a lake surrounded by mountains

How are these even real?

There are some parts of the world that are so incredibly beautiful, it’s hard to believe that they really exist. Even harder to believe: we had nothing to do with them. UNESCO World Heritage Sites are split up into Cultural, Natural and Mixed and “must be of outstanding universal value” to make the list. Almost all natural UNESCO World Heritage sites are so breathtakingly stunning that they’re worth planning a trip just to see them, but these 16 are so remarkable, you simply must see them before you die. Earth is truly an amazing place.

a body of water with a waterfall in the backgroundWest Norwegian Fjords, Norway

Set in South-Western Norway, these Fjords are among the world’s longest and deepest – and are certainly exceptional. See them by land or by cruise, either way – you’ll be blown away. a group of pandas in the grass

Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries – Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains, China

Who doesn’t love pandas? These panda sanctuaries are home to more than 30% of this highly endangered animal species and are the most important sites for captive breeding. And… just look how cute they are! Some will even let you have panda cuddles, for a fee of course.

a body of water with trees in the backgroundYellowstone National Park, USA

With the world’s largest concentration of geysers and half of all the world’s known geothermal features, this is truly a remarkable place. I mean, how does that even happen? If the marvels of earth aren’t enough, it’s also an incredible wildlife destination. Just watch our for bears!

boats in the water with islands with Ha Long Bay in the backgroundHa Long Bay, Vietnam

The towering limestone islands and emerald waters make for complete natural beauty; and even with ‘over tourism’, Ha Long Bay is still worth the visit. If you can: splurge for a private junk boat tour, to take in the most amazing hidden caves without the crowds.

a small island in the oceanAldabra Atoll, Seychelles

Four large coral islands enclose a shallow lagoon to make up this mind blowing atoll, which by the way – is not easy to access. Because of the limited human influence the area is able to retain the world’s largest population of giant tortoises. Go, but don’t bring too many friends!

a river flowing through a rocky valleyTe Wahipounamu, South West New Zealand

There are so many ridiculously gorgeous places in New Zealand, and realistically they could all be on the list; but these fjords with spotless lakes, waterfalls and rocky cliffs are picture perfect. This is paradise for any active traveler, who loves a good hike, kayak or walk.

a sand dunes in the desertNamib Sand Sea, Namibia

A coastal fog desert. Do those words even go together? Apparently they do, and that is what makes this place so unique and naturally beautiful. The scene of many movies which purport to be on Mars, this may be as close as you’ll come to feeling like you’ve been to outer space.

a group of people walking on a mountainMount Etna, Sicily, Italy

On the east coast of Sicily, Mount Etna is the foremost stratovolcano in the world, and also one of the most active. If you happen to love wine, an Etna Rosso is an experience you won’t soon forget. Come for the epic views, leave with a few suitcases of volcanic wine.

an aerial view of a red landShark Bay, Western Australia

Located on the westernmost point of the Australian continent, Shark Bay has the largest sea-grass beds in the world and is home to five species of endangered mammals. Plus, the colours and scenery are simply stunning. Make this part of your next Perth trip?

a large waterfall surrounded by treesIguazú National Park, Argentina/Iguaçu National Park, Brazil

Iguaza is home to what can only be argued as the most mesmerising and impressive waterfall in the world. You can view it from both Argentina and Brazil; and it’s absolutely worth every penny to go. Hot tip: stay at the Belmond, which gets you early park access before the crowds.

a large rock formations in the desertWadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley), Egypt

Just 150 km southwest of Cairo, the Wadi Al-Hitan valley makes an incredibly fascinating and educational day trip. You can see fossil remains for yourself while exploring the rugged terrain. How often do you get to check out prehistoric fossils?

a large group of butterflies in the skyMonarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

Sometimes, it’s unbelievable how the world works, and these butterflies are proof. Every autumn millions of Monarch butterflies collectively fly to small areas of this forest reserve and cover the trees, turning them into a radiant orange. It’s like cherry blossom season, but moving – and orange.

a herd of elephants in a river

Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas, Zimbabwe

In the far north of Zimbabwe, on the banks of the Zambezi, this area is home to a huge number of wild animals – including cheetahs, elephants, Nile crocodiles, leopards and much more. If you’re a safari fan, you really can’t do much better.

a beach with a rock arch with Durdle Door in the backgroundDorset and East Devon Coast, United Kingdom

Without venturing to the far reaches of the earth, you can check out some Game Of Thrones style backdrops. The Dorset and East Devon coast provide extreme natural beauty and impressive rock formations, and the pubs and seafood restaurants will keep you more than entertained!

a cave with water and stalactitesJeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes, Republic of Korea

This is an incredibly popular tourist spot to visit, and one of the most visited in all of Asia. Rightly so! The dramatic landscapes, waterfalls, multicolored roofs and floors are outstanding and the views are completely unique, just about anywhere you look! One of the coolest World heritage sites, without a doubt.

a small island in a lake surrounded by treesCanadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Canada

Canada offers too much natural beauty to handle. From Banff to beyond, the reflective, crystal waters, dramatic mountain peaks, glaciers, canyons and waterfalls should have you planning your next trip to Canada immediately. And if you’re going to Banff, easily accessible from Calgary, it’s Fairmont or bust!

Did you know human-related activities threaten over half of the World Heritage Sites?
Featured Image Copyright: cookelma / 123RF Stock Photo

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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