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Travel Planning: Why You Should Add UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Your Itinerary

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This post discusses what UNESCO World Heritage Sites are, why they are important, and provides resources for you to learn more.

My relationship with UNESCO World Heritage sites began well before I understood what they were or why they were significant. 

On a childhood trip to the Taj Mahal I oohed and aahed over the magnificence of the symmetry and opulence of the design. In later trips to Australia’s Greater Blue Mountain Area and Albania’s Ohrid Region, I discovered that this same feeling of wonder extended into nature. 

It wasn’t until the late 2000s that I learned that there was an organization responsible for the identification, protection and preservation of these magical places.

What is a UNESCO Heritage site?

In 1972, countries around the world signed an international treaty, thereby creating the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO works with cities and countries to be identify, protect and preserve their cultural and natural treasures considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.

There are two types of heritage sites: cultural and natural. 

  • Cultural heritage sites include monuments, groups of buildings and sites which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science.
  • Natural heritage sites include natural features, geological and physiographical formations, and natural sites which are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view.

World Map of UNESCO Heritage sites:

Why should I visit?

You could spend your days creating itineraries to visit the 1200+ UNESCO Heritage Sites. The list is ever-evolving — some sites are added, and others fall off through the years. Consider exploring UNESCO sites to uncover hidden gems, think through a country’s history, and support preservation efforts of these superlative locations.

A handful of our favorite UNESCO sites:

  • Czech Republic — Historic Centre of Cesky Krumlov
  • Greece — Acropolis, Athens
  • India — Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi
  • Israel — Old City and Walls of Jerusalem
  • Netherlands — Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshou
  • Spain — Old City of Salamanca


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