21 Incredible Pictures That Show Why You Must Put These UNESCO Sites On Your Bucket List

The Unesco World Heritage List celebrates geographical locations of cultural or physical significance. Some represent a masterpiece of human creative genius, while others bear testimony to cultural traditions. But, whatever their credentials, the Unesco World Heritage sites are always places to behold.

We highlight 21 of the most stunning listings, ranging from historic Cairo to Australia’s Fraser Island

The site was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World

 

Nestled in the western Pacific Ocean, this collection of 445 uninhabited limestone islands, scattered within a marine lagoon and protected by a barrier reef are a stunning sight

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The aesthetic beauty of the site is heightened by a complex reef system featuring over 385 coral species and different types of habitat. They sustain a large diversity of plants, birds and marine life including dugong and at least 13 shark species. The site harbours the highest concentration of marine lakes (isolated bodies of seawater separated from the ocean by land barriers) anywhere

 

Positioned 1,000km south of the main Japanese Archipelago, these islands number 30. Unesco explains that they ‘offer a variety of landscapes and are home to a wealth of fauna, including the Bonin Flying Fox, a critically endangered bat, and 195 endangered bird species’. Pictured is a volcano on one of the islands, Nishinoshima, erupting in April this year

 

An outstanding example of ongoing evolutionary processes in oceanic island ecosystems,’ says Unesco. Pictured is the southernmost island in the collection – Okinotorishima

 

It covers nearly 9,000 km2. Ninety-six per cent of the park lies in Wyoming, three per cent in Montana and one per cent in Idaho. Yellowstone contains half of all the world’s known geothermal features, with more than 10,000 examples,’ says Unesco

 

Yellowstone National Park: A beautiful geyser surrounded by colorful layers of bacteria, flanked by a cloudy blue sky

 

This stunning image shows the Grand Prismatic Spring. Unesco adds: ‘[Yellowstone National Park] is a unique manifestation of geothermal forces, natural beauty, and wild ecosystems where rare and endangered species thrive. As the site of one of the few remaining intact large ecosystems in the northern temperate zone of earth, Yellowstone’s ecological communities provide unparalleled opportunities for conservation, study, and enjoyment of large-scale wildland ecosystem processes’

 

This dramatic area is comprised of six constituent parts – Chishui, Taining, Langshan, Danxiashan, Longhushan, and Jianglangshan – found in the sub-tropical zone of south-eastern China within a 1,700km crescent shaped arc from Guizhou Province in the west to Zhejiang Province in the east

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China Danxia: This technicolour dream is ‘characterized by spectacular red cliffs and a range of erosional landforms, including dramatic natural pillars, towers, ravines, valleys and waterfalls,’ says Unesco

 

Together with the contrasting forests, winding rivers and majestic waterfalls, China Danxia presents a significant natural phenomenon,’ says Unesco

 

Venice: Dubbed the Queen of the Adriatic, the famed Italian city’s canals were originally founded in the 5th century

 

The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese,’ Unesco states

 

The city and its waterways ‘form an inseparable whole of which the city of Venice is the pulsating historic heart and a unique artistic achievement,’ insist Unesco officials

 

The area has ‘one of the highest concentrations of masterpieces in the world: from Torcello’s Cathedral to the church of Santa Maria della Salute,’ Unesco adds

 

The palace of Versailles: ‘Embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, decorators and landscape architects, it provided Europe with a model of the ideal royal residence for over a century,’ states Unesco

 

The Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV (1638 to 1715) to Louis XVI (1754 to 1793)

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Fraser Island, Australia: ‘The property has exceptional natural beauty with over 250 kilometres of clear sandy beaches with long, uninterrupted sweeps of ocean beach, strikingly coloured sand cliffs and spectacular blowouts,’ says Unesco

 

Fraser Island, Australia: Positioned off the east coast, this sand island spans a staggering 122km and is the world’s largest

 

Fraser Island: ‘Inland from the beach are majestic remnants of tall rainforest growing on sandy dunes and half of the world’s perched freshwater dune lakes,’ adds Unesco

 

Okavango Delta, Botswana: A dramatic area of low, flat land, this site is home to some of ‘the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion’

 

A herd of cape buffalo crosses a river in the Okavango Delta. Unesco explains: ‘This delta in north-west Botswana comprises permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains. It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact. One of the unique characteristics of the site is that the annual flooding from the River Okavango occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronized their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods’

 

Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks: Caught in the moment, a grey wolf is pictured crossing a river

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The contiguous national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, as well as the Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks form a striking mountain landscape,’ says Unesco

 

Canadian Rockies: Autumn at Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, shows the magic of the dramatic mountain range

 

Mountain peaks, glaciers, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves all help define Moraine Lake in Banff

 

Havana, Cuba: A direct view of the Capitolio, which was the seat of government until the Cuban Revolution in 1959

 

Havana contains ‘an interesting mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments, and a homogeneous ensemble of private houses with arcades, balconies, wrought-iron gates and internal courtyards,’ says Unesco

 

The Great Wall, China: One of the world’s most iconic constructions, this incredible Unesco site was continuously built from the 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD and remains a popular destination

 

The Great Wall has an incomparable symbolic significance in the history of China,’ says Unesco. ‘Its purpose was to protect China from outside aggression, but also to preserve its culture from the customs of foreign barbarians’

 

Florence, Italy: ‘The Historic Centre can be perceived as a unique social and urban achievement, the result of persistent and long-lasting creativity, which includes museums, churches, buildings and artworks of immeasurable worth,’ Unesco states

 

Florence: A dramatic sunset illuminates the world-famous Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno River

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: This site contains two of the world’s most active volcanoes – Mauna Loa and Kilauea

 

Eruptions in Hawaii have created a constantly changing landscape, while ‘rare birds and endemic species can be found there, as well as forests of giant ferns,’ says Unesco

 

Red lava from a volcano in Hawaii explodes into the sea. Unesco adds: ‘The volcano Mauna Loa, measured from the ocean floor, is the greatest volcanic mass on earth’

 

The Taj Mahal is located on the right bank of the Yamuna River in a vast Mughal garden that encompasses nearly 17 hectares, in the Agra District in Uttar Pradesh, India. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal with construction starting in 1632 AD and completed in 1648 AD. It is considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture, Unesco states

 

Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, Peru: ‘The Inca City of the Historic Sanctuary is the articulating centre of its surroundings, a masterpiece of art, urbanism, architecture and engineering of the Inca Civilization,’ states Unesco

 

Athens, Greece: The interior of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus – which sits on the southwest slope of Unesco site the Acropolis. The organisations says: ‘The Acropolis of Athens and its monuments are universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization and form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world’

 

Hundreds of Snares crested penguins make their way to the water via a steep rock slope. Unesco says that ‘the New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands consist of five island groups (the Snares, Bounty Islands, Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands and Campbell Island) in the Southern Ocean south-east of New Zealand. The islands have a high level of productivity, biodiversity, wildlife population densities and endemism among birds, plants and invertebrates. They are particularly notable for the large number and diversity of pelagic seabirds and penguins that nest there. There are 126 bird species in total, including 40 seabirds of which five breed nowhere else in the world’

 

Carcassonne, France: Unesco describes this area as ‘an excellent example of a medieval fortified town whose massive defences were constructed on walls dating from Late Antiquity’

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia: Unesco hails this area as ‘one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia’

 

Three Buddhist monks with umbrellas walking inside one of the site’s historic – and revered – temples

 

Boasting man-made monuments and natural water reservoirs, the site is ‘a unique concentration of features testifying to an exceptional civilization,’ says Unesco

 

 

Tikal National Park, Guatemala: Film director George Lucas used this area as a location for the first Star Wars film. Unesco says that here lies ‘one of the major sites of Mayan civilization, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. The ceremonial centre contains superb temples and palaces, and public squares accessed by means of ramps. Remains of dwellings are scattered throughout the surrounding countryside’

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