The Top 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Visit in 2018

You’ve probably heard of UNESCO World Heritage Sites before but what are UNESCO designated sites and why are they so important to explore?

UNESCO World Heritage Sites are destinations that are listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as “of special cultural or physical significance” and is legally protected by international treaties. You can search on UNESCO sites by country and discover why each is so unique and special. At AdventureWomen, we love to visit UNESCO sites because they tell important stories and unique insights about each destination’s culture, history and each country’s commitment to preservation of their heritage, wildlife and environment.

Here are 4 of our favorite UNESCO sites that we are visiting this year on our 2018 women’s trips:

Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island in Chile

“Rapa Nui” is the indigenous name of Easter Island and Rapa Nui National Park, a protected wildlife refuge in Chile which hosts the volcano Rano Kau. Rano Kau was a revered natural site of the Polynesian society living on Easter Island during the 10th to 16th centuries. This society is famous for erecting over 900 large, geometric stone statues or “moai” on Easter Island which we explore on day four of our “Biking, Fine Wines & Easter Island” womens trip to Chile November 2018.

Easter Island is one of the most unique places on earth (and one of the most remote!). It bears witness to a unique cultural phenomenon. UNESCO describes Easter Island as:

 “An artistic and architectural tradition of great power and imagination [which] was developed by a society that was completely isolated from external cultural influences of any kind for over a millennium.”

Easter Island is located more than five hours from the nearest continent, totally isolated in the Pacific Ocean and sprinkled with volcanoes and giant, monolithic Moai statues. How epic can you get? On our Chile adventure vacation to Easter Island we’ll meet some of the people who are helping to keep the island preserved, including Josefina, an Easter Island native whose family is responsible for the majority of the archaeological restoration of the island.

Stunning view of the volcanic crater of Rano Kau, Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island in Chile

A view of Moai on Easter Island, Chile

The City of Quito in Ecuador

One of the original UNESCO sites, the charming city of Quito in Ecuador possesses one of the most extensive and best-preserved historic centers of Spanish America dating back to the 16th Century: According to UNESCO, the city:

“…brings together the indigenous and European artistic traditions and which is renowned for providing the greatest contribution of Spanish America to universal art.”

On our “Volcanoes, Hiking and Wildlife” adventure tour to Ecuador in December, you’ll walk around and listen to lively music as local musicians play in the streets. Maybe you’ll sip a pisco sour as you relax amidst views of the towering Andes surrounding you and chat about Quito’s highlights with new AdventureWomen friends. With bright colors, beautiful landscapes, and bustling markets, just a stroll around the city of Quito is quite an adventure!


Basilica del Voto Nacional, Quito, Ecuador

Group performing traditional dance in Quito, Ecuador

The Kumano Kodo in Japan

Our third UNESCO World Heritage Site, “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes of the Kii Mountain Range” in Japan contains a famous ancient trail in Japan, the Kumano Kodo.

The UNESCO sacred sites and the forest landscape of the Kii Mountains, including the ancient pilgrimage route of the Kumano Kodo:

 “reflect a persistent and extraordinarily well-documented tradition of sacred mountains over the past 1,200 years.” (UNESCO

Our spiritual journey by foot on the Kumano Kodo occurs on Day 4 of our Japan adventure tour in March when you’ll be able to immerse yourself in Japanese nature, simplicity and quiet as you hike along this ancient path. The Kumano Kodo will take you through a forested region, leading you past gorgeous waterfalls and to ancient shrines.  We hike from village to village on our Japanese adventure trip and stay in traditional Japanese ryokans along the way. Each night, we take a restorative bath in water collected from local hot springs. Ahhh!

Kumano Kodo, a UNESCO sacred trail in Nachi, Wakayama, Japan

Nachi Falls in the Kii Mountains, Japan


Te Wahipounamu in Southwest New Zealand

New Zealand’s landscapes are world renowned. Te Wahipounamu Heritage Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, exhibits a high degree of geodiversity and biodiversity and is considered to be the best modern example of the primitive taxa of the super continent Gondwanaland seen in modern ecosystems. The break up of Gondwanaland is considered one of the most important events in the earth’s evolutionary history!

On our February 2018 New Zealand adventure tour, we will experience a multitude of these natural wonders. We’ll heli-hike on the Kepler Track, walk part of the Routeburn Track, and stroll to the Giant Gate Waterfall on the Milford Track. And you’ll cap off your New Zealand adventure with a cruise in the Milford Sound where, waterfalls cascade hundreds of meters, ancient forests cling to mountains, and the world feels untouched by human life.

View from the mountain ridge on Kepler track, Fjordland, New Zealand

Lake Te Anau, in the Southland region of the South Island of New Zealand


But this is just the beginning! Almost every single AdventureWomen trip running this year visits at least one UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Which UNESCO World Heritage Site will you check off your adventure travel bucket list in 2018?