Today, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, or UNESCO, has a whopping total of 1,007 World Heritage Sites on its official list.
Places that receive the iconic UNESCO seal are chosen based on their cultural significance, their standing as a natural wonder, or both.
From the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, Turkey, made entirely from volcanic erosions, to Africa’s Namib Sand Sea, the world’s only coastal desert, here are 20 breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Sites from around the world.
Not only is Croatia's Plitvice Lakes National Park one of southeast Europe's oldest parks, it is also Croatia's largest with 16 interlinked lakes that reside between Mala Kapela Mountain and Pljesevica Mountain. The lakes are surrounded by lush forests and waterfalls, whose waters have deposited travetine barriers for years to create the natural dams.
Canaima National Park, located in southeastern Venezuela along the border of Guyana and Brazil, has a stunning lanscape of table mountain formations known as tepuis. It is also home to the world's highest waterfall, Angel Falls, whose highest point reaches a staggering 979 meters.
Vietnam's Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, located in the middle of the Annamite Mountain Range in the Quang Binh province, is home to the oldest karst (or landscapes formed from soluble rocks and characterised by caves and sinkholes) formations in Asia. Dating back over 400 million years, it contains over 104 km (64 miles) of caves and underground rivers.
Ha Long Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Northern Vietnam, is made of about 1,600 islands and islets of limestone pillars. According to UNESCO, a majority of the islands are uninhabited by people due to their extremely steep nature.
The Namib Sand Sea, located on the African coast of Namibia's Namid-Naukluft Park, is the only coastal desert in the world, whose dune fields often come into contact with fog and have created a unique array of wildlife that has evolved to adopt to the environment. The landscape includes everything from rocky hills to coastal lagoons.
The natural terraced thermal springs of Hierapolis-Pamukkale in the province of Denizli, Turkey, date as far back as the second century BC. Formed by calcite in the waters, the hot springs look like stunning white clouds.
Located in the Indian Ocean near the Gulf of Aden, the Socotra Archipelago is known for its extremely unique wildlife: 37% of its plant species, 90% per cent of its reptile species, and 95% of its land snail species are nonexistent anywhere else in the world, according to UNESCO. It's also home to one of the most unique trees in the world, the dragon's blood tree which gets its name from its red sap.
In Victoria Falls, bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe, is Devil's Pool, a natural infinity pool 915 meters high.
Los Glaciares National Park in Patagonia, Argentina, is home to the largest ice mantle outside of Antartica. Glaciers feed into the nearby Lake Argentino to create a breathtaking view.
According to UNESCO, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which stretches across Tennessee and North Carolina, has almost as many trees as all of Europe, which is why it is the most visited national park in the United States.
At the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, located on the western coast of Palawan in the Philippines, you get 'a full mountain-to-sea ecosystem,' as UNESCO describes. The park has a limestone landscape whose underground river connects into the sea.
The Iguazu National Park, located on the Northeastern tip of Argentina and bordering the Brazilian state of Parana, hosts a semicircular waterfall which actually forms the border between the two countries and has a diameter of almost 300 meters (984 ft.).
Malaysia's Gunung Mulu National Park, in Sarawak, offers one of the most studied kast terrains. You'll also find the Sarawak chamber, one of the largest cave chambers in the world, here.
The Lakes of Ounianga are 18 interconnected lakes in the Ennedi region of the Sahara desert. The water formations amidst the desert landscape make for a stunning sight.
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