St Lucia Val des Piton

Twin volcanic spires of Val des Pitons tower over the tiny village of Soufriere on the West Indian island of St Lucia – one of UNESCO’s heritage listed sites of the world

by Rosa Croft

Since its inception in 1945, UNESCO has contributed substantially to helping maintain and keep safe some of planet earth’s most important sights. Of course, there’s no denying the fact that they’re also incredibly useful in helping travellers pick out their next destination: if you choose to go to a sight that’s UNESCO-protected, you can be sure that you’re heading somewhere quite special! There are a whole host of sights to choose from, but we’ve picked out what we believe to be the ten locations that everyone should see, courtesy of this wonderful organisation.

Val Des Pitons

Set beneath the beautiful sun of the Caribbean island of St Lucia (photo above), this 2,909 hectacre site is set against the stunning backdrop of the Pitons – two volcanic spires that rise high above the nearby town of Soufriere, and are linked by the Piton Mitan ridge. First inscribed in 2004, the region is perhaps the most tourist friendly location on the list. There are organised hikes to the top of these pitons and even a small selection of luxury property within the site, allowing people to actually live there! It’s also a haven for a huge variety of wildlife, including over 168 species of finfish. The Pitons themselves, though, are what makes the region special, the Soufriere Volcanic Centre a wonderful example of a collapsed stratovolcano still contained within the volcanic system.

The City of Jerusalem

Jerusalem Old City Vista

A view over the Old City of Jerusalem

Located in the North of Israel, the old city of Jerusalem is perhaps the most significant city on this list, holding a huge amount of symbolism for many of the main religions as well as still functioning as a legitimate sight of pilgrimage. Containing over 220 historic monuments within its ancient walls, Jerusalem is recognised by Judaism, Christianity and Islam as the site of Abraham’s sacrifice, and within the Resurrection rotunda can be found the tomb of Jesus Christ. First placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1982, Jerusalem remains an absolutely essential destination for any curious sightseer.

The Palace and Park of Versailles

Palace of Versailles Gardens

Along with its magnificent buildings and rooms, the French gardens are a highlight of Versailles

Possible the most beautiful building in Europe, the Palace of Versailles stands as a monument to the system of absolute monarchy that ran Francefrom within its walls, until the Royal Family were forced to return to Paris at the start of the French revolution in October 1789.  The gardens of the palace cover over 800 hectacres of land, and attract over six million visitors every year.  For over a century, Versailles was considered to be the perfect representation of royal residence.  Now part of a wealthy Paris suburb, the palace was first inscribed onto the UNESCO list in 1979.

The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Red Footed Booby

The red-footed booby is one of many remarkable species of wildlife unique to the Galapagos

Set in the stunning blue of the Pacific some 1,000 km from South America, this collection of 19 islands is considered by many experts to be a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’.  Because of their location at the confluence of three unique ocean currents, the Galapagos represent a ‘melting pot’ of different marine species and as such are an invaluable resource to biologists.  This unique location has also meant that some of the world’s most unusual species of animal make their home on the island, including the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many different varieties of finch.  The Galapagos were believed to have inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolutionby natural selection. They were inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1978.

Petra

Petra Treasury

Carved out of rock two or three centuries before Christ, Petra is one of the world’s most precious cultural sites.

Having been inhabited since pre-historic times, the Nabataean caravan-city of Petra was for years set at the important crossroads between Egypt, Arabia and the Syria-Phoenicia.  The visuals of Petra are stunning, with the city half carved into the rock, the passages and gorges intertwining between the different boroughs.  Located in the northern area of Jordan, Petra was first inscribed in 1985 and is, to this day considered to be one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, the architecture a stunning combination of Eastern tradition and Hellenistic sculpture.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru Ayers Rock Afternoon

Late Afternoon overlooking Uluru

Found in the centre of the Australian outback, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was first inscribed in 1987, and remains a wonderfully unique location.  Within the parkland, several truly spectacular geological formations can be found, with Uluru itself – a huge monolith like sand structure – and Kata Tjuta(a set of rock domes set towards the west of Uluru) believed to form part of the belief system followed by one of the oldest human societies in existence: the Anangu Aboriginal people.  The combination of sand plains, dunes and alluvial desert is as striking and beautiful a terrain as can be found anywhere in the world.

The Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave Flowstone

Flowstone formation at mammoth Cave

Set within the great US state of Kentucky, the Mammoth Cave National Park was first inscribed back in 1981, representing as it does perhaps the finest (and certainly the largest) network of natural cavesand underground passages in the world, many of them classic examples of limestone formation. Over 560 surveyed km of passageways can be found within the park, a great deal of them home to a variety of flora and fauna (some of it seriously endangered and unique to the area). As the only US location on the list, the Mammoth Cave Park is an essential destination for anyone based in the States or nearby.

The City of Chichen-Itza

Chichen Itza

24 metre high Kukulkán Pyramid features 91 steps on each of four sides and is a central highlight of Chichen Itza

The East Coast of Mexico plays host to one of the most historically significant cities on this list. One of the greatest Mayan cities in the Yucatan peninsula, Chichen-Itza has been home to thousands of people across its unique history. The beautiful Mayan and Toltec structures that can still be seen throughout across the city render it a must see for those with a real Wanderlust. Several buildings from centuries past remain within the city, including the Warriors’ Temple, El Castillo and the observatory known as El Caracol.  Chichen-Itza was inscribed in 1988.

Angkor

Angkor Ta Prohm Giant Tree Root

A giant strangler fig coils among the wondrous Ta Promh Temple

Considered by many people to be the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia, the Angkor Archaeological Park covers some 400 km2 of Cambodian land and forest within the Province Siem Reap. Within it can be found the picturesque remains of some of the different capital cities occupied by regimes between the 9th and 15th century, with historical buildings such as the Temple of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom(the stunning Bayon temple renowned for its sculptural decoration) a must see. UNESCO has worked tirelessly to help keep Angkor safe since its inscription in 1992, and it remains a wonderfully one-of-a-kind area to visit.

The City of Bath

Bath Roman Baths

Steam hangs over the Roman Baths

The Western city of Bath carried great significance within the historical Roman Empire. Some of the Temples within the city are virtually untouched examples of Roman architecture, with the Temple of Sulis Minervaespecially breathtaking. As well as its Roman heritage, Bath also displays some stunning work from the Georgian era, with the work of noted designers such as Ralph Allen, Richard Nash and John Wood Senior still viewable within what is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Bath was first inscribed in 1987.

Rosa Croft is a nature lover and is thankful of the work UNESCO undertake to protect heritage sites around the world. When not travelling the world she enjoys writing on behalf of Sugar Beach Residences, Property in St Lucia.

Photo Credits: booby, cave

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Welcome to Travel Wonders
My name is Mark and I’m a keen traveller. In fact, over the last 25 years, I’ve travelled to every continent and over 80 countries. This blog is about the most memorable destinations – the places I regard as the travel wonders of the world. I’m also a keen photographer, and have taken nearly all the photos you’ll see. During my travels, I’ve met some incredible people, seen inspiring places, viewed extraordinary wildlife and scenery and had some amazing experiences, and I’m writing these stories not only to entertain but primarily to inspire others to discover their own travel wonders.
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