We've rounded up a selection of our absolute favourite UNESCO sites that you simply must visit in the new year. From Italy and Easter Island, and from Guatemala to Brazil – we've scoured every corner of the world for the best monuments, sites and buildings that every discerning traveller should add to their bucket list. What's more, we can take you to every single one of them...
Our 10 Favourite UNESCO Sites for 2020
1) Stonehenge & Avebury, UK
Call us biased, but having two incredible ancient sites on our doorstep means that we absolutely have to include them – it’s simply awe-inspiring to have them so close. Firstly, Stonehenge – we visited this World Heritage Site as part of our inaugural tour, Journey Through Wessex. Its rich prehistoric landscape is amazing and the iconic stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic, but there is evidence of human activity dating back to the Mesolithic period. A short drive away is Avebury, home to ancient standing stones that are not only unusual because they make up the largest stone circle in the world, but also because it’s the only stone circle to have a village built within it. Visit both as part of the same tour on our revived Journey Through Wessex tour.
2) The Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island
Rapa Nui, the indigenous name of Easter Island, is home to inimitable monoliths – the moai. The giant stone statues range in size from around 2 to 20 metres and there are estimated to be over 600 of them at the site. A visit to this unique destination is truly spellbinding and a chance to discover its history and heritage is not to be missed. Experience this incredible destination as part of Andante Travels’ Chile & Easter Island tour.
3) Iguazú National Park, Brazil
Bordering both Brazil and Argentina, the stunning Iguazú National Park is where the Iguazu Falls can be found – one of the world’s most spectacular. This national park was inscribed on UNESCO’s list in 1984. More than 240 falls form the horseshoe-shaped Iguazú Falls, which can be visited as part of Andante Travels’ cultural tour of Brazil. On the tour, guests will board a glass elevator that moves slowly up the cliff-face and offers unrivalled views of the gushing body of water.
4) Pergamon, Turkey
Inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014, Turkey’s great Hellenistic city of Pergamon should be a site on any history lover’s bucket list. Here, extensive remains from the Roman and Byzantine periods alike can be found across the dramatic rocky outcrop, which include a theatre and the altar of Zeus. Andante Travels’ Aegean Coast of Turkey tour includes a visit to this ancient site.
5) Tikal National Park, Guatemala
Considered one of the major sites of Maya civilisation, Tikal is situated in the heart of the jungle and the temples to be discovered here are awe-inspiring. This site was inscribed by UNESCO back in 1979 and is of significant archaeological importance as well as naturally beautiful. An incomparable Maya metropolis that was occupied continuously from 800 BC to AD 900, for long periods it was the most powerful political force among the Maya, boasting a lengthy list of dynastic rulers that included the revered Chak Tok Ich’aak I, or Great Jaguar Paw, whose name appears on numerous recovered ceramics and stelae. The Tikal National Park is an enormous site – its central section alone contains over 3,000 buildings – and the museum offers plenty of extra historical and archaeological insight on hand to bring this ancient civilisation vividly back to life. Pay a visit to the staggering temples and ruins in Tikal as part of Andante Travels’ Guatemala and Belize tour, which departs in December 2020.
6) Meteora, Greece
There is something truly breathtaking about standing before the vertiginous monasteries in Meteora, which balance precariously on craggy sandstone peaks sometimes above the clouds. Recognised by UNESCO in 1988, the first monks arrived here in the 14th century and were able to establish a growing monastic community on top of these impressive cliffs. Some of the monasteries here – there are over 20 in total – contain beautify frescoes and a visit is well-worth it. Andante Travels’ Epirus & Macedonia tour, which departs throughout the year four times, includes a day-long excursion to the Meteora monasteries.
7) Samarkand, Uzbekistan
A destination that we can’t get enough of, Samarkand is equal parts historic and beautiful. A principal and prosperous city on the Silk Road route, it is home to the 15th century Ulugh Beg Observatory, the stunning necropolis at Shah i Zinda and the impressive Registan Square. Recognised by UNESCO in 2001, Samarkand has much to offer the curious traveller. Join Andante Travels’ Uzbekistan | Sites & Cities along the Silk Road tour to spend an entire day discovering its myriad delights.
8) The Heart of Neolithic Orkney, Scotland
A group of UNESCO-listed sites that include the chambered tomb of Maeshowe, the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and the Neolithic village Skara Brae – Orkney is a captivating destination for any archaeology enthusiastic. Andante Travels explores this UNESCO Site on its Orkney & Shetland tour.
9) Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang in China
Cut into steep limestone cliffs in Luoyang are the incredible Longmen Grottoes. Here, you’ll find around 110,000 Buddhist stone statues and around 2,800 inscriptions carved on steles. This site is an awe-inspiring example of human artistic creativity and the collection of statues is thought to have first been established at the time of the Northern Wei Dynasty (from 493 to 534 AD). The Longmen Grottoes were inscribed by UNESCO in 2000 and you can visit them as part of Andante Travels’ China | Beyond the Great Wall tour.
10) Villa D’Este, Italy
Head to Tivoli, a commune in Lazio, and you’ll find the grandiose 16th century Villa D’Este. Inscribed by UNESCO in 2001, this palace is one of the most amazing examples of Renaissance culture at its very best. It was built by Cardinal Ippolito D’Este, the son of Lucrezia Borgia and a major figure in the church politics of the era. Andante Travels’ Latium | The Roman Rich tour pays a visit to this spectacular villa.