Preserved by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, these architectural icons not only established blueprints for innovative design, but also trace the history of mankind.
Traders carrying spices, silks and incense all routed their journeys through the city of Petra, home to Jordan’s ancient temples and tombs. Known as the Rose-Red City, Petra is seemingly entirely cut and built from the area’s ubiquitous and beautiful pink sandstone—including the awe-inspiring eastern entrance, a narrow gorge called the Siq.
#455 The Monasteries of Meteora
Meaning “suspended in the air” in Greek, Meteora and its mysteriously built monasteries are quite aptly named. The Byzantine structures soar, sitting atop the region’s 1,000-foot high sandstone peaks. These ancient pinnacle rocks were first inhabited by a group of sure-footed monks in the 9th century. Likely seeking a bit of solitude, they spent their time the hollows and fissures overlooking the stunning plains below.
#668 Angkor Wat
Holding the title of the largest religious monument in the world, the Angkor Wat temple was constructed using the same massive volume of stone as Egypt’s Great Pyramid. To further add to it’s distinction, the classical Khmer temple faces westward, making it a breathtaking spot to watch the sun set over the Cambodian jungle.
While the significance of these monoliths remains mysterious, it’s clear that the ancients used quite a bit of manpower to implement their complex design. The site’s largest pillar weighs 40 tons, and many stones are believed to have been hauled for up to 149 miles to the area near Wiltshire where they were arranged. Archaeologists believe the site was used as a burial ground, evolving through several construction phases that spanned at least 1,500 years. The latest version was completed cerca 1600 B.C., and fell out of use sometime during the Iron Age.
#320 Works of Antoni Gaudí
Barcelona and its surrounding areas are sprinkled with the inspired candy land creations of Antoni Guadí, each holding its own magic. The most iconic projects include the mythical La Sagrada Familia (which has been under construction since 1882), and the imaginative Parc Güell with it’s sprawling mosaics, serpentine bench and colonnaded footpaths—each a lasting testament to Gaudí’s imagination and Catalonia’s Modernisme movement.
Have you ever seen one of these UNESCO sites in person? Tell us about it in the comments!