Seeing masterpieces of human creative genius, testaments to cultural traditions, and areas of exceptional natural beauty—these are the experiences we often seek out when we travel. These are also criteria that earn buildings, cultural and historic sites, cities, and natural areas around the world the UNESCO World Heritage Site title.
Since it began the list in 1972, UNESCO has recognized 878 spots around the globe, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall of China, and Chartres Cathedral in France. Not all are far-flung, however; the U.S. boasts 20 World Heritage Sites, plus more than a dozen on UNESCO's tentative-sites list. Canada has 15 and Mexico has 29.
Historic sites including Philadelphia's Independence Hall, iconic monuments like the Statue of Liberty, ancient ruins such as the 6th to 12th century Pueblo Indian dwellings in Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park, and National Parks including Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Everglades are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
And there's something for every taste. Included on the list are Mexico's agave fields and traditional tequila distilleries, as well as Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, the Canadian cliffs off which aboriginal North Americans chased buffalo as a hunting technique.
So this summer, if you're looking to be wowed but don't want to venture far, consider a trip to a World Heritage Site in your neck of the woods. These masterpieces of culture and nature may be right around the corner.
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