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UNESCO World Heritage Site: Top 5 overlooked sites

There are many famous Unesco sites, but do you know of these 5 overlooked sites? Read Sara Peuron-Berg's exciting guide to UNESCO World Heritage right here.

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Top 5 overlooked sites is written by Sara Peuron-Berg.

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World Heritage Sites - these are worth a visit

The Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids. All three sites have in common that they are on the World Heritage List. The list includes monuments or landscapes designated by UNESCO as sites to be protected, as they are of "unique universal significance."

In total there are a little over 1000 places, and Denmark has seven, eg Roskilde Cathedral. But while most have heard of or seen the Great Wall of China, the world hides several hidden UNESCO World Heritage gems spread across almost every continent.

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UNESCO World Heritage Site in Africa: Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

In the middle of nowhere stands a huge stone construction. It is round, and if you go into it, you will find a strange conical tower, where rumors of a hidden treasure swirl. High up on the cliff above, the remains of a royal settlement reign; Great Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe have already few tourists, and therefore all their sights are to be overlooked. But the large nearly 1000-year-old city is impressive and is the largest ancient construction south of the Sahara.

The ruined city of Great Zimbabwe is the most important national monument of the African country; both the country's name and national symbol - an eagle-like bird - derive from this. The city's wealth came primarily from gold mines in the area, and treasure hunters have later destroyed some. But now you get the place all to yourself with the exception of a few green mares.

Great Zimbabwe is a bit off the beaten track and requires transportation and accommodation planning. 

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UNESCO World Heritage Site in North America: Palenque, Mexico

As you ascend the ancient stone steps of the temple towards the tomb of the Red Queen, a colorful macaw flies over your head. In the trees the howler monkeys climb and you try to imagine the reaction of the first Europeans when they discovered this ancient city in the middle of the jungle. 

Mexico has an incredibly exciting story. Most people may know the ruined city of Chichen Itza, which is the most popular of the country's temple areas and built by the ancient Mayan civilization. But Palenque, on the other hand, is located in the jungle and therefore has the advantage of fewer tourists.

The city was one of the richest and most powerful cities in the 600th century, but was then left to the forces of nature. Few places stimulate the imagination as much as Palenque.

One tip is to stay nearby so you can experience both morning and evening in the ruins.

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UNESCO World Heritage Site in Asia: Luang Prabang, Laos

The Mekong River flows quietly past as you are dazzled by the sun’s reflection in the golden mosaics and carvings. Monks walk by in orange suits. You step into the darkness to a giant Buddha statue. An enormously beautiful place in Laos.

Angkor Temple Complex in Cambodia takes all the attention from neighboring countries and with good reason. But Laos right next door stores a lot of beauty. The city of Luang Prabang is the former capital of the country and has an abundance of beautiful gilded monastery temples called ‘wats’.

Buddhist monks walk through the city daily to collect alms, which is an ancient tradition called 'Sai Bat'. It can be rice, for example, but since the country has previously been occupied by France, there is also plenty of good bread. Also to you.

Luang Prabang is easy to reach from the capital Vientiane, and the city has been repeatedly named the best city in the world for travel and is at the same time perhaps Asia's most beautiful city.

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UNESCO World Heritage Site in Europe: Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

At an altitude of 1300 meters in the beautiful green Bulgarian mountains, there has been a religious refuge for 1000 years, which is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Europe.

You stare as you walk through the gate to the isolated sacred place where, since the 10th century, there has been prayer, desire, hope, and work. You climb up the tower to get an overview.

The monastery was built as a sacred site for the Orthodox Church and maintained Christianity while Bulgaria was ruled by the Muslim Ottoman Empire. 

The monastery has been destroyed, reconstructed and repaired many times, but it still stands. It is the largest in all of Bulgaria and is - apart from the capital Sofia - the most visited place in Bulgaria. But it is still overlooked. And then it's free.

The monastery can be easily reached on a day trip from Sofia either with a guided tour or by driving yourself.

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UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Caribbean: Cienfuegos, Cuba

En mojito among beautiful buildings, and then you go all the way down in pace. In the arcade by the town square, people sit and play cards surrounded by pastel-colored buildings while the wind swayes in the palm trees. You are in the middle of a Caribbean architectural gem. 

The cities of Havana and Trinidad are definitely interesting, though Cuba has more to offer the cultural traveler. It is not for nothing that the small quiet town of Cienfuegos is called the Pearl of the South, and nowhere else in Caribbean you will find so many neoclassical buildings.

The old beautiful turquoise and mint green district was built by the French and Spaniards when they ruled Cuba. Be sure to strut along the Malecón harbor promenade, and also remember to visit the old cemetery.

Spend at least a couple of nights here - you can easily get to Cienfuegos by bus from the capital Havana.

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About the travel writer

Sara Peuron-Berg

Sara Peuron-Berg aka The Traveling Dane. Travel writer with a focus on culture. Works at a World Heritage Site. Has visited 43 countries on 4 continents. Gets motion sickness and seasickness. Runs the travel guide on cultural travel around the world travellingdane.org and participates in this year's travel article competition.

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