The best UNESCO heritage sites

We explore UNESCO Heritage Sites at home and further afield…

By Ting Dalton

There are over 1,000 UNESCO Heritage Sites across the globe, which have been awarded official status and protection by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, from the historic city of Vienna in Austria to the iconic Sydney Opera House in Australia. All are a mix of cultural and natural sites, and UNESCO’s work is to help preserve and protect our heritage hotspots.

We take a look at some of the top places around the world that are on the list…

The Jurassic Coast, Dorset

The UK has over 30 different UNESCO sites, so you can explore a great number of them without even having to leave the country.
A favourite is the Jurassic Coast in Dorset which spans over 95 miles of coastline, and stretches from Exmouth in Devon all the way to Studland Bay in Dorset. There are plenty of opportunities to learn about 185 million years of geological history and with it, fascinating tales from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, as we discovered when we went fossil hunting in Charmouth. Dorset itself not only has a wonderful array of beach towns including Lyme Regis and Weymouth, but tons of family-friendly attractions, castles and gardens, as well as sweeping scenery steeped in ancient history.

On our doorstep: Lake District, Cumbria; Stonehenge, Salisbury; City of Bath; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Great Wall, China

Probably one of the more famous UNESCO sites, the Great Wall of China is a masterpiece in engineering and the sheer scale and ingenuity of the fortification built over 5,000 miles is worth the travel and expense to experience. Granted, there are lots of other tourists who also want to walk on these stones of time, however, there are several sections in and around Beijing that are easily accessible including Mutianyu, where we visited. And, while it was painful to rise before the sun in order to avoid the crowds, it was well worth it. We had at least an hour to ourselves and walked up and down marveling at the fortresses and watchtowers, as well as the surrounding countryside.

Make the trek for: Hoi An, Vietnam; Grand Canyon National Park, USA; Robben Island, South Africa; City of Cusco, Peru; Taj Mahal, India

TEIDE National Park, Tenerife

While the Canary Island of Tenerife is well-known for its warm all-year-round climate and beach resorts, head inland and you’ll discover a spectacular volcanic landscape and a world of alien-rock formations. Teide National Park covers an awe-inspiring 47,000 acres, but it also has Spain’s highest peak and the tenth largest volcano in the world, Mount Teide. You don’t have to climb to the summit of this dormant volcano to appreciate the views – we chose the easier option of the cable car which glides you 3555m above sea level. Meanwhile, if you have a car [which is the easiest option to get to Teide], just driving around will offer you a different perspective of the scenery and you may even come across Los Roques de Garcia – the famous jutting rock formations that was once featured on 1000 pesetas bank notes back in the 1970s.

A short flight away: Mount Etna, Italy; Vézelay,Burgundy, France; Þingvellir National Park, Iceland; Alhambra, Spain.