Still considered man’s greatest engineering achievement, the Great Wall is also the world’s No. 1 tourist attraction – 4 million people visit the Great Wall, which stretches 8,851 kilometers (5,500 miles) from Hushan in Liaoning province to the Jiayuguan Pass in Gansu, each year. To stand on the Great Wall, which is made with 3.9 million bricks and weighs the equivalent of 8 million elephants, is one of the greatest thrills you’ll ever experience, no matter where else you travel.
They rise out of the desert just outside Cairo like sand castles on a beach and remain one of the greatest architectural achievements ever. Millions of people from around the world flock to Giza, where the pharaohs built their massive tombs, and crawl through narrow openings to stand in chambers once occupied by the ancient rulers of Egypt. Guarded by the Great Sphinx and protected by the United Nations, the pyramids will be forever a reminder of ancient Egypt.
There are thousands of UNESCO World Heritage Sites but few can compare with the temples of Angkor, the largest religious monument in the world. Built for the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor was lost for centuries in the tropical forest that grew up around it before being found by French explorers. Since then, the world has beaten a path to its entrance and what people find when they get here is simply remarkable.
To sail on the gentle, calm waters of Halong Bay is like slipping into a world of tranquility. The treasured bay, which sits in the South China Sea’s Gulf of Tonkin looks like nothing else on Earth – a place where thousands of islands and islets in the shape of limestone pillars jut out of the waters and mesmerize all those who visit. Some of the islands are accessible and the stalagmite caves found on them offer colorful eye candy. Stay the night on board well-appointed traditional junks or opt to take a day cruise.
At first glance, Petra looks like a giant movie set – a city of red brick façades. But what’s amazing is that these façades were built by an ancient culture and have withstood the test of time. Also known as the Rose-Red City, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is best seen at sunset when the red rock façades blush like a shy boy’s face. Established around 312BC by the Nabataeans, Petra is the symbol of Jordan and the country’s most visited tourist attraction. The Treasury is its most impressive building.
Often called the Love Palace, the Taj Mahal is only truly appreciated when you touch its marble skin that feels like the facing on a wedding cake. Built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is now a white marble mausoleum where the loving couple rest in eternity. Best seen at sunrise or sunset, the Taj Mahal is a gift to the world.
It’s unusual for a whole town to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site but Luang Prabang is no ordinary town. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved Buddhist temples make it one of the most treasured towns in Asia. In the mornings, locals and tourists awake early to take part in the tak bat alms ceremony that has become the premier must-see in Luang Prabang. Hundreds of brightly saffron robed monks stream from the numerous temples at dawn to collect alms - typically rice and fruit. What a remarkable site!
The Greco-Roman world comes alive in remarkable Ephesus, whose secrets continue to be uncovered after 150 years of excavation. While Turkey has many UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Istanbul and Cappadocia’s wonders among them – none evoke the emotion of Ephesus, once a thriving city of 250,000 whose ruins now stand as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Skeletons of great temples and theatres litter the Ephesus site and give visitors a wonderful insight into ancient Turkey, it’s customs and traditions.
This remarkable place that time seems to have forgotten qualifies as Japan’s Holy City – where the traditions, history and customs of this fascinating culture are held in high esteem. From the great temples to its traditional geisha culture, Kyoto is a living museum where all that Japan is famous for is on display. Kyoto’s most famous temple, the Golden Pavilion, is a national treasure and one of Kyoto’s, if not Japan’s, most remarkably graceful temples. Stay in traditional inns (Ryokans) for an authentically Japanese experience, and stroll back in time in the historic Gion district, you may just spot a geisha or two.
The Ngorongoro Crater is arguably the most impressive geological feature in Africa. Created by the implosion of a massive volcano, this vast flat-bottomed 20km diameter caldera contains a world of safari in miniature, with sightings of many of the major game species virtually guaranteed, including lion, elephant, hippo and rhino, plus excellent birding around the freshwater lakes and flamingos on the Central Soda Lake. This UNESCO World Heritage Site allows you to see almost all Africa has to offer in one place.