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A few months ago, I decided to tally up the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited. The total? 51. You can see the full list here.
A very respectable number, and one that I should be proud of. But not as good as it could be, considering how much I travel. I’ve never actively sought out UNESCO sites before; I’ve always just fallen into them by chance.
I need to visit more — for two reasons. The first is that UNESCO sites are some of the greatest treasures the world has to offer. And the second, less obvious reason is that visiting lots of sites can make a difference for me career-wise. The unseen work of a full-time travel blogger is that I am constantly pitching myself to companies and publications. The more countries and UNESCO sites I’ve been to, the more I can brand myself as a travel expert, and that plays directly into my future career opportunities.
So I’ve taken on an ambitious mission: I will visit 50 more UNESCO World Heritage Sites by the end of this year, bringing my total to 101.
What are UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
UNESCO World Heritage Sites are special areas chosen by UNESCO’s World Heritage committee to be designated by their natural or cultural heritage. Receiving World Heritage status can make an enormous difference for the countries hosting them, as they receive lots of funding and lots of visitors as a result.
There are currently 962 sites in total: 188 natural, 745 cultural, and 29 mixed. Italy has the most (47), followed by Spain (44) and China (43). You can see the full list here.
A lot of my friends are UNESCO aficionados — none more so than Gary of Everything Everywhere. He’s currently on a road trip in Germany visiting all the German UNESCO sites he hasn’t yet seen.
My Favorite Sites So Far
As for cultural, two immediately stand out: the Alhambra in Spain, for its architectural magnificence. It’s one of the few monuments that nearly brought me to tears. That and the Old Bridge area of Mostar, Bosnia. After learning the history of Mostar and how the conflict reverberates to today, I don’t see how anybody couldn’t put it at the top of their list.
How I Will Do It
I’ve scoped out the destinations where I will be traveling through the end of the year — and I think there’s a very good chance that I can increase my total count to 101. Here’s where I’ll start:
I’m going to take advantage of living in London and seeing the UNESCO sites that I haven’t yet visited. I think a few day trips to Canterbury (for Canterbury Cathedral and its other churches) and Oxford (for Blenhelm Palace) are in order. I also haven’t seen a few sites within London: Maritime Greenwich and Kew Gardens (which I’ll put off until later this spring, when the flowers start blooming).
II. Benelux Sites
This May, I’ll be visiting the Benelux region — Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg — and I plan to see more sites there. I’ve already seen La Grand Place of Brussels and the Historic Center of Brugge, but I definitely plan to add the Old Quarter of Luxembourg City, the 17th-century Canal Ring of Amsterdam, the Defence Line of Amsterdam, and hopefully I’ll have time to return to Brussels and add sites like Stoclet House and the Townhouses of Victor Horta.
III. Emilia-Romagna and Vicinity
I adore the region of Emilia-Romagna, Italy, and I plan to spend a few weeks there this year. Emilia-Romagna is rich with UNESCO sites: the city of Ferrara, the early Christian sites of Ravenna, and the cathedral in Modena. Sandwiched in is the tiny nation of San Marino.
If I extend my stay, I might check out the sites just outside Emilia-Romagna as well: the cities of Mantova (Mantua), Verona, and Urbino, and the Botanical Gardens of Padova (Padua).
Dating a Malteser has its perks! Malta is only 20 square miles, but it’s home to three UNESCO sites: the City of Valletta and two sets of temples: the Megalithic Temples of Gozo and the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.
V. Beyond Europe
I’ve been cryptic about my plans for later in the year — you’ll find out soon. I’ve been going over the list of prospective UNESCO sites and there are a LOT of them!
Which ones, exactly?
I very well may visit Historic Cairo. And the Old City of Jerusalem and Its Walls. And the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. And The Great Wall.
Intrigued yet? 😉
VI. The 2013 Wildcards
Every year, more sites are added to the list, so I could technically add a new one from my travels years ago. Last year, The Cultural Landscape of Bali was a new entry that I had previously visited.
Keeping You Updated
I don’t plan on necessarily doing a new post for each site I visit, but I do plan on updating whenever I visit 10 new sites. As always, my UNESCO page will be updated as well. I just added my first: Museumsinsel, the Museum Island of Berlin!
What do you think? Is this plan too ambitious? Can I make it to 101 by the end of the year? Share your thoughts!