UNESCO World Heritage sites are selected due to their outstanding physical or cultural significance. Over 1,000 natural, cultural, and mixed properties sit on the list, with new sites inscribed every year. Celebrated destinations include the Galápagos Islands, Stonehenge, Ha Long Bay, Yellowstone National Park, and Machu Picchu. This article shines a spotlight on less-traveled UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Azores, Portugal: Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture
Criteria: III, V
Date of inscription: 2004
An autonomous region of Portugal, the Azores is an Atlantic Ocean archipelago situated halfway between Lisbon and Boston. Pico is the second-largest island of the nine, with a viniculture heritage that dates back to the 15th century.
Crisscrossed by linear walls (currais) that run inland from the rocky coastline, the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture was designed to shelter grape plots from the elements. Although subject to adjustment over the years, winemakers in the region around Criação Velha continue to employ traditional techniques when cultivating and harvesting wine on this small volcanic island.
This subtropical chain of islands is a unique choice of UNESCO destination for wine enthusiasts.
Indonesia: Komodo National Park
Criteria: VII, X
Date of inscription: 1991
Often overlooked in favor of Bali – which in turn constitutes a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Komodo National Park is a string of islands in the center of the Indonesian archipelago.
Comprising Komodo, Rinca, and Padar, Komodo National Park is the habitat for 5,700 giant lizards. These “dragons” reside exclusively on these islands and grow to three meters in length. The dry savanna landscape of the Komodo islands is a stark contrast to the lush green paddy fields of Bali. Meanwhile, headlands and sheer cliffs plunge down to meet white-sand beaches and aquamarine waters.
The best way to experience this beautiful trio of islands is by joining a liveaboard cruise or chartering a yacht. Luxurious vessels are equipped with deluxe cabins and offer land expeditions to walk in the footsteps of the Komodo dragons plus diving and snorkeling excursions.
Italy: Villa d'Este
Criteria: I, II, III, IV, VI
Date of inscription: 2001
Located 30 miles east of Rome in Tivoli, the Villa d'Este is the pioneering model of a 16th-century Italian manor house and garden.
The Renaissance complex was designed by the Neapolitan architect and landscaper, Pirro Ligorio, over two steep slopes. Architectural components include fountains, ornamental basins, and grottos. Views stretch from the hilltop setting over the Campagna countryside. Its design set the tone for the giardini delle meraviglie now widespread throughout Europe.
Tours are available of the house and garden, with Villa d'Este being an easy day trip from Rome, Italy.
Tanzania: Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Criteria: IV, VII, VIII, IX, X
Date of inscription: 1979
Not only does Tanzania lay claim to the Serengeti National Park, but the East African country is also the location of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
This expansive region encompasses savanna woodlands, highland plains, and the largest unbroken volcanic crater on the planet. Globally threatened species dwell in this fertile protected area while also hosting the annual Great Migration. Meanwhile, fossils excavated in the region are some of the earliest known evidence of the human species. To this day, semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists uphold traditional livestock practices in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
This underrated UNESCO World Heritage Site is a fine addition to an African Safari.
Contact me to plan your trip to any of these lesser-known UNESCO destinations.
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