A World Heritage Site is a place chosen by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for being of particular cultural or physical importance. The organization was established in 1972 and most of the chosen places are considered to be invaluable to humanity, and are protected by the label to ensure the most impressive historical places in the world are preserved.
What's great is that all of these UNESCO sites are open to the public and can be visited, with many located in the middle of cities and even in towns. What's more, many of the most impressive World Heritage Sites can be found in Europe. From the Acropolis in Greece to Venice in Italy, in Western Europe alone there are 120 cultural, 9 natural and 2 mixed sites that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
There plenty more around the world too, and these are our top eight most beautiful World Heritage Sites around the world:
Reigning over the city of Athens in Greece, the ancient Greek city of Acropolis was built in the 5th century BC and has a bloody and mysterious history. Learn a lot about the origins of Greek Mythology by visiting the city, and the most characteristic feature of the old city, the Parthenon. The Acropolis symbolizes the beginnings of Greek culture, and in fact a lot of Western culture. With so many equally incredible attractions to visit in Greece, it's only right you explore all of the ancient landmarks on a day tour through Athens and the surrounding areas with a rental car in Greece
Ruled by almost every Empire in Europe, from the Romans to the Greeks, Valletta is one of the only uninhabited urban sites that has been preserved and is the capital city of Malta. Within the site there are over 300 monuments, this makes it one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world. The winding narrow streets of the city that is known as a 'fortress city' are magical and not to be missed.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
One of the first sites in the world to be listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the out-of-this-world set of islands just off of Ecuador are home to a number of endemic species and some of the most untouched landscape in the world. The islands have remained unchanged for centuries and their location in the middle of the tumultuous Pacific Ocean means you can see a number of exciting types of marine life of the islands, including the Galapagos sea lion and famous ancient tortoise.
Goreme National Park and Cappadocia, Turkey
The Goreme Valley and surrounding rugged natural landscape have some of the most unique evidence of Byzantine art from the post-Iconoclastic period. Within the site you can discover underground villages and towns that date back to the 4th century! Incredible evidence of life can be found in Goreme that date back to this time that is both fascinating and incredibly well-preserved.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Made up of over 3,000 reefs that are set among over 600 different islands, The Great Barrier Reef became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, however the reef has lost more than half of its coral since 1985, due to climate change and other factors that have affected the environment. Visible from outer space, the Great Barrier Reef is on most travelers' bucket lists.
Machu Picchu, Peru
The most visited site in Peru, Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Incan city that is built high in the Andes mountain range. What's fascinating is that the abandoned city was built with dry-stone walls, made of blocks that didn't use mortar. Deep in the Amazonian jungle, you can visit the site via Cusco in Peru by taking a steep trek up the mountain or by train. The impressive structure and its use is still a mystery to this day, but the trek to the city is an important part of the visit, as well as the beautiful views you get when you reach the top. Just be aware of the change in altitude!
Mont Saint-Michel, France
On the coast of Normandy, the fortified village of Mont Saint-Michel has existed on the sandbanks of the ocean since the 11th century. Home to a medieval monastery, Mont Saint-Michel is one of Europe's most unforgettable sites. The maritime character of Mont Saint-Michel has been preserved and still remains an island to this day after years of battles to preserve it. Experience the mesmerizing bays of Normandy and Brittany by taking a horse-drawn carriage (a Maringote) or walk to the island and take in the enchanting surroundings from the ground.
Venice and its Lagoon, Italy
Did you know that Italy has the most World Heritage Sites of any nation in the world, and Venice and its Lagoon is one of the most spectacular. Spread over 118 islands, Venice is an groundbreaking architectural accomplishment that was built in the 5th century and is still as impressive today. Described as an open-air museum, the site became a World Heritage Site in 1987, that can be explored both on foot or by hitching a boat ride along the canals and lagoon.
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