7 Little-Known UNESCO World Heritage Sites You Should Visit

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7 Little-Known UNESCO World Heritage Sites You Should Visit
If you’re a little nerdy like me, then visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites when you travel is probably something you enjoy. Even if it’s not, you’ve probably visited a few without even realizing it. In case you’re not familiar with them, in 1972 the UN, through the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, began recognizing important sites around the world that they consider vital in order to maintain the cultural and natural heritage we have all inherited. We all know the big ones (Pyramids, Great Wall of China, etc.) but what I especially love visiting these sites? I wouldn’t know about most of them if it weren’t for their UNESCO designation. I’ve discovered a lot of little-known, off-the-beaten-path sites that turned out to be fascinating, fun places to explore. Here are some you may not know, but you should definitely add to your must-visit list.

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    1. Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes
    Tucked away in the Alps bordering Switzerland and Italy, the Bernina Express is one of the most beautiful scenic train journeys in the world. Starting in Tirano, Italy and finishing in Chur, Switzerland, the journey takes passengers through some of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous landscapes in the world. It wasn’t the route's beauty that piqued the interest of UNESCO, though, it was the engineering involved in creating this industrial masterpiece. The two railways include 42 tunnels and 144 viaducts and bridges—impressive given the snowy, mountainous terrain the train journeys through. The train didn’t start out as a tourist experience, but instead it linked small, isolated communities with the rest of the world. Thankfully, these villages are still isolated and their beauty has been well preserved through the decades.

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    (Photo: Matt Long/LandLopers)
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    2. Cape Floral Region Protected Area, South Africa
    One of my favorite countries in the world, South Africa is a diverse, beautiful country. But the most beautiful area might be near Cape Town—Cape Floral Region Protected Area. This area accounts for just 0.5% of the area of Africa but is home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora. From the scraggly fynbos to the yearly explosion of wildflowers, the ecology here is unlike anything else on the planet. The best way to get out and experience this wildlife? Take a wildflower safari like the one offered at the Grootbos Resort in Hermanus.

    (Photo: Matt Long/LandLopers)
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    3. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Canada
    The name tells it all, really, but the cliffs at this site were used for thousands of years by the local tribes as a way to efficiently kill and then harvest entire herds of buffalo, whose meat and skins helped the tribe members survive—sometimes for years at a time. Because the site was used for more than 6,000 years, the site has revealed a lot of information about the area’s prehistory. Check out the site's museum, a fascinating look at the local First Nations Peoples and what their lives were like before and after the arrival of European settlers.

    (Photo: Matt Long/LandLopers)
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    4. Crespi d’Adda, Italy
    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industrialists around the world created what became known as ‘company towns.’ These small communities, centered around a particular company, gave workers everything they needed—housing, stores, cemeteries, and other necessities. Many of these towns were nothing but a way for the company owners to further control their workers. Crespi d’Adda, however, was created to provide workers with a better quality of life. This small town is on the UNESCO list because it still exists mostly intact and looks like it did nearly a century ago. While the company has long since shuttered, people still call this town home. It’s easy to imagine the well-ordered life that once existed here. Crespi d’Adda is easy to reach from Bergamo and if 20th century history is your thing, then this is a must visit site.

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    (Photo: Matt Long/LandLopers)
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    5. Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
    Although it may be hard to tear yourself away from the near-perfect beaches, when you visit St. Kitts, be sure to include a visit to the island’s UNESCO site, Brimstone. Built in the 17th and 18th centuries, Brimstone is one of the best preserved examples of British engineering in the Caribbean and is a testimony to the power and influence of the European powers in the Caribbean. Aside from its historical importance, visiting the old fort is a beautiful experience in its own right: From high atop Brimstone hill you can see huge swathes of the verdant green island, from the coasts to the mountains. 

    (Photo: Matt Long/LandLopers)
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    6. Historic City of Trogir, Croatia
    Not far from the coastal tourism powerhouse city of Split, Trogir is another Croatian town that seems to have forgotten which century it’s in. It’s also impossibly old, which is why UNESCO decided to recognize it. People have called these same streets home since the Greeks; unlike many other cities, people have lived there continuously since the Hellenistic period. Think about how long that is for a moment and you'll be stunned by this beautiful, coastal retreat, too.

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    (Photo: Matt Long/LandLopers)
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    7. Episcopal City of Albi, France  
    Located in the heart of the incredibly green rolling hills of the Tarn region of France, Albi is an absolute treasure. Albi was also the birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec, the famed French artist of the 19th century. The Toulouse-Lautrec museum has just been renovated, and it is a masterpiece of modern design and museum management.

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    (Photo: Matt Long/LandLopers)
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