There’s nothing like seeing a world-famous place in person, and next year may be one of the best years to do it. In 2022 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be celebrating a significant anniversary as it marks 50 years since the organization began naming and recognizing World Heritage sites. To date there are 1,154 World Heritage Sites across 167 countries.
Each location that’s been nominated and approved has been deemed to have “outstanding value to humanity” for its cultural and/or natural significance. The countries with the most sites are Italy, China, Germany, France and Spain, but there are many other – sometimes less visited – heritage sites dotted around the globe in other countries.
Students traveling with Rustic Pathways often get to see one or more of these magnificent sites. Here are a few on the program itineraries in Asia and Australia:
The Great Barrier Reef
Australia’s greatest natural wonder is a centerpiece of two programs – the Seven Wonders of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef Dive Exhibition. The reef avoided being put on UNESCO’s endangered list in 2021 amid renewed conversation efforts to save this important ecological treasure. Overall, the famous reef consists of more than 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and includes hundreds of stunning tropical islands.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
This park is home to the famous Ayers Rock or Uluru, which is a large sandstone formation in the southern part of Australia’s Northern Territory. Students traveling with the Seven Wonders of Australia program see this famous landmark, which glows a radiant red during sunrise and sunset. It is an important indigenous site that is the centerpiece of several aboriginal myths.
Wet Tropics of Queensland
The Seven Wonders program also visits the Daintree Rainforest, which is part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland Rainforest – the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest in Australia. It contains ancient families of plants and has exceptional views with the rainforest extending to scenic white beaches.
Sydney Opera House
This one-of-a-kind building may be the most frequently photographed structure in Australia. The building was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and opened in 1973. This famous site is also viewable on the Seven Wonders program.
A trip to Cambodia may not be complete without a visit to one of the most recognized sights in the world – the Angkor Wat temple. The larger Angkor region is a World Heritage site since it is an important archeological location and was the capital city of the Khmer empire. The Angkor Wat temple in the area is the largest religious complex in the world. It was originally constructed in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu in the early 12th century. Later it was converted into a Buddhist temple. Students visit the temple during the Floating Village Service Exhibition program.
India & Nepal
The Himalayan Explorer program includes a few stops at World Heritage sites in India and Nepal. The India portion of the trip includes visits to forts and structures from the Mughal Dynasty:
This marble mausoleum in Agra was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to hold his favourite wife’s tomb. He is also buried there. The 42-acre complex includes a mosque, guest house, and formal gardens.
About 20,000 artisans worked on the site that is considered the jewel of Muslim art in India and the best example of Mughal architecture.
This fort was the main residence for the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty. It is located about a mile from the Taj Mahal. The 94-acre fort has ornate gates and like the Taj Mahal it is known for its architecture.
Hill Forts of Rajasthan
These structures on the Heritage list include the Amer fort that students visit while on the Himalayan Explorer program. It overlooks Maota Lake and has four levels fashioned from red sandstone and marble. The impressive structure is often referred to as a palace and was the residence of the Rajput Maharajas who ruled many regions in northern India. The fort was recognized as a Heritage site for its Rajput military hill architecture.
Jaipur City, Rajasthan
This city is the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is known as the “Pink City” in reference to the dominant color scheme in many of the city’s buildings. Jaipur was founded in 1827 and was one of the earliest planned cities of modern India.
When students travel to Nepal on the Himalayan Explorer program they visit one Heritage site there:
Kathmandu is Nepal’s capital and its most populated city. It’s located in the Kathmandu Valley, amidst the high plateaus in central Nepal. Students visit Kathmandu Durbar Square in front of an old royal palace. It is one of three squares in the region on the World Heritage list. In 2015 a major earthquake caused several centuries-old buildings in the square to collapse. Sometimes the square is referred to as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, in reference to a palace statue of the Hindu god Hanuman.
Town of Luang Prabang
Students on both the Southeast Asian Adventurer and Come with Nothing: The Mekong Expedition visit this town that when translated means “Royal Buddha Image.” The town is known for its Buddhist temples and was the country’s royal capital until 1975. The town was recognized by UNESCO for its well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage that unfolded over several centuries.
Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape
Students on the Southeast Asian Adventurer program visit Vat Phou, which is a ruined Khmer Hindu temple complex in southern Laos. The surviving structures on the site date from the 11th to 13th centuries. The site was a center for worship for Theravada Buddhist Warriors and was a birthing ground for their children.
Petroglyphic Complexes of the Mongolian Altai
These rock carvings from the Bronze age are one of the highlights of the Off the Map: Mongolia program. The artwork in the region showcases the development of Mongolia’s culture over a period of 12,000 years. The images mark how the region changed from a hunting culture to herding one, along with the development of a horse-dependent nomadic culture. The rock art is the largest, best-preserved and oldest collection in north Asia.
Ha Long Bay
Students stay overnight on a private boat in this magnificent bay during the Hanoi to Ha Long program. Ha Long Bay, which means “descending dragon,” features thousands of limestone karsts, caves and islands. The limestone in the bay has gone through millions of years of formation. The resulting geodiversity in the region has contributed to a vibrant biosystem of many endemic species.
Trang An Landscape Complex
On the same program students also will visit the Trang An Landscape Complex. It is a spectacular region with limestone karst peaks, partially submerged valleys and steep cliffs. Explorers in the area have found traces of human activities that occurred over a period of about 30,000 years. The site includes temples, pagodas, paddy-fields and villages.
These sights are just a few that are featured on Rustic’s programs. For more details on the travel itineraries for programs around the world, please visit our program page.