Add these 10 incredible UNESCO World Heritage sites to your bucket list

UNESCO experiences

UNESCO World Heritage Sites are places of outstanding universal value that represent the cultural and natural heritage of humanity. They are not only stunning to behold, but also rich in history, culture and biodiversity. While some of them are well-known and popular among tourists, such as the Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal, others are hidden gems that deserve more attention. Here are 10 under-the-radar UNESCO World Heritage Sites that you need to visit in your lifetime.

Explore the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia

Lalibela is a holy city in Ethiopia, where you can find 11 amazing churches that were carved out of solid rock in the 12th and 13th centuries. The churches are arranged in two groups, representing the earthly and heavenly Jerusalem, and are connected by tunnels and trenches. The churches are still in use today, and are a place of pilgrimage and devotion for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. The churches are also adorned with paintings, sculptures and relics that showcase the rich artistic and religious heritage of Ethiopia.

Sip the sweet wines of Tokaj, Hungary

If you love wine, you will love Tokaj, the oldest classified wine region in the world. Tokaj is famous for its sweet dessert wines, made from grapes affected by noble rot, a beneficial fungus that concentrates the sugars and flavours. Tokaj wines have been praised by kings, popes and poets for centuries, and are considered part of Hungary’s national identity. The wine region is also home to charming villages, historic cellars and vineyards that reflect the traditional methods of viticulture.

Experience the serenity of Mount Kōya, Japan

Mount Kōya is a sacred mountain in Japan, where Shingon Buddhism was founded by the monk Kukai in the 9th century. It is a place of spiritual retreat, where you can experience the serene atmosphere of over 100 temples, pagodas and monasteries. You can also visit the Okunoin cemetery, where Kukai is believed to be in eternal meditation, and see thousands of stone lanterns and statues along the forest path. For a truly immersive experience, you can stay overnight at a temple lodging and join the monks for morning prayers.

Explore the biodiversity and archaeology of Lake Turkana, Kenya

Lake Turkana is the largest desert lake in the world, and a hotspot for biodiversity and archaeology. The lake supports a rich ecosystem of fish, crocodiles, hippos and birds, as well as nomadic pastoralist communities. The lake also holds the secrets of human evolution, as it is the site of many fossil discoveries that date back millions of years. The Lake Turkana National Parks comprise three protected areas: Sibiloi National Park, Central Island National Park and South Island National Park, each with its own unique features and attractions.

Admire the Convent of Christ in Tomar, Portugal

The Convent of Christ in Tomar is a former Catholic convent that was founded by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. It was later transformed into the headquarters of the Order of Christ, which supported Portugal’s maritime discoveries in the 15th century. The convent is a masterpiece of architecture, combining Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque elements. The convent’s highlight is its round church, inspired by Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre, with a magnificent window that displays intricate motifs. The convent also features several cloisters, chapels and halls that reflect the history and culture of Portugal.

Marvel at the rock paintings of Chiribiquete, Colombia

Chiribiquete National Park is one of the most remote and inaccessible places in the world, and one of the most biodiverse. It covers an area of over 4 million hectares in the Amazon rainforest, where you can find jaguars, tapirs, monkeys, birds and plants that are endemic to the region. The park also contains over 75,000 rock paintings that depict animals, humans and geometric shapes, dating back to prehistoric times. These paintings are located on the walls of towering sandstone plateaus that rise above the forest canopy.

Enjoy the architecture and beer of Bamberg, Germany

The Town of Bamberg is a medieval masterpiece that showcases the diversity of European architectural styles. The town was founded in the 10th century and became a powerful ecclesiastical and imperial centre in the Holy Roman Empire. The town has preserved its historic layout and buildings, such as the cathedral, the old town hall and the former fishermen’s quarter. The town is also famous for its beer culture, with 11 breweries producing over 50 types of beer, including the unique smoked beer.

Witness the natural wonders of Shark Bay, Australia

Shark Bay is a natural wonder that boasts a stunning array of marine and terrestrial life. The bay is home to the largest and richest seagrass beds in the world, which provide habitat and food for many species, including the endangered dugong. The bay is also famous for its stromatolites, the oldest living fossils on Earth, and its population of wild dolphins, which have developed a rare hunting technique using sea sponges. Shark Bay is a place of discovery and wonder, where you can learn about the origins and diversity of life.

Visit the ancient ruins of Nan Madol, Micronesia

Nan Madol is a mysterious and impressive archaeological site in Micronesia, consisting of nearly 100 artificial islets built on a coral reef. The islets are connected by canals and contain the remains of stone palaces, temples, tombs and residential structures. Nan Madol was the ceremonial and political centre of the Saudeleur dynasty, which ruled the island of Pohnpei from the 13th to the 17th century. The site is an engineering marvel, as it was constructed with basalt and coral boulders that weigh up to 50 tons each.

ENS Editors

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