6 of the World’s Most Impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites 

Currently, there are more than 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. To meet UNESCO eligibility criteria, a location must have a cultural or natural heritage that is of “outstanding value to humanity.” Sites must be unique landmarks that are historically and geographically identifiable, with special physical or cultural import.  

A World Heritage Site may consist of human habitations, including historic structures or ancient ruins, cities, monuments, or other buildings. Alternatively, they may comprise deserts, islands, forests, lakes, mountains, or other wilderness areas. It may serve as evidence of humankind’s cognitive ancestry, mark a remarkable accomplishment, or simply be a place of outstanding natural beauty

Here are six of the most iconic UNESCO World Heritage Sites in existence today: 

1. Old City of Jerusalem, Israel 

With its bustling markets and ancient alleyways, the Old City of Jerusalem contains more than 200 historical monuments, each with tremendous religious significance. At the heart of the Islamic, Christian, and Jewish religions, the one-square-kilometer Old City is home to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Western Wall, and the Dome of the Rock. 

According to Christian teachings, it was in Jerusalem that Jesus was crucified and buried. Comprising the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter, the Old City has its own unique character, sights, sounds, smells, and experiences to amaze and amuse visitors. 

2. Cappadocia, Turkey 

Listed by UNESCO in 1985, Cappadocia is one of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth. The terrain was carved by layers of lava spewing from volcanoes approximately 60 million years ago. Inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic era, Cappadocia later become a Christian sanctuary. Cappadocia’s houses and churches were carved into the rock, where they provided shelter and served as cultural and educational centers for Christians escaping Roman oppression. 

Cappadocia is one of the world’s largest and most striking cave-dwelling complexes. The region is packed with ancient settlements, churches, subterranean cities, and troglodyte villages. The unique surroundings make Cappadocia popular with nature lovers. What better way to enjoy the harmony of history and fantastic scenery than by viewing Cappadocia from above as part of a daybreak hot air balloon tour. 

3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia  

Comprising more than 2,900 reefs and 900 islands, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef system in the world. Located just off Queensland’s east coast, the Great Barrier Reef is easily accessible from the nearby Metropolis of Cairns. Appearing on the bucket lists of many travelers, the Great Barrier Reef is home to more than 1,600 species of fish as well as stunning corals, rare whale species, giant claims, and marine turtles.  

There is plenty to see and just as many ways of experiencing it, from scuba diving to tours presented by educational institutions. Visitors to the Great Barrier Reef are also encouraged to play a part helping to protect this iconic landmark. There are many minimal impact tour options to choose from that focus on preservation, conservation, and restoration of this amazing natural resource. 

4. Rapa Nui National Park, Chile 

Situated 2,200 miles from the coast, Rapa Nui National Park (a.k.a. Easter Island) rewards visitors who make the arduous journey with the spectacular sight of 900 maoi. Carved and transported to their current location by Polynesian settlers, some of these gargantuan statues with oversized heads date back to the 10th century. 

Ranging from 6 to 30 or more feet in height, these colossal effigies represent the faces of deified ancestors. They are often arranged around ahu, a type of ceremonial platform. 

5. Angkor Wat, Cambodia 

The largest religious monument on Earth, parts of Angkor Wat were built in the 9th century. More than 2 million people visit this creative masterwork every year, making it one of the most-visited historical sites in the world. 

Spread over more than 400 acres, this mysterious temple complex is nestled deep in the Cambodian jungle. Over the centuries, Mother Nature has tried to claim the land back, with tree roots strangling temples and vast sandstones strewn on the ground. Intricate bas-reliefs tell ancient stories intended to be read counterclockwise, the reverse of the normal order. Experts interpret this as an indication that the temple was used for funeral sacraments. 

The Khmer used 5 million tons of sandstone to build Angkor Wat. Blocks were transported there from the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen, more than 50 kilometers away. Archaeologists believe construction took 35 years and, according to inscriptions, it involved 6,000 elephants and 300,000 laborers. 

6. Giant’s Causeway, United Kingdom 

One of the top attractions in Ireland, Giant’s Causeway is a remarkable rock formation that was created by years of volcanic activity. Today, visitors are greeted by the striking sight of 40,000 colossal basalt columns rising out of the ocean. Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site, Giant’s Causeway has inspired artists for generations. 

Visitors can learn how the phenomenon was formed by taking a tour with one of the venue’s award-winning storytellers. Tours run every hour, with options available to suit all age groups, and information available in 11 languages. 

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