Lesser known must-visit UNESCO heritage sites of 2024

With World Heritage Day around the corner, we cast a spotlight on the lesser known UNESCO heritage sites that should be on your travel calendar in 2024

World Heritage Day Unesco TravelThe United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, or UNESCO, has long been the guardian of the world’s most prolific heritage sites. They work to ensure some wonders of the world are preserved to maintain their cultural and natural heritage and aren’t lost in the ever-changing universal landscape.

With sites like the Taj Mahal of India and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia being some of the most well known UNESCO heritage sites in the world, you can be sure to expect thousands of visitors flocking to these destinations throughout the year. So, in the spirit of World Heritage Day on 18 April, we are casting a spotlight on the lesser known heritage sites that should be on your radar this year.

From remote archaeological marvels to pristine natural landscapes, below is a roundup of the best lesser known UNESCO protected sites to visit in 2024.Dolomites UNESCOThe Dolomites, Italy

Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Dolomites used to be completely submerged underwater. Today, they make up the northern Italian Alps with 18 peaks that rise 3,000 metres above ground. They are also home to some of the most picturesque mountain views in the world with vertical walls, sheer cliffs, glacial landforms and several narrow, deep and long valleys.

In terms of adventures, there are plenty of activities like hiking, bike tours, golfing, rock climbing, forest bathing, skiing and more for travellers to get the full Dolomites experience. If you’re looking for a place to stay, Sensoria Dolomites is located in the heart of this heritage site and can help with organising many of these activities while guests enjoy their stay in complete luxury.Luxembourg World Heritage DayLuxembourg City Old Town, Luxembourg

Luxembourg is one of the few European countries that is still relatively unexplored by travellers. And in the middle of this tiny country is the Luxembourg City Old Town, which became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994. Here, visitors can visit the Corniche, hailed as Europe’s most beautiful balcony, the romantic Grund district or the subterranean casemates.

Another destination to visit is the capital’s Grand Ducal Palace with its caramel coloured facades and elegant towers. During the summer, visitors are allowed to explore the palace’s interior, which is filled with gilded columns, chandeliers and Renaissance paintings.Vienna CoffeeViennese Coffee House Culture, Austria

While it is well known that Vienna is a world UNESCO heritage site, it also holds various entries in the cultural heritage list. One such entrant is Vienna’s coffee house culture, which is an integral part of what it means to be Viennese. Throughout history, Vienna’s coffee houses have been a meeting point for artists, intellectuals, and revolutionaries like Beethoven and Freud, who have contributed to the city’s rich cultural tapestry.

Vienna’s coffee houses are inviting, featuring cosy booths, a distinctive ambience, elegant chairs and polished marble tables — with incredible coffee options to match. From Melange (a blend of espresso “lengthened” with hot water and topped with steamed milk and foam) to the Einspänner (a velvety mocha served in a glass, crowned with whipped cream), guests can enjoy a variety of coffee options, all with no pressure to order more once you’ve had a cup.

If you are a coffee enthusiast with a love for travelling, Vienna’s coffee culture is something you should definitely explore this year.Sylt Germany World Heritage DayThe Wadden Sea, Germany

Located in the southeastern part of the North Sea, the Wadden Sea is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world. This has given rise to a multitude of habitats like tidal channels, sandy shoals, sea-grass meadows, mussel beds, mudflats, salt marshes, beaches and dunes. This area is also home to many plant and animal species like the harbour seal, grey seal and the harbour porpoise.

In the heart of this UNESCO heritage site, travellers can find the German island of Sylt, known as the Hamptons of Germany, which is home to some of the continent’s rarest flora and fauna. This island is also known for its famous healing climate and restorative sea air, which can provide significant relief for allergy and respiratory diseases.

While at Sylt, guests can stay at Lanserhof, Sylt, which hones in on these healing properties of the island and provides a luxurious experience in one of the most beautiful natural landscapes of Europe.LausanneLavaux Vineyard Terraces, Switzerland

The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces of Switzerland — which date back to the 11th century when Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries controlled the area — have resulted in the city of Lausanne earning a reputation as one of the only 12 wine capitals in the world. 

Spanning across 800 hectares, these vineyard terraces make up Switzerland’s largest contiguous vineyard area, with spectacular views of Lake Geneva and the Alps in the background. Perfect for grape cultivation, these vineyards produce renowned wines of St-Saphorin, Dézaley, and Epesses. This is the perfect destination for any wine lover looking to sample some impeccable Swiss wines.SloveniaŠkocjan Caves, Slovenia

The Škojan Caves of Slovenia have been on the UNESCO World heritage list since 1986, and are the largest subterranean canyon in Europe. It is also a famous site to study the karstic phenomena (dissolving of rocks by water).

There are many trails that wind through the caves that offer glimpses of over 26 waterfalls, numerous stalactites and stalagmites that reach as high as 15 metres and other karst formations. There is also a regional park surrounding these caves where travellers can go biking.Khiva Old TownKhiva Old Town, Uzbekistan

Khiva’s Old Town, also known as Itchan Kala, has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1990 and is known to be one of the most well preserved examples of a traditional silk road city today. Is it also the first location in central Asia to be included in the list.

This town in Uzbekistan is almost entirely car free and is known for its turquoise tilework, towering city walls and bustling bazaars. It is also home to many architectural landmarks such as the Kalta Minor Minaret, Mohammed Amin Khan Madrassah, and Tosh Hovli Palace. 

Visitors can take a guided tour around the city, drive through the Kyzylkum Desert, visit the holy city of Bukhara or take a sightseeing tour of Samarkand.

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