Ten of the most beautiful UNESCO world heritage sites
UNESCO: With over 1,000 different sites around the world, UNESCO's world heritage list can seem daunting. So here are ten of our favourite sites, both for their incredible beauty and for their commitment to preserving the history and natural diversity of our planet.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
These stunning, multi-level lakes and surrounding national park are nestled in the heart of central Croatia. With 16 lakes of turquoises, greens and blues overflowing into waterfalls, the chain is a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean rivers. Swimming is prohibited in the water to protect the natural balance of marine life.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
The Okavango Delta has long been an entrancing safari destination, home to countless species and one of the only deltas in the world that does not run into a sea. It is also one of UNESCO's newest world heritage sites, added to the list in 2014.
As one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world, Valleta is a testament to those who have fought to preserve it for many years. The 16th-century city has been invaded and ruled by all manner of conquerors, from the Phoenecians to the Romans and even the Order of the Knights of St John.
Prepare for serene peace and quiet under the boughs of Japan's incredible beech-tree forest. Though this species used to dominate the slopes of the north, only a limited number remain under the protection of UNESCO's banner.
Vineyards of Piemonte, Italy
The splendid Queen of wine-growing regions, Piemonte rises out of northern Italy in a swathe of uniform, green rows. Along with world-class wines and renowned white truffles, the region boasts a UNESCO-protected, 13th-century castle at Monferrat and some of the best hiking trails in the country.
Dating all the way back to the 10th century, Bagan is the regal capital of Myanmar's first Kingdom. As tourism begins to reemerge here, this destination is finding its long-lost mojo and a growing number of people are discovering the city's glorious pieces of ancient buddhist architecture.
Mont Saint-Michel, France
This 11th-century fortified village off the coast of Normandy becomes completely surrounded by water at high tide. The Benedictine abbey which sits atop the Mont was built in the eighth century and was turned into a prison by Louis XI, though nowadays inmates have been replaced by a constant stream of visiting tourists.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
These incredibly diverse islands have been a UNESCO world heritage site since the 1970s. Made famous by Charles Darwin during his voyage aboard HMS Beagle, the Galapagos have a dazzling array of endemic species closely protected by a biological marine reserve and national park.
Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is the most remote populated island on the planet. Buried deep in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, it is home to an incredible series of 800 basalt stone monuments, built between the 13th and 16th centuries by a native Polynesian people who have long since disappeared. The moai still stand proud across the entire island in testament to their culture.
Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles
Home to the world's largest population of giant tortoises as well as pristine corals and reefs, the Seychelles' Aldabra Atoll is one of the last places on earth to remain virtually untouched by humans. Very few have visited the four islets and its shallow lagoon. Though it is the world's largest raised coral atoll, a lack of fresh water and rough terrain have prevented humans from settling there.