Every year, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) announces a selection of global sites deemed to have “outstanding universal value.” The locations are added to their World Heritage Site list.
A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by UNESCO as being of special cultural or physical significance. The first destinations named in 1978 included only 12 locations. Today, there are more than 1,000 sites on the list to visit all over the world. Some are cities, or mountains or even vineyards. Most are stunning locations worthy of any travel lover’s bucket list. Here are 10 of the most beautiful world heritage sites worth visiting:
1. The Taj Mahal
Located in Agra, India, The Taj Mahal is one of the most iconic UNESCO World Heritage sites. Built in the early to mid 17th Century, it was commissioned in 1632 by the emperor to house the tomb of his favorite wife. The stunning marble mausoleum attracts visitors from around the world for its photogenic white marble architecture.
2. Pyramids of Giza
Just outside of Cairo’s city center, this complex of ancient monuments includes three pyramids known as the Great Pyramids, the Great Sphinx, several cemeteries, and a workers’ village. They are also the oldest of the seven wonders of the world.
3. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park in California is one of the most visited National Parks in the United States. Best known for its waterfalls and its massive, ancient Sequoia trees, but within the park’s nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, tranquil meadows, a giant granite face, and much more.
4. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu in Peru is a mysterious, Incan city set high in the Andes Mountains. Archeologists believe it was built in the 15th century and later abandoned. The city’s layout includes buildings that play on astronomical alignments, and panoramic views over the valley.
5. Historic Center of Florence
Italy is full of incredible cities with a fascinating history. The city of Florence is built on the site of an ancient Etruscan settlement. It’s the symbol of the Renaissance and rose to economic and cultural power under the Medici family in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its 600 years of extraordinary artistic activity can be seen in its buildings and the works of great masters like Botticelli and Michelangelo.
6. The Great Wall
The Great Wall of China runs 5,500 miles across China’s east-to-west line across the historical northern borders to protect the empire against the raids and invasions of nomadic groups. It’s the only man-made structure that can be seen from outer space. Especially famous is the section of wall built from 220–206 BC.
7. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Cambodia’s Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. It’s known as a Buddhist temple but was once a Hindu place of worship.
8. Medina of Marrakesh
The Medina is the center of Marrakesh, Morocco and home to busy, colorful and vibrant outdoor market that sells everything from leather, rugs, and jewelry to spices.
9. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is world famous for its stunning lakes arranged in cascades. The location’s 16 lakes and the green surroundings make for some beautiful photographs.
10. Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls
The ancient city of Jerusalem, Israel is sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Towering walls, colorful markets, and historic, narrow alleyways make this a destination worth a visit.