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.
The World Bucket List’s favourite facts about the UNESCO World Heritage Site List
- UNESCO was established on November 16, 1945, with the aim of promoting peace, international cooperation, and sustainable development through education, science, culture, and communication.
- UNESCO’s World Heritage List, its most well-known program, identifies and protects cultural and natural sites of outstanding universal value.
- Currently, there are over 1,100 sites listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites from more than 160 countries across the globe.
- To be included on the World Heritage List, a site must meet at least one of the ten selection criteria, which include representing a masterpiece of human creativity, exhibiting significant cultural exchange, or containing exceptional natural beauty or biodiversity.
- Being included on the World Heritage List brings prestige and international recognition to a site, attracting tourism and raising awareness about its significance.
10. Old Havana, Cuba – for colourful architecture
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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4. Acropolis, Athens, Greece – for Ancient Greece
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 of Athens, 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 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
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 and it is considered to be one of the seven wonders of India. 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
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. This amazing location is one of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world.
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.
Your questions answered about UNESCO World Heritage Sites
We’ve answered some of our readers’ most frequently asked questions about UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the section below, as well as those that popularly appear in online searches on the topic.
How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites are there?
There are approximately 1,157 World Heritage Sites located across 167 countries, as of January 2023.
What makes a site a World Heritage Site?
A site becomes a UNESCO World Heritage Site if it is recognized as having outstanding universal value and meets the criteria of being a unique cultural, natural, or mixed property of global significance.
What 3 countries have the most World Heritage Sites?
China, Italy, and Germany are the countries which have the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites.