If you’re a traveler who wants to appreciate more about the history and culture of a destination, then visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site should be part of your itinerary. These extraordinary places can be a natural phenomenon or a historic monument and some even combine both, but all are striking in their representation of humanity.
Currently, there are more than 1,100 UNESCO World Heritage Sites dotted around the globe, although Italy and India have a wealth of them for locals and tourists to admire. If you need inspiration for your next luxury travel adventure, then look no further. The good news is that many Luxury Gold tours feature several UNESCO World Heritage Sites on their itinerary, so you can relax in the space and style you need while immersing yourself in the wonders of the world. We’ve gathered the top UNESCO World Heritage Sites to add to your luxury travel wish list.
Iguassu Falls, Argentina and Brazil
Available on Classic South America Tour
Chosen as one of the new seven natural Wonders of the World, Iguassu Falls comprises 257 waterfalls across an area of 2.7 kilometers. Iguassu Falls sits along the borders between Argentina and Brazil and is accessible from either country. The Falls are a truly jaw-dropping sight – they are taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide, and the area is home to an incredible ecosystem with butterflies, monkeys and even jaguars.
The Devil’s Throat is the most well-known waterfall in the immense system of cascading falls. Venture along many yards of footbridges to catch sight of it thundering over 260 feet and creating a plume of misty spray. If you join the Classic South America tour, you can stay in Belmond Das Cataratas, the only luxury resort located inside the Brazil Iguassu National Park, just moments from the falls.
On the Brazilian side of the Falls, you can visit the Bird Park, which shelters more than 1,000 birds, as well as butterflies and many different reptiles native to South America.
Memphis and its Necropolis, Egypt with the Great Pyramids of Giza
Available on Elegance of Egypt tour
For any inquisitive traveler seeking to learn more about ancient civilization, Egypt offers a vast number of historical sites and artifacts to discover. Chief among these is the sprawling Memphis and its Necropolis, once the capital of Ancient Egypt, established around 3,000 B.C. and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Join a knowledgeable Egyptologist on the Elegance of Egypt tour to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza, the enormous tombs whose construction still interests scientists today. Venture into the center to see the chambers where great pharaohs were buried, while hearing more about some of the most important surviving monuments of humankind.
Visitors can marvel at the enigmatic Sphinx, the oldest known monumental structure in Egypt and explore further to learn about the many great dynasties that inhabited this land.
Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis, Egypt
Available on Elegance of the Pharaohs tour
Staying in Egypt, Thebes was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Once home to the wealthiest people in the country, the majestic remains of the city stand as a testament to the Middle and New Kingdom’s of Egypt.
Delve deep into the grand history at Karnak, the largest temple complex ever built, and stand in awe of Rameses II, as his shadow is cast beneath the hot sun. Luxury Gold offers VIP tours so guests can stroll around the Temple of Luxor after hours, away from the crowds. It is a chance to scan the hieroglyphics carved thousands of years ago and hear more from your Egyptologist on the lives of those who lived during these impressive civilizations. Every step brings a new discovery, as the area is truly an open-air museum.
Agra Fort, India
Available on Spirit of North and South India tour
Comprising a number of fairy tale palaces, Agra Fort is a 16th century Mughal monument that is recognizable by its looming red sandstone walls. It was home to Mughal emperors until 1638, when the capital moved to Delhi.
The fort is, in fact, a walled city and Luxury Gold guests can stay inside the walls in the grandeur of Mughal Agra, an opulent resort perfectly placed for exploring the marble towers and courtyard gardens of the fort. There’s also the opportunity for VIP tours to meet local people, enjoy tea and pakoras on a rooftop and hear more about the heritage of this historic municipality.
Taj Mahal, India
Available on Imperial Rajasthan tour
Just minutes away is the most iconic symbol of love in the world: the Taj Mahal. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, it has long been admired for its beauty, architecture and intricate design. It was built between 1632 and 1653 by the fifth Mughal emperor Shahjahan as a shrine to his wife, Mumtaz, who died in childbirth.
The best time to visit this stunning monument is at dawn, when the morning rays of sunshine seem to turn the white marble to shades of pink and orange. With Luxury Gold, this is all arranged in advance, so you can enjoy breathtaking views of the majestic icon as the sun rises.
Available on Essence of India with Ranthambore tour
The pride of Rajasthan, Jaipur, was only classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019. This glorious walled city was founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh II and is a remarkable example of urban planning that also happens to be incredibly aesthetically pleasing.
Within the city walls are many places of interest, including the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, a staggering building that rises five stories in a configuration of honeycombed hives. Take in the City Palace Museum and enjoy a VIP experience of tea in the Royal Families living room.
Banff and Jasper National Parks, Canada
Available on the Majesty of the Rockies tour
The Canadian Rocky Mountains are a stunning area of natural beauty with imposing snowy peaks, lush forests and serene lakes that reflect the surrounding landscapes. The seven national parks in the region have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. This is nature at its unaltered finest. On Luxury Gold’s Majesty of the Rockies tour there is the opportunity to take it all in without the need for tiring days of driving.
Catch a glimpse of Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies, before arriving at Jasper National Park. Here you can see giant hanging glaciers and stroll through cavernous canyons while keeping an eye out for the myriad animals that populate the park, including bears, bighorn sheep and deer, as well as many more species.
Take a cruise on the still waters of Maligne Lake, famous for its turquoise hue, before a stop on Spirit Island, to simply breathe in the magnificence of the surrounding nature. Traverse the Icefields Pathway on your way to Banff National Park, for more remarkable scenery.
In Banff, you can ride the Banff Gondola to the summit for endless views of this mountainous paradise, or even take to the skies in a helicopter ride for a real bird’s-eye view of the Rockies in all their splendor.
Available on Ultimate Italy tour
Buried under a blanket of volcanic ash for 1,800 years, Pompeii was once a vibrant Roman city until 79 A.D. In one day, Mount Vesuvius erupted, and lava rained down on the town, causing residents to flee and engulfing the town whole. It wasn’t until 1748 that a group of explorers discovered the site, which had been extraordinarily preserved beneath the ash.
Visitors can spend days exploring the remains, as parts of ancient bath houses, bakeries and homes remain. Mosaics can still be witnessed on the floors of ancient villas. Let a Local Expert guide you amid the ruins to understand Roman life before the eruption.
City of Bath, UK
Available on British Royale tour
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is built around the only geothermal springs in the United Kingdom. It is a beautiful Georgian city that dates back more than 3,000 years, and the site of the well-preserved Roman Baths that you can visit on your British Royale tour with Luxury Gold. Imagine how the Romans lived, get a feel for the healing waters and appreciate the magnificent architecture on show across the city.
Aside from visiting the historic baths, there is much to explore in the protected city. Stroll across Pulteney Bridge, designed by the designed architect, Robert Adams, or take a boat ride beneath it for an alternative view. The city was also the home of renowned author, Jane Austen, so visitors can take a tour around the scenes of her novels, “Persuasion” and “Northanger Abbey”.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Available on the Classic South America tour
A recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage listing, the marvelous city of Rio de Janeiro was awarded a new status in July 2012. It was recognized for many aspects from the famous Copacabana Bay to the Tijuca National Park, a rainforest which covers the Corcovado mountain right down to the sea.
When visiting Rio, it would be wrong not to make the ascent to Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the most recognizable effigies in the world. This 30-meter statue is an art deco masterpiece that is prone to lightning strikes, because of its height and position. In fact, just before 2014 FIFA World Cup, a thumb of the statue broke off after a lightning strike.
The culture, artistic inspiration and natural beauty of Rio de Janeiro was commented on by the UNESCO committee when granting recognition to the city.
Pont du Gard, France
Available on French Vogue tour
The Pont du Gard is a remarkable feat of engineering that dates back to the 1st century A.D. 50 kilometers of tunnels and bridges were built to channel water to the surrounding areas of Nîmes. Precision was paramount for the success of the project and Roman engineers excelled in creating the aqueduct, which still stands today.
First, stroll around nearby Avignon, also a UNESCO site, before taking an afternoon visit to Pont du Gard, where you’ll see over 21,000 cubic meters of limestone that was mined nearby to create the aqueduct. There is also a fascinating museum that follows the journey of construction of the incredible Roman antiquity, still standing after two thousand years.
Kinkakuji Temple, Japan
Available on Majestic Japan tour
Also known as the Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji temple is an impressive structure that was originally constructed in A.D. 1397. Unfortunately, it has burned down several times since, but was restored to its former glory in 1955. Each floor was created in a different architectural style to reflect the many facets of society when Yoshimitsu was in power.
Apart from appreciating the architecture of the temple, visitors can enjoy the expansive gardens, which remain in the same layout as when they were first planted. Wander by the Anmintaku pond that never dries up and see various statues positioned throughout the green spaces.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Available on Treasures of the Incas tour
Once lost to acres of Andean forest, this mysterious Incan city was built 2,430 meters above sea level in the 15th century. Tour the mystical site with your Local Expert before the crowds arrive ensuring that you avoid the hundreds of travelers who make the ascent to the ruins daily. This is a bucket list item for anyone who has an interest in ancient civilizations, but it is also a journey of wonder that never fails to delight visitors due to the amazing natural setting and complex structures built by the Incas.
Machu Picchu was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and it is the most important attraction in Peru, thus it is only accessible with a special permit. In 2007, it was voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.