Most Unforgettable World Heritage Sites

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By Caroline Costello, published on smartertravel.com

If it’s an ancient, extraordinary, and astounding place, it’s likely a World Heritage site. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) protects 936 special spots across the globe that, according to the World Heritage Committee, constitute a significant part of our cultural and natural heritage. These range from natural wonders like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to man-made sites such as the Cathedral of Notre Dame. There are even a few cities (Cairo, Bordeaux, and Rhodes, for example) on the list, along with national parks, bodies of water, temples, tombs, caves, islands, and more.

Visiting every destination on UNESCO’s queue of 900-plus places is a commendable pursuit that, alas, could take a lifetime. So with the help of a few of our well-traveled friends, we put together a more attainable World Heritage bucket list. Here are 11 favorite World Heritage destinations picked by the experts: seasoned travel writers, bloggers, and photographers who have been around the world and, for the most part, seen it all.

Galapagos Islands

“What I love the most about the Galapagos Islands is that there are new and unusual sights around every corner. I’m talking blue-footed boobies doing a mating dance, iguanas that swim (and spit saltwater out of their noses), and landscapes that look like another planet.

I traveled aboard Ecoventura’s M/Y Eric, an eco-friendly ship that covers seven of the famous archipelago’s volcanic islands. Most of the time, I was off the boat … kayaking past sea turtles, chasing down penguins via Zodiac, and tiptoeing past dozens of baby albatross birds. On one of my favorite days, we swam with sea lions near a cove off of Isabella Island. I was face-to-furry-face with the supercharged sea lions as they performed a gentle swirl of backflips. It was truly incredible to be part of their world for the day. Better yet, all of the animals I encountered were unruffled by humans, making for some stellar photos. I’d be happy to return to the Galapagos Islands again and again.

Sarah Sekula, freelance travel writer and photographer

**To view the full list, click here.