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On July 7, UNESCO—the United Nation’s org that aims to foster peace through international cooperation in education, the sciences and culture—named 29 new winners of the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. World Heritage status can be earned by having historical, archaeological, cultural or natural significance that is highly important to humankind’s global heritage. Each site on this year’s list is worth a visit, but here are five sites we think you should move to the top of your list—before they get too crowded.

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Paraty and Ilha Grande: Brazil

Paraty, Brazil, UNESCO

The historic town of Paraty is a relic of gold-rush colonialism and slave labor in Brazil, while the nearby island of Ilha Grande is, more or less, an underdeveloped wild area with forested rolling hills. Both of these areas are worth protecting for historical and natural reasons, but the rollercoaster history of both Paraty and Ilha Grande was likely the biggest selling point for UNESCO. Between Paraty’s slave-built ghost town structures to the abandoned maximum security prisons on Ilha Grande, adventurous travelers who visit this region better be up for some serious vibes. Interested? Book a stay at Pousada Vila do Porto and begin your journey.

 

Vatnajökull National Park: Iceland

Vatnajokull, Iceland, UNESCO

This one is well-timed for a couple of reasons. The Vatnajökull ice cap (the largest in Iceland, and Europe) is melting rapidly. Accessibility to Vatnajökull is pretty easy these days as Icelandic tourism has more or less plateaued and tours to the ice are getting more affordable by the day. You can explore this area on your own via Jökulsárlón (the Glacier Lagoon) or Skaftafell National Park, but if you’d like to venture onto the ice, then definitely book a glacier walk with Icelandic Mountain Guides. Use Glacier View Guesthouse as a home base for good access to Iceland’s south coast charms.

 

Jaipur City: India

Jaipur, India, UNESCO

Known as India’s Pink City, Jaipur City is a wonderful place to visit for those interested in history, color and design. Jaipur was (of course) already a great place to go before its recent induction into the UNESCO club as its cultural sites include Jawahar Kala Kendra and Jal Mahal, fortress sites like Jaigarh Fort and Amer Fort, and the stunning City Palace. Some of these specific places were already UNESCO sites themselves, but now the overall historic significance and artistic vibe of Jaipur qualifies the entire town. For an intimate, stay, book in a room at boutique hotel Umaid Bhawan.

Bagan: Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar, UNESCO

The center of the Pagan empire and boasting over 2,000 temples and pagodas, Bagan serves as a reminder of ancient Buddhism in Myanmar (formerly Burma). It isn’t difficult to understand why Bagan is significant for religious reasons; the skyline is pierced with the mighty spires of temples and pagodas as far as the eye can see. After Mongol invasion, Bagan was reduced from a major cultural and educational hub to a small pilgrimage site. Tracing the timeline to the present day, Bagan has undergone a series of restorations due to both modern infrastructure and destruction from earthquakes. That construction is something that hindered Bagan from becoming a UNESCO site in the past, but its new status is conditional on the removal of hotels from the designated archaeological sites. Check out the temples then relax by the pool at My Bagan Residence.

Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte: Portugal

Bom de Jesus, Portugal, UNESCO

This monument just outside the town of Braga is a significant tribute to the Bom Jesus (Good Jesus) and similar such monuments have likely been present on this hilltop since the 1300s. The monument that stands now includes several chapels that illustrate the Passion of Christ as well as scenes after the crucifixion, fountains that represent the five senses as well as theological virtues, and several winding staircases. Ascend the hill using the Bom Jesus funicular and climb the zig-zagging staircases to get to the monument. Bom Jesus do Monte is just 30 minutes by public transport from the stunning Vila Gale Collection Braga.

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Tagged: Asia, Brazil, Europe, Iceland, India, Latin America, Portugal

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Caroline Lupini
Caroline's passion for travel isn't limited to hopping from country to country, but goes beyond the plane and into her everyday life. She's mastered the points and miles arena which has enabled her to travel far and wide, to 70+ countries including Iraq, Myanmar, Brazil, Russia, and many more. From writing for some of the most highly acclaimed travel blogs and news sites, to speaking at travel shows, Caroline's love of exploring the world has lead her to wanting to help others get out there to experience it too. To find out more, visit Caroline on Instagram (@caroline.lupini) and on her site (carolinelupini.com).

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