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
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1001 GMT (1801 HKT)
Photographer gives Hong Kong skyscrapers a radical new look.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
A cage-free shark photographer gets up close and personal with the ocean's most feared predators.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1428 GMT (2228 HKT)
Conde Nast Traveler reader survey praises antipodean cities but gives South Africa's biggest city a wide berth.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0122 GMT (0922 HKT)
After the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Canal, here are 10 other ways to fall in love with the country.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 0349 GMT (1149 HKT)
In Taiwan, tourists pay to ride along in local cabs, letting fate -- and locals fares -- decide where they'll go.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
It's largely devoid of human life, dark, cold and subject to dangerous levels of geological volatility -- the Arctic is surely the worst possible destination for an arts festival.
Zurich, Switzerland
It may be Switzerland's banking capital, but Zurich's real wealth lies in the village-like charm of its cobbled streets and Alpine scenery.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1854 GMT (0254 HKT)
We've all wondered what it's like to die. Now an outfit in Shanghai says it can provide the experience.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 0115 GMT (0915 HKT)
Our special report details who, what and how much it takes to bring you the best in IFE (we'll explain).
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 0632 GMT (1432 HKT)
What pizza is to New York and the cheesesteak is to Philly, the food truck has become to Los Angeles -- essential
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 0903 GMT (1703 HKT)
If you've ever clicked on a list of forests to see before you die, chances are you've already seen a photo of this stunner.
August 8, 2014 -- Updated 0018 GMT (0818 HKT)
The military coup in Thailand has led to a massive change in Phuket, weeding out decades of misuse and abuse at one of the world's most popular holiday destinations.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0956 GMT (1756 HKT)
With a mix of Indian, African, French and Chinese influences, Mauritius represents a cultural smorgasbord.
August 8, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
There's nothing like high drama on a beach.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0957 GMT (1757 HKT)
Home to big game, sparkling beaches, and stunning sunsets, Malawi makes for an idyllic travel destination.
ADVERTISEMENT