There are more than 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, places that the organization has deemed extraordinary because of cultural or physical significance. And while members of travel website VirtualTourist agree that every one is worth visiting, when asked to narrow it down, they came up with ten, both manmade and natural, that are worth being on everybody’s bucket list.
1. Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra, India
Tip and photo by: Donna-in-India
Thirty Buddhist caves in the shape of a horse shoe rise to a 10 height of 250 feet (76 meters) over a ravine. The oldest caves date back to the 2nd century and some are beautifully decorated with mural paintings and sculptures that are now considered masterpieces of Buddhist art. Each of the caves have now been numbered and VirtualTourist members say a must is to visit Cave 6, the only double stories monastery. Tip: If you rap on the pillars in this cave, they emit a musical sound.
2. Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico, United States
Tip and photo by: goodfish
Dating back between 850 and 1250, Chaco Canyon is remarkable for many reasons including its massive Great Houses of intricate stone masonry which rose four to five stories high above the desert floor which were carefully aligned for communication between houses and observation of celestial events. It had complex irrigation systems for trapping and channeling water that made agriculture possible in a hot and arid environment. Artifacts recovered from the archeological sites indicate that there was extensive trading here from all corners of the region and as far away as Central America. One VirtualTourist member says that “of all the ancient, sacred sites in the Southwest, this is the one that speaks to me like no other. It is a place that is to be sensed as much as seen. No picture can capture it and the language doesn’t exist that can adequately describe the experience.”
3. Tallinn’s Historic Centre, Tallinn, Estonia
Tip and photo by: toonsarah
Tallinn is considered the best-preserved Old Town in Northern Europe and it is so easy to see why. Dating back to the 13th century, the city’s buildings including winding streets, elegant churches and the Town Hall square, have survived fire and war. One VirtualTourist member says, “Within five minutes of settling into my hotel, I was charmed by the architecture that surrounded me, and my few days stay only reinforced my impression of a beautiful city with a warm friendly soul.”
4. Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada
Tip and photo by: jojes
Entering Dinosaur Provincial Park is like entering another world, so says one VirtualTourist member. But there is more to this park than the stunning scenery alone. Some of the most important and biggest finds of dinosaur fossils anywhere in the world were discovered here. They have discovered about 60 species, of which 35 different species of dinosaurs in this area. Some bones were even more than 75 million years old. Over 300 specimen have been recovered here and are now at museums all over the world.
5. Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia
Tip and photo by: blueskyjohn
Containing remains from the 9th century to the 15th, Angkor Archaeological Park is one of the most important archaeological sites in all of South East Asia. Stretching more than 400 square kilometers, there is so much to see. One of the main attractions is the Preah Khan. However, one VirtualTourist member says look beyond the temple and walk the well-worn dirt path that encircles it from the outside of the surrounding wall. It gives a different perspective of this amazing place that many people miss.
6. Ohrid, Macedonia
Tip and photo by: planxty
Ohrid is one of the most ancient human settlements in Europe and it is obvious why it would have been favored as it sits on the bountiful lake, with a very defensible highpoint. With many of the settlements built between the 7th and 9th centuries, it is home to the oldest Slav monastery as well as more than Byzantine-style icons like Church of St. John at Kaneo. As one member states, “this church is by no means the largest church in Ohrid, but its exquisite position on a bluff overlooking the lake and it’s delightful architectural form make it one of my favorites.”
7. Jesuit Missions of La Santisima Trinidad de Parana and Jesus de Tavarangue, Paraguay
Tip and photo by: dswede
Originally constructed in 1706, the Jesuits had planned to build a self-sustaining utopia society for themselves as well as a protective heaven for the indigenous population. However this did not go according to plan. The area was eventually abandoned and left to the mercy of mother nature. Here you will find remains of a church, school, residences, and workshops. One of these least visited UNESCO sites, one VirtualTourist member notes that he spent 3 hours here and did not see any other person, allowing him plenty of opportunities to explore.
8. Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela, Ethiopia
Tip by: Bali-Babe, photo by: fluffybunny
In the mountains of Lalibela sit eleven medieval monolithic cave churches. Built in the 13th century, these churches are amazing not only because of their size, but because of how they were built, carved out of rock with the roofs at your feet. Of the eleven churches, VirtualTourist members say Bet Giyorgis (St. George’s) is one of the most beautiful and is carved in the shape of a cross. The churches were hidden in the ground because Christianity was forbidden back then, and the people practiced in secrecy in the foothills of the mountains.
9. Old City of Sana’a, Yemen
Tip by: hydronetta, photo by: fluffybunny
The old, fortified city of Sanaa has been inhabited for more than 2,500 as some of the oldest buildings are over 400 years old. Surrounded by ancient clay walls which stand six to nine meters high, the old city boasts over 100 mosques, twelve hammams (baths) and 6,500 houses. Many of the houses look like ancient skyscrapers reaching several stories high with flat roofs and decorated with elaborate friezes and finely carved windows. Popular attractions apart from the old city itself are: Suq (market), where it is possible to buy food, cotton, copper, pottery, silverware, antiques, souvenirs and even donkeys. The majestic 7th century Great Mosque is one of the oldest in the Muslim world.
10. South West New Zealand
Tip by: kiwi, photo by: shavy
Apart from being very remote from the most populated parts of the planet, if you realize that NZ is an island that has been secluded from many evolutionary traits of other areas, you find here some very original and old species, both plant and animal, that are really unique. Many botanists study their species and use them for base examples to compare and study other species. One VirtualTourist member says, “If you want to get away from it all this is indeed the place to go.”