In 1972, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (better known as UNESCO) began designating World Heritage Sites — monuments, cities, buildings, mountains, islands, lakes and other manmade and natural features — that UNESCO works to preserve and protect. There are now over 1,000 of these sites all around the world. Around a quarter of those lay on the vast continent of Asia. If you happen to be traveling east, or would like to plan a trip, here are some of the most breathtaking Asian UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Discover Asia’s Incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites
1. The Taj Mahal, India
Known as perhaps the most opulent tribute from a husband to a wife in the world, the Taj Mahal is an immense white marble masterpiece built in the 1600s by Shah Jahan. Its famous architecture, full of arches and domes, and beautiful landscape, lead thousands of visitors to flock there each year.
2. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay has some of the least touched land in the world. The 1,600 islands and islets are mostly uninhabited and rarely set foot on by humans. This, as well as the fact that the islands are made up of limestone pillars and the scene made even more picturesque with the addition of colorful VIetnamese fishing boats, makes the bay a true treasure to behold.
Visit Ha Long Bay!
3. Angkor, Cambodia
The vast Angkor was the center of the Khmer Empire between the 9th and 15th centuries. Many of the famous temples that were central to the culture still stand there today. It’s also still a living site — Cambodians reside there and cultivate the land.
4. Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area, China
This panoramic landscape in China’s Hunan Province is filled with its famous sandstone pillars, as well as rivers, streams, waterfalls, caves, and more. The often misty air gives the area an even more spiritual feel.
5. Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, Japan
Though Tokyo might be Japan’s capital nowadays, for centuries the city took a backseat to Kyoto, the imperial capital of Japan. The former capital is still a cultural center of the country, and an amazing place to delve into the architecture, religion, and art of the Japanese.
6. The Great Wall, China
Perhaps the most famous wall in the world, the Great Wall was built more than 2,000 years ago as a defense from invasion for the Chinese empire. Today, its immense size and length of more than 20,000 kilometers make it an architectural wonder of the ancient world.
Visit the Great Wall of China!
7. Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
Kathmandu Valley, at the base of the Himalayas, is home to seven groups of monuments, including Buddhist and Hindu religious sites, that showcase the region’s architectural, artistic, and cultural style and significance.
8. Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang is a perfect example of when east meets west. The traditional Lao architecture and structures mix with styles brought over by the European colonizers. The result is elegant buildings situated amid mountains and greenery.
9. Changdeokgung Palace Complex, South Korea
The pagoda-like structures you probably imagine when you think of far east palaces can be found in Changdeokgung. The complex, constructed in the 15th century, consists of a host of different buildings and an expansive garden that were designed and constructed to complement the natural scenery.
10. Prambanan Temple Compounds, Indonesia
Prambanan Temple Compounds is more than just one building. It consists of four temples, one of which is a complex of 240 temples, all dedicated to figures of the Hindu or Buddhist religions. In fact, the compounds represent one of the earliest known examples of religious cohabitation and peaceful relations.
Visit Prambanan Temple Compounds!
11. Classical Gardens of Suzhou, China
The nine gardens of Suzhou adhere to the classic Chinese aesthetic of aspiring to recreate natural landscapes. In addition to being gorgeous examples of the style, they also tell a lot about Chinese intellectuals who embraced them between the 11th and 19th centuries.
This article was written by Isabella Sayyah.