This past weekend, I went to the Wadi Rum Protected Area in Jordan, making it my 50th visited UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Traveling to UNESCO sites has taken me to some amazing places. I’ve been entrusted with the keys to a thirteenth-century chapel, almost kicked a moray eel in the Caribbean, and re-visited American history that had been practically sitting in my backyard for a decade.
There are currently 1052 UNESCO sites though, so I have a lot left to visit. The committee also adds about twenty a year. At that rate, I think it’s unlikely I’ll ever see every one, but it’s a good list to work on.
All of this got me thinking, if I could only go to 50 more of them, which ones would I choose?
My UNESCO World Heritage Sites Bucket List:
50. The Great Wall in China: I’ve heard reviews that actually visiting the wall is a bit hokey and crowded, depending on where you see it. And I gotta admit, I’m not super into giant walls right now. But how can you love Mulan as much as I do and not see it at some point, right? More: The Great Wall of China: Travel Tips, Best Sections and Times to Visit
49. Auschwitz Birkenau in Poland: I recently heard a talk from Jaclyn Mishal, the founder of Pink Pangea, about her trip to Auschwitz, where her grandparents were imprisoned during the Holocaust. Auschwitz is one of those places that I know won’t be fun. It will be emotional and exhausting and awful. But it’s one of those places I have to see for myself. (Visited September 2017!)
48. Palace and Park of Versailles in France: You know how sometimes you’ve seen so many pictures and movies of a place that you feel like you’ve already been there? Versailles definitely has this feel, but I’ve only been in Paris on a long layover at Charles de Gaulle airport and didn’t make it into the city. I imagine that, like Schoenbrunn, it has to be seen to be believed. More: Pictures of Royal Palace of Versailles to Inspire Your Visit (Visited September 2017!)
46. Galapagos Islands in Ecuador: I’ve been to Ecuador, but I didn’t have time to go to the Galapagos. I have regretted this for the past three years. I know eventually I’ll make it out there, but it seems like it’s going to be a long time. More: The Galapagos Islands: Tour or Budget DIY & How to Visit The Galapagos Islands Without a Cruise: A Complete Guide
45. West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord in Norway: I saw some small fjords in Roskilde, Denmark, but I would love to see some mega-fjords, and these are some of the longest and deepest fjords in the world. More: Norway – is this the most beautiful country on earth? Part 2/3:Gudvangen to Flåm
44. Taj Mahal in India: I know there are other places I want to see in India more, but I would be remiss if I never made it to the Taj Mahal. It’s iconic in a way similar to the Statue of Liberty and the Acropolis. More: Visiting the Taj Mahal… and There Are More Things to do in Agra?? & Taj Mahal Photography Tips and Travel Guide
43. Surtsey in Iceland: a baby island growing off the southern coast of Iceland, its special because humans haven’t interfered with its terrain at all. Meaning, I have no idea if it’s even possible to visit. Which makes me want to visit it even more. #neverendingcycle
42. Leon Cathedral in Nicaragua: I haven’t spent nearly enough time in Central America (only a week in Belize), so I know I’ll be back. The architecture of this cathedral reminds me of the beauty of historic Quito.
41. Decorated Farmhouses in Hälsingland in Sweden: I love painted Scandinavian houses and churches! I saw some great ones in Iceland, and these seven farmhouses look amazing! Although I have no idea how easy or hard it would be to get to northeastern Sweden.
40. Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy in Indonesia: Yes, I saw the movie Eat Pray Love (although I never read the book). Yes, it made me want to go to Bali. Yes, this need is that shallow.
39. Natural and Cultural Heritage fo the Ohrid Region in Macedonia: This area dates back to the 6th-century. I cancelled my trip to Macedonia last month when I realized I wouldn’t have enough days to see Skopje and this area. Since Macedonia is just one country over from my base in Sofia, I know I’ll get there soon. (Visited June 2017!)
38. Medina of Marrakesh in Morocco: I thought I was going to make it to Morocco this year, but things changed. Regardless, I’m determined to explore this 11th-century Moroccan city at some point and see the amazing architecture and mix of cultures. More: Welcome To Marrakech
37. Historic Centre of Prague in the Czech Republic: (I know they want to be called Czechia now, but is that a thing? Are we doing that?) After my time in Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna, I’m excited to see how Prague stacks up on my eastern/central European capitals extravaganza. More: 6 “Can’t Miss” Things to Czech Out in Prague
36. Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae in Egypt: My parents got us a computer when I was in the eighth grade (’97-98). We didn’t have the internet, but we had MS Paint and this really weird game about ancient Egypt where you build Abu Simbel. So while I have been obsessed with ancient Egypt as long as I can remember, Abu Simbel holds a special place in my heart above and beyond the other monuments. More: How to Get to Kalabsha: The Least Visited Great Temple in Egypt
35. Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) in Spain: Whether or not I ever walk the Comino de Santiago, I plan on watching the movie The Way a billion more times in this lifetime. And even if I don’t make the trek, I would like to see this city, which UNESCO describes as “one of the world’s most beautiful urban areas.”
34. Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro in Pakistan: You’re probably seeing a pattern that I love ancient places, and this 3rd century BCE city on the banks of the Indus river is just that. More: Pakistan Practical Travel Guide
33. Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels) in Belgium: I love architecture, and I’m always on the lookout for an excuse to go back to Brussels and explore more. The first time I went, it was in 2012 on the last leg of a Copenhagen-Amsterdam-Brussels vacation, and I was a little too exhausted to settle down and enjoy it. These townhouses sound like just the excuse I need to go back.
32. Historic District of Old Quebec in Canada: I’ve been to Montreal three times, but never made it to Quebec City. If it’s like the old quarter of Montreal, I know I’ll be in heaven.
31. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Canada: I honestly don’t know a thing about this place, but the name alone makes me need to see it!
30. Bahai Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee in Israel: Yes, I know I literally just left Israel a week ago, but I didn’t have time to go to every UNESCO site. However, some of the other conference attendees did, and I was insanely jealous when I saw the pics of the different visits to this site. Next time I’m in Israel, I won’t leave without seeing this place and exploring Haifa.
29. Bikini Atoll Nuclear Site in the Marshall Islands: This atoll is where the US government tested nuclear weapon capabilities at the beginning of the Cold War, and the damage is still visible today.
28. Erbil Citadel in Iraq: Located in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, this citadel has existed in some form or another since pre-Sumerian times. I’d love to visit and also to be able to take a helicopter over it, because it looks insane from the sky. More: 10 Best Things to Do in Erbil, Iraq
27. Historic Centre of Urbino in Italy: This city is what my Italian dreams are made of.
26. Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras in the Philippines: I haven’t traveled around southeast Asia, so maybe these won’t seem as special after I’ve seen other rice terraces. But the pictures of this look spectacular. More: Trekking Banaue Rice Terraces
25. Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the United States of America: This one may or may not have been inspired by a 4th grade book report. I’ll never tell.
24. Alto Duoro Wine Region in Portugal: One of my friends is meeting me in France this fall to see Paris and then explore wine in Bordeaux. I imagine this site would make a good follow-up trip for next year.
23. Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries-Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains in China: I love pandas! The hours that I have spent watching pandas falling down slides on YouTube would shock you. I would hyperventilate if I got to spend a day at a panda sanctuary.
23. Iguazu National Park in Argentina: The Iguazu falls have been on my mind since going to Rio in 2015. I love traveling in South America, and seeing these falls would be spectacular! Bigger than the falls I’ve seen in Iceland and Canada. More: Iguazu Falls: A Quick Guide
21. Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina: This bridge is one of the most photographed places I’ve seen on Pinterest, but I have to see it in person. More: Mostar: the Scarred City (Visited July of 2017!)
20. Tikal National Park in Guatemala: When I was in Belize last year, I was close to Tikal, but not close enough to make it work. Tikal has thousands of architectural and historic remains of the Mayan peoples and some of the moste beautiful pyramids. More: Exploring Tikal – Highlights and Tips
19. Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania: I’m no mountain climber, but I would love to go and see the mountain from the surrounding park.
18. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia: Formerly known by its colonial name of Ayer’s Rock, I’ve wanted to go see Uluru since seeing Noozles, a trippy koala bear cartoon, as a kid. In the show, Uluru is a portal to KoalaWalla land, a parallel dimension. Obviously. There are lots of other reasons I to want to visit, I’m just saying this seed was planted 26+ years ago.
17. Angkor in Cambodia: It would be impossible to be a travel blogger and never see Angkor, right? More: When Rain Gets into Your Perfect Angkor Wat Sunset
16. Kiev: Sait-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monasti Buildings, Kiev-Pechersk Lavara in Ukraine: This one might be cheating, because I’ll be in Ukraine in just a few weeks, but if you know me at all then you know I’m a sucker for a beautiful Orthodox church. (Visited May of 2017!)
14. Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) in Japan: After visiting Palestine and seeing everything in the news about Syria right now, I’m very interested in peace studies and seeing places that have overcome the cycles of violence the rest of us can’t seem to get out of. More: Hiroshima & Miyajima, Japan
13. Historic Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco in Mexico: Though I’ve been to Mexico twice, I have never been to Mexico City. It’s fascinated me since learning about the Aztecs and their capital of Tenochtitlan in middle school.
12. Old City of Dubrovnik in Croatia: Besides being a huge Game of Thrones fan and wanting to visit King’s Landing, I also want to see Dubrovnik because the city looks like a dream. More: Things to Do in Dubrovnik
11. Mountains Railways of India in India: Any true Wes Anderson fan would need to see the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in person, sans loose poisonous snake, obviously. More: Five Best Luxury Trains in India
10. Sceilg Mhichil in Ireland: When I was road tripping around western Ireland last year, we couldn’t quite make a trip to Skellig Michael work. This 7th-century monastery is one of the best-preserved examples of early Christianity in Ireland. Hopefully I can fit it in when I go back to Ireland later this year.
9. Alhambra, Generalife, and Albayzin, Granada in Spain: Is it possible to have taken an art history class and not be filled with a need to see the Alhambra in person? More: How to Buy Alhambra Tickets
6. Archealogical Site of Carthage in Tunisia: If you love the Punic Wars, then it’s impossible to dream of a life without ever seeing Carthage. (Visited December of 2017!)
5. Timbuktu in Mali: Timbuktu was the cultural capital of Islam in Africa. With the current situation in Mali, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see Timbuktu or if it will survive past this generation.
4. Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe & Zambia: This one might also be cheating, because I’ll hopefully get to see these falls this year on a trip to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I’m still trying to figure out the dates. More: Flying Micro flight over Victoria Falls & Top 9 Adventure Activities in Victoria Falls
3. Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments in Russia: I took a whole semester-long class on the architecture, history, and literature of St. Petersburg in college. So yeah, I can’t die without seeing it, or that semester would have been a total waste. More: What to do in St. Petersburg in 1 Day
2. Lake Baikal in Russia: See above about St. Petersburg? I also took a semester-long class about Siberia. So I better make it to Lake Baikal, preferably on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
1. Ancient City of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka: Getting to the top of Sigiriya is basically like climbing a skyscraper’s worth of staircases, but I’ll get there one day. The views from the top alone would make it worth it. More: Climbing Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka