UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) is a division of the United Nations which, among other things, selects and designates properties around the world as World Heritage Sites. Nominations are made from the countries and are then considered based on the property’s historical, cultural, or natural value. With the UNESCO label comes responsibility to preserve the property and sometimes monetary incentives.
As of 2011 there are 936 properties around the world. Some of the places are rather obscure but many are major tourist destinations or attractions. To date, I have visited only about 10% of the World Heritage Sites (and I consider myself well-traveled).
In this series of posts, I will present my favorites, broken down into managable groups of ten. These groups are further subdivided into an A and a B section, each of which contains five (5) World Heritage Sites. Group 1 represents my all-time favorites, Group 2 the next-favorite, etc. Within each group the sites are presented randomly and are not ranked — it’s so hard to pick between excellent things. I will post daily in a countdown fashion so that I will begin with my least favorite places, and so on down to Group 1. Obviously you may disagree with the list but if you haven’t put some of these places on your Bucket List, you should. Many of these sites are on the majority of travelers’ “important places to visit” list.
Palace & Gardens of Schonbrunn, Vienna, Austria — This palatial chateau rivals Versailles in size and splendor. The gardens are also spectacular, overlooked by a regal gloriette.
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Alberta, Canada — The portion of this first-of-its-kind collaboration between two countries that is located in Canada is known as Waterton Lakes National Park.
Old Town of Avila with its Extra-Mures Churches, Spain* — According to many, Avila has the best-preserved medieval walls in all of Europe. They enclose a charming town which features St Teresa, its native daughter.
La Fortaleza and San Juan Historic Site in Puerto Rico, USA* — Old San Juan is a very walkable and interesting city. El Morro is a major fortification. The narrow, cobblestone streets with pastel-colored houses are a delight to explore.
Olympic National Park, Washington, USA — This diverse national park offers a variety of ecosystems and activities for the visitor. There are mountains, beaches, and one of the world’s most unusual habitats, the Middle Latitude Rain Forest, as exemplified by the Hoh Rain Forest.
* These properties are included in Gary’s Walking Tours, which can be purchased on the website by clicking on “Walking Tour Store.”