38 Most Beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Rebecca Crowe
Last Updated: February 6th, 2024

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With some of the world’s most visited and beloved sites, the UNESCO World Heritage list is full of amazing places to visit.

From ancient cities to natural wonders to architectural marvels, there’s a little something for everyone, but with over 1000 UNESCO World Heritage sites, it can be hard to pick the best.

That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you and picked the 38 best UNESCO World Heritage Sites – in our opinion, of course!

So, let’s dive in and find out more about these wonderful and historic destinations.

The 30+ Best Unesco World Heritage Sites

1. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu-Picchu-Peru

Okay, we couldn’t have a list of the best UNESCO sites without Machu Picchu. This ancient civilization high up about the city of Cusco is trekked and visited by thousands of visitors each year. It’s so popular that they’ve even had to bring in seasonal permits to keep the site safe!

2. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

Pyramids-Of-Giza-Egypt

As one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, it’s no wonder that the Pyramids of Giza are on this list. Built between 2550 and 2490 B.C., these pyramids are in miraculous condition and are visited by millions of tourists who come to Egypt specifically to see them!

3. Taj Mahal, India

Taj-Mahal-India

Built as a tomb for his wife, Shah Jahan, a Mughal Emperor, commissioned this mighty mausoleum all the way back in 1631. Located in Agra, India, the Taj Mahal is undoubtedly the country’s most visited attraction and the iconic domed roof has inspired structures and creatives all around the world.

4. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor-Wat-Cambodia

If you love monkeys and amazing temples, then Angkor Wat is the place for you. Cambodia’s tourist jewel is pretty much always packed with crowds of people and primates alike, but this collection of 12th-century Khmer temples is well worth wading through the hordes of tourists. Try and get there for sunrise and you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable views and photos!

5. Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, Switzerland

Swiss-Alps-Jungfrau-Aletsch-Switzerland

If you’re looking for a snowy, mountainous paradise, look no further than the protected Jungfrau-Aletsch region of the Swiss Alps! With some of the best mountaineering and hiking in the world, it’s a mecca for outdoorsy types and big fans of gooey fondue. The ski scene is pretty top tier too!

6. Petra, Jordan

Petra-Southern-Jordan

Dating back as early as the 5th century BC, the stunning ancient city of Petra is one of those magical places that you’re not going to forget in a hurry. The best way to experience the “Rose City” is on a two-day tour that covers both the Treasury side and the main entrance into Petra.

7. Rome, Italy

Flavian-Amphitheatre-Rome-Italy

Did you know that pretty much the entire city of Rome is a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Well between the Colosseum, the Forum, the Parthenon, and plenty of other ancient wonders, it makes perfect sense. You can pretty much find an ancient historic site around every corner on a weekend away in the Italian capital!

8. Great Wall of China, China

The-Great-Wall-Of-China

When something is as great as this, it’s not hard to see why it’s included in this list. I am, of course, talking about the Great Wall of China. Spanning over an incredible 8,500km, this amazing UNESCO World Heritage site is also an ancient wonder of the world. Dripping with history and culture, the Great Wall needs to be on your travel bucket list!

9. Yellowstone National Park, USA

Yellowstone-National-Park-Usa

As the first US national park, it’s no wonder that Yellowstone National Park is one of the most beloved UNESCO World Heritage sites. Home to over 300 different geysers including the iconic Old Faithful geyser, it’s always an explosive visit to this Wyoming staple!

10. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, USA

Hawaii-Volcanoes-National-Park-Usa

From one US National Park to another, we’re off to the stunning islands of Hawaii. Spanning an incredible 344,812 acres, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located on the Big Island. The main draw has to be the pair of active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, which have held volcanologist’s interest for generations!

11. Florence, Italy

Florence-Skyline-Italy

If you love Renaissance vibes, then you need to visit the beautiful city of Florence. From the Uffizi Gallery to the Ponte Vecchio to the Boboli Gardens, you’ll be in your historic and cultural element. You can also easily combine this with a trip to other UNESCO cities, Rome and Vatican City!

12. Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen-Itza-Mexico

Want to see some of the best Mayan ruins in the world? Head to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and check out the majestic Chichen Itza. This ancient city was thought to be active from around 600 A.D. to the 11th century and is full of amazing temples, history, and archeological wonders.

13. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio-De-Janeiro-Brazil

Known as the carnival capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is beloved by sun-worshippers, partiers, surfers, and laidback lovers from all around the world. However, this classic Brazilian city is home to natural wonders like the botanical gardens, Tijuca National Park, and the gorgeous Guanabara Bay. So whether you love lively nightlife or chilling out on Copacabana Beach, there’s a slice of Rio to suit you!

14. Leshan Giant Buddha, China

Leshan-Giant-Buddha-China

Out of the wilderness in the Shizhong District of China stands a UNESCO marvel that has to be seen to be believed. Towering 71 meters tall, the Leshan Giant Buddha is carved out of red stone and has been watching over the Min and Dadu rivers since 803 A.D. It’s a mighty sight that seems like it’s out of an ancient legend!

15. Vatican City, Holy See

Vatican-City-Holy-See

If you love art, religion, and architecture, then the Vatican is going to be for you. Centered around the always bustling St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican is home to, of course, the Pope, and one of the biggest collections of artwork in the entire world. So, whether you’re a religious person or not, there’s still a lot to love about a visit to the Vatican!

16. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos-Islands-Ecuador

Let’s be honest, if you love animals, nature, and gorgeous island settings, the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador has to be on your travel bucket list. Made famous around the world thanks to the scientist, Charles Darwin. With some of the most biodiverse environments, unique species, and miles of beautiful protective marine spaces, it’s a nature lover’s paradise!

17. Rapa Nui National Park, Chile

Rapa-Nui-National-Park-Chile

Otherwise known as Easter Island, Rapa Nui National Park is instantly recognizable all around the world. That’s down to one iconic sight and that’s the 1000 Moai statues that scatter this beautiful and remote volcanic island. Stretching back all the way to the 13th century, it’s a super interesting place to visit if you’re interested in archeology and Polynesian culture!

18. Paris, France

Panoramic-View-Of-Paris-France

What can we say about Paris that hasn’t already been said? The City of Love is famous for sights like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the historic Marais District, the beautiful Seine River, and many more. Any visit to the French capital isn’t complete without a croissant and an alfresco glass of wine at a classic Parisian bistro!

19. Forbidden City, China

Forbidden-City-China

Located in the beautiful capital city of Beijing, you’ll find the historic and gorgeous Forbidden City Harking all the way back to the Ming Dynasty in the 13th century, this series of historic temples, palaces, and gardens have to be some of the most beautiful places in the whole of China. History buffs and architectural lovers are going to love the Forbidden City!

20. Old City, Jerusalem, Israel

Old-City-Jerusalem-Israel

With its roots all the way back in the 4th century, it’ll come as no surprise that the Old City of Jerusalem is a popular UNESCO World Heritage Site. With spiritual importance for a whole host of religions including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, there are so many incredible landmarks like the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

21. Valetta, Malta

A-Narrow-Street-Of-Valetta-Malta

If you want to check out one of the tiniest and most beautiful European capitals, head to the island of Malta and the city of Valetta. With a history that stems from the Knights of St. John in the 1500s, this walled city has historic architecture and culture around every corner, so it really feels like you’re walking in the footprints of crusade-era soldiers!

22. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Great-Barrier-Reef-Australia

While global warming might be taking its toll of the stunning Great Barrier Reef in Australia, it’s still a wonderful underwater ecosystem that’s full of world-class coral reefs, and aquatic life, and is one of the top spots in the world for scuba diving and marine biology boat trips. It’s definitely worth checking out the Great Barrier Reef while you still can as the rising temperatures is having a catastrophic effect on this amazing UNESCO site!

23. Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, Morocco

Ksar-Of-Ait-Ben-Haddou-Morocco

If you love ancient pre-Saharan architecture and civilizations, then a trip to Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou in Morocco is going to be right up your street. With earthen-clay buildings, fortifications, and filled with culture, this ancient city is the perfect day trip from Marrakesh. It’s actually amazing to think about the age of this city and how well-preserved it is in the middle of the desert!

24. Red Square, Russia

Red-Square-Russia

Located in the heart of the Russian capital, Red Square is home to the seat of power in Moscow, the Kremlin, and the insanely beautiful St. Basil’s Cathedral. Over the past few centuries, Red Square has been the site of protests, revolutions, parades, and famous, world-changing speeches. If you love political history, this is going to be a must-visit spot for you!

25. Lalibela, Ethiopia

Lalibela-Ethiopia

There are beautiful, ancient churches and then there are churches that are intricately carved out of 12th-century volcanic rock. That’s what awaits you in the magical town of Lalibela in Ethiopia. The town actually has eleven of these churches and it took around 23 years to finish – it’s mad! In fact, it’s considered the eighth wonder of the world by many!

26. Prague, Czechia

Charles-Bridge-Prague-Czech-Republic

If you’re looking for a picture-perfect European capital that feels like it’s right out of a fairytale, look no further than Prague in Czechia. From the beauty of the Charles Bridge to the amazing engineering feat of the Astronomical Clock to the historic Prague Castle, there are no shortage of beautiful places to visit in Prague.

27. Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Poi-Kalon-Mosque-Bukhara-Uzbekistan

Located on the historic and culturally vital Silk Road, the medieval city of Bukhara is a stunning place to visit, filled with blue-tiled mosques, bazaars, and more! This ancient Persian city was a hub of activity, culture, and trade during the 8th century and this place has really stood the test of time! It’s a stunning city filled with beautiful architecture and tiled designs, so bring your camera!

28. Olympic National Park, USA

Olympic-National-Park-Usa

Want to check out a national park that has mountains, glaciers, beaches, forests, and an impressive coastline? Well, head to Washington state in the US to the Olympic National Park. Whether you want to go climbing, hike, surf, or check out the local wildlife, the Olympic National Park is the perfect place for adventurous types!

29. Mount Fuji, Japan

Mount-Fuji-View-From-Fujiyoshida-Japan

There is something instantly recognizable about the majestic Mount Fuji. As Japan’s highest peak, it’s both a popular pilgrimage site and a hiking destination. Interestingly enough, it’s also an active volcano so it’s super interesting if you’re into geology or volcanology! It’s a iconic destination that’s a symbol of Japan for the ages!

30. Iguazu National Park, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay

Iguazu-National-Park-Brazil-Argentina-And-Paraguay

Why visit a national park in one country when you can visit one national park that straddles three different nations? Iguazu National Park is a beautiful natural space that’s centered around the mighty Iguazu waterfalls. While the majority of the national park sits in either Brazil or Argentina, there’s also part of the falls in Paraguay, so it’s the perfect UNESCO site if you want to visit a handful of countries in one go!

31. Lakes of Ounianga, Chad

Lakes-Of-Ounianga-Chad

When you think about the Sahara Desert, you don’t really think of lakes or water. However, if you visit the wonderful Saharan country of Chad, you can see some of the most amazing lakes in the region – the Lakes of Ounianga. Located at the base of the West Tibesti and Ennedi East Mountains, a trip to the Lakes of Ounianga feels like you’re stepping into another world with lakes, deserts, and mountains all within striking distance.

32. Delos, Greece

Delos-Greece

If you love Greek mythology, then you have to book a trip to the island of Delos in Greece. Located near the bustling island of Mykonos, Delos is a famous and popular site for one key reason – it’s thought to be the birthplace of the god Apollo! With amazingly well-maintained temples, pillars, and ancient historic sites, it’s a mythology nerd’s playground!

33. Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Þingvellir-National-Park-Iceland

The iconic Land of Fire and Ice has a ton of popular natural wonders, but the Þingvellir National Park has to be high on the list! As one of the stops on the famous Golden Circle route, this national park has historic stone churches, but it’s most known for a valley that spans two tectonic plates! You can have one step in Europe and one step in North America – it’s pretty amazing!

34. Lake Malawi National Park, Malawi

Lake-Malawi-National-Park-Malawi

As the world’s first freshwater national park, it’ll come as no surprise that the Lake Malawi National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known for its diverse array of fish and amazing scuba and snorkeling scene, this is a super cool national park that celebrates one of the deepest lakes in the entire world!

35. Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Chitwan-National-Park-Nepal

When most people think of Nepal, they think of snowy mountainous peaks, but it’s also home to an amazing rainforest national park that’s full of amazing wildlife. Chitwan National Park features tigers, rhinos, alligators, birds, fish, monkeys, and way more! Jump on a river safari and cruise your way through this amazing national park.

36. Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Tongariro-National-Park-New-Zealand

One of the interesting things about the stunning Tongariro National Park on the North Island of New Zealand is that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site for two separate reasons. One as a conservation space and natural wonder and one as a place of importance for the Maori people. It’s a gorgeous place to visit and so many people hike the wonderful Tongariro Crossing each year!

37. Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes, South Korea

Jeju-Volcanic-Island-&Amp;-Lava-Tubes-South-Korea

Many people visit Jeju Island for the stunning beaches, crystal clear waters, and wonderful snorkeling scene, however, there’s an awesome series of lava tubes and volcanic features that make the underground of the island as interesting and beautiful as the surface! Don’t worry though – it’s a dormant volcano so it’s perfectly safe!

38. Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua-Guatemala

Do you love bright and historic colonial architecture that’s overlooked by a simultaneously beautiful and imposing active volcano? Well then, you need to book a trip to the beautiful city of Antigua in Guatemala. Recognizable for the colorful Spanish colonial buildings and walkable streets, it’s a beautiful and historic place to visit on your Central American travels!

About The Author

Rebecca Crowe

Rebecca Crowe is a freelance content writer who specializes in writing about travel, food, drink, and adventure. She specializes in budget and adventure travel content and can usually be found climbing some rocks, eating some tacos, or waiting around at the nearest airport. Her best budget travel achievement was spending a weekend in Paris with Roland Garros tickets for under £150, although she's always on the lookout for even better adventure and travel deals! If you want to keep up with her next adventure, check out her website at Wandering and Wine.

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Rebecca Crowe

Rebecca Crowe

Rebecca Crowe is a freelance content writer who specializes in writing about travel, food, drink, and adventure. She specializes in budget and adventure travel content and can usually be found climbing some rocks, eating some tacos, or waiting around at the nearest airport.

Her best budget travel achievement was spending a weekend in Paris with Roland Garros tickets for under £150, although she's always on the lookout for even better adventure and travel deals!

If you want to keep up with her next adventure, check out her website at Wandering and Wine.

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