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.
Historic Center of San Gimignano, Italy — This beautiful little “hill town” in Tuscany, between Florence and Siena is a perfect place to spend a morning or afternoon. Stroll the cobbled streets, climb the towers, and taste the Vernaccia wine.
Monastery and Site of the Escurial, Madrid, Spain — El Escorial is a former residence of monarchs, a monastery and now a museum just northwest of Madrid.
Old City of Salamanca, Spain — This lively college town is a pleasant day trip from Madrid. Life here revolves around the Plaza Mayor.
Everglades National Park, Florida, USA — This “river of grass” is a complex ecosystem which serves as a breeding ground for many important species. It occupies the southernmost area of Florida’s mainland.
Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA — The home of beloved President Thomas Jefferson and his crowning achievement, the University of Virginia, are a tribute to this “Renaissance Man” who wrote the Declaration of Independence and then went on to become the young nation’s third president.