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9 Must-see UNESCO World Heritage Sites


To date, there are 911 sites on the list. But to make things a tad more manageable, Oyster has pared it down to 9 sites that you've just got to see.

This article published with permission from Oyster Blog.

We have seen some beautiful sites during our travels around the world. But don’t take our word for it (although you should; we are experts)—many of our favorite places are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which means they are “places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity and as such, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.”

And there you have it—spots that make this list are absolutely stunning.

To date, there are 911 sites on the list, and we have seen a ton of them. But to make things a tad more manageable, we’ve pared it down to 9 sites that you’ve just got to see. And if you can make it to all 911, then by all means go for it!

1. Statue of Liberty, New York City

We’re starting local—for us, at least. A beacon of hope for travelers to New York City since it was dedicated in 1886, the Statue of the Liberty is one of the most-recognized and beloved National Monuments in the United States.

Visitors can walk to the top for sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline from the statue’s crown, and many visit Ellis Island at the same time to round out their historical and cultural trip.

Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton New York Battery Park

As expected of the luxury brand, this Ritz property boasts gorgeous rooms, top-notch service, and a long list of amenities. Some rooms feature views of the Statue of Liberty.

2. Canal Ring, Amsterdam

It may have celebrated its 400th birthday last year, but Amsterdam’s gorgeous Canal Ring has only been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010.

Creating a semi-circle around Old Center, the Canal Ring is a series of man-made waterways lined by beautiful historic mansions. Though it has expanded over the years, the Canal Ring was first made in the 17th century in order to provide a means of movement for shipping within the city center.

Where to stay: Hotel Pulitzer, a Luxury Collection

The Hotel Pulitzer is a charming luxury property in the Canal Loop of Amsterdam. The hotel is made up of a block of 25 restored 17th and 18th century canal houses and is full of historic details.

3. Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Covering a massive expanse of land in the northwest region of Costa Rica, the Area de Conservación Guanacaste has been a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site for 15 years. With both land and sea, it is home to beautiful rainforests and beaches where a plethora of protected wildlife—like jaguars, hummingbirds, bats, and sea turtles, just to name a few—live.

Where to stay: Reserva Conchal

Located in Guanacaste, Reserva Conchal is comprised of 4 individual condo villages, each with several buildings clustered around a communal pool.

4. White City of Tel-Aviv, Israel

One of the “youngest” cultural sites to make the UNESCO list, the White City is a collection of over 4,000 buildings (painted white, hence the area’s name) built in the Bauhaus style in the 1930s by German Jewish architects who came to Tel Aviv to escape the rise of Nazis.

Not only is it the largest collection of Bauhaus buildings in a single city in the world, but it is considered an outstanding example of 20th-century city planning.

Where to stay: Alma Hotel & Lounge

With just 15 rooms, the Alma is one of Tel Aviv’s best and most intimate boutique hotels, conveniently located in the White City. Rooms come with an abundance of thoughtful extras, including welcome treats, espresso machines, and loaner iPads (upon request).

5. The Pitons, St. Lucia

One of the most naturally stunning sites in the Caribbean, the Pitons are 2 volcanic mountains that rise out of the sea. The juxtaposition of their lush green color against the crystal-clear blue of the Caribbean Sea makes for breathtaking photo ops, and the pair — nicknamed the Grand Piton and the Petit Piton—have been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2004.

Where to stay: The Still Beach House

This budget-friendly 5-room inn along Soufriere Bay has no gym, no spa, and no pool—in fact, the only extras are direct access to a public beach and a breezy restaurant and bar.

Rooms would be average, if it weren’t for the incredible views they boast of Petit Piton, which appears at arm’s length from every room’s private balcony.

6. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Dating back to the Middle Ages, Notre Dame is one of the most beautiful, and best preserved, examples of Gothic architecture in the world.

Nowadays a museum—but still a place for regular worship—entry to the cathedral is free and a must-do when in Paris.

Where to stay: Hotel Le Notre Dame

Within steps of the Notre Dame Cathedral, this hotel is also notable for its chic rooms, designed by Christian LaCroix.

7. Yosemite National Park, California

One of a dozen natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the US, Yosemite National Park is arguably the most important to visit. Encompassing over 700,000 acres across east central California and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it draws millions of visitors each year to its majestic cliffs, waterfalls, and canyons.

From hiking and biking to climbing and skiing, tourists can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities in America’s third-oldest national park.

Where to stay: The Ahwahnee

Nestled deep amongst the pine trees, cliffs, and canyons of Yosemite Valley is the 123-room Ahwahnee Hotel. The impressive stone and wood structure, built in 1927, is considered a National Historic Landmark.

8. Belize Barrier Reef

Belize is considered one of the best spots for diving in the world, in large part thanks to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Belize Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere.

Indigenous wildlife like turtles, manatees, crocodiles, and hundreds of species of fish and coral call its waters home. The site also includes sand cays, mangrove forests, lagoons, and estuaries.

Where to stay: Chabil Mar

Chabil Mar, right on the beach on Placencia Peninsula, has 22 spacious villas equipped with family-friendly amenities: open kitchens, washers/dryers, closet space, and one to 2 bedrooms.

9. Sydney Opera House, Australia

Inaugurated in 1973 and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, the Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic structures in the country-continent. Not only does it boast breathtaking views of the Sydney Harbor, but its awe-inspiring design makes for top-notch acoustics for the many performances that take place in the space annually.

Where to stay: Pullman Quay Grand Sydney

These chic one- and 2-bedroom apartment-style units look out over peaceful green gardens or the busy but beautiful harbor and have floor-to-ceiling windows; modern, minimalist decor; big kitchens; dining areas; and cozy living rooms.

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