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Top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Today I am bringing you my list of the top 10 Unesco World Heritage sites. This list is pretty subjective as there isn’t an “Official” top 10. But these are the ones I feel are most impressive to visit and seem to be recommended by many people.

The mission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is to protect the world’s cultural and natural heritage for future generations. There are over 1000 UNESCO sites around the world that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Take a look at 10 of the most popular sites to add to your bucket list:

1. Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, India. It was built in 1632 by Emperor Shah Jahan to honor his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who, on her deathbed, asked him to build her the most beautiful mausoleum ever. Taj Mahal is built of white marble and combines elements from Persian, Islamic, and Indian architectural styles. It hosts thousands of tourists each year and is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. It stands as a symbol of eternal love.
2. Acropolis
The Acropolis, which means “high city” is one of the most famous archeological sites in the world. It is located in Athens, Greece, and has been inhabited since the 4th century. It has served as a royal palace, a fortress, a mythical home of the gods, and a religious center. Today, tourists marvel at the many monuments that remain as a testament to the advanced engineering feats achieved by the Greeks in “The Birthplace of Modern Civilization.”
3. Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza, rise out of the desert just outside Cairo, Egypt. Along with the Sphinx, they are an amazing sight to behold which is exactly what they were meant to be. Built as elaborate tombs to honor the Pharaohs, the pyramids were constructed between 2560 and 2540 BC. In addition to being a popular tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the pyramids are the last survivors of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

4. Colosseum
The Colosseum, located in Rome, Italy is the largest ancient amphitheater ever built. It served as the primary cultural center of Rome and had occupancy of 50,000 spectators whose seating in the massive three-story arena was based on their social class. Romans gathered in the Colosseum for the first time in the year 80 AD to watch elaborate battles between gladiators and exotic animals. The Colosseum remains an iconic symbol of the Eternal City.

5. Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China stretches almost 13,000 miles as it weaves through the beautiful mountain landscapes of northern China. It was conceived in the 3rd century by Emperor Qin Sli Huang as a means to prevent invasions. Taking more than 2000 years to build, it cost over 300,000 lives in its construction. Today, a multitude of tourists visit this enduring symbol of China’s strength and fortitude.
6. Stonehenge
Stonehenge is one of England’s most widely recognizable and visited attractions. It is estimated that the massive stones were transported to Salisbury Plain and erected between 3700 and 1600 B.C. The organization and purpose of its megalithic stone monuments have mystified visitors for centuries, but many believe it has astronomical origins. While we may never fully understand its intended purpose, it remains the best-preserved stone circle in the world.
7. Easter Island
Chile’s remote Easter Island is widely famous for its 887 “moai,” carved stone sculptures with oversized heads and unusual, long faces. They were created in the 1200s by the Rapa Nui people to honor and represent their ancestors and they are considered a remarkable artistic and engineering feat. The statues were placed around the perimeter of the island looking inward as if protecting and watching over the Rapa Nui lands. The whole island is a beautiful natural park preserved by UNESCO.
8. Machu Picchu
Built on the lush mountains of Peru, the Lost City of Incas, Machu Picchu, resides in one of the most beautiful locations in the world. The city was built around 1450 AD and it is considered the greatest example of Inca engineering. The expertly terraced city resides 7970 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains and cascades down steep mountain slopes to the valley below where the Incas tended the agriculture that sustained them. In 2007 it was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
9. Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon, located in Arizona, is one of the United States’ most recognizable landmarks. Considered a major natural wonder of the world, it is an enormous gorge carved into the landscape over the course of millions of years by the Colorado River. The canyon is 277 miles long, a mile deep, and 18 miles wide at its widest point. Visitors to the Grand Canyon National Park marvel not only at its size but also in the beauty of the varying colors of orange and red that seem to change with the angle of the sunlight.
10. Chichén Itzá
Chichén Itzá, an ancient complex of Mayan ruins, is located on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Its name means “at the mouth of the well” and historians believe its site was chosen due to its proximity to a natural sinkhole and source of freshwater called the Xtoloc Cenote. The site was home to a vibrant Mayan city in the early 400s BC and many ancient structures remain including a pyramid that dominates the center of the complex. The site has been named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.