There are so many incredible places to see in the world that narrowing it down may seem overwhelming when planning a trip. Choosing from one of the 1157 places on the Unesco World Heritage Sites list can be a good place to start. To help you choose we’ve compiled a list of our favourites across Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and Australasia.
The very first site added to the list back in the 1970s was the Galápagos Islands, which still features as one of our favourites. Every year, new places are added, with Italy holding the honour of being home to the most - close to 60. Europe as a whole has over 400, Latin America over 70, Africa close to 100, Asia close to 270 and Australasia over 20.
From the Douro Valley in Portugal and Machu Picchu in Peru, to the Taj Mahal in India, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Okavango Delta in Botswana, our list has something of everything. From natural wonders, to man-made marvels, explore some of the world’s best places with us, and help to ensure they remain as remarkable as they are today, for generations to come.
Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Europe
Europe boasts a wealth of cultural and historic places of interest. The continent is particularly notable for its evidence of ancient civilisations. A European adventure offers enlightening glimpses into the distant past, as well as the chance to find yourself in breathtaking natural spaces.
1. Acropolis of Athens, Greece
You’ll find this ancient citadel set on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city of Athens. The complex comprises the remains of buildings dating back to the fifth century. Here you’ll find the majestic Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess of wisdom and war, Athena. The best time to visit is between October and April to avoid the hot weather and crowds.
2. The Dolomites, Italy
Impressive snow-capped peaks, stunning mountain lakes and quaint Alpine villages – the Italian Dolomites make for a breathtaking destination. In the winter the region is popular with skiers, and during the summer months (June to September) it’s perfect for hiking, climbing and cycling. The Dolomites were added to UNESCO’s list in 2009.
3. Stonehenge, England
This iconic prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, Southern England, was added to UNESCO’s list together with Avebury in 1986. The collection of standing stones and lintels was believed to have been constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. How it was built and what it was used for are still widely debated among archaeologists, historians and enthusiasts alike.
4. Douro Valley, Portugal
This picturesque region in northern Portugal is known for its terraced vineyards and Port wine. The Douro Valley is one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world with some 24,600 hectares of the region added to the UNESCO list in 2001.
There’s more to the valley than wine, with the meandering river, one of the most scenic railways in Europe, historic towns and even some prehistoric rock art. For a truly sumptuous hotel experience, be sure to stay at the Six Senses Douro Valley.
5. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Croatia has many stunning national parks, the largest, Plitvice Lakes National Park, covers almost 30,000 hectares and was added to UNESCO’s list in 1979. The park is full of stunning lakes, waterfalls and caves that have been created by waters flowing across the chalk and limestone. The area is shrouded in local legend and the wildlife here is spectacular.
Luxury accommodation in Europe
Hotel Grande Bretagne$$$$$Looking out across the Acropolis, Syntagama Square and Lycabettus Hill, the Hotel Grande Bretagne has some of the best views in the city. The hotel was built in 1874 and is full of old-world charm. Each of its 320 rooms and suites are beautifully styled, with antique furnishings, chandeliers and traditional tiled floors. With such spectacular views, you’ll want to head up to the rooftop pool and bar. Seeing the Acropolis illuminated at night is a truly spectacular sight so make sure you try one of their signature cocktails and enjoy the sparkling lights of the city. There’s also plenty to draw you inside, including the bright and airy Winter Garden Lounge, an extension of the hotel’s beautiful lobby. The cellar is filled with over 3,000 bottles of wine and it’s well worth enjoying a drink at Alexander’s Bar which features an original 19th-centuty tapestry depicting Alexander the Great entering Gaugamela. For when you need to relax and unwind, make a beeline for the spa and fitness centre, complete with indoor pool.
Chewton Glen$$$$$A stay at the charming Chewton Glen is all about comfort and understated elegance. Ideal for guests looking for a quiet break, this quintessential country house offers tranquility and luxury. The 70 rooms and suites (including a collection of wonderful treehouses) offer views over the surrounding gardens, croquet lawn and parklands. For a truly memorable stay, make one of the 12 luxury tree houses your temporary home. The décor in the rooms ranges from traditional to more contemporary. The team at The Dining Room use fruit, vegetables and herbs fresh from the kitchen garden, in keeping with the hotel’s focus on sustainability. The head chef and estate manager team up when it comes to planning menus according to what is most readily available in the garden. Explore the 130 acres of woodlands and gardens which reach right to the borders of the New Forest National Park and towards the coast. Take your relaxation to the next level at the award-winning spa, where a team of therapists are on hand to help you re-energize. Choose from 50 different treatments, and make use of the hydrotherapy spa pool, aromatherapy saunas, crystal steam rooms and nail studio. Active guests can spend some time on the tennis courts, in the dance studio or play a round of golf.
Rosa Alpina$$$$$In the charming village of San Cassiano and sitting 1,537m above sea level is Rosa Alpina, a beautiful mountain retreat just 2.5 hours north of Venice. Each room has been individually designed and furnished with local antiques. You’re in the heart of the magnificent Dolomites and the hotel maintains a cosy alpine feel while offering guests the highest level of comfort and luxury. Be sure to treat yourself at St. Hubertus, the hotel’s three Michelin-starred restaurant – one of only a few restaurants in Italy with three stars. For a really special dining experience, be sure to reserve the chef’s table with a view into the kitchen. The wine bar offers a more informal atmosphere and on those chilly evenings, you can indulge with a traditional fondue. You’re ideally located to explore the mountains, and hikers, skiiers and climbers won’t be disappointed. If you’d rather sit back and relax, then unwind in the spa or enjoy a drink on the terrace looking out over the jaggedy peaks. There are two wellness areas, one for families and one for adults, so there is something for everyone.
Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Latin America
From snow-capped mountains, picture-perfect beaches and tropical rainforests to ancient civilisations, Latin America is not to be missed if you’re looking for memorable experiences in beautiful destinations.
6. Machu Picchu, Peru
The awe-inspiring ancient Machu Picchu is perched on cloud forest-covered mountains and is one of Peru‘s most important archaeological sites.
There’s many ways to explore and learn about Incan history here; take a guided tour with an expert guide, climb Huayna Picchu for epic views or challenge yourself to reach the citadel on the Inca Trail. Alternatively, skip the hike and wind your way alongside the Urubamba on a luxury journey instead.
7. Iguazu Falls, Argentina & Brazil
These spectacular falls are surrounded by lush tropical rainforests, providing prime bird-watching, on the border between Brazil and Argentina. Iguazu Falls was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1984.
The waterfalls can be explored in all their glory with many different walkways around and over the cascades. Be sure to stay at Awasi Iguazu for a taste of sustainable luxury at its very best.
8. The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Located 600 miles from mainland Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands offer you the opportunity to see wildlife up close. The islands are a living museum and one of the world’s richest marine ecosystems.
Walking among giant tortoises, snorkelling with sharks and swimming with playful sea lions are just some of what comes with the territory on the Galápagos Islands. Explore the islands on cruises or opt to stay in a luxury lodge on Santa Cruz island.
9. Cartagena, Colombia
Steeped in colonial and nautical history, Cartagena boasts impressive ramparts, forts and bastions as well as plenty of Spanish-style architecture. Known as the ‘Jewel of the Caribbean’, this is one of Colombia‘s prettiest cities.
Cafes, bars and restaurants line the cobbled streets where locals and visitors alike spill out onto the sidewalks in the balmy evenings. One of our favourite hotels is the historic Casa San Augustine.
10. Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia
Argentina’s second largest national park, Los Glaciares in Calafate was added to UNESCO’s list in 1981. Among its most popular features is Perito Moreno glacier with its impressive icefalls that plunge into Lake Argentino. Perito Moreno is just one of about 356 glaciers that can be found within the park.
Luxury accommodation in Latin America
Inkaterra Machu Picchu$$$$$Inkaterra Machu Picchu is only steps away from the train ride to the breathtaking views of the Incan citadel. The hotel consists of several whitewashed cottages in an Andean village located in the heart of Agua Calientes, part of the historical Machu Picchu attraction. Tea time and evening nature shows are offered each day, and the hotel has a spa and yoga facility. The spacious rooms all have a fireplace and thick, handmade alpaca wool blankets cover each bed making it a perfect place for simple relaxing before and after your Machu Picchu excursion. Inkaterra is a leader in ecotourism and sustainable development in Peru. They have a commitment to research, and sharing knowledge about biodiversity and culture with the world through authentic travel experiences. Because of this, they have been granted the First International Certificate in Sustainable Tourism given by Control Union Green Choice and the Sustainable Tourism Standard Conservation Award. They are also Rainforest Alliance verified and there is no single-use plastic at the property. And it does not stop there, as of 2021 Inkaterra has been acknowledged by the United Nations as the World’s First Climate-Positive Hotel Brand
Galapagos Safari Camp$$$$$A truly unique way to enjoy the wonderful nature of the Galapagos islands. Set in 55-hectare grounds in a remote corner of Santa Cruz island, the GSC camp has just nine large and very well appointed safari style tents. Each is appointed with private bathroom with a hot water shower. The tents are spaced well and have a large double bed and private balcony from which to enjoy the views. The new family suite has three bedrooms suite (master and two twins), and its location next to the main lodge makes it an ideal option for families who favour more private and cohesive lodging. All the tents surround the main and very elegant contemporary lodge complete with restored antiques and furnishings installed by its well-travelled owners. There is a large main communal area where meals are served and a lounge to relax in. The hotel also boasts an infinity pool from which to admire the landscape. A variety of activities to explore the island and surrounds are possible from the camp. The camp is also renowned for its sustainable and positive impact efforts, including projects aimed at reforestation and protection of endemic flora.
Eolo$$$$$Eolo sits on a 10,000-acre estancia in the Patagonian steppe between the town of El Calafate and the majestic Perioto Merino glacier. Surrounded by lakes, vast plains and the imposing peaks of the Andes, this is nature at its very best. The hotel has been built to ensure that wherever you are, you can take in these incredible views. Eolo is centred around a courtyard garden, a nifty bit of architecture that means guests can enjoy the great outdoors whilst being protected from the wild Patagonian winds. There are 17 beautiful rooms characterised by pastel colours and simple lines. Nothing is overly complicated here, simplicity is key when your surroundings are so dramatic. There are no televisions in the rooms, instead guests are encouraged to curl up on one of the sofas that are placed in front of the large picture windows. Eolo was inspired by the historic estancias of the area and you’ll find antiques, maps, telescopes and lots of other traditional touches. The food at Eolo is a real highlight. Excellent local, seasonal produce is used to create a dynamic and exciting menu. The views that await from your dining table make the experience even sweeter. This is an area begging to be explored, and there are plenty of activites on offer. Hiking, horseriding, birdwatching and mountain biking are some of the experiences to keep you busy. At the hotel itself there is an area for relaxation with a small heated pool, dry sauna and massage room. All meals and non-alcoholic drinks are included during your stay at Eolo.
Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Asia & Australasia
Beautiful monuments to eternal love, ancient towns and prehistoric-looking wildlife; Asia and Australasia have so much to offer. Go wandering down historic pathways or spend your days island hopping, the memories are waiting to be made.
11. Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Komodo National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for Indonesia since 1991. It’s home to the legendary Komodo Dragon and is made up of three main islands – Komodo, Rinca and Padar.
The islands of the park are surrounded by shallow seas filled with vibrant marine life. In fact the diving and snorkelling in this region, best viewed from a luxurious private cruise, is some of the best in the world.
13. Taj Mahal, India
The ultimate symbol of eternal love, the Taj Mahal is one of India’s most memorable and emotive sights. The Taj Mahal sits on the banks of the holy Yamuna River within sprawling, manicured gardens.
One of the best times to visit is in the early hours when it is bathed in the ethereal glow of the morning light. The inside is no less beautiful with precious stones, intricate carvings and ornate inscriptions of the Koran.
14. Galle, Sri Lanka
This stunningly atmospheric Old Town of Galle and its fortifications at the southern edge of Sri Lanka were added to the list in 1988. Fascinating history is evident at every turn through its eclectic assemblage of architecture.
The walls and everything inside them are protected, with beautiful Dutch fusion architecture, a commanding Victorian lighthouse, grand churches and mosques, all in a sultry tropical setting.
15. Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, just north of Bangkok, was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam and is now one of Thailand‘s most treasured archaeological sites. Today the ruins of the old city are known as Ayutthaya Historical Park which includes palaces, Buddhist temples, monasteries and statues.
16. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Considered one of the great natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the biggest coral reef system on the planet. The reef boasts 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc.
Explore this underwater marvel with unmatched snorkelling, diving and wildlife watching boat trips. After a day of activites, relax at the secluded reef getaway of Lizard Island.
Luxury accommodation in Asia and the Pacific
Silky Oaks$$$$$Silky Oaks is one of Australia’s most stunning riverside lodges, nestled in tropical North Queensland rainforest with a collection of treehouse suites immersing guests in the lush surroundings. The eco-retreat invites you to escape from everyday life and get back in touch with nature amongst the Daintree rainforest setting. The treehouses and suites blend organic wooden furnishings with contemporary design. Each room has a wide verandah with hammocks, breakfast with a view and deep baths to sink into at the end of the day. Dining at Silky Oaks is a memorable experience, with gourmet Australian cuisine served in the award-winning open-sided Treehouse Restaurant which is perched high above the rainforest and Mossman River. Guests can soak up the tranquil environment from the comfort of the spacious open lounge areas, bar, reading rooms or enter a state of dreamy bliss at the Healing Waters Spa. Guests can explore this diverse and dense rainforest by its many hiking trails, cruise down the river in a canoe, take out a bicycle to venture further afield, go goanna spotting, get zen with morning yoga or cool off in the scenic river. Alternatively, you can simply soak up the tranquil environment from the comfort of the spacious open lounge areas, bar, reading rooms or enter a state of dreamy bliss at the Healing Waters Spa.
Alila Purnama$$$$$Built by hand in the style of a traditional Phinisi, as used by traditional seafarers from the South Sulwesi, Alila Purnama is a 48 metre, three decked luxury schooner.True to the Alila Hotels ethos, the Alila Purnama is built with emphasis on style, sustainability and using locally sourced materials. All five suites are spacious, with queen-sized beds, en suite bathrooms with showers, air conditioning, a double wardrobe and a writing desk . Sriwijaya Suite, the master suite, has a deepsoaking tub and a private terrace with sweeping 180-degree views. On board guests will be in absolute comfort with a library, sumptuous lounge and an indoor and outdoor dining area. Plush day beds on deck are perfect to take in the passing view or to enjoy a glass of champagne whilst watching the sun go down. With a spa therapist on board, guests can indulge in a signature Alila massage on board or on a nearby beach. A fully licensed PADI dive centre means experienced divers can explore the wealth of underwater life in this region, and novice divers can be guided on introductory dives or through to their Open Water qualification. Guests also have the opportunity to fish, snorkel and explore idyllic islands on foot or the coastline by kayak. Meals can be taken in the dining room, al fresco on deck or as a BBQ on the beach. Your Luxury Travel Designer will be able to discuss the best option for you on the Alila Purnama; whether you join a set departure around the Komodo Islands or Raja Amapat. Alternatively she is available for private charter for up to 13 guests.
The Nam Hai$$$$$Within 35 hectares of tropical gardens set on the pristine shoreline of Ha My beach, sixty one-bedroom villas and forty pool villas make up this exclusive and palatial hotel. As well as a place for indulgent relaxation, Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai is also well located for exploring the charming 15th century town of Hoi An that sits a few short miles away. While away your days here next to one of three expansive infinity pools or take a dip in the tranquil Gulf of Tonkin. Then, rejuvenate with an Oriental ritual therapy treatment before dining at one of the three varied and excellent restaurants. The Beach restaurant is particularly recommended in the evening to sample the day’s freshest catch. If you are after something extra special, the pool villas come with their own private butler. From romantic candle-lit dinners on the beach, to Hoi An’s finest tailors custom fitting your formal attire, to private Vietnamese cooking classes, your butler will ensure you experience every touch of sophisticated decadence during your stay. Hoi An and its UNESCO World Heritage Site old town are minutes away and a delight to explore the pretty streets steeped in history and culture. Those in search of gifts and souvenirs can shop quality silk, jade, pearls and quality linen from the riverside stores.
Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa
Unsurprisingly, some of Africa’s most remarkable places that feature on the UNESCO World Heritage List are naturally beautiful and ecologically important. From lush jungles, to expansive savannahs and a towering extinct volcano, the continent is an adventure traveller’s dream.
17. Okavango Delta, Botswana
There’s something magical about the Okavango Delta, with its glowing sunsets and elephants wading through the reeds. Home to cheetahs, white and black rhinos, African wild dogs plus countless other species.
Within the Delta the private concessions of Moremi and Mombo are dedicated to sustainable luxury and wildlife conservation. With only a few camps here, guests enjoy exclusive safari experiences.
18. Mount Kenya National Park, Kenya
On the high plains of the Kenya‘s Laikipia Plateau the snow capped peak of Mount Kenya towers. The peak is an ancient extinct volcano and one of East Africa’s most impressive landscapes complete with rugged glaciers and lush forests. The Kikuyu and Meru communities who live at its feet consider it to be a holy mountain.
19. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
Uganda, once described as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ is one of East Africa’s hidden gems. Lush jungle and tropical wildlife are primary features of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to the highest concentration of primates on Earth.
20. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park is one of the world’s most famous national parks, annually hosting the Great Migration of over a million wildebeest and thousands of zebras who follow the grass to and from the neighbouring Maasai Mara.
These vast plains made their way onto the UNESCO list in 1981. Beside the migration, wildlife spotting is rewarding year round in the central parts of the park.
21. Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Mana Pools National Park in northern Zimbabwe, is home to a remarkable concentration of animals. Naturally beautiful, track leopards, elephants, cheetahs and buffalos on game drives and walking safaris with expert rangers through the stunning scenery.
Luxury accommodation in Africa
Wilderness Mombo Camp$$$$$One of the most famous camps in all of Africa, Wilderness Mombo Camp rightly deserves its reputation due to its remarkable game viewing experience coupled the service and luxury of the camp. Rebuilt in 2018, the camp is made up of nine very spacious and elegantly appointed tents, each built on a raised platform giving fantastic views across the plains. Most of the original material was used. Set in a thicket of giant mangosteen and fig trees, the eight suites boast sweeping views out over the floodplain which attracts a large number of animals. Each suite has a sitting room, bedroom, bathroom, indoor and outdoor shower, plunge pool and wrap-around veranda. Enjoy watching the passing wildlife and panoramic sunsets from your ‘sala’. Head to the main communal area where you’ll find a small library and a plunge pool to relax during the afternoons. Enjoy delicious meals in the dining area that overlooks the plains. The camp is committed to conservation, with much of the power provided by a solar farm and a portion of your rates go towards their preservation projects.
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge$$$$$Sitting high on a ridge top with views across Uganda and to the forested Virunga Mountains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge is aptly named. The main lodge building is bright and airy, with a huge lounge, bar, candlelit dining area and terrace from which to enjoy the vista at breakfast or at night when the orange glow of Mount Nyiragongo’s lava lake can be seen on the horizon. Eight stone cottages are found a little down the slope, each homely with warming fireplaces, huge windows and large bathrooms, Two of these have two-bedrooms with a small living area in between. The border of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is on the opposite slope of the ridge, meaning you can meet your guide and walk straight into the park to meet the gorillas. You can also go on a guided walk of the local village, visiting projects and the school which the lodge supports, getting an insight of what its like living next to the forest and its ape inhabitants.
Wilderness Ruckomechi Camp$$$$$Set by the Zambezi River in Mana Pools National Park, Wilderness Ruckomechi Camp is located by the elephants’ much-loved albida trees, favoured for their pods, which makes the camp ideal for being able to view these massive mammals without even having to leave the lodge. From the camp’s position on the banks of the river, you can see the Great Rift Valley on the opposite side of the Zambezi, a view which you can take in from the comfortable star-gazing deck. Each of the ten tented rooms have indoor and outdoor showers, and there’s a dining and lounge area, plus an infinity pool for cooling off after a safari. When it comes to exploring the land, there are a variety of options. You can discover the area on foot on a walking safari, or take to the water for a cruise in a nine-seat pontoon, six-seat speed boat or even a canoe. Naturally, game drives leave every morning and afternoon, too. Birds are prevalent, with species including the western banded snake-eagle, three-banded courser, Arnot’s chat, African golden oriole, and Meve’s starling. Other types of wildlife you can see on safari from Wilderness Ruckomechi Camp (aside from the resident elephants) include leopard, hippo, Burchell’s zebra, lion and buffalo.
Whatever you want from your adventure, our team of expert travel designers are ready to help.