7 New UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Add to Your Wish List
Jaipur City, India
One look at its rose-colored palaces and fortresses and you’ll understand why Rajasthan’s historic walled capital is called “The Pink City.” Jaipur’s mesmerizing Mogul architecture is one reason why it finally earned a UNESCO designation last year; the other is the city’s unique marriage of Western planning methods (a grid street model) with ancient Hindu ones (dividing the city into sectors), which together solidified its place as a commercial and artisanal capital—a legacy that continues today. Don’t miss a visit to the 16th-century hilltop Amber Fort, the City Palace, or the red sandstone Hawa Mahal, whose intricate façade features no less than 953 windows that look out onto the city’s sleepless streets.
Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland
A whopping 13% of Iceland is occupied by Vatnajökull, a 5,000-square-mile icy wonderland of massive glaciers and ice formations that make up western Europe’s largest national park. During the summer and fall, the parkland’s trails and black sand dunes open up to hikers and ATV-ers. In the winter, it’s all about dog-sledding, ice climbing, and guided glacier walks—the best of which lead into dazzling ice caves.
You’ve seen the pictures that don’t even do it justice: a maze of more than 3,500 ancient Buddhist temples, stupas, and monasteries rising from the plains of Bagan, each in various states of ruin, that harken back to the peak of its empire. Exploring them up close is moving—Lawkaoushaung Temple is especially known for its sunset views while the Ananda Temple has gilded spires and buddhas—but you’d never be able to see them all unless you take a hot air balloon for an aerial cruise over the land. The experience is said to be one of the most magical ways to take in Myanmar’s living heritage.
The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright
While they may not be nearly as old as the temples of Bagan or the city of Jaipur, the best buildings designed by pioneering American architect Frank Lloyd Wright deserve a hat tip, too. Eight of his famous structures were recently awarded a UNESCO designation because of their significant role in the evolution of 20th-century modern architecture. The most recognizable of the group are the Fallingwater house in Pennsylvania and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, whose open-plan design and beehive-like spiral rotunda are emblematic of what’s become known as “organic architecture.”
Lake Ohrid, Albania
One of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes, Lake Ohrid straddles the Albania-Macedonia border and has been a holiday destination for locals for centuries. Parts of the Lake Ohrid region earned a UNESCO World Heritage designation in 1979 for surviving Byzantine landmarks and Ottoman architecture, but the entire lake was added in 2019 to honor its prehistoric plant and animal species and early Christian ruins. There’s loads to explore if you’re in the area: pay a visit to the Church of St. Jovan Kaneo, stroll the shops and bazaars lining the 10th-century main square, or go for dives to explore underwater excavations from the Museum on Water.
Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga, Portugal
You’re going to want to get a good night’s rest before tackling northern Portugal’s Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte. To reach this 14th-century pilgrimage site just outside Braga, visitors must climb 577 steps up a 1,000-foot slope—built in such a way so followers could prove their faith. Called the Stairway of the Five Senses, the granite staircase is a beautiful example of Baroque architecture, scattered with statues and trickling fountains (each dedicated to a sense). At the top sits the church, which looks out over the grounds’ manicured gardens and sweeping views of Braga. Of course, this being the 21st century, there is an easier (and quicker) way up via funicular, which itself was built in 1882 and is still powered entirely by water.
Hyrcanian Forests, Iran
Northern Iran’s Caspian Hyrcanian Mixed Forests, whose steep slopes ramble along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea and the border of Azerbaijan, date as far back as 50 million years and are a sanctuary for some of Iran’s most precious wildlife—among them 180 species of birds and 58 mammals including the endangered Persian leopard and, long ago, the Caspian tiger (now extinct). Because of its lush, green interior and breezy coastlines, the region has remained a welcome escape from Tehran and other dry climate areas of central Iran for centuries. While you’re in the north, take a hike through Golestan National Park and Alamut Valley to spot ancient structures like Alamut Castle, protected villages, local tea farms, and foggy natural landscapes.
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