8/17/2023     by Guest Contributor

Our Top Picks for Delving into Earth’s Heritage

November 16, 2022, marked the 50th anniversary of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention, honoring decades of purposeful initiatives for the fundamental need of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. We share in their message: ‘heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.’ As a global travel organization, we embrace travel as an opportunity not only to get away from routine, but also to visit, learn and experience new cultures and sites.

Earth and its people matter, so we encourage you to travel consciously and mindfully, preserving these one-of-a-kind places. “Eco-friendly” isn’t just a tag for us; we’re committed to making the world better and recognizing the natural and cultural heritage of these stunning, unique destinations, landscapes and sites, with some of them even bearing an endangered status.

We invite you to inspire yourself with our curated selection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, where you will find some outstanding SELECT Hotels and Resorts to stay at and connect with the World Heritage concept. The SELECT collection of hotels and resorts consists of properties vetted to ensure they’re committed to sustainability and your custom travel experience is the best in class. Additionally, they all include a VIP amenity ($100 value), complimentary daily breakfast, early check-in and late checkout when available, upgrades upon availability, complimentary Wi-Fi, welcome amenities and much more.

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Siem Reap, Cambodia is full of sights to write home about.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Once a residence for the king’s guests and a masterpiece of 1960s New Khmer architecture, Amansara resort is just 10 minutes from the entrance to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat UNESCO World Heritage Site. Set in Siem Reap, Amansara’s gardens, tranquil spa, outdoor pool and canopy of mature trees contribute to the property’s namesake — “heavenly peace.” Suites offer a combined bedroom and living area stepping down into a light-filled bath with island tubs and floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening to a private garden courtyard with sun loungers, a reflection pond and — in a dozen suites — a private plunge pool. Sandstone reliefs are a nod to the famed ruins of Angkor temples, one of Southeast Asia’s most important archaeological sites.

Stretching nearly 155 square miles, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century, including the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. Amansara offers a variety of temple tours and customized excursions, with several tours utilizing Amansara’s fleet of remorks — moped-powered trishaws, each with its own Amansara driver and English-speaking guide. "Guests can embark on a four day trek to explore temples lost in the jungle, cycle through rice paddies, learn to make noodles, and more. From spiritual journeys and historical immersion to family adventure and enriching cultural experiences, this destination and property work harmoniously to provide guests with an authentic collection of memories.

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The Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena, Colombia is a vibrant hotel, bursting with luxury and history.

Cartagena, Colombia

With its cacophony of colors, picturesque balconies, and buildings that evoke the splendor of bygone eras, the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena is a luxurious hotel bursting with history, grandeur and impressive tales. Built in 1621, the property was originally a convent before the Poor Clares were evicted in 1861. It served as a charity hospital, prison and medical school for over a century before becoming the hotel in 1995 with reinvented modern accommodations, exquisite cuisine and the perfect combination of age-old tradition and local hospitality.

Discover the magic of Cartagena, the historic walled city, made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. Situated in a bay in the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena has the most extensive defensive walls in South America with a system of zones dividing the city into three neighborhoods: San Pedro, with the cathedral and many Andalusian-style palaces; San Diego, where merchants and the middle class live; and Gethsemani, the “popular quarter.” All are highly recommended UNESCO sites. And while Cartagena isn’t known for its coffee plantations, it is home to some of the best cafes where you can try endless cups of coffee, indulging in the nuances of growing regions, roasting and the ritual of enjoying one of the world’s most popular beverages.

Within the hotel, not-to-be-missed sites include Hall Gabriel Garcia Marquez with tributes to his works; the Crypt found during one of the excavations; the swimming pool, which was once the convent’s orchard; and more. With lots to do in and around the hotel, it’s difficult to resist the charms of Cartagena and this impressive property.

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The Hotel Grande Bretagne offers an impressive ambiance to match Athens' mythical history.

Athens, Greece

With breathtaking views of the fabled Acropolis, regal Syntagma Square and the Parliament, lush Lycabettus Hill or the original Olympic Stadium, the multi-awarded five-star Hotel Grande Bretagne offers an unrivaled perspective of Athens’ mythical history. Located in the heart of the city since 1874, the hotel is within walking distance of exclusive shopping areas, museums and the business district. With meticulous attention to detail, the rooms and suites marry charming old-world elegance with state-of-the-art facilities, whereas the 58 suites enjoy additional benefits, including personalized butler service.

One can easily transport back in time to experience one of the many nearby UNESCO sites, including the Acropolis — visible from the hotel but more spectacular in person; the monasteries of Meteora, where 11th-century monks settled on nearly inaccessible sandstone peaks known as “columns of the sky”; the shrine of Asklepios — god of medicine — in a small valley in the Peloponnesus where the temple, Tholos, and Theatre date back to the 4th century and are considered among the purest masterpieces of Greek architecture.

When sightseeing concludes, visit the hotel’s picturesque Roof Garden Restaurant for the finest Mediterranean cuisine, the Winter Garden for an afternoon of high tea, and the exceptional spa to relax and unwind. The hotel concierge team is a wealth of knowledge, always ready to unlock the secret treasures of Athens.

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The Matild Palace in Budapest doubles as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Budapest, Hungary

Matild Palace welcomes guests with a distinctive ambiance representative of its Hungarian heritage and is unmistakably beautiful from the moment you step in through the front doors. Built in 1902 during the Belle Epoque era, the palace was developed under the patronage of Her Imperial and Royal Highness Maria Klotild of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to serve as the social hub of Budapest. Today this transformed UNESCO World Heritage Site offers travelers regal luxury through its tastefully furnished rooms and suites – many overlooking the Danube river — a remarkable history, and a new era of gastronomy by Wolfgang Puck. Outside the hotel, guests are within walking distance of other worthy UNESCO Sites, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue.

These sites possess the remains of monuments such as the Roman city of Aquincum and the Gothic castle of Buda, which have influenced Hungarian architecture through various periods. Budapest is one of the world’s outstanding urban landscapes and illustrates the significant periods in the history of the Hungarian capital. Just a couple hours outside the city, wine lovers can enjoy the journey to the Tokaj Wine Region and the historical and cultural landscape offered there. In contrast, others may stay in the city center to visit one of the local wine bars providing exceptional tastings from the region.

Whether exploring near or far, the Matild Palace is a welcoming home base, combining luxurious surroundings with authentic experiences, providing a spectacular gateway to the magic of Budapest and all it has to offer.

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Situated atop a private man-made island, Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl makes for a truly bespoke beach vacation.

Doha, Qatar

Experience rich Arabic traditions combined with unmistakable European flair at the Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl. This five-star luxury beach resort unlocks the best of Doha from a private man-made island in the heart of The Pearl-Qatar and offers views of the Arabian Gulf from the spacious balconies of its 281 rooms and suites. The architectural beauty showcases refined culinary concepts at seven restaurants, four bars, and lounges. It is steps away from numerous entertainment and dining options at the Porto Arabia and Medina Centrale districts of The Pearl. Nearby landmarks include the Katara Cultural Village, the Doha Golf Club and Place Vendome, and premium shopping in Lusail Marina. For more historical enrichment, visit the UNESCO World Heritage property, Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, 90 minutes from the resort.

The walled coastal town of Al Zubarah in the Persian Gulf flourished as a pearling and trading center in the late 18th and early 19th centuries before it was destroyed in 1811 and abandoned in the early 1900s. A layer of sand blown from the desert has protected the remains of the site’s palaces, mosques, streets, courtyard houses and fishermen’s huts.

Upon returning to the resort after exploration, the luxurious Spa by Clarins is a blissful retreat for the body and soul in a tranquil world of indulgences. For relaxing getaways, and adventures in a destination so mysterious to many, the Marsa Malaz Kempinski has everything to complete an immersive experience in both ancient and modern civilizations.

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Dramatic views of Table Mountain come standard with many of the rooms at One&Only Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town, South Africa

In the heart of Cape Town, framed by the towering natural wonder of Table Mountain, One&Only Cape Town is a tranquil enclave surrounded by mesmerizing waterways and a traditional harbor, moments from the vibrant Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. At one of South Africa’s most vibrant resorts, guests can discover the heart of the country in an urban escape balanced with lush natural surroundings. The property ultimately sets the bar for hotels in Cape Town, offering an exclusive Spa Island surrounded by private waterways, spacious accommodations with breathtaking views, local charm and African culture, endless activities and adventures, and Africa’s only Nobu restaurant. Idyllic experiences like whale-watching, paddle boarding and hiking can easily be arranged through the hotel. Nearby, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Robben Island and the Cape Floral Region are enriching social and natural excursions.

Between the 17th and 20th centuries, Robben Island was used as a prison, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned; as a hospital for socially unacceptable groups; and a military base. Its buildings, particularly those of the late 20th century, such as the maximum-security prison for political prisoners, are now a museum and represent the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression and racism. The Cape Floral Region, located at the southwestern extremity of South Africa, is one of the world’s great centers of terrestrial biodiversity and includes national parks, nature reserves, wilderness areas, state forests and mountain catchment areas. The One&Only Cape Town provides guests with memorable luxurious comforts in a destination so rich in experience it stokes the heart and soul of all who visit.

An ideal way to visit any of the above locales — or if you’re looking for even more heritage travel experiences — then trust the guidance of one of our knowledgeable travel professionals. We’ll help you discover other exceptional SELECT properties and UNESCO-listed sites in Egypt, France, Canada, Morocco and beyond! Our agents know the world of travel well, so we can help you choose, plan and book your vacation to perfection.


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