful lagoons and brightly colored caves are added attractions.
Best Time to Visit: In February and March
Food for Thought
Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay Region of the Southeast Asian country of Burma. The city is the main tourist center in the country with more than 10,000 beautifully sculpted Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries. Even today, we have more than 2,200 original structures that are more or less intact, while the others have been heavily restored.
In the early 20th century, the government of Myanmar proposed Bagan as a contender to win the status of a World Heritage Site. They believed that owing to the city’s ancient remains and numerous epigraphs, it would be a good choice to win the status. However, the UNESCO seemed to think a little differently. According to them, the city could not be selected as a World Heritage Site, owing to the large-scale restoration work that the structures have undergone till today.
Burma has a small, albeit nascent tourism industry, and owing to the fact that it is a poor country, which cannot afford to protect, preserve, and restore such a big city with its own funds, some critics opine that Bagan should have got a chance. Well, let’s hope that the UNESCO recognizes Bagan as a World Heritage Site in the future, and we do not completely lose the remains of an important chapter in the history of humanity!
It is, indeed, a challenging task to compile a list of the best World Heritage Sites in the world, as each of them has something or the other that’s unique to offer. Nevertheless, we hope that this brief list helps you choose the one of your choice, and you enjoy your vacation to the fullest!