To be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value which are nominated by their country of origin and then reviewed by an advisory committee. There are many obvious locations around the world that carry a rich historical, cultural or natural significance for humanity - walking the Great Wall of China, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, visiting the pyramids of Giza, and chances are if you're a traveler you will experience at least one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in your lifetime. Here we highlight the top sites in Europe, covering some of the most interesting destinations in the Old World.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre is a collection of small towns located along the cliffside of the Ligurian Coast, connected by trains and hiking trails. It is a relatively recent addition to the UNESCO List, declared a national park back in 1999. One of more interesting towns is Vernazza, which offers a wonderful view of the sea and lovely evenings filled with typical Italian culture and cuisine.
Cologne is included on the list for its impressive and breathtaking Gothic cathedral, officially known by the name the "High Cathedral of St. Peter." It took a truly outstanding number of years to complete from 1248 to 1880. During that time it was the tallest building in the world, and today it still dominates the city landscape with its massive construction.
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
The European Alps is one of the most snowy locations in Europe, named after the peak of Jungfrau, towering at 4,150 m (13,640ft) above sea level. It is one of the most sought after climbing and hiking destinations around Europe because of its amazing sights and chances of exploration.
After the conquest of Spain by the Moors, Cordoba was transformed into a multicultural melting pot akin to Damascus, Constantinople and Baghdad in the east. Much of that particular heritage remains today, such as the Great Mosque in the city.
The old wharf of the coastal city of Bergen, this UNESCO World Heritage site has some truly amazing traditional wooden buildings that date back many years, brightly colored and carrying their own local history.
A combination of truly bizarre basalt columns located on the coast of County Antrim, Giant's Causeway is the center of many local legends. The 40,000 columns were said to be an ancient road which giants moved on their travels between Scotland and Ireland, making for a simply phenomenal natural attraction.
The Loire Valley, France
The valley was listed as part of UNESCO's world heritage sites in the year 2000 because of its historical and amazing architectural significance to Western Europe and France in general. The region has many interesting structures, though the dominant one is Chateu de Chambord for its distinctive beauty and splendor.
A central town in Italy, Assisi is dominated by the glamour of the Basilica Papale di San Francesco, the birthplace of St. Francis, patron saint of the environment and animals. It has a complex of landmarks of Franciscan origin which make up the majority of this World Heritage Site.
Guest Post by VacationHomes.Net
Spoiler alert: we love luxury hotels, but up to a point they all start to look the same. Spacious marble bathrooms, lavish linens, breathtaking views. We're flipping that on its head. Sure these weird accommodations are not for everyone, but if you're truly an adventurer at heart and looking to mix up the vacation, look no further.
Spend the night in a Military Prison - Latvia
Originally constructed in the late 1800s as a naval base for Russian Tsar Alexander III, KGB headquarters and the Soviet fleet, Karosta Prison was converted into a living museum in the 90s. A popular tourist attraction for both thrill seekers and the arts community, "Ghosthunters International" called it the site with the most paranormal activity in the world. You will be "booked" in a solid iron clad room with minimal necessities, just a bed, dresser and toilet. In true prisoner fashion, they will provide you with a set of rules to follow that if broken, you will be subjected to punishments like exercise or physical labor to test your will.
Sleep in an Artsy Bubble - France
Designed by architect Pascal Haüserman in the 1960s, the Museumotel was constructed on an island in the Vosges of France. It is supposed to be a utopian paradise with each room a private egg shaped bungalow called a bubble which can accommodate from one to five people. With nine bubbles total, each weird room is decorated by a different modern artist that constantly changes look and feel. This popup museum is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the arts and breathe some culture into your routine.
The World's First Revolving Hotel- Turkey
With continually rotating views of the Taurus Mountains and city of Antalya, Marmara Antalya is a moving loft that floats in a pool of water, spinning a full 360 degrees several times a day. A five-star property on the Lara seafront, you don't have to choose between beach or courtyard views here because you'll get them both at any given time throughout your stay.
Rest Your Eyes at IKEA- Sweden
IKEA is undoubtably an exhausting shopping experience and if you're physically too tired to leave, the flagship store in Sweden implores you to skip testing the mattresses and opt for a single bed, double bed or a bridal suite right in the middle of the action. Called the Sovhotell, they charge per 15 minute power nap with custom pillows and music to suit your sleep style. You know what they say, there's no such thing as a free lunch, but $4.99 meatballs are as close as you'll get.
Stay in a Sandcastle- UK
The Sandcastle Hotel in Weymouth was a seaside resort constructed in 2008 entirely from sand. After four sculptors worked tirelessly for a week straight to build the behemoth, the structure was sadly wiped out in the next big rainstorm. At the time though, they charged $15 a night to sleep under the stars with the tide gently lapping at your toes (sans indoor plumbing).
Indulge in a Chocolate Palace- New York
Constructed entirely of chocolate furniture as the ultimate Valentine's Day extravagance, Godiva's chocolate suite in the Bryant Park Hotel is recreated once a year by Jonathan Adler to celebrate the holiday of love. Each piece is painstakingly crafted after a famous art piece and as much as you are dying to indulge in your chocolate fantasies, the suite is only available as the prize of an annual sweepstakes.
The ancient country of Japan has many quiet, serene places where one can escape the urban noise and chaos of the cities. There are site of historical significance which have managed to protect and preserve Japan's rich heritage to an extent few others can manage. If you are willing to seek them out, you'll find yourself with an impressive history lesson.
Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, Kamakura Citry once served as the seat of the military regime known under the name of Kamakura Bakufu in the year 1192. This was the location where the first Shogun of the Bakufu came into power - Minamoto no Yoritomo. An aggressive leader, he created the city, taking inspiration from the old capital in Kyoto and moved the ancient Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shinto shrine all the way to the center of town. Amazingly, one of the major streets from that time period still stands, Wakamiya Ooji, which runs all the way from the coast to the shrine itself. The city is known for its amazing and colorful seasonal flowers and trees around the temples as well as its 13th century Great Buddha located in Kotokuin Temple which is considered to be a national treasure.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Also known as the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial is all that remains of the one building to survive the horrifying effects of the nuclear explosion created by the "Little Boy." The atomic bomb dropped by a "Enola Gay" B-29 bomber happened on August 6, 1945, a date forever remembered as a warning of the horrors of war. This building was originally the work of Czech architect Jan Letzel who completed it in 1915. Today the husk of the building stands witness to the terrifying fate of more than 100,000 Japanese men and women who were killed in the initial explosion and the weeks of radiation exposure that followed as a result. Today, the building is safe to explore as the bomb was detonated at a height directly above it for maximum efficiency, thus sparing it from the most of the damage. This is ground zero for the first instance of a weapon of this magnitude ever being used in history.
Katsura Rikyū (Katsura Imperial Villa), Kyoto
The seat of one of Japan's most ancient families lies in the southwest part of Kyoto, the old capital of the land of the rising sun. It manages to express balance and serenity through beauty thanks to its traditional style. It was built by the late Prince Hachijo of the Tokugawa Shogunate, an adopted son to the legendary Toyotomi Hideyoshi also known as Taiko. Although centuries past have done their best to mar its beauty, the Imperial Villa has survived the ravages of time admirably. Today, the private garden is a part of the Imperial line properties across Japan so you will need special permission by the Imperial Household Agency to visit this royal wonder.
The Nishi Honganji Temple
This ancient Nishi Honganji Temple dates back to 1602 which was built by order of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the very founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It served as a center for religion during the Bakumatsu period: a temporary headquarters of the Shinsengumi. They were peacekeepers and a small group of legendary police force who were fiercely loyalty to the shogunate. One may find some of their grave sites and statues around Japan, such as their leader Kondō Isami in Mibu Temple, Hijikata Toshizō in Tokyo and one of Japan's legendary swordsmen, Okita Sōji, who was interred in the Sensō-ji Temple in Tokyo.
Guest Post by Vacation Home Rentals