There’s no better way to celebrate the beauty and history of our planet than by visiting some of its most important and notable locations: UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.) The World Heritage Site designation means that these sites meet some of the 10 pieces of criteria set down by the organization. In brief, UNESCO World Heritage Sites are marvels of human creativity or engineering and should be preserved for the education of future generations.
Luckily, there are many of these sites right in our backyard in the United States. If you’re planning a trip through the U.S., consider stopping in at Yosemite National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Glacier Bay National Park, Olympic National Park, or maybe even all of them to take in the history of culture and the beauty of nature.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Yosemite National Park
A must-see UNESCO site: Yosemite Falls under the stars.
Yosemite National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its stunning natural beauty. Yosemite is home to some of the world’s tallest waterfalls, groves of giant sequoias, and unique landform features carved by glaciation.
What to do in Yosemite National Park
No matter what time of year you travel to Yosemite National Park, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy.
Yosemite National Park is a great place to escape into nature and see sights that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. During the warmer months, there are opportunities for guided hikes, biking through the valley, and for the hard-core adventurer, backpacking trips into the wilderness. For those looking for less strenuous activities, much of the park can also be seen by bus and tram tours.
During the winter, the landscape is blanketed in snow, opening up opportunities to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, and tube down the slopes.
Where to Stay in Yosemite National Park
If you’re traveling to Yosemite National Park to take in the sweeping views of the mountains, there’s no better place to stay than Yosemite Valley Lodge. This location places travelers in close proximity to Yosemite Falls, Glacier Point, and Housekeeping Camp.
For travelers looking to commune with nature all day and all night, a stay at Housekeeping Camp provides all of the fun of camping without the need to set up a tent.
For those who want to fill their days with nature and their nights with luxurious accommodations and dining, there’s no better option than The Ahwahnee.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Mesa Verde National Park
The ancient dwellings of the Pueblo, located in Mesa Verde National Park.
Located in Southwest Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park is home to ancestral Pueblo dwellings built between the sixth and twelfth centuries. The villages and cliff dwellings are archaeological sites that provide information on how these people lived all those generations ago.
What to do in Mesa Verde National Park
The primary draw to Mesa Verde National Park is to see the famed historical dwellings. This can be done by individual hikes or on a tour such as the 700 Years Tour, which follows a chronological path and covers the culture, architecture, and religion of the Pueblo people.
Visitors can also drive to Wetherill Mesa for more spectacular views, or test their skills at the Morefield Explorer Scavenger Hunt.
Where to Stay in Mesa Verde National Park
The only option for lodging within Mesa Verde National Park is at the Far View Lodge, which offers 150 rooms each with one king or two double beds, a private balcony, and other amenities. For the more adventurous travelers, there’s the Morefield Campground, which has space for tent and RV camping and a nearby cafe which serves a pancake buffet every morning.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Touring the crystal blue waters of Glacier Bay.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Glacier Bay consists of multiple historical sites, including Kluane, Wrangell-St. Elias, and Tatshenshini-Alsek. The parks span the area between Canada and Alaska and contain some of “the largest non-polar icefields” in the world.
What to do in Glacier Bay National Park
One of the main draws to Glacier Bay is the high-peaked mountains and glaciers. For some of the best views of the all-encompassing nature, take the 8-hour cruise that is the Glacier Bay Day Tour. Visitors might also enjoy various activities such as whale watching, kayaking, and ranger programs.
Where to Stay in Glacier Bay National Park
As the only hotel within Glacier Bay National Park, there’s no better place to stay than Glacier Bay Lodge if you want to be comfortable and close to nature. Glacier Bay Lodge is also home to the Fairweather Dining Room which serves up fresh, plentiful foods, including dishes featuring local seafood. For those wanting to camp, there’s also Bartlett Cove Campground.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Olympic National Park
The lush, green rainforests of Olympic National Park.
Olympic National Park, located in Washington state, is home to glacier-clad mountain peaks, alpine meadows, old-growth forests, and temperate rainforests. This variety of ecosystems is one of the many reasons it was chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What to do in Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is a great escape from the city. Visitors can enjoy bird watching, hiking, biking, paddleboarding, and fishing. There are plenty of guided tours to choose from. A tour that can’t be missed is the Lake Quinault Rainforest Tour which takes visitors on a four-hour bus tour featuring an interpretive guide.
While nature is the primary draw for most visitors to Olympic National Park, there’s also the option to relax and unwind at the local hot springs.
Where to Stay in Olympic National Park
There are plenty of options for places to stay in and near Olympic National Park. For a comfortable, no-frills stay, book a night at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. For those who love to be surrounded by history, Lake Crescent Lodge, built in 1915, is the perfect night’s stay. Each hotel features on-site dining with plenty of local dishes that will please any palate.
In addition to these hotel experiences, there are also plenty of places to camp and to park your RV. There’s no better way to connect with the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest.
Nation’s Vacation is proud to host travelers from all over the world to these one-of-a-kind, spectacular sites. History, education, and undeniable natural beauty await you!
Which of these UNESCO World Heritage Sites do you want to explore first?