For a place to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site it has to hold an exceptional cultural or natural value on a global level. These places are our precious collective heritage, which makes visiting them a truly inspiring, personal and unforgettable experience for travelers. Below is a list of six incredible World Heritage Sites you have to visit while holidaying in Asia.
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The Incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites You Need to Visit in Asia
Konark Sun Temple (India)
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Dedicated to the Hindu sun god Surya, this splendid 13th century stone temple was built into a likeness of Surya's gigantic, twenty-four wheeled, seven-horse chariot. Carved into almost every inch of wall here are intricate patterns and beautiful depictions of animals, gods, and humans. The meticulously embellished wheels of the chariot serve as sun dials, and three sculptures of the sun god are strategically positioned to catch the rays of sun in the early morning, at noon and in the evening. The temple itself is located in the Puri district of India, and is in its entirety such an impressive artistic and architectural human achievement that should not be missed by travelers passing through.
Swayambhunath Stupa (Nepal)
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Located on top of a hill in the marvelous Kathmandu Valley is the Swayambhunath Stupa, one of the holiest Buddhist structures in Nepal. A poetic legend links the origins of this Stupa to a beautiful lotus flower that once bloomed in a lake that stood where the valley now stands. The site has long been an important destination for Buddhist pilgrims, but is also revered by Hindu worshipers. To get to the Stupa, you have to ascend a steep set of 365 stairs, but the breathtaking view of the city below will make it well worth the effort. Just be sure to keep a close watch over your belongings in case they get stolen by one of the cheeky little monkeys roaming around.
Cultural Landscape of Bali Province (Indonesia)
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The Cultural Landscape of Bali Province was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012, and is composed of 19,500 hectares of rice terraces and water temples. The physical beauty of this site is undeniable, but what truly distinguishes it as a world heritage is the ancient philosophy behind the water management system that has shaped this landscape. It's a philosophy shaped and inspired by an exchange of cultures and religions, and that seeks to connect the worlds of spirits, humans and nature, hence the central role of the temples in the management of the water that irrigates the land.
A visit to The Cultural Landscape of Bali Province offers travelers a wonderful way to explore the many dimensions of beauty that have shaped our world.
The Historic City of Vigan (Philippines)
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Dating back to the 16th century, The Historic City of Vigan located on the large island of Luzon in the Philippines is the only, for the most part intact, Spanish colonial town in the whole of Asia that has survived to the present day. When you arrive here, you cannot help but feel as though you have been transported back into a time of picturesque cobblestone streets lined with charming, old buildings - a unique blend of colonial European and Asian architecture. This setting, alongside the typical activity and excitement of a Philippine city make this old, little town quite a marvel to behold.
My Son Sanctuary (Vietnam)
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Nestled in the middle of a humid, tropical jungle, these fascinating Hindu ruins once formed an important center of life in the ancient Champa kingdom of Vietnam. The ruins were used by the Champa people for both political and religious purposes, and consist of marvelously decorated fire brick and stone pillared tower temples and tombs. The temples were built in the honor of the Hindu deities, in particular Shiva, whose image you will often find depicted in detailed stone carvings on the temple walls.
Don't miss out on a quick visit here if you're planning a visit to Vietnam, it only takes an hour from the beautiful ancient town of Hoi An, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a must-see for anyone traveling through this fantastic country.
Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries (China)
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Inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2006, the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries are home to over 30% of the world's pandas, and are one of the most important refuges for the captive breeding and reintroduction into the wild of these endangered species. The sanctuaries are located in the lush, green mountains of China's Sichuan province: Qionglai and Jiajin Mountains, and also include numerous nature reserves and scenic parks spanning an area of 924,500 hectares.
You can visit these pandas, or volunteer in efforts to support their survival at several bases and centres located within this site such as the Bifengxia Panda Base or the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Center.
Whether you are looking to discover the interesting and unique cultures that have shaped and continue to shape humanity, or sites of unbelievable natural beauty and irreplaceable value, a visit to Asia will meet your needs. Here you can fulfill all your wanderlust, immersing yourself in the diverse nature found on this massive continent, or getting lost amongst ancient ruins that tell us fascinating stories of who the people were that came before us, and how they have shaped our lives today.