12 June 2018
With more than 1,000 World Heritage Sites around the globe, the world really is your oyster when it comes to letting UNESCO’s areas of special cultural or natural interest inspire your next holiday or break. Deemed essential for preserving the future heritage of humankind, UNESCO sites provide some of the most memorable travel experiences anywhere on Earth. The following are among our favourites for different interests and ages.
Few superlatives can do justice to this aquatic paradise that can be seen from Outer Space. Most travellers experience it from the pristine shores of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, stretching from the charming town of Bundaberg to the tip of Cape York and containing some of the best diving spots for seeing a vast variety of fish, dolphins, whales, sea turtles and more. Travel Counsellor Mark, who visited several sites, says: "I deliberately booked aboard a smaller catamaran for its more manageable size. A couple of the group did scuba-diving while the rest of us opted for snorkelling. We stopped at three different sites to explore the variety of sea life and coral. The colours of the fish, coral and seascapes were breathtaking."
Set in Alberta’s Badlands, this one-time sub-tropical paradise brimming with palm trees and giant ferns is now one of the world’s top locations for those hoping to unearth a fossilised dinosaur – or at least a few bones or other relics. Around 300 specimens taken from the site are now housed in museums across the globe; this is your chance to uncover even more on an active dig site.
One of the country’s most-visited sites, this protected national park in the mountainous Lika region of northern Croatia, a two-hour drive from the capital Zagreb, offers up 16 interconnected lakes, more than 90 waterfalls of varying sizes and plenty of caves to investigate. Among activities to try out are kayaking, rafting and cycling.
Iceland’s youngest volcanic island emerged from a series of ocean-floor eruptions that began in 1963 and lasted several years, leaving in its place one of the most intensively researched islands in the world. The 90 or so bird species that have colonised it since, many captured on film by no less than David Attenborough, include Arctic terns and puffins. As the island is uninhabited, they’re best spotted from boat trip around the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar), of which Surtsey is a part.
North-east of the main Seychelles island of Mahé, picture-postcard Praslin is home to this incredible forestry habitat that stands out as one of only two places where the famous coco de mer palm is grown. Follow the hiking trails beneath the dense forest canopy, spotting rare tree frogs and endangered parrots, and you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back to prehistoric times.
South Africa’s south-western extremity (including Cape Town) counts among the world’s greatest area of terrestrial biodiversity and also hosts an amazing number of endemic species that you won’t see anywhere else on earth, including a variety of sugarbushes (South Africa’s national flower). Embracing national parks, nature reserves, wilderness areas, State forests and mountain areas, the region includes Cape Town's Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens on the lower reaches of Table Mountain, with well-marked paths to follow.
The 1,600 soaring limestone rocks give you a feeling of having entered another world – one of sculpted valleys and emerald-hued hidden lakes seemingly untouched for thousands of years. Says Travel Counsellor Carol, who visited Ha Long Bay as part of a twin-destination adventure in Vietnam and Cambodia: “Junk-boat tours and sea-kayak expeditions take visitors past islands named for their shapes, including Stone Dog and Teapot islets. The region is popular for scuba-diving, rock-climbing and hiking, particularly in mountainous Cat Ba National Park, where we did a 5km cycle ride to a local village, which was great fun.”
This bio-diversity hotspot incorporates Knuckles Conservation Forest, Horton Plains National Park and the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary area. As well as awesome mountain scenery, lush vegetable gardens and terraced paddy fields, expect to see fabulous mammals including bear monkeys, sambar deer and the Horton Plains slender loris.
To find out more about any of the above destinations and book your UNESCO-inspired holiday, contact your Travel Counsellor.