There are more than 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage sites spread across the globe, encompassing locations as diverse as Ethiopia and Iceland. Competition among nations to have their historic ruins and pristine wildernesses appear on the list is fierce as an appearance brings with it prestige, tourist numbers, and protection.
World Heritage status is also a guarantee of commitment for both the host country as well as the other nations that have signed the treaty to save the location in the face of a natural disaster, conflict or environmental degeneration. At present, there are 1,073 properties on the list along with 193 nations that have signed the treaty.
Arising from a forest to a height of almost 8,000 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu is the Inca Empire's masterwork. Built in a verdant mountain setting above the Urubamba river, the ruins have been restored to the appearance they must have had when occupied during the 16th century.
The more fit among tourists can choose to reach the ruins by taking a guided tour to reach the site, while a more accessible option would be to take a bus from the town Aguas Calientes, located at the bottom of the hill.
The mineral-rich waters from Cürüksu are responsible for creating the terraced basins, solidified waterfalls, and mineral landscapes of the spectacle that is Pamukkale. Affectionately known as the "Cotton Castle'', the solidified white calcium deposits along with the structures of the Greco-Roman ruins of the city of Hierapolis, make it the country's most popular tourist destination.
Rio de Janeiro is located in the south-eastern part of South America's tropical zone and is commonly thought to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In the eyes of much of the world, Rio is the embodiment of Brazil itself; however, its location, architecture, atmosphere, and inhabitants are unique to this particular location and cannot be found in any of Brazil's other towns and cities.
The Great Barrier Reef is the most extensive coral reef system in the world and stretches 1,430 miles. It comprises 2,900 individual reefs, covers 133,000 square miles, and is home to 1,500 species of fish. It is also home to 400 kinds of coral, more than 900 islands and can be seen from space.
Construction of the Great Wall of China began in the third century BCE and was completed almost 19 centuries later, in the 17th century. Its length has been estimated at between 2,400 and 8,000 miles, but more recent archaeological surveys have revealed that the wall may be as long as 13,000 miles. More than ten million people make their way to this series of ancient walls and fortresses in northern China every year.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park occupies 190 square miles of Croatia's wooded lands and includes 16 aquamarine lakes that are spread across a 5-mile area and are connected by several waterfalls. The lakes are renowned for their ability to change color due to fluctuations in the sun's angle as well as the minerals and aquatic organisms in the water and draw more than a million visitors annually.
Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the most frequented locations in France, playing host to more than 2.5 million visitors each year. Originally founded by an Irish hermit and built on an island one kilometer off the coast of north-western France, it was only accessible at low tide up until 1879, when a bridge was built connecting it to the mainland. The island is home to 44 residents as well as monks and nuns that call the Mont Saint Michel Abbey home.
Stonehenge is estimated to have been constructed between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. It is the oldest remaining structure named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It consists of a series of upright stones placed in earthworks and encircled by hundreds of burial mounds. Its method of construction is still a matter of speculation, and how the 25-ton stones could have been transported to the site range from the work of gods to sleighs greased with animal fat.
Cinque Terre is a series of five fishing villages on the Italian Riviera that were previously connected only by gravel tracks and the sea. To this day, cars are prohibited in the area, preserving the character and way of life of these ancient villages. Cinque Terre is noted as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Over the centuries, its inhabitants have built terraces for growing grapes and olives on the rugged slopes that overlook the Mediterranean Sea, making for a magnificent vista of harbors, medieval fortresses, vines, and pastel colors.
The 446 kilometer long, 29 kilometer wide and 1.6 kilometer deep Grand Canyon features a wide variety of geologic colors as well as erosion patterns due to the erosive action of the Colorado River. It is one of the most impressive spectacles on earth and is consequently visited by more than 6 million people per year. Within its expanse, the Grand Canyon National Park protects over 270 miles of the Colorado River, as well as thousands of archeological sites and four different kinds of American desert.