Skip to main content

20 of the world's most beautiful World Heritage Sites

By Sarah Reid, for CNN
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1236 GMT (2036 HKT)
Scattered between the twisting roots of the Cambodian jungle, this site dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu contains the remains of Khmer Empire capitals dating from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Among the most famous of its 100-strong group of monuments is the Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the sculptural Bayon Temple. In 2000, Cambodian authorities allowed action flick "Tomb Raider" to be filmed at the site on the proviso that no guns would be fired. Scattered between the twisting roots of the Cambodian jungle, this site dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu contains the remains of Khmer Empire capitals dating from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Among the most famous of its 100-strong group of monuments is the Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the sculptural Bayon Temple. In 2000, Cambodian authorities allowed action flick "Tomb Raider" to be filmed at the site on the proviso that no guns would be fired.
HIDE CAPTION
Angkor, Cambodia
Acropolis, Greece
Bagan, Myanmar
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, Turkey
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Hampi, India
Iguazu National Park, Brazil and Argentina
Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
Machu Picchu, Peru
Mont-Saint-Michel, France
Petra, Jordan
Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
Rapa Nui, Chile
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Tulum, Mexico
Valletta, Malta
Venice and its lagoon, Italy
Yellowstone National Park, United States
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • UNESCO's World Heritage Sites number more than 1,000
  • They range from dazzling underwater ecosystems to the ruins of ancient civilizations
  • Each year around 25 sites of "outstanding universal value" are inscribed

(CNN) -- Last year luxury website VeryFirstTo.com unveiled a £990,000 ($1.5 million) trip, a luxury expedition to all 962 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in what was billed as the world's most expensive vacation.

Since then UNESCO has added several more sites to its list, taking the total to more than 1,000.

Cambodia's floating village
Diving deep into the Great Barrier Reef
Best ways to reach Machu Picchu

Each year, around 25 sites deemed to have "outstanding universal value" are inscribed on the list, and we couldn't resist choosing a few favorites.

Tell us about your own favorite UNESCO Heritage Sites in the comments section.

Angkor, Cambodia

The site lies a 20-minute tuk-tuk ride from the city of Siem Reap, with the bulk of visitors traveling between November and February, when the weather is dry and temperatures are coolest (25-30 C). You can explore Cambodia on a Geckos Adventures tour.

Acropolis, Greece

It's possible to take a tour to the site, or simply wander there from Athens on foot. The route along Adrianou Street to the back entrance of the site is a gentler climb than the Dionysus Theatre entrance. For more information, visit the Greece tourism website.

Bagan, Myanmar

Located in Myanmar's central west, Bagan is serviced by flights, buses and trains from Yangon. Accommodation is centered in the surrounding villages of New Bagan and Nyaung Oo. Tours available with Intrepid.

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Located nearly 1,000 kilometers from mainland Ecuador, the islands are serviced by flights from Quito and Guayaquil. Multi-day boat cruises are generally the best way to explore the islands. Celebrity Cruises will get you around the Galápagos in style.

Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, Turkey

Due to the remote nature of the site in central Anatolia, most visitors opt to fly in from Istanbul to visit the area on a tour, or drive. Hotels cut out of the rock provide accommodation. For more information, visit the Turkey tourism website.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Larger islands are well-serviced by flights from mainland Australia. It's also possible to visit the reef via day trips from northern Queensland ports including Cairns and Port Douglas. For more information, visit the Tropical North Queensland Tourism website.

Hampi, India

Hampi is serviced by overnight bus from Goa. Trains run to nearby Hospet from Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Calcutta, and visitors will find a good range of low- to mid-range lodgings around Hampi village. Tours available through On The Go Tours.

Iguazu National Park, Brazil and Argentina

The less-developed but refreshingly uncrowded Brazilian side of the falls is a half-hour bus ride from the city of Foz do Iguaçu. It's the same distance to the falls from Puerto Iguazu on the Argentine side. The two countries are connected via a bridge downriver of the falls. For more information, visit the Argentina tourism website.

Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Most visitors to this remote southern region of Argentina base themselves in El Calafate, the closest town to the park entrance. There are daily flights and buses from the capital Buenos Aires. For excursion options, check out Gigantes Patagones.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Several multi-day treks terminate at Machu Picchu, but it's also possible to take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, and climb a steep flight of stairs or bus up to the site. Only the first 400 daily visitors are granted entry to Wayna Picchu, a separate set of ruins overlooking the main complex. Tucan Travel offers a range of tour options.

Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Mont-Saint-Michel is serviced by buses/tours from Rennes and Saint-Malo, but it's also possible to lodge in one of Mont-Saint-Michel's small hotels. For more information, visit the Normandy tourism website.

Petra, Jordan

Buses and day/overnight tours run from Jordan's capital Amman and the port city of Aqaba. It's also possible to organize tours from Egypt, and the Israeli resort town of Eilat. For longer stays, bunk down in Wadi Musa, Petra's neighboring town. For more information, visit the Jordan tourism website.

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

Just 25 kilometers southwest of Cairo along the Nile River, the complex is most easily visited on a day trip from Egypt's capital. For more information, visit the Egypt tourism website.

Rapa Nui, Chile

While it's possible to access Easter Island by air from Tahiti, most visitors opt for the five-and-a-half hour flight from Santiago, Chile. For more information, visit the Chile tourism website.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The short October/November and March/April rainy seasons notwithstanding, the Serengeti, usually accessed via Kilimanjaro or Nairobi airports, offers great game viewing year-round. For tours, visit the Audley Travel website.

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

The central Sri Lankan site is located two to three hours by local bus from the city of Kandy (via Dambulla, home to a massive cave temple complex). It's also possible to organize a tour or personal driver from Kandy. For more information, visit the Sri Lanka tourism website.

Tulum, Mexico

Located a few minutes drive from the small Yucatan Peninsula township of Tulum, the easily accessible ruins lie about 60 kilometers south of the larger township of Playa del Carmen, and a further 60 kilometers from Cancun. For more information, visit the Mexico tourism website.

Valletta, Malta

Just south of Sicily, Malta is connected by flights from across Europe. It's possible to lodge in Valletta, but the bulk of visitors make for the tiny nation's beach resorts. For more information, visit the Malta tourism website.

Venice and its lagoon, Italy

Venice is served by nearby Marco Polo and Treviso airports, while trains arrive at the Venezia Santa Lucia train station in the western part of the city. For more information, visit the Italy tourism website.

Yellowstone National Park, United States

Located around 100 kilometers from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the closest major airport hub, the park has five main access points. Most visitors choose to drive throughout the park, camping en route. For more information, visit the Wyoming tourism website.

Travel photos we wish we'd taken

Published December 2013, updated August 2014.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Nonprofit Ethical Traveler has released its annual list of the developing countries doing the most to promote human rights and preserve their environments.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1036 GMT (1836 HKT)
These waterfront watering holes have killer ocean views, creative drinks and the mahalo vibe we demand.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 2038 GMT (0438 HKT)
Can't wait to book your ticket to Indianapolis and Oakland? The venerable guidebook is right there with you
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0625 GMT (1425 HKT)
By helicopter, snowmobile and big-wheel truck across some of the world's most volatile landscapes.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 2142 GMT (0542 HKT)
Construction begins on a new Singapore airport complex that could make delays and layovers a pleasure.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 1441 GMT (2241 HKT)
Inflight chatterboxes are annoying but they're not the worst violators of onboard etiquette, according to an Expedia study.
December 8, 2014 -- Updated 2232 GMT (0632 HKT)
These statues are awe-inspiring even for the strongest of non-believers.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
The Palace of the Parliament, built by former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
25 years after the death of Romania's communist dictator, tourism is helping heal old wounds.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
Photo sharing website names the top 10 destinations for geo-tagged snapshots.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 1005 GMT (1805 HKT)
New York may be a paradise of Zagat-rated, Michelin-starred restaurants, but some of its best food can be found on the streets.
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 0601 GMT (1401 HKT)
Guide Lebo behind the wheel of Chobe Game Lodge's first electric game viewing vehicle, at Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana ups the eco stakes with what it claims is world's first battery-powered safari fleet.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
These quirky and beautiful subway stops make standing cheek-to-cheek with 45 strangers almost seem fun.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
A scene from a desert safari in Dubai
Luxury vintage Land Rover tours explore Bedouin backwaters without bashing up precious dunes.
ADVERTISEMENT