Top 20 World Heritage Sites

UNESCO World Heritage List was created with an idea to honor and preserve the most unique and breathtaking locations on our colorful, diverse planet. Every site that enjoys the coveted World Heritage status represents a highly significant natural or cultural landmark. Some of them tell the tales of the cardinal events that shaped history as we know it. Others are still shrouded in secrecy and continue to pique the curiosity of scientists travelers even today.   

Currently, there are over 1100 unique protected sites, with dozens of new sites being added to this ever-changing list yearly. As expected, narrowing this extensive catalog to a mere twenty most popular sites turned out to be a real challenge. We tried to pick the 20 most breathtaking UNESCO sites in the world, ideal for a travel bucket list.  

World Heritage Sites in Europe

Europe is a continent brimming with exciting stories and impressionable places. The ancient roads of the Old Continent will take you on an unforgettable journey through time. From enigmatic ruins to marvelous baroque palaces, Europe offers plenty of UNESCO sites to explore. 

Acropolis of Athens, Greece

Columns of Pantheon in the Acropolis of Athens complex

Greece is often considered the cradle of Western civilization, being the birthplace of countless cornerstones of European culture. Rocky hills and groves of olive trees hide the thousands of ancient temples and ancient cities. The most iconic one is The Acropolis of Athens, a two-and-a-half millennia-old citadel located on a rocky outcrop above Greece’s busy capital. Thankfully, The Acropolis survived all the turbulent historical changes and still proudly guards over the city as the centerpiece of Athens.

Things to see and do

The most recognizable landmark in the complex is the iconic temple Parthenon. The famous building known for its dignified white marble columns dominates the Acropolis, but the journey through the Acropolis shouldn’t end with the temple. The plateau is topped with several other ancient monuments, equally worthy of attention. Make sure to admire the various monuments, and take advantage of the location by appreciating the breathtaking view of the city below.

  • Erechtheion: A temple from 5th century BC, most famous for the six caryatids, draped female figures serving as supporting columns.
  • Propylaia: Ancient gates of the complex.
  • The Temple of Athena Nike: A Classical temple, constructed in 426-421 BC.
  • The Odeon of Herodes Atticus: A lovely ancient stone theater, built by Athenian Herodes Atticus, in memory of his wife.

Location of Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis is located on an enormous limestone hill high above the modern city of  Athens. There are two entrances into the complex. The main and most famous entrance lies at the western end of the Acropolis, but it’s notorious for being extremely busy. There is a smaller, lesser-known ticket office at the southeastern corner of the Acropolis. An elevator is also available on the northeastern side of the Acropolis that provides access for people in wheelchairs. 

Venice, Italy

Gondola in Venice

Venice is a city renowned for its singular beauty. A wide network of canals and a series of picturesque bridges are the main reason behind this destination’s tremendous popularity. For over a millennium, the city was the capital of the Republic of Venice, a maritime power that dominated over the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The city-state’s former grandeur still shines through Venice’s sublime architecture. Ornate bridges, churches, and palaces provide a lovely crown for the Queen of the Adriatic.    

Things to see and do

Venice is one of those cities where you can always find something thrilling to do. Exploring the labyrinthine alleys of the city will lead you to countless less-known sights hidden from the eyes of the tourists. A romantic ride in the city’s iconic Gondola offers a unique way to discover the canals and lagoon.

  • St. Mark’s Basilica: Located in the Piazza San Marco, this basilica is one of the most renowned buildings in the city. Its ornate facade decorated with sculptures enchants the visitors.
  • Ponte di Rialto: There are over 400 bridges scattered in Venice’s sprawling canal, but this impressive bridge on the Grand Canal easily overshadows all of them.
  • Doge’s Palace: This intricate palace made of white stone decorated with a series of diamond patterns on the walls still treasures the memory of the city-state’s glorious heydey.
  • Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute: This baroque church is considered one of the city’s most marvelous architectural wonders. 

Location of Venice

Venice is located in northeastern Italy and it seves as the capital of the Veneto region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands lie in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay lying between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers.

Versailles, France

Perfectly symmetrical garden in the city of Versailles

The palace of Versailles is a perfect place to peek into the glamorous and often extravagant life of 17th-century royalty. The palace served as a hunting lodge, a ​former royal residence, and​,​ from the nineteenth century​ onwards, as​ one of the most visited museums in France. Go on a regal journey through a network of lavishly luxurious chambers adorned with gold, crystal, and remarkable works of art. But, the palace of Versailles wasn’t only the stage for court intrigue and fairytale balls. The palace was also the place where many crucial historical events took place. The Treaty of Versailles signed at the end of World War I, codified peace terms between the victorious Allies and Germany.  

Things to see and do

  • The Hall of Mirrors: This is the most famous room in the Palace, the chamber where courtiers and illustrious guests were received at the time of Louis XIV. This is the place where World War I reached its conclusion.
  • The King’s State Apartment: This prestigious series of seven intricately decorated chambers were used for hosting the sovereign’s official acts. 
  • The Gardens of Versailles: Explore the gigantic gardens adorned with orange trees, canals, statues, and fountains.
  • The Grand Trianon: A little palace of pink marble and porphyry tucked in the marvelous gardens.

Location of Versailles

The palace is located in the city of Versailles, in the department of the Yvelines. The city is situated in the western suburbs of the French capital, around 17 kilometers from the center of Paris and its most popular attractions. RER line C arrives at Versailles Château - Rive Gauche train station, just 10 minutes’ walk to the Palace.

Stonehenge, United Kingdom

The monoliths of Stonehenge on a bright green field of grass

One thing that sets Stonehenge apart from other world heritage sites is the mystery surrounding it. Five millennia after the first monument was elevated, the prehistoric site remains one of mankind’s most intriguing enigmas. The civilization behind the ruins is still veiled in secrecy, and so are the motives that urged them to create this massive structure made of monolithic stones. Stonehenge is widely believed to have been a burial ground, but many other hypotheses exist, ranging from astronomical use to supernatural-oriented conspiracy theories.    

Things to see and do

Nevertheless of its original purpose, Stonehenge remains one of the most famous structures in the world. The enchanting aura enveloping this place steeped in mystery makes is what makes the trip memorable. 

  • Stone circle: A walk around the Stone Circle is the centerpiece of any visit to Stonehenge. 
    Marks left behind by ancient, parched grass show that the iconic monument was once a perfect circle.
  • Visitor center: Dive straight into the ancient stories and learn more about the site through the exhibition showcasing treasures discovered nearby.
  • Neolithic houses: Walk amongst the replicas of the Neolithic houses and imagine how people lived 4500 years ago. 

Location of Stonehenge

This famous landmark lies on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, three kilometers west of the town of Amesbury. The cheapest and easiest way to get to Stonehenge is by a direct bus and entrance ticket package from London. You get to spend two hours at the site and the tour runs nearly every day through the summer and select days through the winter.

World Heritage Sites in Asia

The sheer size of the world’s largest continent induced the rise of countless different cultures. Incredibly diverse, both ethnically and in terms of its natural biomes, Asia provides a home to awe-inspiring locations. Many great civilizations originated here, and their presence has left the mark deeply rooted in the peoples and places of the continent. 

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China slithers through the autumnal woods

An old urban legend bills The Great Wall of China as the only man-made object visible from space. Unfortunately, as the story often goes, it happens to be a hoax. This fake “fact” doesn’t make this imposing masterpiece of architecture any less impressive. Spanning over mindboggling 20 thousand kilometers, this enormous system of fortifications certainly well-deserved the epithet in its title. Even today, the defensive system of the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats in history. 

Things to see and do

All the tourists usually share one initial thought. So, where to start? The most popular sections of the Great Wall are situated around China’s capital, Beijing. They’re close enough to the city’s other famous cultural landmarks, such as the Forbidden City and Summer Palace. Incidentally, these partitions of the wall are most often the best-preserved and most approachable ones.

  • Mutianyu is the most magnificent fully-restored section of the wall. It’s the most popular location among tourists mostly because it’s suitable for families. Jinshanling is only partially restored, but its widely recognized as one of the most spectacular sections of the Wall. It’s a heaven for hikers and adventurers!
  • Simatai truly shines at night when it’s illuminated by the magical lights. This is the only part of the Wall that you can visit after the sun goes down.
  • Juyongguan is the section closest to Beijing. It is also one of the most impressive forts, once used to defend the ancient city.  

Location of the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall slithers across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China. It stretches from Liaodong in the east to Lop Lake in the west, from the present-day Sino–Russian border in the north to Tao River in the south. The most visited landmarks are all situated near the capital, but the Great Wall of China offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. 

Petra, Jordan

The structures carved in the cliffs in Petra, Jordan

Petra is an ancient Nabataean caravan city, most famous for its unusual, breathtaking architecture. Namely, Petra was half-built, half-carved into the rock, which bestowed the city with its recognizable air of mystique and elegance. One of such landmarks is the world-famous Treasury, a facade adorning every travel brochure about Jordan. This stunning destination, however, offers so much more. A real architectural treasure tucked in the mountains riddled with passages and gorges. 

Things to see and do

  • Siq: Every visitor of Petra has to go through Siq, the narrow gorge leading towards the old city. 
  • The Treasury: The most famous building in Petra, the treasury was carved in the mountain to serve as a tomb for the Nabataean King Aretas III. 
  • Street of Facades: A complex of houses and tombs carved into the sandstone mountains.
  • The Colonnaded Street: A witness of the period when the Romans took control over Petra. Many columns still stand, surviving the test of time.    
  • Monastery: A hilltop temple, and the largest structure in Petra. Reaching this marvelous place requires strenuous, but there are plenty of tranquil spots along the way to rest and admire the views.

Location of Petra

The archaeological city of Petra is located in southern Jordan. It is adjacent to the mountain of Jabal Al-Madbah, in a basin surrounded by mountains forming the eastern flank of the Arabah valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. For travelers flying into Queen Alia International Airport, located 30 minutes from Amman, you can reach Petra in approximately three hours by car. If you opt for public transport, you can catch a JETT bus straight to Petra at the 7th Circle bus station.

Taj Mahal, India

Taj Mahal

The ivory-white marble dome of the mausoleum Taj Mahal didn’t become India’s most notable symbol accidentally. The origin of this intricately decorated building is what makes the marvelous monument even more intriguing. The emperor Shah Jahan was inconsolable after the death of his beloved wife. He summoned the best artists and architects from all over the Muslim world to design an unparalleled monument in her honor. The result was the Taj Mahal, a jewel of architecture, whose pristine dome changes colors under the glistening sun. 

Things to see and do

After you’ve seen the Taj Mahal and the serene gardens that surround the monument, taking a look at the other fascinating landmarks in the city of Agra is the next logical step.  

  • Agra Fort is, in a way, a sister monument of the Taj Mahal, the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty.
  • The Baby Taj Mahal: The Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb got its adorable nickname for being a smaller counterpart of the more famous monument. It is considered to be the inspiration behind the Taj Mahal. 
  • Mehtab Bagh: A charming garden complex perfectly aligned with the Taj Mahal on the opposite bank of the Yamuna river.

Location of the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is situated on the southern bank of the river Yamuna in the Indian city of Agra. Agra lies in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, about 210 kilometers south of the national capital New Delhi. The fastest way of reaching the city is by air. The city has its airport, located around 7 kilometers from the center. Indian Airlines operates flights to Agra daily. There is also a good network of trains connecting Agra with the rest of the country.

Terracotta Army, China

Terracotta Army

Around fifty years ago, a group of farmers accidentally stumbled on an undreamed-off treasure while digging a well. The two millennia-old terracotta life-sized statues of the soldiers already seemed like a marvelous discovery. No one could even imagine the sheer magnitude of the archeological find, forgotten deep underneath the soil. Since then, more than 8000 figures have been unearthed. What was their purpose? The clay soldiers were buried near the ancient mausoleum and represent an army that Emperor Qin hoped would defend his empire in the afterlife. 

Things to see and do

Nowadays, The Terracotta Army is tucked underneath the protective dome. Since it’s an indoor attraction, it’s not likely to be affected by weather, so it can be visited all year round.

  • Pit 1: This is the largest and most impressive, where about 2,000 terracotta warriors are displayed.
  • Pit 2: This middle-sized pit has the most army units with archers, chariots, mixed forces, and cavalry.
  • Pit 3: It is the smallest pit and represents the command post.
  • The Exhibition of Bronze Chariots
  • Mausoleum of Qin Shihuang: It's not excavated yet, so there's not much to see, except a mound.

Location of Terracotta Army

Now called the Terracotta Army or Terracotta Warriors, the figures are located in three pits near the city of Xi'an in China's Shaanxi province. After the warriors were discovered, the site became a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. They are 40 kilometers northeast of downtown Xi’an, about one hour’s driving distance. Nowadays, many international direct flights arrive in Xi’an from the most major airports in the world. If you travel to other Chinese tourist destinations like Beijing and Shanghai first, you can also take a connecting flight or train to Xi’an conveniently.

World Heritage Sites in Africa

Africa is often lauded as the cradle of humankind. Thousands of unique cultures and languages create a vibrant mosaic. The vast continent also hosts a wide variety of wildlife and landscapes, from endless savannas to lush to untameable jungles. Let’s follow the steps of our first hominid ancestors and discover some of the most iconic landmarks of Africa. 

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The complex of pyramids in the desert near Cairo

The Pyramids of Giza were a famed tourist attraction long before tourism as we know it was even a thing. The visit of historian Herodotus in the 4th century BC sparked an interest in Egypt’s mysterious and enduring monuments. These famed structures are, in fact, so old that they seemed like an alluring primordial enigma even to Ancient Greeks! Centuries have passed, and the serene tombs of the kings, guarded by the cryptic Sphinx, continue to thrill the spectators.  

Things to see and do

  • The Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, is not only the grandest monument on the site but one of the most well-known monuments in the world. The bravest visitors can descend deep into the narrow corridors hidden in the Pyramid’s bowel.
  • The Pyramid of Chephren is the second largest pyramid in Giza, built by Khufu's son Khafre.
  • The Pyramid of Mycerinus is the third, smallest pyramid that creates the famous silhouette of the Giza complex. 
  • The Sphinx is the most evocative  Egyptian monument after the Great Pyramid itself. Carved from the natural rock, this enigmatic monument is enveloped in myths and legends.

Location of The Pyramids of Giza

When people imagine the Pyramids of Giza, the image they usually visualize is the secluded monuments hidden deep in the middle of the impassable desert. In reality, however, the ancient monuments tower just over the edge of Cairo's eternally bustling suburban sprawl. The complex lies at the edges of the Western Desert, approximately 9 kilometers west of the Nile River in the city of Giza. It’s located only 13 kilometers southwest of the modern city center of Egypt’s capital, Cairo.

Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Rainbow appears over titanic Victoria Falls

One of the most spectacular sights of pure grandeur awaits at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The tranquil river Zambezi plummets over the edges of the basalt cliff, creating Victoria Falls, the biggest curtain of falling water in the world. The waterfalls’ original name in the Sotho language, Mosi-oa-Tunya (he Smoke That Thunders), depicts its power and grandeur perfectly. Today, Victoria Falls provides a favorite spot for people interested in fast-paced, adrenaline-packed fun. Bungee jumping from the famous Victoria Falls Bridge will make even the bravest, most experienced adventurists shiver.

Things to see and do

  • White Water Rafting on the Zambezi river is one of the challenging adrenaline-inducing experiences.
  • Hire wire activities, such as zipline, gorge swing, and flying fox allow you to conquer the skies above the magical falls.
  • Devil’s Pool: Take a swim in a rock pool on the very edge of Victoria Falls!  

Location of Victoria Falls

One of the largest waterfalls in the world is located on the Zambezi River in southern Africa, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The three major access options to Victoria Falls are air, rail, and road. Victoria Falls Town (Zimbabwe) and Livingstone Town (Zambia) both have international airports. These are serviced by several flights a day from various destinations.

Cape Floristic Region, South Africa

Beach with the view of Table Mountain in sunset

The vibrant Cape Floristic Region earned its World Heritage Status for being one of the most abundant and diverse floral areas in the world. This relatively small area hosts one-fifth of the vegetation in all of Africa, including many endemic species. Rich and colorful landscapes of the Western Cape of Africa are an unforgettable sight to behold. Even if you don’t have a penchant for flora, the area will surprise you with many fascinating sites.

Things to see and do

  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is the place to go if you’re interested in the magnificent flora of South Africa. It’s generally acclaimed as one of the best botanic gardens in the world. 
  • The Table Mountain: This distinctive-looking mountain is one of Cape Town's most recognized landmarks. Picturesque views and exquisite flora are what make this unusual place so special.
  • Boulder Beach: Penguins? In Africa? Curiously, Boulder Beach is the only place in the world where you can casually mingle with a colony of wild penguins.
  • Chapman’s Peak: Take a drive on the most scenic route of Africa, carved into the towering cliffs of Chapman’s Peak mountain. 

Location of Cape Floristic Region

The Cape Floristic Region is located near the southern tip of South Africa. If you’re traveling through this area, don’t miss Cape Town, one of the most popular touristic hubs in South Africa. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Robben Island, is located nearby. in Table Bay. Political activist and former president Nelson Mandela were famously imprisoned on the island before the fall of apartheid and the introduction of full democracy.

World Heritage Sites in North America

North America is so much more than the busy squares of New York and romanticized vignettes of Los Angeles. It’s a hugely diverse landmass, bursting both with natural wonders and fascinating cultural heritage. Currently, there are 79 UNESCO sites in North America, ranging from exciting national parks to intriguing pre-Columbian settlements. 

Yellowstone National Park, USA 

The view of the colorful Prismatic Geyser

Welcome to the world’s first national park, a place that earned its fame thanks to the sights such as Old Faithful Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring. Yellowstone National Park unfolds over 2 million acres and provides a home to plentiful wildlife and mountainous wilderness. Lucky visitors have a chance to spot the animal residents of the park, such as bison, elks, or even bears and wolves.

Things to see and do

  • Grand Prismatic Spring: The colorful spring is one of the most breathtaking sights in Yellowstone.
  • The Old Faithful Geyser: One of the symbols of the National Park, the geyser earned its name for being the most predictable out of all Yellowstone geysers. It erupts every 90 minutes, which makes catching it in action easy. 
  • Lamar Valley is the best place in the park to observe wildlife, particularly the roaming herds of bison.

Location of Yellowstone National Park

The national park is located in the western United States, largely in the northwest corner of Wyoming, extending into Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone’s eponymous airport. Yellowstone Airport (WYS) is located just 2 miles from Yellowstone National Park. 

The Grand Canyon, USA

Imposing canyon cliffs in Arizona

The Grand Canyon is one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in North America. This gigantic steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado river attracts millions of tourists every year from all across the globe. The colossal rims are its most distinctive feature, but the Grand Canyon shouldn’t be lauded only for its natural beauty. The canyon holds a significant place in the culture of the Hopi Tribe, who considers it a gateway to the afterlife.  

Things to see and do

  • Visitor Center & Mather Point Overlook are one of the most visited spots in the Grand Canyon. The Visitor Center displays an overview of the park, while Mather Point Overlook offers a couple of wonderful viewing areas with gorgeous vistas over the canyon.
  • Rim Trail is a mostly paved walking path that follows the rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s one of the most accessible hiking trails, which earned it its massive popularity. 
  • Geological Museum: a perfect place to learn more about the origin story and mysteries of the Grand Canyon.

Location of Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon is in the northwest corner of Arizona, close to the borders of Utah and Nevada. The Colorado River, which flows through the canyon, drains water from seven states, but the feature we know as Grand Canyon lies entirely in Arizona. The South Rim has an airport and rail service and is a 60-minute drive from Interstate 40 and the town of Williams and 90 minutes from Flagstaff. A larger city with a major airport, Phoenix, is also south of Grand Canyon and is approximately a four-hour drive.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

The Temple of Kukulkan

The Maya civilization ruled over Mesoamerica for over a thousand years, leaving behind sophisticated writing and astrological systems, an enigmatic calendar that turned the world upside down, and splendid works of architecture. Perhaps the most impressive testament to the might and meticulousness of the Maya people is Chichen Itza. It was once one of the most important city-states in pre-Hispanic America. Nowadays, Chichen Itza is famous for being the most visited archaeological site in Mexico. 

Things to see and do

  • The Temple of Kukulkan is, without a shred of doubt, the crown jewel of the archaeological site. The pyramid is a true miracle of ancient architecture. Its proportions contain many references to the important Mayan calendar. Clever engineering accomplished that the corner of the pyramid casts a shadow in the shape of a snake, representing the god Quetzalcoatl, every spring and autumn equinox.
  • The Temple of the Warriors is a huge stepped pyramid named after the surrounding carved columns symbolizing the army of warriors.
  • El Caracol is a tribute to the astronomical prowess of the Maya people. The circular building is widely believed to be an ancient observatory.

Location of Chichen Itza

The archeological site is located in Tinúm Municipality, in the Yucatan State of Mexico. Chichen Itza is located 197 kilometers away from the major city Cancun, 81 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, 119 kilometers from Merida, and 45 kilometers from Valladolid by car. A more adventurous and challenging route, colloquially known as libre road, runs parallel to the main highway and goes through a bunch of smaller villages, promising a more authentic taste of Mexico.

World Heritage Sites in South America

South America is a vast continent gifted with a wealth of memorable sites. Old civilizations left their mark on the melange of cultures present today. Exceptionally well preserved  Pre-Hispanic sites and breath-taking landscapes are the heart and soul of the rich catalog of UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered all through the continent. 

Machu Picchu, Peru

Ruins of Machu Picchu in the Andean hills

One of the best-preserved jewels of Incan architecture sits atop a ridge high in the Andean mountains. The secluded, unapproachable location made the ruins of an ancient citadel into a well-kept secret, unknown to anyone but the locals. It also spared Machu Picchu of the gruesome fate that most other Incan cities shared: the destruction by the Spanish conquest. The Inca people were incredible masons, and Machu Picchu is the perfect place to take a glimpse into their legacy and discover some of the masterpieces they left behind in the thought-provoking city of wonders.  

Things to see and do

  • Temple of the Sun is one of the loveliest examples of Incan masterful architecture. Many archeologists believe that the structure used to be an old astronomical observatory.
  • House of Ornaments is considered by many to be one of the finest buildings on the site. The structure got its name because it was used for storing ornaments.
  • Huayna Picchu is the towering mountain situated behind the Machu Picchu. It’s a place where you can capture a perfect photo of the entire complex.

Location of Machu Picchu

The ruins of Machu Picchu are nestled high in the slopes of the Andes. The complex is located in the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru. The easiest way to approach the citadel is by train from the city of Cusco along the floor of the Urubamba Valley, then by bus up to the entrance of the ruins. Alternatively, you can take a strenuous walk from the station at Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu. Expect it to take in between 90 minutes and two hours, however.

Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

A view of Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro earned its world fame due to its spectacular beaches and lavish, bombastic annual carnival. Beyond the over-the-top, vibrant facade pictured on the tourist brochures lies another face of the Brazilian most famous city. Carioca Landscapes between the mountain and the sea attained the city’s UNESCO list nomination. The vibrant soul of Rio de Janeiro is cited as another factor responsible for this coveted status. One of the most memorable places in the world became a muse for musicians, artists, filmmakers, and even landscapers.  

Things to see and do

  • Christ the Redeemer: No trip to Rio is complete without a visit to the city’s iconic symbol. The panoramic view from the feet of the Christ the Redeemer is as breathtaking as the statue itself. 
  • Tijuca national park: Tijuca rainforest is an enormous jungle sprawling from the heart of Rio de Janeiro into the areas surrounding the settlement. The National park allows curious visitors to take a peek into the glorious wilderness and explore numerous waterfalls, viewpoints, peaks, and monuments it harbors.
  • Copacabana Bay: The name Copacabana became a synonym for luscious beaches, crystalline sea, and fine sand. The world-renowned beach rightfully deserved its nickname, the Princess of the Sea. 

Location of Rio de Janeiro 

Rio de Janeiro is situated on the far western part of a strip of Brazil's Atlantic coast, close to the Tropic of Capricorn. Facing largely south, the city was founded on an inlet of Guanabara Bay, and its entrance is marked by a point of land called Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar), a "calling card" of the city.

Galapagos, Ecuador

Aerial view of the Tortuga Island

The distinctive ecosystem is what separates Galapagos from thousands of other archipelagos in the Pacific Ocean. The endemic animal species intrigued Charles Darwin and sparked the ideas that later became the theory of evolution. The archipelago’s most famous denizens are giant Galapagos tortoises. Curiously, the species wasn’t named after the islands. It was the other way around. Galapago is an Old Spanish word for saddle, given to the toponym due to the distinguishing shape of the tortoise shells.

Things to see and do

  • Rancho Primas: This animal sanctuary offers spectators a chance to take a closer look at Galapagos’ docile and lovable giant tortoises. 
  • Tortuga Island: One of the most famous spots on Santa Cruz island is a perfect place to get up close to the marine turtles and Galapagos’ unusual swimming iguanas.
  • La Loberia: This beach on San Cristobal Island is adorned with scenic vistas. What makes it special are the sea lions basking in the sun. The beach also offers lovely spots for surfing, swimming, and snorkeling.

Location of Galapagos

This archipelago of volcanic islands lies in the Pacific Ocean surrounding the center of the Western Hemisphere. Galapagos is officially a part of the Republic of Ecuador, located 906 kilometers west of the country’s shores. Your best bet for getting to the Galapagos is to fly into Baltra Island before taking a bus and ferry ride to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, the most popular tourist hub. Another option is to fly into the capital of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island.

World Heritage Sites in Australia and Oceania

Despite its relatively small size, Australia shelters 20 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. Among them are architectural landmarks, such as the world-famous Sydney Opera House, and several wonders of nature. The remote islands of the Pacific host their own set of intriguing cultures whose heritage found their way onto the list as well.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House at night

The Sydney Opera House is one of the architectural works of the 20th century enlisted among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The memorable look of the famous building was a burst of creativity and innovation in both architectural form and structural design. The construction of this ambitious opera house was expected to take four years. It took 14 years. It was well worth the wait since the Sydney Opera House became one of the most recognizable symbols of Australia. The fact that more than 10 million people visit the attraction every year.

Things to see and do

  • Events: The best way of experiencing the Sydney Opera house is enjoying one of the events from the wide array of happenings it hosts. From classical concerts to musical theatres and even circus acts: the Sydney Opera has it all!
  • The Sydney Opera House Tour: Uncover the stories, history, and magic lying underneath the building’s distinctive roof.
  • Architectural Tour: Learn the origin story behind one of the most popular works of architecture on the planet.

Location of the Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts center on Sydney Harbour located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The Sydney Opera House is a six-minute walk to Circular Quay which is regularly served by public buses, trains, and ferries. 

Easter Island

Monolithic maui statues

One of the most remote islands in the world earned its fame thanks to the aura of mystery surrounding the monolithic stone statues. Known as moai statues, the structures are a cultural heritage left behind civilization that once inhabited Easter Island, the Rapa Nui. The true purpose of the man-shaped is still a matter of debate. Most archaeologists believe that moai represent the spirits of ancestors who held important positions in the history of the island. We may never know for sure, but it seems like a plausible theory.

Things to see and do

  • Rano Raraku National Park is the main attraction on Easter Island. About half of the statues are located on this site, which served as the main moai quarry. 
  • Tongariki: The fifteen statues positioned on a ceremonial platform made this spot into one of the island’s most iconic spots.
  • Anakena Beach is a lovely, little beach accessible for everyone. Turquoise ocean entices the visitors to enjoy a peaceful break among all that exploration.

Location of Easter Island

Even though Easter Island is politically a part of Chile, it is located deep in the Pacific Ocean, an incredible 3500 kilometers west of the Chilean coast. The nearest inhabited island is Pitcairn Island, located mindboggling 2075 kilometers away. Due to the secluded location of the site, LATAM is currently the only airline that flies to Easter Island from Santiago and Tahiti. 

Great Barrier Reef 

Great Barrier Reef

The last but not least important site on our list requires a dive underneath the ocean’s surface. The world’s largest coral reef was blessed with breathtaking beauty and abundance. With over 3000 individual reef systems and hundreds of tropical islands, the Great Barrier Reef is a real heaven for people enamored with the ocean. Unlike the Great Wall of China, this massive coral reef is truly visible from space. 

Things to see and do

  • Whitsunday Islands consist of 74 individual islands. You can explore the reef and the tropical shores, and try out many interesting activities, such as snorkeling or SCUBA diving, enjoying a cruise, or hopping aboard a sailboat.
  • Whitehaven Beach: Famed for the contrast between the dazzling white sand and vibrant, turquoise sea, Whitehaven Beach is a recurring sight on many Top Beaches lists. 
  • Magnetic Island is famous for its beautiful beaches, secluded bays, but also its strangest residents, the koalas.  

Location of the Great Barrier Reef

The reef stretches for more than 2,300 kilometers, from the northern tip of Queensland south to the coastal town of Bundaberg. It is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of the city of  Queensland in northeastern Australia. 

World Heritage sites are places that are important to and belong to everyone, irrespective of where they are located. They have a universal value that transcends the value they hold for a particular nation.