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Getaway To Genesis: 10 Overlooked UNESCO World Heritage Sites To Visit

Published Feb 17, 2017

When the term ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’ comes to mind, we think of significant landmarks, such as a country’s most arresting attraction or an architectural or natural feat so amazing, international fame is only expected of it. However, around the globe lie many hidden treasures protected by this honour; and there are more of them unheard of than we think.

Explore the unknown side of Mother Nature and human history by visiting these UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all lesser heard-of and full of marvels just waiting to be uncovered.

1. Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada

Step into a land before time and learn the heritage of fauna in the Dinosaur Provincial Park. Tucked away in Alberta, Canada, the badlands of this park are one of the most dinosaur-fossil rich locations in the world, with up to 500 specimens from 40 species of dinosaurs excavated and displayed around the world.

Before camping out in the badlands, explore the history of this site with the park’s Visitor Centre. Here, you’ll get to see interactive exhibits on dinosaurs, fossils and the natural history of the park. Further supplementing your visit would be a fossil preparation lab, where you can explore the scientific process behind studying fossils.

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Address: Newell County No. 4, AB T0J 1T0, Canada

Price: Children (6 & under) – Free; Youth (7 to 17) – 2.28 USD; Adult (18 to 64) – 4.57 USD; Senior citizens (65+) – 3.81 USD; Families (2 adults + 3 children/youth under 18) – 11.42 USD

Opening Hours: Hours vary depending on season and day of the week. For more information click here.

Contact: +1 403-378-4342


2. SG̱ang Gwaay (Ninstints), British Columbia, Canada

For a title that includes the word ‘Heritage’, UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the First Nations of North America are somewhat difficult to come by. However, if you’re looking to explore the remnants of pre-colonial North America, one such site is S'G̱ang Gwaay, better known as Ninstints. Sitting on an archipelagic fragments of British Columbia, S'G̱ang Gwaay was the southernmost of villages among the indigenous Haida people. In this former village, you’ll find Haida heritage in the form of wooden totem poles, of which the carvings comprise some of the finest examples of its kind; as well as an authentic insight into the Haidas’ way of life and their relationship with the sea.

Since S'G̱ang Gwaay is located on an island away from mainland Canada, access to this area is largely dependent on ferry operations.

Ninstints/S'G̱ang Gwaay Llanagaay

Address: Skeena-Queen Charlotte E, BC, Canada

Price: around 287.50 USD per person for tours

Opening Hours: Depends on ferry timings.

Contact: +1 334-568-2496


3. Iguazú National Park, Argentina

Imagine a resplendent series of thunderous waterfalls, accompanied by lush forests that cross the borders of two countries. Sounds surreal, doesn’t it? Well, it’s anything but!

Tucked away along the border of Argentina and Brazil is Iguazu Falls, the gorgeous split between the upper and lower Iguazu River. Legend has it that the river was split by a furious deity after he discovered the girl betrothed to him had eloped with her mortal lover via canoe. Today, a variety of vistas allow both up-close and panoramic views of these novel falls, an experience which can be further enhanced by booking a cruise along the base of the falls. For more adventurous individuals, the Arrachea Falls make a cooling dip in this tropical climate, while white water rafting excursions are also available!

For more novel experiences in the area, the Triple Frontier lies a 30-minute drive from the falls, at the confluence of the upper Iguazu and Parana rivers. This spot marks the convergence of Paraguayan, Argentinean and Brazilian borders, and is simply one of many tripoints in the world!

Iguazú National Park

Address: Ruta 101 Km 142, 3370 Puerto Iguazú, Misiónes, Argentina

Price: 31.45 USD (all ages)

Opening Hours: 8am–6pm daily

Contact: +54 3757 49-1470


4. Okapi Wildlife Reserve, Democratic Republic of Congo

The Congo is a treasure trove, albeit a tragically war-torn one. Aside from its wealth of minerals, diamonds and oil, perhaps the most paragon prize of this country lies in its nature – its Okapi Wildlife Reserve marks the last stand of the okapis, a mammal resembling an exotic mix between a horse, zebra and giraffe.

Occupying a vast fifth of the Ituri forest, the Okapi Wildlife Preserve is much more than its title claims. Besides being home to about a sixth of the world’s wild okapi population, it is also a sanctuary for threatened animal species, and is one of the most important sites for bird conservation in Africa. The forests of this reserve also host stunning waterfalls and hunters from the nomadic pygmy tribes of the country.

Though visits to this venue are still possible, you might want to see it before it’s gone. Merely a year after being granted the status of World Heritage Site, UNESCO listed the site as one in danger, as the country’s conflict had led to most of the staff fleeing the area, as well as the onslaught of gold mining activities.

Okapi Wildlife Reserve

Address: N4, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Price: Free

Access: Upon disembarking at Bangoka International Airport in Kinsangani, rent a vehicle and drive 8 hours to the town of Epulu, from which you can hike to Okapi Natural Reserve

Contact: [email protected]

Okapi Conservation Project

5. Paphos, Cyprus

Tucked away in the southwest coast of the Mediterranean island-nation of Cyprus, Paphos Archaeological Park is a testament to the influence of Greek Hellenistic culture. Home to a multitude of ancient cultural wonders, its most prominent aspect lies in the mosaics of its Roman villas. Considered as some of the finest of their kind in the world, these masterpieces depict anything from iconic scenes from Greek mythology to detailed depictions of everyday objects. Also within the park is the ancient city’s agora (public square), asclepeion (healing temple), odeon (theatre) and a series of graves so majestic, they have been called the ‘Tombs of The Kings’. Despite having been awarded its status as a World Heritage Site in 1980, it is still under excavation. This means that the wonders unveiled to the world thus far may only be the tip of the iceberg!

Adding to your enchanting visit here, an air of divinity also shrouds the place. Paphos is, after all, the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty and love. With this in mind, add adventure to your honeymoon by visiting this place on your travels here.

Paphos Archaeological Park

Address: Archaeological Park of Nea Paphos, Paphos 8060, Cyprus

Price: 4.78 USD per person (all ages); additional 2.67 USD for Tombs of the Kings

Opening Hours: Winter (16th September to 15th April) – 8:30am–5:00pm; Summer (16th April to 15th September) – 8:30am–7:30pm

Contact: +357 26306217


6. Historic Centre of Kraków, Poland

Alongside Ecuador’s capital of Quito, the ancient city of Kraków, Poland, bears the honour of being one of the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With its earliest settlement dating back to the 4th century, the city was said to be founded on the slaying of a ferocious dragon by its namesake, the mythical king Krakus. In spite of its fantastical founding, this legend is barely the most magical thing about this city – while its Jewish district of Kazimierz is a time capsule of medieval architecture, 14th-century fortifications line the city, taking you back to a more mystical era in history. Famous must-visits in this city include the Cloth Hall, its synagogues, Wawel Castle and Cathedral (where old Polish kings were buried), as well as Kościuszko Mound.

To add to your historical experience of this area, also be sure to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine in the neighbouring town of Wieliczka. One of the world’s oldest salt mines, this mine produced table salt and ceased operations around a decade ago. Beyond the typical mining mechanisms, carved into the salt rock of these premises are also an extraordinary number of statues as well as four impressive chapels.

Kraków Cloth Hall

Address: Rynek Główny 1-3, 30-001 Kraków, Poland

Price: Free

Opening Hours: 10am–6pm (Tues to Sun); closed on Mondays.

Contact: +48 12 433 54 00


Old Synagogue

Address: Szeroka 24, 31-053 Kraków, Poland

Price: 2 USD per person; admission is free on Mondays.

Opening Hours: 10am–2pm (Mon); 9am–4pm (Tues to Sun)

Contact: +48 12 431 05 45


Wawel Cathedral

Address: Wawel 3, 31-001 Kraków, Poland

Price: Adult – 3 USD; Children, students, teachers, senior citizens (with valid ID) – 1.70 USD

Opening Hours: Depends on season and day of week. Check website for more info.

Contact: +48 12 429 95 16


Kościuszko Mound

Address: al. Waszyngtona 1, 30-204 Kraków, Poland

Price: Adult – 3 USD; Students & retirees (with valid ID) – 2.40 USD; Small families (up to 4 people) – 7.30 USD; Large families (up to 6 people) – 9.70 USD

Opening Hours: 9am–Sunset daily.

Contact: +48 12 425 11 16


Wieliczka Salt Mine

Address: Daniłowicza 10, 32-020 Wieliczka, Poland

Price: Adults – 20 USD; Children over 4, students below 26 years old (with ID), disabled persons and their caretakers – 15.50 USD; Families (2 adults & 2 children between 4 and 16 years old) – 56.30 USD

Opening Hours: 8am–5pm daily

Contact: +48 12 278 73 02


7. Volcanoes of Kamchatka, Russia

The easternmost reaches of Siberia house a volcanic treasure unknown to many: the volcanoes of Kamchatka. Bordering the sea of Okhotsk, Kamchatka is a peninsula that has about 160 volcanoes, volcanic features, and a plethora of flora and fauna; placing a display of Mother Nature in all her glory.

Venture into this arcadia and you’ll be greeted by a panorama of dramatic scenery: teeming with native wildlife, sprawling forests roll over peaks and valleys before eroding into the occasional mountain or glacier. Of course, the principal sight of this site would have to be the volcanoes – while the region’s peak, Klyuchevskaya Sopka, is the largest active volcano in the northern hemisphere, the symmetrical slopes of Kronotsky make it a contender for one of the world’s most beautiful volcanoes.

Also in this region lies the Valley of Geysers, world-renowned for being the world’s second largest concentration of geysers. For a more fauna-filled experience, head over to Uzon caldera, where you’ll find animals running free among a multitude of natural features from mud cauldrons to bogs and lakes full of life.

Volcanoes of Kamchatka

Address: Kamchatka Krai, Russia

Contact: +8 4152 307 330

Website Volcanoes

8. Ancient Cities of Sri Lanka

Before Colombo was declared the capital of Sri Lanka, the monarchs and rulers of ancient times had decreed, over history, multiple cities to be capital of the island. Among these lie the Ancient Cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya.

A sacred city in the Buddhist world, Anuradhapura was built around a cutting from the Sri Maha Bodhi, the tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment. Though the original tree has died following the city’s desertion, a cutting propagated from the original Bodhi tree still flourishes alongside the area’s other venerable sights, such as the stupa at Jetavanaramaya, the dagoba of Thuparamaya, and its sacred alabaster marvel of Ruwanwelisaya.

Over a millennium old, the ruins of Polonnaruwa once comprised the capital of its namesake, the second most ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka. Within these lush ruins, you will find the garden city created by the ‘Hero of Polonnaruwa’, King Parakramabahu I, as well as dusty roads great for hiking or biking on. While in this city, be sure to visit some of its principal sights such as the Royal Palace, Sacred Quadrangle, Shiva Devale No. 2, and the granite Buddhas of Gal Vihara.

Besides the garden city of Polonnaruwa, perhaps the best convergence of man and nature lies in Sigiriya. Considered a prime, preserved example of ancient urban planning, this dramatic rock fortress boasts unique features, architecture, structures and scenery; all of which can be seen by ascending the stairs around this outcrop. On your way up, take time to admire frescoes detailing Sigiriya’s ancient culture, as well as the vertical walls and ‘Lion’s Paw’ carved into the rock face.


Address: Anuradhapura, North Central Province, Sri Lanka

Price: 25 USD (all ages)

Opening Hours: Depends on site of visit

Contact: Sri Lanka Tourism Head Office – +94 112426900; dial 1912 for tourist information from any phone within Sri Lanka



Address: Polonnaruwa, North Central Province, Sri Lanka

Price: 25 USD (all ages)

Opening Hours: Depends on site of visit

Contact: Sri Lanka Tourism Head Office – +94 112426900; dial 1912 for tourist information from any phone within Sri Lanka



Address: Sigiriya, Dambulla, Central Province, Sri Lanka

Price: 30 USD (all ages)

Opening Hours: Depends on site of visit

Contact: Sri Lanka Tourism Head Office – +94 112426900; dial 1912 for tourist information from any phone within Sri Lanka


9. Chitwan National Park, Narayani, Nepal

A land of luxuriant, thriving flora and fauna, Chitwan National Park is Nepal’s first National Park, and a refuge for the endangered Bengal tigers, Gharial crocodiles and Indian rhinoceros. Expect to spot these animals, as well as up to 700 other species, in their natural habitat as you embark on an adventure through this sub-tropical park. If you’re observant enough, you might even witness just as interesting flora diversity, including silk cotton trees and gooseberry plants!

Your visit to Chitwan National Park may not only be limited to green experiences. Thanks to the Tharu Homestay Program, you may be able to experience the life and culture of the indigenous Tharu people by staying with them! This program also offers excursions through the cultural aspects of the villagers, giving you a further insight to their customs.

Chitwan National Park

Address: Chitwan National Park, Subarnapur 44200, Nepal

Price: Adults – 13.75 USD per person per day; free for children under 10.

Opening Hours: 8am–6pm daily

Contact: +977 981-4308051


10. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan, the Philippines

The coral reefs of South-east Asia are somewhat of a treasure – of all the world’s marine ecosystems, they host the largest diversity of marine life. And what better way to experience this wonder than in one of the region’s World Heritage Sites – Tubbataha Reefs?

Hop on a cruise to the middle of the Sulu Sea, where the Jessie Beazley Reef, North Atoll and South Atoll boast the most remarkable dive sites in the world. As you sink into this spectrum of sea, appreciate the hues, tones and dreamlike life that surrounds you in these clear waters. Swim alongside hawkbill sea turtles, or admire schools of fishes as you would murmurations of birds.

However, one’s chance to visit Tubbataha may be limited – coral reefs in South-east Asia are among the world’s most threatened; and who knows when they’re going to suffer the same fate as the Great Barrier Reef? Be sure to check this off your bucket list as soon as you can!

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

Address: Tubbataha Management Office (TMO), Manalo Ext., Bgy. Milagrosa, Puerto Princesa City 5300, Palawan

Price: 100.75 USD per individual; 50% discount for repeated visits within the season. Permits are required.

Opening Hours: Diving season lasts from mid-March to mid-June

Contact: +63 48 434 5759


The importance of these sites, as seen from Syria

Yet, beyond sights of natural, cultural or historical significance, the World Heritage Sites that span the globe reminds us of larger issues at stake – what we’ve lost, and what we could lose. For an example of this, deliberate over Syria. Once a vibrant country teeming with life, laughter and culture, Syria is now synonymous with war, and though the cities of Aleppo and Damascus are inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, they now exist in people’s hearts as war-torn and destroyed.

While sites such as the volcanoes of Kamchatka and the Ancient Cities of Sri Lanka are likely to remain well-maintained and protected, those at the mercy of human greed or climate change may not be. With this list in mind, revise your bucket list, plan your trips, and go out to the world and live, laugh, learn of everything worth protecting and that makes life worth living.

Brenda is a vibrant individual passionate about (way too) many things. An explorer, artist and optimist at heart, she is in love with the world and the beauty it has to offer. Her travels thus far...Read more

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