Lovers of history, art and natural beauty alike would do well to organize their travel plans around UNESCO World Heritage sites. UNESCO (a.k.a. the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designates places as World Heritage sites if they are of “outstanding universal value” and have some kind of special cultural, artistic, historical, ecological or other significance. This includes everything from the Acropolis of Athens to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
There are more than 1,000 locations on UNESCO’s list; consider it your accredited travel bucket list. Here are a few of our favorites:
Find it in: Bergen, Norway
What to know: If your kids love Frozen, prepare for full-on freak-outs: Bergen’s old wharf, Bryggen, was an inspiration for the movie’s village of Arendelle. The wharf’s colorful wooden buildings are relics of the style once ubiquitous in Northern Europe and continue to be preserved in the style of 14th to mid-16th century architecture.
See it: On several cruises departing from Copenhagen and Harwich
Find it in: Fort Lauderdale, FL
What to know: This vast subtropical wetland is home to more than 400 species of birds and countless other animals, including more than 20 rare, endangered and threatened species. Channels of water meander through sawgrass prairies and cypress swamps, lending an otherworldly quality to the largest subtropical wilderness in America.
See it: Before, during or after cruises departing from Florida
Find it in: Florence, Italy
What to know: The epitome of a European Renaissance city — with flourishing art, architecture and political and commercial bustle — Florence has retained its beauty and significance for 600 years. You can see the Galleria dell’Accademia (and the museum’s most famous resident: Michelangelo’s David), visit the Pitti Palace (chief residence of the Medici family) or stroll and shop across the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge.
See it: On many cruises departing from Barcelona and Southampton
Find it in: Cozumel, Mexico
What to know: One of the biggest, boldest and most important Mayan remains on the Yucatan Peninsula is the pre-Hispanic city of Chichen-Itza, whose construction began around 600AD. This site’s most iconic feature is its nearly 100-foot-high stepped pyramid, El Castillo. You’ll also see the largest and best-preserved Mayan ballpark and the mystical sacrificial cenotes.
See it: On many Western Caribbean cruises
Find it in: Bangkok/Laemchabang, Thailand
What to know: This city was built in 1350 as the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom and flourished for four centuries before being attacked and destroyed by the Burmese army in the 18th century. Large monasteries and impressive towers dominate the ruins.
See it: On several cruises departing from Singapore or Hong Kong.
Find it in: Barcelona, Spain
What to know: One of the most famous architects in history, Gaudí was the creative mind behind many of Barcelona’s most iconic Catalan Modernist buildings. Seven of them form a group under UNESCO’s protection, including Casa Mila, Casa Vicens and the Crypt of La Sagrada Familia.
See it: On cruises departing from Barcelona
Find it in: Castries, St. Lucia
What to know: St. Lucia is identified by its duo of volcanic mountains rising from the ocean, and below the water’s surface is a geothermal field filled with coral reefs and hot springs. UNESCO has recognized the Pitons for their geological and aesthetic importance.
See it: On several Southern Caribbean cruises
Ready to start expanding your travel horizons? Check out the destinations you can cruise to all over the world.