UNESCO World Heritage Sites are declared for their outstanding universal value to humanity and also celebrate landmarks of cultural or historical significance. With a total of 1,121 UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the globe ranging from cultural, natural and mixed categories, the opportunities to visit and support are endless. Below are some unique UNESCO World Heritage Sites that tell a story and are worth visiting one day.
Tanzania — Serengeti National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage since 1979, Serengeti National Park has attracted generations of travelers hoping for a glimpse of the diverse range of globally endangered species found in the reserve, including the black rhinoceros, elephant, wild dog, and cheetah. A pillar of the Serengeti ecosystem, every year hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra undertake an annual migration across nearly 5,000 miles of the greater Serengeti ecosystem towards the 350,000 acre Grumeti Reserve, following the rain in search of better grazing lands crossing the Grumeti and Mara Rivers.
Located on the annual wildebeest migration route, Singita Serengeti House offers guests a modern safari experience with private access to untouched wilderness in the western corridor of the Grumeti Reserve. Up to eight guests can feel at home at Serengeti House, an exclusive-use retreat perfect for families, with four suites connected through a central pool deck. With plenty of room to relax and both indoor and outdoor dining spaces, day beds, a private tennis court and a dedicated house team, guests can create memories that will last a lifetime. During a stay at Serengeti House, guests will delight in the wide range of activities available including private game drives and walking safaris that provide a front row seat to migration, hot air balloon rides, star gazing, and mountain biking on Sasakwa Hill.
Ecuador — City of Quito
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 and was the very first UNESCO World Heritage City. The city is a remarkable example of the Baroque School of Quito, bringing together indigenous and European artistic traditions, and is known for providing the greatest contribution of Spanish America to universal art. The height of this art is represented by various spiritual citadels throughout the area that are are recognized not only for their architecture, but also for their decorative elements such as altarpieces, paintings and sculptures.
Travelers interested in exploring Ecuador's historic capital can do so with Quasar Expeditions. A leader in experiential travel throughout South America for over 30 years, Quasar offers unforgettable accommodations and experiences throughout Quito and other UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the Galapagos Islands. Quasar guests can combine a stay in the country's capital with a Galapagos cruise to enjoy both the history of the city and natural wonders that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
Spain — La Sagrada Familia
With rich culture and craftsmanship, Barcelona is a city full of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but the most notable and celebrated is the emblematic architectural icon, La Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada Família is renowned architect Antoni Gaudí's best-known work and has become an undisputed symbol of Barcelona. This unique modern temple has been under construction since 1882, and is expected to be completed by 2026. During his lifetime, Gaudí completed the crypt and the Nativity façade at the side, which have been declared a World Heritage Site. The surviving models and drawings have made it possible to continue with the building work, which continues to be funded by private donations. Every part of the design of the temple including the monumental facades, steeples, towers, doors and spire are replete with Roman Catholic symbolism. All in all, the completed Sagrada Família will be symbolic of the lifetime of Christ.
For a hotel with a view of Sagrada Familia, Hotel Arts Barcelona is the quite literally the top hotel in the city. Hotel Arts Barcelona is one of the first landmarks to spot in Barcelona as it is one of the two tallest buildings (tied with Torre Mapfre) in the city. At 505 feet, the 44 stories of glass and steel rise high above the landscape and overlook both the city and Mediterranean Sea from different vantage points around the hotel. Along with the view of La Sagrada Familia comes a view of the L’Eixample district of the city. With its narrow, bustling streets, L’Eixmaple looks like an intricate grid-like map when viewed from a high altitude, enhancing the beauty of La Sagrada Familia. The best places to view La Sagarada Familia are on the top floors of the hotel, where the exclusive Penthouses collection is located. The Presidential Penthouse in particular is comprised of two bedrooms, one of which has an excellent view of La Sagrada Familia. The penthouse also has an outdoor terrace that displays the magnificent cathedral in the distance. In addition to incredible views, the luxury 5-star hotel also boasts 455 rooms, the luxurious 43 the Spa, a number of onsite dining restaurants.
The Seychelles — Vallée de Mai
An UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, remains largely unchanged since prehistoric times. Located on the granitic island of Praslin, the Vallée de Mai reserve is home to the world’s largest population of the Coco de Mer, the largest seed plant in the plant kingdom and an endemic species to the Seychelles once believed to grow in the depths of the sea. The island is accessible via bus from Praslin, the second most populous island in the Seychelles.
The Coco de Mer frequently wash up on the beautiful beaches of the Seychelles, including at Fregate Island — the noted nature conservation hide-away nearby. Avid naturalists will delight in the 3,500 giant Aldabra tortoises that roam the island and in the endemic population of the Seychelles Magpie Robin, found only on Fregate Island.
France — Ancient Architecture in Provence
While Provence, France is widely known for its fairytale kingdom-like land consisting of colorful fields of lavender, rolling vineyards, fertile plains and mountains, there are also many UNESCO World Heritage sites of historic stone architecture dating back to centuries ago. The dramatic architecture of Provence features a rich collection of monuments from the Roman era, Cistercian monasteries from the Romanesque period, medieval castles and fortifications, as well as numerous hilltop villages and fine churches. These structures have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage sites, making Provence one of the richest regions in France. UNESCO Wold Heritage sites in Provence include Pont du Gard, which was built shortly before the Christian era to allow the aqueduct of Nîmes to cross the Gard river; the Roman Theatre and is Surroundings and the “Triumphal Arch” of Orange, one of the best preserved of all great Roman theaters; the Historic Center of Avignon, which was the seat of papacy in the 14th centrally and comprised of an ensemble of the Palais des Papes, a cathedral and the Pont d’Avignon; and the Aries, Roman and Romanesque Monuments, an excellent example of the adaptation of an ancient city to medieval European civilization dating back to the 1st century B.C. All of these UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be combined to create a day experience circuit to learn about the historic roots of Provence, making an for excellent alternative destination to Rome,, and without the crowds.
Hotel Crillon le Brave, a Maisons Pariente property, is the ultimate hideaway for travelers looking for a provincial French experience. The hotel is named after the village and also fully fledged part of it, with the property consisting of various private houses, acquired over time since 1989. In fact, the hotel and village is named after local hero and legendary duke, Louis des Balbes de Berton de Crillon or “the Brave Crillon,” a French solider that was King Henry IV’s fiercest and most valiant generals during the French Wars of Religion in the late 16th century. Against a backdrop of hypnotically beautiful landscapes sits a wonderful labyrinth of 17th and 18th century buildings, where Crillon le Brave literally merges with the landscape. The hotel consists of around ten ancient Génoise-tiled houses, and in the middle stands an age-old olive tree that proudly stands guard of the property. More than just a picturesque hotel, Crillon le Brave offers guests 16 guest rooms/18 guest suites, a rustic spa, two gourmet restaurants, climbing plant gardens, an outdoor heated swimming pool, a terraced pétanque court, and a friendly concierge to arrange experiences to explore the dramatic region.
South Africa — Cradle of Humankind
Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa, also known as the Cradle of Humankind in Maropeng, South Africa is one of the most important geological wonders in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site made up of 15 sites that are steeped in riveting history of our earliest ancestors, the hominoids. Located about 30 miles northwest from Johannesburg, the Cradle of Humankind holds fascinating stories dating back to 2 million years ago about how our species came to be. Legend has it that here, evidenced by fossils of human’s distant mammal-like ancestors, Africa was the birthplace of humankind. Thus, all of humanity shares an African Heritage and are just one diverse species spread across the globe, with our roots in Africa.
The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa, a secluded retreat in Johannesburg’s affluent suburb of Sandhurst is just a 45 minute drive from The Cradle of Humankind helps with arranging visits for guests to the UNESCO World Heritage site. Located in the tranquil, tree-lined suburb of Sandhurst, within minutes of Johannesburg's world-class shopping and business hub, the Saxon Hotel is a private, all-luxury, 53-suite hotel with nature-infused spa, gourmet restaurants, and impressive art collection.
South Africa — ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape
Located in South Africa, the ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape is located at the border with Botswana and Namibia in the northern part of the country. The property comprises a vast area that coincides with the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (KGNP). The large expanse of sand dunes forms a landscape which contains tangible evidence of human occupation from the Stone Age to the present and is associated with the culture of the ǂKhomani and related San people. The landscape includes landmarks of the history, migration, livelihoods, memory and resources of the ǂKhomani and related San people and other communities, past and present, and attests to their adaptive responses and interaction to survive in a desert environment.
The ǂKhomani are actively reclaiming their knowledge, practices and traditions, bringing back to life a rich associative landscape, thanks also to the survival of the last speakers of the !Ui-Taa languages in the ǂKhomani community. The ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape reflects the ethos of the ǂKhomani and related San people of living softly on the land and seeing themselves as part of nature, in a landscape where there is a respectful relationship between humans, plants and animals, links them to this land in a unique way that epitomizes sustainability.
A few hours drive away from the the ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape is Tswalu Kalahari, the largest privately-owned game reserve in South Africa. Set in the green Kalahari, Tswalu’s low-impact, high-value approach to ecotourism ensures that revenue flows directly back into conservation work. With only two camps, The Motse and Tarkuni, Tswalu accommodates just 30 people and has the lowest guest footprint in South Africa. The property is unique in that it has a foundation dedicated to research, which informs every conservation decision taken, and is a vital part of what Tswalu is all about. Guests are encouraged to interact with scientists and doctoral students in the field, should they have a keen interest in a specific subject. Those who choose Tswalu contribute to the sustainability of our commitment to preserving the southern Kalahari’s biodiversity for future generations.
South Africa — Cape Floral Region Protected Areas
The Cape Floral Region, one of the smallest yet richest of the world’s six Floral Kingdoms, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its ‘Fynbos’ which has infused itself into the Cape’s art, history and cuisine. A unique private tour allows guests of Ellerman House to experience the botanical beauty surrounding the Cape Town hotel as its located in an area formerly known as ‘Botany Bay’. It also includes a visit of world-renowned Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens devoted to indigenous South African flora, the Norval Foundation’s fynbos garden and a conversation with Nic Bladen, celebrated contemporary botanical artist. More information about the experience can be found here.
England — City of Bath
The City of Bath, just a two hour drive or 90 minute train ride from London, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Bath has a varied history - founded by the Romans as a spa, an important center of the wool industry in the medieval period, and a spa town in the 18th century - and is preserved for its Roman remains and Palladian architecture. Travelers to the area seeking an enriching experience can walk the streets and visit the area’s treasured spots, such as the Ancient Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey and the Holburne Museum of Art. Additionally, explorers can embark on the six-mile Bath Skyline circular walk, taking them through forests and over rolling hills with spectacular views.
Bath is also home to The Gainsborough Bath Spa, a five-star luxury spa hotel located in the center of town and the ultimate destination for travelers seeking a relaxing escape. The Gainsborough is the only hotel that has tapped into the natural thermal waters of the area, providing guests with incredible spa treatments and pools to bathe in the healing waters.
Switzerland — Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes
The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes brings together two historic railway lines that cross the Swiss Alps through the two passes. When they first opened, the railways provided a fast and easy route into many formerly isolated settlements and building the railroads required overcoming a number of technical challenges with bridges and tunnels. The railway became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Today, all train riders heading to St. Moritz pass through the spectacular area, enjoying the twists, turns and majestic views of the mountains along the way.
For travelers heading to St. Moritz, the all-suite Carlton Hotel St. Moritz is a must-stay. A classic example of the destination’s renowned elegance and exclusivity, the property boasts breathtaking views of the frozen Lake St. Moritz and the Engadine mountains beyond it, 60 suites, a Penthouse Suite, two restaurants, including the two Michelin-starred Da Vittorio, and a spa and wellness center.