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UNESCO World Heritage sites provide history lessons for travelers: Sydney Opera House, Machu Picchu, more

Australia's Sydney Opera House was named a UNESCO

Australia's Sydney Opera House was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007. Photo Credit: Alamy/Brian Lawrence

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) protects and preserves significant and inspirational places around the world. Locations carrying the important designation of World Heritage site provide impressive history lessons in some of the world’s most meaningful places. Here are five you and your family might like to visit:

1. Strasbourg, France. The French city’s old town is an island — the Grande Ile — surrounded by canals and the River Ill. Families can get a unique view of this historic enclave by paddling a canoe through the canals. You can’t miss the city’s Gothic cathedral, which rises high above Strasbourg and was said to be the world’s tallest building until 1874. 

INFO amawaterways.com; adventuresbydisney.com

2. Angkor Wat, Cambodia. While hundreds of temples and ancient structures remain in the Angkor Archeological Park, the most familiar is Angkor Wat. Built in the 12th century, the temple's bas-relief galleries inform modern visitors of life in ancient times. Visitors arrive via river cruises on the Mekong or a stop in Siem Riep where lodging and tours are plentiful.

INFO vikingcruises.com; tourismcambodia.com

3. Amalfi Coast, Italy. This picturesque coastal area offers a mix of cultural, natural and historic wonders. While the small communities were once only accessible by mule, modern-day train travel makes it easy to visit the enchanting towns that spill toward the sea from their steep and craggy origins. Sailboats dot the watery landscape and boat taxis provide additional access.

INFO raileurope.com; amalficoast.com

4. Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia. This iconic structure, comprising interlocking concrete shells, anchors one of the world’s most famous harbors. Whether you are on a walking tour and observe the opera house glinting in the sunlight or aglow at a performance after nightfall, you’ll appreciate its artistic vibe and global significance.

INFO sydneyoperahouse.com

5. Machu Picchu, Peru. Make your way to this extraordinary archaeological site just as the Incas did. Choose from two- or four-day treks along the Inca Trail that culminate in stunning views of the “lost city” where palaces, terraces, walls and plazas cling to the mountainside. Train trips are also available from Cusco.

INFO austinadventures.com

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