Travel is education. A well-traveled person is richer through experiences that cannot be learned sitting in libraries reading books.
Cultural and natural heritage of any civilization is crucial and groups like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) play a key role in this endeavour to protect such sites by declaring them world heritage spots.
When we travel to locations of historical interest around the world, we experience first hand the legacy from past and it becomes our duty to help preserve and protect these monuments and sites. Here’s a list of top ranked places preserved as UNESCO world heritage sites as ranked by travelers around the world.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Whilst one could be in danger of being ‘templed out’ due to the sheer number of them in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat should not be missed. The complex is best toured with a knowledgeable guide to regale you with fascinating facts on the building process, history of the complex and of Cambodia. The best views are at dawn or dusk, when the crowds have dispersed to their hotels and the lighting reveals its ethereal majesty.
Taj Mahal, India
Prepare to be wowed when you see this mausoleum of love when you see it for the first time. Over 8 million people per year visit this marble monument, a true monument to love, constructed by the Shah Jahan while mourning the death of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
Great Wall of China (Mutianyu)
In 1368 AD, the Mutianyu Great Wall was built by Xu Da, the main general for Zhuyuanzhang in the Great Wall ruins of Northern Qi Dynasty. Linked to Gubeikou in the east and Juyongguan in the west, the section of the Great Wall is the military hub defensing of the capital since ancient times. Known for its gorgeous scenery, Mutianyu captures the essence in the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Whether you visit it during the day travelling from Aguascalientes to engaging on the full experience hiking the 5-day Inca trail, you will be left speechless upon arriving. It is humanity’s most stunning landmarks, a 15th century Inca citadel located on a mountain ridge 2,400 metres above sea level.
Iguazu National Park, Brazil / Argentina
This massive forested park, with rare species of birds, pumas, tapirs, monkeys and other wildlife. It is best known for housing the world’s largest and most extraordinary waterfalls – the Iguacu Falls – that extend for miles. Ask an Argentinian and they will say their side is the best; ask a Brazilian and they will vouch for theirs!
Sassi of Matera, Italy
The Sassi is breathtaking in its scale. History is literally carved into its landscape from Neolithic times till the present day. It may look at first glance like an abandoned ancient town with buildings piled high on top of each other. But as you begin to explore its cobbled alleyways and steep winding streets you discover stories of human endeavor stretching back through the centuries – from caves turned into homes, from 13th century frescoes to the magnificent gilded Cathedral.
Auschwitz Birkenau, Poland
Established by the Nazis in 1940, Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of terror, genocide and the Holocaust. Although the exact number of victims is unknown, many Jews, Poles and gypsies died here. The museum consists of two parts: Auschwitz I, the first and oldest camp (the number of prisoners fluctuated around 15,000, sometimes rising above 20,000) and Auschwitz II, Birkenau (which held more than 90,000 prisoners in 1944).
Old City of Jerusalem, Israel
Characterized by narrow, winding streets and alleyways, this ancient part of the city is filled with shrines and attractions holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims including the Western Wall, Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Historic areas of Istanbul, Turkey
This World Heritage Site includes structures such as the Sarayburnu, the Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Hagia Irene, Zeyrek Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Little Hagia Sophia and the Walls of Constantinople
Historic Krakow, Poland
The 13th century merchants’ town is home to Europe’s largest market square and offers numerous historical houses, palaces and churches with magnificent interiors, 14th century fortifications, ancient synagogues, Jagiellonian University and the Gothic cathedral where the kings of Poland were buried.