UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation - is responsible for designating places on Earth which are of outstanding value to humanity.
The World Heritage List includes 981 sites identified for their special cultural or natural heritage (or a mixture of both). For a site to be included on the list, the host country must sign up to pledge protection of that site to preserve it for future generations.
With 19 new sites - including Mount Etna in Italy, the Namib Sand Sea in Namibia and the Hill Forts of Rajasthan in India – added to the list in June 2013, we thought it was time to celebrate some of our favourites.
There are currently 759 cultural sites on the UNESCO list so picking just ten was quite a challenge. However, we did it and here they are in no particular order:
1. Cambodia - Angkor Temple Complex
The amazing complex of temples at Angkor are one of the most important and impressive archaeological sites in South-east Asia. Covering over 400 square kilometres, the jungle-clad temples and other structures are truly awe-inspiring. All our Cambodia tours include time at Angkor or you can add it as an extension to other tours in South-east Asia.
Take a look at our tours that visit Angkor
2. China - The Great Wall
See all tours which visit The Great Wall
3. Cuba - Old Havana
See all tours which visit Havana
4. Spain - La Alhambra Palace
See all tours which visit La Alhambra
|5. Peru - Machu Picchu
The ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites. Perched above steep slopes which plunge down to the Urubamba River below, the site's setting is as dramatic as the buildings themselves. Spend a full day wandering the terraces amongst the ruins and wonder at the civilisation whose beliefs overcame every obstacle to succeed in its construction.
See all tours which visit Machu Picchu
|6. India - Taj Mahal
As you step through the main gate into the grounds of the Taj Mahal, frenetic India is left behind and replaced by peace and tranquillity. The White Marble walls, arches and domes are all perfectly proportioned and expertly crafted and make a fitting memorial to Shah Jahan's favourite wife - Mumtaz Mahal. To rest your eyes for the first time on the beauty and design perfection of this most famous of buildings is a truly moving moment.
See all tours which visit the Taj Mahal
|7. Jordan - Petra
Petra - the ancient Nabataen capital - is the most well-known historical site in Jordan. Exiting the narrow siq - the main entry point to the site - the eyes are immediately drawn to the immense proportions of the Treasury. Its massive facade, hewn out of solid rock towers upwards, dwarfing all below. It is a masterpiece of the craftsmen who made it so many centuries ago.
See all tours which visit Petra
|8. Morocco - Fes medina
The medina is Fes is a living example of an ancient way of life which thrives in modern times. Its labyrinth of streets - too narrow for cars - are packed with thousands upon thousands of small shops and craft workshops. Goods are transported the only way they can be - by mule or hand cart. Explore here (preferably with a local guide if you ever want to come out again!) and it truly is like travelling back in time.
See all tours which visit Fes
|9. Poland - historic centre of Krakow
Krakow (pronounced Krakov in English) is the former capital of Poland; parts of it date back to the 13th century. The oldest part has Europe's largest medieval market square and numerous historical houses, fortifications, palaces and churches - including the famous Gothic Church of the Virgin Mary. Wander at leisure and discover the city's fascinating history.
See all tours which visit Krakow
|10. Sri Lanka - Polonnaruwa - ancient city
The ruins of Polonnaruwa - Sri Lanka's second capital city - are immense and are well worth a visit. One of this deserted city's most famous features is a group of four colossal carved Buddhas hewn out of solid granite. There are endless paths to explore taking you to gardens, lakes and the remains of the Royal Palace.
See all tours which visit Polonnaruwa