Why planning your next trip around a UNESCO World Heritage site is a good idea

2019-06-19 12:00
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Deciding where to travel on your next adventure, according to UNESCO’s World Heritage status sites can certainly  make your choice a little easier. They pinpoint amazing landmarks of cultural or natural significance all over the world. Each year new sites are added to the iconic list, and 2019’s nominations are due to be confirmed before July.

Be the early bird and book your tickets to visit these UNESCO World Heritage sites (existing and pending) before the rest of the world descends.

Discover how lekker is local in South Africa

As of 2018, there are nine World Heritage sites in South Africa: The Cradle of Humankind, the Mapungubwe Kingdom, the Richtersveld desert, Robben Island, Cape Floral region, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Vredefort Crater, Drakensberg and the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains in Mpumalanga. Make 2019 the year to uncover just how lekker local travel is by staying within our borders.

With so many natural wonders and cultural treasures waiting, all we can suggest is that you choose one that makes your heart skip a beat, book your ticket and get travelling.  

READ: Living Heritage: Inside SA's 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites 

Botanical Gardens & National Orchid Garden, Singapore

Founded in 1859 by a horticultural society as a leisure garden, the Botanic Gardens became become Singapore's first UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the only tropical botanical gardens on the list to date. It also happens to be the World's Largest orchid display featuring over 1000 species and 2000 hybrids. There is also a special hybrid orchid honouring the late Nelson Mandela, as well as a giant Cola tree planted in honour of his visit to the gardens in 2013. 

If you visit it, will mean travelling through the city country's magnificent Changi Airport - with the newly opened Jewel complex. Singapore certainly not short on interesting cultural experiences for you to try during you trip. 

WATCH: A firsthand look inside Changi's Jewel, making Singapore the ultimate layover destination

 Iceland, Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull National Park is on the UNESCO shortlist for its “interplay of ice and fire [that] has created in one place a huge range of volcanic, geothermal and geomorphological features, unparalleled in any other place in the world".

It is the largest national park in Europe and covers 13% of Iceland’s land mass. Key sights include Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap by volume in Europe, glacial rivers and waterfalls (the Dettifoss waterfall is a must-see), lava fields, volcanoes and mountains and, in the Eyjabakkar wetland area in the east, travellers can spot pink-footed geese and reindeer.

READ: Quick Guide Iceland: Land of vikings, active volcanoes and geothermal pools

Discover hidden treasures in Italy

Italy is the country with the most UNESCO World Heritage sites. There are 54 sites which include familiar favourites such as Venice and its lagoon, as well as the entire historic city centres of Verona, Florence, Naples, Rome and Siena, amongst others.

Head off the beaten tourist trail to discover lesser-known UNESCO treasures, such as the Royal Palace of Caserta in southern Italy and Padua's Botanical Garden. The 18th-century Royal Palace is a former royal residence and one of the largest palaces in Europe. The rooms, buildings and gardens are spectacular. If you see only one palace in Europe, let this be it.

Padua’s Botanical Garden is located in the university town of Padua, in northeastern Italy, and is the oldest academic botanical garden in the world. It was designed in 1545 and has retained its original layout. Wandering through the leafy green foliage in the Italian sunshine is a relaxing, and unique, way to while away a few hours admiring a corner of Italy that many visitors miss.

READ: Quick Guide: The Mamma Mia of your Italy trip planning sorted!

Göbekli Tepe, Turkey

Are you an ancient history lover? Step back thousands of years at Göbekli Tepe, the oldest temple in the world. It is believed to have been built in 9 000 BC, making it older than Stonehenge by about 6 000 years. 

It is a new wonder of the ancient world and was added to UNESCO’s list just last year. Its massive carved stones are engraved with detailed pictures of birds and animals.

READ: Quick guide to Turkey: Easy eVisa travel for South Africans

Mont Saint-Michel, France

There is no doubt you would have spotted photos of Mont Saint-Michel on Instagram or Pinterest. The citadel towers precariously on a rocky outcrop and appears to float in the Couesnon River. It houses less than 100 people but welcomes approximately 2.5-million visitors each year.

Time your visit carefully. (High tide is the best time to capture surreal photos of the citadel ‘floating' on the water). Be respectful of locals and prepared to rub shoulders with lots of other travellers.

READ: Quick Guide to France: Say Bonjour to your next escape

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Cambodia is becoming increasingly popular with South Africans as a ‘new’ trendy Southeast Asian country to visit, according to local Flight Centre Group travel booking data. 

The country attracts a diverse range of travellers from backpackers to adventure travellers, but the most famous attraction is undoubtedly UNESCO World Heritage-listed Angkor Wat. It is pre-requisite to arrive before sunrise for the ultimate Instagram shot or as early in the morning as possible for the least amount of people - and before the sun is at its hottest.  

Channel your inner Lara Croft by exploring the temple, ruins and grounds. It is believed to be the largest religious structure in the world, so don’t underestimate the size of the complex and how much time you need to see it.

Hire a tuk-tuk or join a tour, as the weather will be scorching hot and humid and there is a lot of walking and scrambling over ruins. 

READ: Quick guide to Cambodia: Easy eVisa travel for South Africans

St Petersburg, Russia

St Petersburg is as beautiful in the summer, or any season as a matter of fact, as it is in winter. Sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North for its more than 400 bridges and numerous canals, on land the Baroque and neoclassical architecture is just as magnificent.

UNESCO describes the city centre as “characterized by a perfect harmony of architecture and waterscapes.” Prepare to be wowed.

READ: Quick Guide: Plan your trip to Mother Russia

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