Saturday, May 27th, 2017

The UNESCO Hunt: 82-91



It’s been a summer of European travel, and for that reason, it’s been a summer of UNESCO World Heritage Sites! If you’re interested in World Heritage Sites, there’s no better place than Europe, as it has the greatest concentration of sites.

This summer took me to new countries like Finland, new regions like Puglia, and new cities like Trogir, all of which have World Heritage Sites of their own.

I’m still pressing on to reach my goal of 101, and it’s definitely going to happen by the end of the year. Almost certainly while I’m in Sri Lanka this November. Sri Lanka is home to eight World Heritage Sites, four of which I’ll be visiting as part of TBC Asia (the first-ever conference of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association, of which I am a member), an

But for now, here are the most recent World Heritage Sites that I visited in Europe. These are some of my favorites.

Giant's Causeway

82. Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast, Ireland

UNESCO’s take:The Giant’s Causeway lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim plateau in Northern Ireland. It is made up of some 40,000 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea…Geological studies of these formations over the last 300 years have greatly contributed to the development of the earth sciences.”

My take: Incredible, gorgeous, visually spectacular, and so worth the trip, even in the pouring rain! The site is far more than just Giant’s Causeway — the coastline is craggy and dramatic and makes for beautiful photos. I wish I had had more time to explore the coast fully; not allotting enough time for the Causeway Coast was one of my bigger mistakes this summer.

Essential Info: Though Giant’s Causeway is a natural wonder, you must pay to visit: £8.50 ($14 USD) for adults and £4.25 ($7 USD) for children. To get there from Belfast, I took a train to the beach town of Portrush (you can also take it to Coleraine) and bought a ticket on the Ulsterbus, which drops you off right at the visitors’ center and has stops along the coastline, including the rope bridge. Double-check the times before you plan your trip.

St. James Cathedral Sibenik

83. The Cathedral of St. James in Šibenik, Croatia

UNESCO’s take:The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik (1431-1535), on the Dalmatian coast, bears witness to the considerable exchanges in the field of monumental arts between Northern Italy, Dalmatia and Tuscany in the 15th and 16th centuries. The three architects who succeeded one another in the construction of the Cathedral…developed a structure built entirely from stone and using unique construction techniques for the vaulting and the dome of the Cathedral.”

My take: This church was built from stone — no mortar holds it together. That’s what makes this church so impressive. Unfortunately, I visited during restoration, and while I appreciated the architecture and construction, it’s not one of the prettier World Heritage-listed churches I’ve ever seen.

Essential Info: The cathedral is in the center of town and admission is 15 kuna ($2.50 USD). Šibenik is right between Zadar and Split, making it a convenient spot in between the two cities. Many thanks to the Croatian National Tourist Board for hosting me in Šibenik.


84. Historic City of Trogir, Croatia

UNESCO’s take:Trogir is a remarkable example of urban continuity. The orthogonal street plan of this island settlement dates back to the Hellenistic period and it was embellished by successive rulers with many fine public and domestic buildings and fortifications. Its beautiful Romanesque churches are complemented by the outstanding Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period.”

My take: My favorite part of visiting Trogir was actually checking out the yachts docked by the edge of the city walls! That aside, Trogir is a beautiful (albeit petite) little city and a wonderful place for a stroll and exploration (not to mention a good foil for the much larger Split). It’s amazing to know just how old these streets are, and you can tell how old they are by their smoothness.

Essential Info: Trogir is just outside Split. You can book transportation from Split by bus or boat; Trogir also happens to be very close to Split’s airport. It’s a tiny place — you don’t need to spend more than an afternoon here. Many thanks to the Croatian National Tourist Board for hosting me in Trogir.

Idrija Mercury Mine

85. Heritage of Mercury. Almadén and Idrija, Slovenia

UNESCO’s take:The property includes the mining sites of Almadén (Spain), where mercury (quicksilver) has been extracted since antiquity, and Idrija (Slovenia), where mercury was first found in AD1490…The site in Idrija notably features mercury stores and infrastructure, as well as miners’ living quarters, and a miners’ theatre. The sites bear testimony to the intercontinental trade in mercury which generated important exchanges between Europe and America over the centuries. Together they represent the two largest mercury mines in the world, operational until recent times.”

My take: I didn’t know anything about these mines, especially that they were operating so recently, and it was a really interesting place to drop in for a short visit (and a respite from the hot Slovene weather!). The tour takes you through quite a few tunnels and you get a sense of what it was like to work here.

Essential Info: Visiting the mercury mine (Anthony’s Shaft) costs 9 EUR ($12 USD) for adults. It includes a tour of the mine and a short movie. Many thanks to the Slovenian Tourist Board for hosting me in Idrija.

Skocjan Caves

86. Škocjan Caves, Slovenia

UNESCO’s take:This exceptional system of limestone caves comprises collapsed dolines, some 6 km of underground passages with a total depth of more than 200 m, many waterfalls and one of the largest known underground chambers. The site, located in the Kras region (literally meaning Karst), is one of the most famous in the world for the study of karstic phenomena.”

My take: These are the most impressive caves I have ever seen. They are gargantuan. Enormous. Dark and cool and freaky and moist. It feels straight out of Journey to the Center of the Earth, especially the parts with bridges looming over enormous chasms. A very, very cool natural heritage site.

Essential Info: Guided tours of the Skocjan Caves start at 16 EUR ($21 USD) for adults. A longer tour following the river costs 21 EUR ($28 USD) for adults. Photography is ordinarily not permitted in the caves; I was allowed because I visited privately as press. Many thanks to the Slovenian Tourist Board for hosting me at the caves.


87. Fortress of Suomenlinna, Finland

UNESCO’s take:Built in the second half of the 18th century by Sweden on a group of islands located at the entrance of Helsinki’s harbour, this fortress is an especially interesting example of European military architecture of the time.”

My take: Suomenlinna is far more than just a fortress — it’s an outdoorsy getaway for the incredibly outdoorsy Finns and visitors to Helsinki. I loved how the fortress was built into the landscape, a trait that I saw throughout Finland. It’s a perfect getaway from the city and a nice introduction to life on the archipelago.

Essential Info: Suomenlinna is an island. Waterbuses leave from Market Square in Helsinki, take 15 minutes each way, and cost 7 EUR ($9 USD) for a round-trip ticket.

Rauma Finland

88. Old Rauma, Finland

UNESCO’s take: “Situated on the Gulf of Botnia, Rauma is one of the oldest harbours in Finland. Built around a Franciscan monastery, where the mid-15th-century Holy Cross Church still stands, it is an outstanding example of an old Nordic city constructed in wood. Although ravaged by fire in the late 17th century, it has preserved its ancient vernacular architectural heritage.”

My take: Now THIS was a surprise! I absolutely loved Rauma! I’ve never seen an old wooden town that looked quite like this. As hard as the cobblestones were to walk on, I absolutely loved the wooden architecture, the bright colors, and the little quirks like porcelain dogs and handmade lace. I was lucky enough to have PERFECT light for photography there as well.

Essential Info: Rauma is about a four-hour bus ride from Helsinki; you can find buses departing both Helsinki and Helsinki Airport. Many thanks to Visit Rauma for hosting me in Rauma.

Bronze Age Burial Site

89. Bronze Age Burial Site of Samallahdenmäki, Finland

UNESCO’s take:This Bronze Age burial site features more than 30 granite burial cairns, providing a unique insight into the funerary practices and social and religious structures of northern Europe more than three millennia ago.”

My take: Well, it’s an ancient burial site — it’s either an incredibly interesting archaeological site, or it’s just a pile of rocks. If you are into it, spring for a guide, because ours was wonderful (and dressed in traditional clothing!). If you’re not into that sort of thing, Samallahdenmäki is a wonderful place for a walk through the woods. It reminded me a lot of New Hampshire.

Essential Info: It’s free to visit Samallahdenmäki on your own; you can hire a guide through hereMany thanks to Visit Rauma for hosting me in Rauma.

Castel del Monte

90. Castel del Monte, Italy

UNESCO’s take:When the Emperor Frederick II built this castle near Bari in the 13th century, he imbued it with symbolic significance, as reflected in the location, the mathematical and astronomical precision of the layout and the perfectly regular shape. A unique piece of medieval military architecture, Castel del Monte is a successful blend of elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient and north European Cistercian Gothic.”

My take: Now, this is a cool building! It’s worth a quick stop by if you’re driving through Puglia, but definitely don’t plan your day around it — you don’t need more than an hour. Go, take your photos, admire the unusual shapes, and move on to your next destination.

Essential Info: Castel del Monte is in the middle of the countryside. If you don’t have a car, you can take a bus from the train station in Andria from April through October. Admission is €5 ($7 USD) for adults, €2.50 ($3 USD) for age 18-25, and free for children and seniors. Admission includes parking and a shuttle from the parking lot to the castle. Many thanks to Puglia Tourism for hosting me in Puglia.


91. The Trulli of Alberbello, Italy

UNESCO’s take:The trulli, limestone dwellings found in the southern region of Puglia, are remarkable examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighbouring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs.”

My take: Such a cool and beautiful town! It reminded me of Cappadocia (although Cappadocia is natural and the trull are most definitely manmade). I actually enjoyed the city center more than the very touristy “trulli land” because it felt more natural, like you’d walk around a random corner and suddenly there would be several trulli waiting.

Essential Info: The trull of Alberobello are free to visit. Downtown Alberobello is a short walk away and has a lot of cheap street parking. Many thanks to Puglia Tourism for hosting me in Puglia.

Rauma Finland

So — which ones were my favorites?

Old Rauma. I had no idea what to expect and this ended up being one of my favorite old towns in the world!

The trulli of Alberobello were really interesting, as well. I wish I had had more time there to photograph them properly.

And Giant’s Causeway was one of the big highlights of my trip to Ireland. Next time I’ll see far more of the Causeway Coast!

Palace of Augustus

Coming Up

I’ve just visited Cologne Cathedral and the Palaces of Augustusburg and Falkenlust at Brühl on my trip to Cologne, which clocked in at numbers 92 and 93. Next up I have a few sites planned in the London area, a few in Norway in September, at least one in Greece in October, and then Sri Lanka will put me over the top in November.

Have you been to any of these World Heritage Sites? Which one would you like to visit the most?


37 Responses to “The UNESCO Hunt: 82-91”
  1. Naomi says:

    The great thing about the UNESCO sites is that I find out about places I never would have before and a lot of the time they are granted UNESCO status for beauty that is not always glaringly obvious. The heritage of mercury photo is great by the way too!

  2. Wow, some of them I didn’t even know existed, and some of them I didn’t know were so beautiful.
    Trulli of Alberobello is one of my favorites, hope to visit them asap! Giving that I live in Italy I should be ashamed not to have done it already 🙂

  3. Emily says:

    I’ve loved following along on your UNESCO hunt. We will be in Sri Lanka in a mere 19 days and I can’t wait to see all the Heritage Sites there (though I am especially excited for Sigiriya!)

  4. Laura says:

    I felt similarly about Giant’s Causeway – I loved it, and that whole area of Ireland is just gorgeous. I’m sad to say I hadn’t even heard of Rauma before reading this post, but it definitely looks like a must-visit to me now.

  5. Lena says:

    Trulli’s are best at the “blue hour” … some of them even have glowing marks that glow in the dark.. which makes them even more unique …

  6. Bryan says:

    I would definitely be interested in checking out the sites in Puglia. My family is from that region of Italy and I have yet to venture there. I have been to Italy, but not yet to that region.

  7. Monica says:

    I am a fan of the UNESCO heritage sites and really want to see them all. I first need to start with the ones on the Americas but will hopefully make my way to europe in the next 2 years. Great post Kate!

  8. I thought about heading to Puglia this fall while I’m in Italy, but unfortunately I won’t have time. One interesting thing I read about the trulli is that some believe the homes were originally built to be mobile so villagers could easily take them down and move their village to evade taxes. Pretty clever!

  9. Tikva says:

    Cool to read about these Unesco World Heritage sites. I have been to much more then 100 sites but none that you have writen about in this blog!. For me the trully looks the best to visit. Have fun in Cologne.

  10. Love these round ups. I have no clue what places in India are sites that I’ve been to, I never think to check & signs here might not say. I know Hampi was. have you heard of it? I am doing a post soon but it’s amazing, like the Flintstone’s in real life

    • There are tons in India! You can see the full list here:

      One problem is that UNESCO does a lot more than just World Heritage Sites. I’ve experienced UNESCO-recognized intangible culture, UNESCO-recognized art, and a lot of people whose cities are on the tentative list tend to trumpet themselves as a World Heritage Site (like Mdina, Malta, which is on the tentative list and is not an official World Heritage Site yet, though I hope it will be someday).

  11. harveycat says:

    So inspiring, as a singe girl making small steps to international travel, your stories make me want to take giant leaps.

  12. Sophie @ Sophie's World says:

    Rauma is so beautiful and atmospheric, isn’t it… especially at dusk.

  13. Bummed out that I didn’t take the time to head to Giant’s Causeway when I was in Belfast. Then again, I only had three full days, and one of those was dedicated to a Girls Aloud concert and some heavy partying afterwards…

    Rauma looks gorgeous, and I can’t wait to read more about Finland. Your posts have actually had me researching more about it (and Scandinavia in general). Keep going until you get to that 101!

  14. Justine says:

    Giant’s Causeway looks and sounds spectacular. I can’t get enough of natural wonders like that. Good luck meeting your goal this year. The idea of seeing number 101 in Sri Lanka is pretty awesome!!

  15. Silvia says:

    I know you’re more into visiting mainstream destinations, but Uzbekistan and Iran have hands down the most impressive UNESCO sites I’ve seen. I’m sure you would love them, if you’re ever up for something a little different!

    • Oh, Silvia, I love the obscure as well! Kosovo, Macedonia, Faroe Islands, Brunei — not mainstream destinations at all! But yes, Iran is one of the countries I want to visit the most, and Uzbekistan would be awesome, too.

  16. I love that you are doing a tour of UNESCO sites. How cool! For me, Togir looks adorable. I’d love to go there when we visit Croatia.

  17. Laura says:

    I do love a UNESCO site, there’s usually so much history around them. The one that looks the most spectacular has to be the The trulli of Alberobello. It looks stunning there!

  18. I actually didn’t know any if these UNESCO sites except for Alberbello! Seems like I still have a lot of interesting places waiting for me, as I also want to see all UNESCO site 🙂
    When I went to Kyoto I was also able to see many UNESCO sites, because Kyoto is basically one big UNESCO site haha.

  19. Ed says:

    “Just a pile of rocks”…haha…yes, in the literal sense that is true. I guess in the literal sense that Stonehenge is just a bunch of rocks too. Each thing is what we make of it. I like that.

  20. Hi Kate,

    The Causeway in Ireland looks and sounds amazing. That many basalt columns, absolutely stunning.

    It’s funny, but when I saw UNESCO, and the image, on the home page, the picture reminded me so much of the scene in Hoi An, Vietnam. Hoi An has a strong French influence and you can see this in the architecture. Perfectly kept city, and again, that image was a dead on shot of a Hoi An street in my mind.

    UNESCO sites are special. Any one I’ve visited has been nabbed or tagged with the UNESCO name for a good reason; they rock. Each has it’s own special charm, that one thing that makes the site stand out. These spots also carry a certain buzz that perks our attention as a traveler.

    I hope you’re enjoying your travels Kate. Sure looks like it to me.

    Tweeting this one in a bit.

    Signing off from Savusavu, Fiji.


  21. Mary Beth says:

    i love love love that you are doing this! i would love to do a tour myself one day, so these posts are so inspiring to me. 🙂

  22. OK. I’m officially using your UNESCO posts as my guide for UNESCO sites that I need to visit! haha. What an awesome list to accomplish! Love it.

  23. Frank says:

    I haven’t, but I’d love to visit Trogir … I just have a thing for old medieval towns!

  24. Cristy says:

    Amazing destinations to discover. A long list of UNESCO World Heritage sites I found is in China. Glad to know of these too. 🙂

  25. Damouchari says:

    I have been for several times to Meteora in Greece, which it is already UNESCO World Heritage site. It is amazing, breathtaking site and as I read your artical I was thinking that maybe I should visit some other places just to see how wonderful our world can be 🙂

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