On The Go Tours, an award-winning tour operator specialising in locally-led group tours and tailor-made holidays to worldwide destinations, is celebrating World Heritage Day by sharing their favourite ‘lesser known’ cultural UNESCO heritage sights.
Tuesday 18th April marks World Heritage Day and its theme this year is Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Tourism, which aligns with On The Go Tours’ ethos to take travellers on unforgettable journeys to extraordinary man-made and natural wonders across the globe whilst practicing sustainable tourism. On the Go Tours also ensures that over 70% of funds remain within the local economies to help support local communities and protect heritage sites across the globe.
Whilst destinations like the Pyramids and the Taj Mahal are on everyone’s bucket list, On The Go Tours urges travellers to expand their list to include their less famous relations, so have put together their top ten ‘alternative’ heritage experiences.
- Discover an ancient world in… Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto is not the first place you think of when you hear ‘UNESCO’, but 17 historical locations are declared cultural heritage sights in this beautiful city. There is something for everyone with Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, castles, Japanese’s gardens, and you might even glimpse a geisha scurrying to secret liaison.
- Awaken the force deep in the Jungle at …Tikal, Guatemala
Tikal, Guatemala is not as well-known as other South American ruins but it is exceptionally rich in history and culture. This ancient Mayan citadel, which flourished between 200-850AD, lies in the rainforests of northern Guatemala. Ruins are of staggering proportions with many towering temples including, Temple IV, which is the tallest pre-Columbia structure in the Americas, offering sweeping views from its 70 metre peak. The forest canopy winds around the ruins, offering rich earthy aromas and is home to monkeys, aguotis and foxes. It is no wonder this magical location was chosen for a Star Wars movie scene.
- Lose yourself in… Copan, Honduras
The Copan ruins can be found in Honduras, just over the border from Guatemala. For travellers that make it this far, it is one of the most charming and friendly ‘tourist’ spots in this part of the world. Copan, considered one of the most spectacular cities of ancient Maya civilisation, is a beautiful stone complex of temples, alters, hieroglyphs and stelae and as well as a maze of underground tunnels. The nearby town, of the same name, is just as picturesque with paved cobblestones lined with white adobe buildings with red tile roofs, and has some fantastic local restaurants.
Recommended Tours: The Way To San Jose
- Spice things up in … Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An in Vietnam is home to one of Asia’s most beautiful ‘old towns’ which is a reflection of its cosmopolitan global history. This former port city, laced with canals, offers an eclectic mix of eras and styles, from French colonialism, Vietnamese tradition, Chinese architecture and a Japanese bridges and pagodas. Paying homage to its spice trading hay day, there is a vibrant culinary scene with a bustling street food culture and incredible fresh markets. Despite such a romantic setting there is plenty to do for couples, families and backpackers alike.
- Enjoy a royal view at … Himeji Castle, Japan
Japanese Himeji Castle, one of 12 remaining castles left in Japan, has a fascinating history as well as a more recent illustrious film location career with classics such as The Last Samurai and James Bond movie You Only Live Twice under its belt. Perching on a hilltop, overlooking the city of Himeji, this 400 old relic from the feudal era, is an elegant and proud construction of white wood and is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture. Visiting in cherry blossom season is a must as the castle is surrounded by magnificent cherry blossom trees.
- Explore a medieval maze in… Tallinn, Finland
Tallinn, located on the Baltic sea, is an exceptionally well preserved medieval trading city which flourished between the 13-16th centuries. Its skyline is peppered with church spires, and its lower town is a maze of narrow winding streets – many still adorned with their original medieval names and architecture including: monasteries, merchants guides and houses. Since the Viking days it was a melting point for various cultures and has been ruled over my European powers so has a diverse and hedonistic culture, art and culinary scene.
- Get your zen on in… Seokguram Grotto, South Korea
Seokguram Grotto is one of Asia’s finest Buddhist shrines and one of South Korea’s best national treasures. It is a hermitage that is part of the Bulguksa temple complex, completed in the 8th century, and showcases some of the best Buddhist sculptures in the world. It was abandoned for centuries and not rediscovered until 1909 when a traveling postman happened upon it by chance. The tale goes that during a thunderstorm a postman was caught outside in the rain and sought shelter in the nearest cave he could find. When he was safely inside, he lit a candle and found a gigantic stone Buddha staring back him.
Recommended Tours: Seoul & Silla Kingdoms
- Awaken all your senses in… the Medina of Marrakech
An exotic tapestry of sights, smells, sounds and tastes the Medina of Marrakech takes travellers on a sensory journey into the city’s past and present. The Medina was, and still is, the economic and cultural centre of the city. It is home to an array of impressive buildings and monuments from the Kasbah Mosque, Badii Palace and Saadian tombs, to the maze of souks and the square in the heart of the action, Jemaa El Fna. With spice sellers, silk spinners, fruit vendors and jewellery hagglers the heart and soul of the medina is very much alive.
- Follow in ancient footsteps and visit… Quebrada de Humahuaca, Argentina
Quebrada de Humahuaca, part of the Camino Inca – a major cultural route that has 10,000 years of trading history, is a narrow mountain valley in northern Argentina. It’s known for its dramatic rock formations and hills, and its indigenous Quechuan villages – with visible traces of prehistoric hunter-gatherer communities, of the Inca Empire (15th to 16th centuries) and of the fight for independence in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the south, the rocky, multihued slopes of the Seven Colours Hill rise above the Spanish colonial village of Purmamarca which is also home to the centuries-old Santa Rosa de Lima church and holds morning markets framed by the surrounding desert landscapes.
Recommended Tours: North Argentina Highlights
- Play in an archaeological park for a day at … Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s majestic medieval capital, was established as the first city of the land in the 11th Century, A.D and today is an incredible archaeological park packed with hundreds of ancient structures from tombs and temples to status and stupas. The centre quadrangle is worth the trip alone and music lovers might recognise the architecture from Duran Duran’s 1982 video Save A Prayer. Animal lovers and documentary fanatics might also recognise the striking landscape from Disney documentary ‘Monkey Kingdom’ which documents a troop of toque-macaque monkeys – who are not that dissimilar to their counterparts in The Jungle Book