10 Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites

  • slide 1

    Taj Mahal in India

    India's Taj Mahal -- perhaps the ultimate testament to love -- was built in the 1600s by Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife. The white marble mausoleum sits on the banks of the Yamuna River and is considered by many to be the greatest architectural feat in the Indo-Islamic tradition.

    Photo courtesy of McKay Savage

  • slide 2

    Iguazu National Park, Brazil and Argentina

    The waterfalls of Iguazu National Park, some of the most spectacular in the world, plummet 260 feet and span more than 8,000 feet. That makes them significantly taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide -- truly one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world.

    Photo courtesy of SF Brit

  • slide 3

    Historic Center of Bruges

    The film In Bruges staring Colin Farrell helped put this historic Belgian city on the tourist map, and it certainly deserves to be there. The charming medieval settlement boasts excellent examples of Gothic architecture along its waterways and cobbled streets. If you're looking for the postcard-perfect European town, this is it.

    Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson

  • slide 4

    Petra, Jordan

    The red sandstone ruins of Petra, carved and built into the mountains of the Nabataean kingdom, fuse Hellenistic and Eastern architectural traditions seamlessly in what has become one of the world's most recognizable architectural sites. Since you can't take vehicles into Petra, you're stuck using a more traditional form of transport: the camel.

    Photo courtesy of Dennis Jarvis

  • slide 5

    Meteora, Greece

    The 24 monasteries perched atop the cliffs of Meteora, Greece seem almost impossible to access, especially given they were built in the fifteenth century. Intrepid travelers can ascend the steep and often slippery steps to visit a few of the monasteries still inhabited by monks and open to visitors.

    Photo courtesy of cod_gabriel

  • slide 6

    Serengeti National Park

    For wildlife enthusiasts, it doesn't get much better than the vast plains of the Serengeti savannah. Each year, hundreds of thousands of animals -- zebra, gazelle and wildebeest -- migrate to the Serengeti watering holes with their predators in hot pursuit. The impressive biodiversity of the park, including the presence of four globally endangered species, makes the park both vitally important and exciting for safaris.

    Photo courtesy of imke.stahlmann

  • slide 7

    City of Cuzco, Peru

    Baroque churches and Inca ruins await in the city of Cuzco, located in the Peruvian Andes. It's also a popular jumping off point for trips to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. With colorful local markets, well-preserved colonial architecture, museums, galleries and temples, there's plenty to do without ever leaving the city.

    Photo courtesy of Kenneth Moore

  • slide 8

    Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay

    Mont-Saint-Michel, a Gothic Benedictine abbey dedicated to Saint Michel, sits on a rocky islet at the border of Normandy and Brittany. The walls measure more than a half-mile around, making it one of Europe's most impressive architectural achievements. No wonder it's the most visited site in France after the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

    Photo courtesy of Cea.

  • slide 9

    Town of Bamberg, Germany

    The Bavarian town of Bamberg earned a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list with its well-preserved heritage and medieval architecture. Come for the sights and stay for the beer; Bamberg is home to 10 breweries with another 80 in the vicinity.

    Photo courtesy of Alan Bruce

About Lydia Schrandt

Lydia, photo editor and Readers' Choice Production Manager for USA TODAY 10Best, has traveled to more than 30 countries in Europe, Asia and North and South America, and has lived in Albuquerque, Galveston, Austin, Thailand, Korea, China, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and now Spain. When she's not at her computer in a cafe, she's out photographing the city, writing fiction or cheering on Barça.

Read more about Lydia Schrandt here.

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