Top 15+ UNESCO
World Heritage Sites

What Is a UNESCO Site?

You’ve probably heard of popular destinations being described as UNESCO sites, but what does this mean? Widely known by the acronym UNESCO, The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization is an entity aiming to preserve cultural and natural treasures around the world.

What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

Although murmurings of such an organization began as early as the 1920s, it was not until 1978 that the first World Heritage sites were announced with the addition of twelve honored sites, among them locations as diverse as Yellowstone National Park, the Galapagos Islands, and the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia.

Since that time, over 1000 sites around the world have been named, crisscrossing the globe. To be considered for the UNESCO heritage list, the site must offer outstanding universal value and must meet at least one of ten selection criteria, including such reasons as representing masterpieces of human creative genius or a superlative natural phenomenon.

If country counting your traveling goal, a quest to visit each of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites would be epic. The sites cover the globe and encompass 161 “states parties,” or countries that signed and ratified the World Heritage Convention. Of the 1007 sites, 779 are cultural, 197 are natural, and 31 are mixed properties. 

Our Top 15+ UNESCO World Heritage Sites List

Mont St. Michel with reflection, Normandy, France

Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Perched on a rocky islet in the midst of a vast sandbank out in a bay between Normandy and Brittany, is the fortified island town of Mont-Saint-Michel. Both the town and the bay are listed as UNESCO Heritage sites. Sometimes called the 'Wonder of the West,' Mont-Saint-Michel is a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel, St Michael. Legend has it, the abbey was built after the Archangel Michael appeared to the Bishop of Avranches inspiring him to build a church atop the island.

France Tours
Italy Tuscany Wine Vineyard Hill Cypress Trees Expert

The Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont, Italy

Some UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be more abstract than others. For example the Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato in Italy. Located along the Po River, this spectacular wine-making region encompasses a whole range of technical and economic processes dating back as far as the 5th century BC showing the Etruscans were amongst the earliest winemakers in the world.

Italy Tours
Mostar Bridge in Bosnia-Herzegovina

The Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The historic town of Mostar spans the Neretva River, is known for its Turkish houses and Old Bridge, Stari Most, after which it is named. In the 1990s conflict, however, most of the historic town and the Old Bridge were destroyed. Only recently rebuilt, the Old Bridge area, with its Ottoman, Mediterranean, and western European architecture, is an outstanding example of a multicultural city.

Bosnia-Herzegovina Tours
Hall of Supreme Harmony, Forbidden City, Beijing, China

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Delve into China's imperial heritage, passing the south gate into the frozen-in-time Forbidden City - once home to emperors and their households at the Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang. The seat of supreme power for over five centuries (1416-1911), the Forbidden City offers visitors views of landscaped gardens and many buildings and a glimpse into the past of China's culture.

China Tours
Aerial view of Old Square, Prague, Czech Republic

The Historic Center of Prague, Czech Republic

Built over seven centuries, the historic city center actually comprises three separate cities – Old Town (Stare Mesto), Lesser Town (Mala Strana), and New Town (Nove Mesto). Within the city core, successive stages of growth, rather surprisingly, have respected the original urban growth plan creating a cohesive feel as you move throughout the town. The Charles Bridge, the local gathering spot for artists, photographers, street performers, and those merely out for a stroll, connects the east and west bank, bringing together this vibrant city. 

Czech Republic Tours
Sphinx and pyramids, Giza, Egypt

Memphis, Darshur, and The Pyramid Fields, Egypt

While Memphis and the Necropolis there is listed as a Heritage site, the entirety of the listing includes the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur in Egypt. Here, you'll find the famous funerary monuments of Egypt, including tombs, ornate temples, and towering pyramids. Memphis, originally the capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, remains home to the Colossus of Ramses II, the giant Alabaster Sphinx, and the Step Pyramid at Sakkara. It's in Giza that visitors will find the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx, the oldest monumental sculpture in the world.

Egypt Tours
Ireland Northern Ireland Giants Causeway Scenic

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

A geological masterpiece created by the cooling of lava that burst through the earth's crust millions of years ago, has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1986. As a result of the ancient volcanic eruption, 40,000 basalt columns still rise out of Ireland's wild Atlantic coastline. Myth and legend are synonymous with the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and the collection of basalt columns is thought by locals to be the 8th Wonder of the World. As the story goes, a giant named Finn McCool fought another giant called Benandonner who was threatening Ireland, tearing up great chunks of the Antrim coastline and throwing them into the sea, thus forming this part of the Causeway. 

Ireland Tours
Buddhist statues at Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Many Heritage Sites appear quite obvious choices, the astonishing and far-reaching ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, for instance. Well known the world over, the Angkor temple complex was originally used as the Khmer Empire capital from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Stretching over 155 square miles, the complex is massive and varied, showing advanced city planning in the respective capitals. Featuring scores of temples, hydraulic structures, and water basins, Angkor testifies to an exceptional society.

Cambodia Tours
Sydney Opera House, Australia

The Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

The Sydney Opera House, gleaming white, above the iconic Sydney Harbor, remains one of the most recognizable buildings around the world. Host to thousands of travelers each year, and home to frequent concerts and performances, the Opera House earned UNESCO status in 2007. It remains as much a symbol of this vibrant country as its world-renowned beaches and active lifestyle.

Australia Tours
Rooftops of Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Often called the "Pearl of the Adriatic, the walled town of Dubrovnik is situated on the Dalmation Coast, in Croatia. Known for its Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces, and fountains, visitors can explore the stone-paved streets inside the 16th-century bastions of the Old Town. Walk past Onofrio's Fountain, see the Old Jewish Quarter and the synagogue, and marvel at the grandeur of the cathedral and the Franciscan and Dominican monasteries. 

Croatia Tours
Stonehenge with blue sky, England

Stonehenge, England

Built sometime around 3000 BC, Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably England’s most famous monument. Located in Wiltshire, Stonehenge is a circle (henge) of megaliths (very large stones) erected in the Neolithic era (New Stone Age). The henge and its stones are among the most famous groups of megaliths in the world. The circles are arranged in a pattern thought to be of astronomical significance. However, the site remains a mystery and is still being explored and debated today.

Great Britain Tours
Iguassu Falls, Brazil

Iguaçu National Park, Argentina and Brazil

You'll find the thundering cascade of Iguassu Falls in both Argentina and Brazil in the UNESCO-listed Iguaçu National Park. Board an open-air ecological jungle train delving deep into its subtropical rainforest. Walk along the catwalk peering down into the swirling waters of Devil’s Throat Falls. Then, cross the border into Brazil to rediscover the 'Big Waters," on the Brazilian side of the falls. Walk through the rainforest at the base of the falls and peer at its majesty through the powerful spray.

Brazil & Argentina Tours
Cologne and the Rhine River at dusk, Germany

The Cologne Cathedral, Germany

The cathedral, whose construction began in 1248, was not completed until 1880. This UNESCO-designated Gothic masterpiece is Cologne’s most recognizable landmark, having dominated the city’s skyline for centuries. Inside, you’ll see the relics of the Magi and other sacred figures, 14th-century stained-glass windows, and the stunningly painted choir stalls—all while you learn the history of the cathedral and its art collections, especially the pieces surrounding the Shrine of the Magi.

Germany Tours
View through an arch of the Alhambra, Grenada, Spain

The Alhambra, Generalife, and Granada, Spain

Rising above the modern lower town, the Alhambra and the Albaycín, situated on two adjacent hills, form the medieval part of Granada. Undeniably, the highlight is the majestic Alhambra. Originally built in 889 A.D., today visitors can wander through the quadrangular palaces and central courtyard and admire the gardens in full bloom with roses, while the park’s nightingales provide a melodic soundtrack. See the Arabic inscriptions that adorn the upper parts of the walls, including poetry by Ibn Zamrak in praise of the palace, woven into beautiful geometric patterns. Marvel at the Fountain of the Lions that hides ingenious hydraulics to operate the water that flows out of each lion’s mouth. 

Spain Tours
Street in Obidos, Portugal

Évora, Portugal

One of the best-preserved towns in the country, Évora is located in the south-central region of Spain. This fascinating city is home to fewer than 60,000 inhabitants and full of historical monuments. Visitors can find the best-preserved Roman temple on the Iberian Peninsula and the macabre Capelo Dos Ossos, constructed with human skulls and bones. The quirky houses built in the arches of the Aqueducto de Áqua de Prata are a also must-see. Be sure to visit the pink granite cathedral with a fantastic roof terrace, which offers beguiling views of the city, and pop into the Gothic cloisters, where the scent of orange hangs in the air.

Portugal Tours
Aerial view of Old Square, Prague, Czech Republic

The Historic Center of Prague, Czech Republic

Built between the 11th and 18th centuries, The Historic Center of Prague in the Czech Republic offers visitors an idea of the grand architecture and cultural influences enjoyed by this popular city since the middle ages. The historic city center comprises three separate cities – Old Town (Stare Mesto), Lesser Town (Mala Strana), and New Town (Nove Mesto), and many of the magnificent buildings, such as Hradcany Castle and the Charles Bridge remain top tourist sites today.

Czech Republic Tours

While many UNESCO World Heritage Sites are focused on scenic beauty, some are definitely urban in nature, some are historic, and some aren't even places...

The Mediterranean Diet, Greece, Italy, France, Spain...

Believe it or not, his last one is not a place but a diet (the good kind, of course!). The Mediterranean Diet, long praised by dietitians, was inscribed into the UNESCO list of intangible entries in 2013. This locally produced, farm-to-table, type of eating is as much about superior ingredients as it is about social interaction and a sense of community. It focuses on total lifestyle; good food, good exercise, and good community.