Top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites you need to visit

There are a total of 1,121 UNESCO World Heritage Sites globally, and visiting them all would take a lifetime. So to make things easier for you, we have whittled it down to the top ten.

World Heritage Sites are considered to “be of outstanding value to humanity”. So, it is no surprise these landmarks are popular with tourists. Today, we are here to tell you about the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites you need to visit.

World Heritage Sites are important landmarks or areas that have been given legal protection by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

These sites are considered to have some form of significance, whether that be cultural, historical, scientific, or other.

If you want to learn something new on your travels, UNESCO World Heritage Sites are a great place to start. So, let’s dive into the top ten.

10. Old Havana, Cuba – for colourful architecture

Old Havana in Cuba is one of the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Credit: Flickr / Matt Kieffer

Havana was founded by the Spanish in 1519. It became a stopping point for Spanish ships crossing between the New World and the Old World.

By the 17th-century, the city became a shipbuilding hub. The defensive fortifications in the city centre are now some of the oldest and largest in the Americas.

One of the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites globally, visitors enjoy marvelling at the colourful baroque and neoclassical style architecture surrounding Old Havana’s unique plazas.

9. Petra, Jordan – for ancient archaeology

Petra in Jordan is an example of ancient archaeology.
Credit: Flickr / Giuseppe Milo

You will recognise the iconic carved pink sandstone cliffs of this World Heritage Site from the big screen, even if you’ve never been to Jordan.

Nicknamed the ‘Rose City’, this famous archaeological site dates as far back as 300 B.C. The best-known structure here is the 148 ft (45 m) high Al Khazneh temple, finished with a Greek-style façade.

8. Great Wall, China – for a historic military structure

The Great Wall in China is a historic military structure.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Perhaps the most recognisable attraction on this list, the Great Wall has to feature on everyone’s China bucket list.

Stretching for almost 21197 km (13,171 miles), construction on the Great Wall began in the 3rd-century B.C. After 2000 years, it was finally completed in the 17th-century A.D.

7. Angkor Wat, Cambodia – for the world’s largest religious monument

Angkor Wat is one of the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

As the world’s largest religious monument, millions of tourists visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia every year as they explore the wonders of South East Asia.

It was home to the incredible remains of the 9th– 15th-century Khmer Empire. This astonishing temple is today one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists around the world.

6. Machu Picchu, Peru – for a 15th-century citadel

Machu Picchu in Peru is a mysterious citadel.
Credit: Flickr / Pedro Szekely

This 15th-century Inca citadel sits atop a mountain ridge almost 8,000 ft (2,430 m) above sea level.

Historians wonder why the 200 structure sanctuary was built and later abandoned. But today, the site serves as one of the most incredible tourist attractions in the world.

5. Works of Antoni Gaudi, Spain – for unique architecture

Antoni Gaudi's architecture in Spain is one of the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Number five on our list of the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites you need to visit is the works of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, Spain.

Born in Reus in 1852, Gaudi’s work brought a unique artistic and architectural flair to Spain’s capital city. It is something that fascinates visitors to the city to this day.

4. Acropolis, Athens, Greece – for Ancient Greece

The Acropolis will give you an insight to Ancient Greece.
Credit: Pixabay / edibejko

Built in the 5th-century B.C. by Pericles, the remains of the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike are some of the must-see structures on Athens’ Acropolis.

Rising high above the city, this ancient citadel gives an insight into the history of Ancient Greece. This alone makes it one of the most important historical monuments in the world.

3. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt – for one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The Pyramids of Giza are one of the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

The Pyramids of Giza are one of the only Seven Wonders of the Ancient World remaining intact to this day. These Egyptian pyramids are certainly one of the most incredible attractions in the world.

Tthe incredible pyramids date back over 4,500 years and were constructed when Egypt was one of the most powerful civilisations in the world.

2. Taj Mahal, India – for a decadent mausoleum

The Taj Mahal is a decadent mausoleum.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

This decadent ivory-white marble mausoleum sits on the southern bank of the river Yamuna in Agra.

UNESCO designated the Taj Mahal in India World Heritage Site status in 1983. They described it as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”

1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia – for a natural wonder

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Closing out our list of the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites you need to visit is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland in Australia.

As one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is a must-visit. It is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands, making it the largest coral reef system in the world.

Siân McQuillan
Siân McQuillan is a writer and travel lover from County Down, Northern Ireland. While she enjoys travelling to other countries and exploring new places, she loves nothing more than discovering all the wonders her home country of Ireland has to offer. When not writing about her travel experiences, Siân can be found exploring the great outdoors and will more than likely be somewhere near the Mourne Mountains or the Causeway Coast.

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