The world is bursting with sites of natural and cultural importance, with most countries being home to several designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. Among the globe’s most visited and best loved heritage sites are China’s enormous Great Wall, which can be visited from Beijing, and Cambodia’s vast temple complex of Angkor. The sheer size of these protected sites is enough to impress, but it is their historical significance that is perhaps the most outstanding aspect of them.
Other favorites include remarkable national parks like New Zealand’s Mount Cook, impressive monuments like India’s Taj Mahal, old cities like Austria’s Salzburg and ancient necropolises like the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
Taj Mahal – Agra, India Regularly labeled as the world’s most iconic structure, the Taj Mahal was famously constructed by Shah Jahan for his wife after she died in labor with their 14th child. This Mughal era mausoleum is surrounded by picturesque grounds with reflecting pools, and visiting it is a magical experience.
Pyramids of Giza, Egypt The last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the three pyramids that make up the Pyramids of Giza are an ancient necropolis containing the tombs of many high officials. Adjacent to the pyramids is the Great Sphinx, the world’s largest monolith statue.
Great Wall of China, China Visible from space, the Great Wall spans a massive 4,000 miles and was built between the 6th century BC and the 16th century. Initially constructed to protect against Xiongnu attacks from the north, the wall was added to and maintained over the next 2,000 years, with one million-plus soldiers posted along the wall in its peak.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia Stretching over 60 square miles, the vast Angkor site is home to a complex of Khmer temples, with Angkor Wat as its centerpiece. Ornately decorated, the complex was constructed between the 9th and the 15th centuries, at the height of the Khmer Empire. Visitors can explore the site and its moats and gardens on foot.
Terracotta Army, China Only some of the thousands of individually sculpted warriors, horses, chariots, acrobats, musicians and strongmen have been excavated, with large sections of the terracotta army remaining underground. Dating to 210 BC, the army was made for the First Qin Emperor and only discovered in 1974 by local farmers.
Grand Canyon - Arizona, US This expansive gorge took two billion years to form, with the Colorado River having cut through the rock to create the breathtaking geological formations visible today. Pictures don’t do the canyon - which is equal in size to the state of Delaware - justice.
Salzburg, Austria Housing some of the world’s best examples of baroque architecture, the old town of Salzburg has been designated as a World Heritage site for its well-preserved center. As the birthplace of Mozart, the city has numerous sites of interest and has a stunning alpine backdrop.
Statue of Liberty - New York City, US The iconic Statue of Liberty has been greeting visitors to New York harbor since 1886, when the statue was presented to the US as a gift from France. The statue’s pedestal levels can be visited, but public access to the upper levels is no longer permitted.
Dubrovnik, Croatia This historical Croatian old city is a premier visitor attraction for its heritage and cultural sites. Also known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, Dubrovnik sports remarkable gothic, renaissance and baroque churches as well as numerous palaces, monasteries and fountains of historical interest.
Te Wahipounamu, New Zealand New Zealand’s South Island is home to the Southern Alps mountain range, of which Mount Cook is the highest peak (3,754m). Located at the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site are four of New Zealand’s national parks, including Mount Cook. The Maori name of Mount Cook translates as ‘cloud piercer’, and the mountain provides endless possibilities for winter sports and summer hiking.