There are over 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world, and each one is designated as a place of “outstanding universal value.” These sites can be anything from natural wonders to ancient ruins, and they attract tourists from all over the globe.
What are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and why are they important?
UNESCO World Heritage Sites are places of outstanding natural or cultural importance to humanity. They are protected by an international treaty called the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, which was adopted in 1972.
These sites are important because they represent our shared human heritage and can provide inspiration and hope for future generations.
Some of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites include the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Taj Mahal in India, and the Grand Canyon in the United States.
15 top World Heritage Sites
If you’re interested in learning more about UNESCO World Heritage Sites, check out this list of the 15 top World Heritage Sites from around the world.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, stretching for over 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) along the coast of Queensland, Australia. The reef is home to a diverse array of marine life, including over 1,500 species of fish, 400 species of coral, and countless other invertebrates.
The Great Barrier Reef is an important site for conservation, as it is under threat from climate change and other environmental threats.
The Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world and is a symbol of India’s rich history and culture. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal and is considered one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture. The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.
Petra, an ancient city in Jordan that was once the capital of the Nabataean kingdom, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Petra is known for its beautiful rock-cut architecture and water conduit system.
The city of Petra was founded around the 6th century BC by the Nabataeans, an Arabian people. It became the capital of their kingdom around the 1st century BC. Petra was a major center of trade for the region, and its strategic location made it a valuable military stronghold.
The city was rediscovered by western explorers in the early 19th century and has since become one of Jordan’s most popular tourist destinations.
Petra is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985. It is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The Colosseum, Italy
The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is a large ellipsoid arena built in Rome, Italy. Completed in 80 AD, it is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. It is the largest amphitheater ever built and could hold an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 spectators.
The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest and oldest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex. The pyramid was built for the Pharaoh Khufu and is thought to have been completed around 2560 BC.
The Great Pyramid is the only remaining wonder of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The pyramid was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel situated on a mountain ridge 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Cusco Region, Urubamba Province, Machupicchu District in Peru. It is believed to have been built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The site was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world, with the site measuring 162.6 hectares. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and represents his home, Mount Meru.
The complex is renowned for its intricate bas-reliefs and stunning architecture, and it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Chichén Itzá, Mexico
Chichen Itza was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people of the Terminal Classic period. The archaeological site is located in Tinúm Municipality, Yucatán State, Mexico.
The site covers an area of 4 square miles (10 km2) and contains more than 150 ancient structures, including the renowned Kukulkan Pyramid.
Chichen Itza was a major ceremonial center for the Maya and was one of the largest cities in the Maya world.
The city reached its peak in the late 10th century but was abandoned by the end of the 12th century. It was rediscovered by western explorers in the 19th century.
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The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications built in parts by various Chinese dynasties over a period of more than two thousand years. The wall stretches from Dandong in the east to Lop Lake in the west, a distance of over 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles). The wall was constructed to protect the Chinese Empire from invasions by the Mongols and other nomadic peoples.
The Great Wall has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
The Grand Canyon, United States
The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in Arizona, United States. The canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is considered one of the most impressive geological formations on Earth.
The canyon is 446 kilometers (277 miles) long, up to 29 kilometers (18 miles) wide, and 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) deep.
The area was first inhabited by Native Americans and was explored by Europeans in the 19th century. The canyon became a national park in 1919.
Borobudur is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang Regency, not far from the town of Muntilan, in Central Java, Indonesia. The temple is the world’s largest Buddhist monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temple was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms, and, at the top, a monumental stupa.
The temple is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. Borobudur was built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra dynasty.
It was abandoned in the 14th century and rediscovered in the 19th century.
The Acropolis, Greece
The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens. The site was used as a fortress in Classical Greece, a royal palace in the Late Bronze Age, and a religious sanctuary in the Archaic and Classical periods.
The Parthenon is the most famous building on the site and was built in the 5th century BC to honor the goddess Athena.
The Acropolis was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Mesa Verde National Park, United States
Mesa Verde National Park is a national park in southwestern Colorado, United States. The park protects some of the best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in the country.
The park was established in 1906 to preserve the archaeological remains of the Anasazi people who inhabited the area from about 600 to 1300 CE.
The park includes more than 4,000 archaeological sites, 600 of which are cliff dwellings.
The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are home to a diverse array of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.
The islands were made a national park in 1959 and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
Stonehenge, United Kingdom
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. The monument consists of a circle of large standing stones, each weighing about 25 tons.
The stones are arranged in a precise pattern and are thought to have been erected between 3000 and 2000 BC.
The purpose of Stonehenge is still unknown, but it is thought to have been used for religious or ceremonial purposes.
The monument was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
These are just a few of the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites that you can find around the world. Each one offers its own unique history and cultural importance. When you visit any of these sites, you’re sure to be amazed by the beauty and significance of these places.