Whether you're looking for a romantic getaway or an active adventure, there's a destination out there for you. However, if you're looking to add some culture and history to your trip, then we've got just the thing: UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
These are sites that are considered unique and important enough that they were recognized by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as having special cultural or physical significance.
Get ready to be awed by some of the most breathtaking architecture and sights in the world - many of them close to how they would have looked generations before us!
So without further ado...
1. 🔺 Pyramids of Giza
How these were built (and why Egyptians stopped building them) remains a mystery to this day! Holding many secrets, the Pyramids of Giza are the most famous and well-preserved of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Their inclusion on this list is warranted for their enormous size, longevity—they were built between 2510 and 2490 B.C.—and cultural significance.
The pyramids are found in Cairo along the west bank of the Nile River across from modern-day downtown Cairo; they're accessible by car or taxi from most hotels in Egypt's capital city. Visitors take tours that include both individual sites and groups that visit multiple locations throughout Egypt; many tour operators also provide lunch or dinner options at various stops during your trip—try an Egyptian buffet at Mena House Oberoi (https://www.menahouseoberoi.com/egypt) before heading out to see some ancient ruins!
2. 🛕 Borobudur Buddhist Temple in Central Java, Indonesia
A 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist monument near the city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Indonesia. Borobudur is located about 15 km (9 miles) north-west of Yogyakarta on a rural slope surrounded on three sides by volcanic Mount Merapi’s east side warm springs.
Sitting on the top of a hill and built out of 2.5 million carved stones, it's a beautiful example of Javanese temple architecture and Hinduism being incorporated into Buddhist culture. Its intricate reliefs tell stories from the Buddha's life, and its base holds a huge number of statues—the largest statue is that of Buddha Vairocana.
You can visit Borobudur at sunrise or sunset for stunning light effects on the artwork.
3. 🧱 Great Wall of China
Who hasn’t heard of this wonder? The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials. The main walls were built by Qin Shi Huang (Qin dynasty) to protect the Chinese Empire from raids by the Xiongnu nomadic people in the north. After his death, construction on the wall continued up to 1368 AD under the Ming Dynasty. It is widely considered as one of the greatest wonders in human history.
The Great Wall took more than 2 centuries to build with many different dynasties working on it during their reigns! It stretches over thousands of miles and spans across deserts, mountains and grasslands as it winds through 15 provinces. However, the four recommended sections to visit are around Beijing: Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai, and Jiankou.
4. ⛰️ Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is the ruins of an Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru. The Incas built the site sometime around 1450 A.D., and it was discovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911.
Many archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was used as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. Others insist it was more of a religious center than anything else. Regardless, Machu Picchu is one of the most famous archaeological sites on earth and attracts millions of visitors every year.
The architecture is incredible, and the natural setting is spectacular: Machu Picchu is located 2,430 meters (7,970 feet) above sea level, surrounded by snow-capped peaks. The ruins are most easily reached from Cusco, Peru via train, although many choose to hike there.
5. 😍 Petra, Jordan
You'll have to make the trek to Jordan if you want to see Petra, one of the most awe-inspiring sites on earth. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a city that was carved out of sandstone cliffs by the Nabataeans in 312 BC. The historic site features rock-cut architecture, water channels and staircases carved into the mountainside.
Petra has been featured in many movies over the years including Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Stargate and more recently Lawrence of Arabia (it's also where they filmed part of Star Wars).
6. 🏰 The Tower of London, UK
The Tower of London is one of the most famous castles in the world. Often just referred to as “The Tower,” it was built by William the Conqueror after he invaded England in 1066. It was used as his personal palace, a government center and prison for high-value prisoners.
There are many things to do at the Tower including:
- Touring the castle's royal armory and taking part in an interactive history lesson (and maybe getting hit with some arrows!)
- Watching live performances of Shakespeare plays within its walls or attending events like The Ceremony of the Keys (where guards lock up) or Beating Retreat (when they show off their skills).
7. 😊 Colosseum in Rome, Italy
The Colosseum is most known as an gladiatorial arena, and it is an iconic symbol of Rome. Built by Emperor Vespasian in AD 70 as a gift to the Roman people, it was used for 100 years before being destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Trajan (98-117), and was then finally seen to be no longer safe enough for public use: spectators started slipping through gaps in its walls and getting crushed under falling masonry.
The Colosseum has remained standing ever since; we can see it today much as it would have been seen when it first opened its doors to crowds of eager sports fans—if you know your history well enough, there are even some traces left behind from those early days when gladiators battled lions inside this great amphitheater!
The Colosseum is now part of UNESCO's World Heritage Site network (it joined this prestigious group back in 1980) because it remains one of humanity's finest achievements: Despite being almost 2 millennia old there are only two other structures older than this one still standing today—the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt; and Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain near Wiltshire, England.
8. 🕌 Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is located on the banks of Yamuna River in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. The Taj Mahal was built between 1632 and 1653 AD at the cost of approximately 32 million Rupees or 100 million dollars at today's prices – taking over 20 years to complete.
The Taj is one of only seven sites in India that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites; it was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and has been described as "the jewel of Muslim art". The Taj Mahal attracts not just domestic but also foreign tourists due to its architectural grandeur and aesthetic beauty which attracts people from all over the world every year, making it one of the most visited places in India with more than seven million tourist visits each year.
9. 🌿 Acropolis of Athens, Greece
The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel in Athens, a monument to the city's impressive history and a symbol of its rich culture. It was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987, when it was described as "the best preserved example of an ancient Greek city".
The ancient city is built on a hill overlooking the Saronic Gulf and is encircled by the remains of its famous walls, which were added to protect Athens from invaders. The Parthenon is the crown jewel of its ruins, which were once a temple dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom and strategy.
When you look at the Acropolis of Athens, you're looking at what has been called the pinnacle of Western Civilization—you can feel the weight of 2,500 years of history around you.
10. 👌 Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia, with the largest religious monument in the world. It is a World Heritage Site and was built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. The temple's design is based on that of Ta Prohm, which means "ancestor Brahma".
Angkor Wat was not originally conceived as an earthly place of worship but rather as a celestial abode for gods; its name comes from the Sanskrit words Ananta (infinite) and Vāta (wind or spirit). However, visiting Angkor Wat today will still leave you in awe at its grandeur; it boasts some of the most beautiful carvings you'll ever see!
There's something for everyone in this list, whether you're an adventure traveler, a history buff, or someone who just wants to see some of the best sights in the world. If you've never heard of all of these UNESCO sites, then now's your chance to explore them. And if you're planning a trip soon, consider one of these UNESCO sites for your next destination. Who knows? You might find a new favorite place on earth!
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