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  • Writer's pictureLotus Girl Travel

Exploring the World’s Best: 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites You Must Visit

Welcome to a journey through the world's most extraordinary treasures - five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From ancient wonders that whisper tales of civilizations long past to breathtaking natural wonders that leave us in awe of Mother Nature's prowess, these designated sites are a testament to the beauty, history, and diversity of our planet.

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In this blog, I have handpicked five highlights from UNESCO's prestigious list, each a jewel in humanity's collective crown. Get ready to be inspired and enchanted as we unveil the essence of these remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Along the way I will also share a few of my personal experiences visiting these sites and my personal inspirations for traveling to each.

What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

A UNESCO site refers to a location or area that has been recognized and designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The World Heritage Sites are places of special cultural, historical, scientific, or natural significance that are considered to be of outstanding universal value to humanity. These sites represent our shared heritage and are considered important and irreplaceable treasures that need to be preserved and protected for future generations.

There are three main types of UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

  1. Cultural Sites: These include historical buildings, cities, monuments, archaeological sites, and cultural landscapes that hold significant value in terms of human history, art, architecture, or cultural traditions.

  2. Natural Sites: These encompass exceptional natural features, landscapes, and habitats that represent outstanding examples of the Earth's biological and geological diversity.

  3. Mixed Sites: These are sites that possess both cultural and natural significance, illustrating the intricate relationship between human civilization and the environment.

By designating sites as World Heritage Sites, UNESCO aims to foster international cooperation for their preservation and to raise awareness about their importance as part of our collective heritage. Click here to see the full list of UNESCO sites.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Let’s begin with one of my favorites in Cambodia, where the mystical allure of Angkor Wat beckons. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the epitome of Khmer architecture and was once a sprawling city that served as the heart of the Khmer Empire. Explore the intricate carvings that adorn the temples, and witness the mesmerizing sunrise over the iconic central spires. As you wander through the ancient ruins, you'll feel an indescribable connection to the past, surrounded by the whispers of history.

Photo of Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap Cambodia
Angkor Wat Temple, Siem Reap. Cambodia
My experience: Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat on the morning of celebrating my two-year anniversary of being sober was a profoundly transformative experience. As the first rays of light pierced through the horizon, casting a golden glow upon the majestic temple, I couldn't help but feel a sense of renewal and gratitude for the journey I had undertaken. Like Angkor Wat had withstood the test of time, I found that I too had found the strength to endure and emerge stronger from the challenges of my past. The experience filled me with a profound sense of peace and a renewed determination to embrace life's wonders with a newfound clarity and appreciation.

If you like to read, pick up “First They Killed My Father,” a memoir written by Loung Ung about her harrowing account of being forced to be trained as a child soldier in 1975 when she was only five by the Khmer Rouge regime. Angolina Jolie later turned her memoir into a film she directed and produced.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Next, let’s look at the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to uncover the secrets of Chichen Itza. This archaeological marvel showcases the sophisticated Mayan civilization, and the imposing pyramid known as El Castillo dominates the landscape. Discover the Mayan astronomical prowess as you witness the equinoxes casting shadows that mimic a serpent descending the pyramid's stairs. Chichen Itza's enigmatic history and architectural brilliance will leave you in awe.

My experience: Writing a paper on the ancient Mayan ball game during my college years ignited a deep fascination within me for the intriguing world of Mesoamerican civilizations. As I delved into the history and significance of the ball game in Mayan culture, I felt an inexplicable connection to this ancient sport that transcended time and space. Standing in the shadow of the grand arena, the very place where this sacred game once played out, was a surreal and awe-inspiring moment. Imagining the echoes of cheering crowds and the sound of the rubber ball resonating off the stone walls filled me with a profound sense of wonder.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Next up is the pristine wilderness of Yellowstone National Park in the United States. This vast expanse is a geothermal wonderland, boasting spouting geysers, bubbling hot springs, and dramatic waterfalls. Journey through the park's diverse landscapes, encountering bison, elk, and other wildlife along the way. Stand in wonder before the iconic Grand Prismatic Spring, a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, and let the beauty of nature envelop your senses.

Vatican City, Italy

Continuing on from the serene wilderness of Yellowstone, let’s head to the spiritual heart of Vatican City. As the smallest independent state in the world, it is also the epicenter of Roman Catholicism. Visit St. Peter's Basilica, an architectural masterpiece that embodies religious devotion and artistic brilliance. Gaze upon Michelangelo's magnificent frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, and feel the weight of history within the Vatican Museums. This unique city-state is a testament to the enduring power of faith and the timeless beauty of religious art.

My experience: Stepping foot into Vatican City for the first time was an emotional experience for me, as a Catholic who grew up with strong Italian roots; my father being a first-generation Italian-American and my grandfather, affectionately known as "Nono," hailing from Sicily, Italy. As I witnessed the grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica and explored the Vatican Museums, I felt a deep connection to my heritage and the spiritual significance of this sacred place. The journey was a way to honor my family's history, understanding the sacrifices my Nonno made as an immigrant to provide a better future for our family. Next year, I am taking a pilgrimage to Sicily to visit where my Nono was born and raised.

Historic City of Rome, Italy

Next up is the captivating historic city of Rome, where ancient ruins and modern life coexist harmoniously. From the Colosseum, a symbol of ancient gladiatorial contests, to the majestic Roman Forum, where the heart of the Roman Empire once thrived, Rome offers an unparalleled glimpse into antiquity. Marvel at the awe-inspiring Pantheon, stroll through the charming streets of Trastevere, and toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure your return. Rome's captivating ambiance and rich history will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

Photo of the colosseum in Rome, Italy
Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Ayutthaya, Thailand

Our last highlight is in Thailand's ancient city of Ayutthaya. Once a majestic capital of the Siamese Kingdom, Ayutthaya boasts impressive ruins of temples, monasteries, and palaces that speak volumes of its former glory. Explore the intricate carvings and historical remnants that paint a vivid picture of the city's rich cultural heritage. Feel the weight of history in every stone as you walk through the remnants of this once-thriving ancient city, now beautifully preserved for generations to come.

Photo of buddha statues
Ayutthaya, Thailand

Immersed in the spiritual aura of this ancient city, the majestic temples and gentle chants of monks resonated deeply within me. The intricate Buddha statues and temple rituals reaffirmed my love for Buddhism, and I found solace in the impermanence and interconnectedness it embraces. Beyond the spiritual aspect, Ayutthaya's captivating beauty, from riverfront views to lush landscapes, created a serene backdrop for my journey. Witnessing the sunrise over the ancient temples, I felt a profound harmony between the natural world and the spiritual realm. This experience left an indelible mark on my soul, guiding my path with mindfulness, compassion, and reverence for ancient traditions.

My experience: Although I grew-up Catholic, in my adulthood, I found a deep love and respect that expands to all cultures and religions. In particular, I love the gentle practices of Buddhism. Visiting Ayutthaya, Thailand, filled my heart with peace and wonder with their spiritual practice steeped in understanding and alleviating suffering, seeking enlightenment through self-awareness, and cultivating compassion and wisdom to achieve inner peace and liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara).

Ending Our Journey Through Discovering 5 UNESCO Sites

I hope you enjoyed exploring these five remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Angkor Wat, Chichen Itza, Yellowstone National Park, Vatican City, the historic city of Rome, and the enchanting Ayutthaya in Thailand. Each destination offers a unique perspective on the ingenuity of human civilizations and the magnificent wonders of the natural world. From the ancient temples of Cambodia to the grandeur of the Roman Empire, and the spiritual heart of Vatican City, to the pristine wilderness of Yellowstone, and the captivating ruins of Ayutthaya, these extraordinary places have left an indelible mark on our souls.

I also hope this post inspires you to travel to any diverse UNESCO sites to preserve and cherish our shared human heritage for generations to come. You will most certainly have your own reasons to travel to any of these destinations and your own personal experiences when you stand before these other-worldly sites.

I encourage you to embark on your own journey of discovery of these UNESCO sites! Get Your Guide is an awesome option for tours - whether you are planning these sites or to find other incredible things to do in the world!

Be sure to subscribe to my blog to receive more information about other UNESCO sites, along with travel tips and destination guides!

Happy Travels,



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