Sometimes our holiday destinations seem to choose themselves. This is never truer than when we finally decide to follow our heart and go and see some of the most amazing places on the planet that we have previously only viewed from the comfort of an armchair. Television, film and newspapers are full of gorgeous images of world heritage sites, but nothing can beat seeing them in person.
A world heritage site is defined as an area, site or structure that is deserving of special protection. Usually the site is naturally occurring but it can be man-made. These sites have been acknowledged as being of outstanding international importance. In 2015 there are 1007 such sites listed by UNESCO. Italy has the largest number of protected World Heritage Sites, but the most well-known World Heritage Sites are further afield. These include the Taj Mahal in India, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia.
The process for inclusion in the UNESCO list takes time. Firstly a country has to nominate the sites that they perceive to have substantial cultural and/or natural properties. This nomination is then appraised by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union, and then recommendations are made to the World Heritage Committee which meets annually.
Each nominated site is scrutinized in relation to a number of selection criteria. Is the site is a “masterpiece of human creative genius”? Does it have “superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance”?
Once a World Heritage sites has been designated then it is protected, and is eligible to receive international funding from the World Heritage Fund for its upkeep. The funding for maintenance, protection and development is drawn from compulsory contributions from countries that participate in the UNESCO scheme, but also from voluntary contributions and donations across the world.
Great Barrier Reef – Australia
One of the most famous of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites has to be the Great Barrier Reef on the north-east coast of Australia. It is renowned for 400 types of coral, 1500 species of fish and 4000 kinds of mollusc, as well as several mammals that are threatened with extinction.
A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is perfect for adventure buffs or wildlife fans. Tours to the reef depart daily from Cairns, Port Douglas, Mission Beach and Cape Tribulation, and the whole family can enjoy diving, snorkelling, sailing, cruising and kayaking on the brilliantly coloured reef. You can also book boat tours and scenic flights over the reef or enjoy a spot of island hopping.
Great for: nature lovers and adventurers, all the family.
Where to stay? For something very upmarket have a look at the Beach Club, 9 Resort Drive, Hamilton Island, Queensland, 4803, Australia. Prices from AUS $570 per night for a standard room for an adults only oasis.
Historic Centre of Vienna – Austria
Vienna was included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites because of the ‘urban and architectural qualities’ of the city’s centre, which bear witness to changing values during the years 1000 – 2000 AD. The three key periods of European history and its cultural and political development, namely the Middle Ages, the Baroque period, and the Gründerzeit (nineteenth century) can all be seen in the architecture of the City, particularly among the castles, gardens, grand buildings, parks and monuments.
There’s plenty to see for: lovers of history and culture, and some great shopping too.
Where to stay? Try this charming and centrally located hotel with its impressive façade. K+K Palais Hotel, Rudolfsplatz 11, Vienna 1010, Austria. Check the website KKHotels.com for special offers.
The Jurassic Coast – United Kingdom
The Jurassic Coast is a 95-mile stretch of coastline along Dorset and the East Devon Coast, which was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2001. It is England’s first and only natural World Heritage Site to date. What makes this coastline so spectacular is that it is the only place on Earth where 185 million years of the Earth’s history is exposed to view, in the dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, coastal stacks and barrier beaches. Because of the way the rocks have ‘tilted’, walkers and explorers can enjoy this inimitable ‘walk through time’ from 250 million to 65 million years. You will find yourself literally ‘walking with dinosaurs’ through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods as you travel eastwards along the coast.
Great for: families, walking, nature and adventures.
Looking for somewhere to stay? Ladram Bay Holiday Park in East Devon is at the centre of the Jurassic coast. It has its own private beach on the magnificent rolling East Devon countryside. You can bring your own camping equipment, caravan or motor home with you or hire luxury lodges, some with hot tubs, or static caravans. For more information: Ladram Bay Holiday Park, Ladram Rd, Otterton, Budleigh Salterton EX9 7HT. Call 01395 568398 or visit
Chartres Cathedral – France
16 cloitre Notre-Dame, Chartres, France
Chartres Cathedral, also known as Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Chartres, was partly built from 1145, but after a fire in 1194 it had to be reconstructed. UNESCO have included it on their list because it is considered the high point of French Gothic art and a masterpiece thanks to the glorious preservation of the 12th and 13th-century stained-glass windows , the 12th century sculptures in the porches and the huge nave. Many Christian pilgrims come to Chartres Cathedral in order to venerate its famous relic, the Sancta Camisa, which is said to be the tunic worn by the Virgin Mary at Christ’s birth.
A must-see for: fans of cultural and religious history and architecture.
Where to stay? Try the Hotel Jehan de Beauce, on 1, Place Pierre Semard, 28000 Chartres, France. Standard rooms start from 110 Euro per night but deals can be found on travel websites.
Tower of London – United Kingdom
Tower Hill, London EC3N 4AB, England
The Tower of London is a fortress and a symbol of power and continuity that is recognised throughout the UK and beyond. The Tower is a typical example of Norman military architecture that was built by William the Conqueror in the eleventh century, that has continued to be a focus of British history ever since. Besides housing coins and the Crown Jewels, it has been the setting for many key historical events in European Royal history, including the execution of three English queens – Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey – and the disappearance of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ during the fifteenth century. The Tower is notorious as a place of torture and execution.
Great for: fans of architecture, history and British culture.
Where to stay? Apex City of London Hotel, 1 Seething Lane, London EC3N 4AX, England. Phone: 0845 365 0000. Rooms from £129 per night.