With World Heritage Day almost upon us (18th April 2017), it’s time to celebrate some of the places that have been selected by the UN as humanity’s most significant and enigmatic locations. These cover the most beautiful patches on earth, from historical icons like the Acropolis of Athens through to natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef. And their chief secret seems to be their sheer individuality – that kernel of personality nowhere else can mimic. Without further ado, let’s try to fulfil the UN’s original brief and raise the public’s awareness about our cultural heritage.
Visit these mystical stone monoliths that stand alone on an empty tract of Salisbury Plain, forever invoking an ancient Britain. Dating back nearly five millennia, nobody really knows what the original intention of the structure was meant to be, though lots of theories have been proposed. Try and work it out for yourself, and touch the formidable 40-ton rocks on a trip to Stonehenge.
The ancient allure of Machu Picchu is famous the world over, not least due to the thousands of llama selfies have been taken at the top of the Inca citadel! Yet its draw is clear: wedged between two forest peaks, this ancient city is as mysterious as it gets. Today, people are still guessing as to its civic or cosmic importance. What’s not up for debate, however, is its air of grandeur, which once lay forgotten for centuries.
One of the most compelling archaeological sites in the world, Pompeii’s ancient villas, graffiti and domestic arrangements are forever frozen in time thanks to the tragic eruption of Mt Vesuvius in AD 79. Only rediscovered in 1600, and excavated in 1748, the shapes of the lava flow (often covering people, dogs and homeware) have lost none of their power to shock and surprise centuries later.
A watery paradise where giant forests guard 16 crystal-clear lakes, the sound of Plitvice’s plunging waterfalls is sublimely calming. Strung out over five miles and crossed by various pathways and bridges, diverse wildlife (from butterflies to deer) can be found frolicking around its cataracts and shores. Always a bewitching shade of turquoise, few can travel through this liquid world without feeling at least slightly enchanted.
A source of pride to Cambodians and admiration to visitors, Angkor looks like it’s been ripped out of an Indiana Jones movie. Built to mirror Mt Meru, the Mt Olympus of the Hindu faith, the temples still speak of the Khmer Empire’s power and creativity. Even the jungle that often grows up and smothers the ornate stonework of towers and gateways seems to conspire to make the scene even more beautiful.
The Cinque Terre (Five Lands) are named after the five villages that spread themselves out on the broken-backed coastline of Italy’s North-Western coastline. Known for its little coves, enormous cliffs and picturesque churches, few people can simply pass through the area. Instead, many prefer to catch a boat and go exploring, or relax in a shaded restaurant, watching the locals do their afternoon passeggiata.