Discover Some of the New UNESCO World Heritage Sites with Booking.com
There are over a thousand World Heritage sites, and every year UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) gets dozens of applications for new ones. To be selected, the site must be of outstanding universal value and meet very strict criteria. With three quarters (75%)* of travelers wanting to learn about the history of a destination to feel more connected to its culture in 2024, it’s worth exploring the exceptional cultural and natural sites that have recently been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list. With a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, we have selected some of the most exciting new UNESCO World Heritage sites that are sure to connect travelers more deeply with a destination, from ring-shaped Viking fortresses in Denmark to the sacred Polynesian Triangle.
Punctuated by moss-green mountains and lined with turquoise lagoons, French Polynesia is a place to experience laid-back island culture at its finest. Yet it’s not just for sun worshippers, as the island of Raiatea – meaning ‘faraway heaven’ – is home to Taputapuātea, a commune that served as a sacred center for at least 1,000 years. This recently appointed UNESCO World Heritage site, considered the center of the Polynesian Triangle, includes two forested valleys, a portion of lagoon and coral reef, and a strip of open ocean. At its heart is the Taputapuātea marae complex, a political, ceremonial and funerary center for the Ma’ohi people, where the world of the living intersected the world of ancestors and gods. Visitors to Raiatea can explore almost all of the island by boat, including the interior, which is accessible via a winding river. Aside from its rich history, Raiatea offers a plethora of water activities, friendly locals and delicious cuisine made up of traditional Polynesian cooking such as freshly caught seafood with coconut milk sauce.
Where to stay: On the east coast and least inhabited part of Raiatea, the Fare Oviri Lodge in Opoa overlooks a private white sandy beach and offers Polynesian-style bungalows with a patio and sea views. It features free snorkeling and kayak equipment and is just a short drive to the sacred Taputapuātea marae complex. The tour desk of this Booking.com Travel Sustainable property arranges diving trips and boat tours around the island led by local guides, while the lodge invests a percentage of revenue back into community projects.
Five monumental ring-shaped fortresses spread across Denmark were added this year to the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage site list, as some of the most prominent archeological remains from the Viking Age. These impressive structures, which look more like UFO crop circles than traditional fortresses, were built between 970 and 980 CE, and are characterized by their remarkable symmetry, each sharing a uniform geometric design. About an hour’s drive south of Copenhagen in the town of Slagelse, travelers will find the most well-preserved out of the five fortresses. Today, the remains of this fortress called Trelleborg can still be seen clearly, and travelers can explore the lives of the Vikings by visiting the nearby museum and reconstructed Viking village. Slagelse is a charming town with a rich history, while nature lovers are in for a treat at the nearby Naturpark Suså with its great hiking and cycling routes, and meandering streams to enjoy a picnic by the water. To learn more about the Vikings, head to the National Museum of Denmark in nearby Copenhagen with fascinating exhibits dedicated to the story of these seafaring Scandinavian warriors
Where to stay: The lovingly renovated farmhouse Vilcon Hotel & Konferencegaard is nestled amid beautiful rural surroundings and offers views of endless woodlands and fields. On a traditional Danish old farm, and ideally situated a short drive from the Trelleborg fortress and the Naturpark Suså, this charming Booking.com Travel Sustainable stay serves a seasonal menu in its restaurant with ingredients from its kitchen gardens, eggs from its chickens and makes huge efforts to reduce its food wastage. It also houses an onsite sports hall where guests can play tennis and volleyball, and has access to a putting green.
South Korea is a treasure-trove of history and home to the mysterious Gaya Tumuli. These captivating ancient burial mounds, recognized this year as a UNESCO World Heritage site, give a glimpse into ancient Korean customs, some with multiple chambers uncovering artefacts from pottery to jewelry. The earthen mounds range from small hillocks to large, majestic hills and there are some 1,500 dotted across the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Gimhae, situated on the Nakdong River, was once the seat of the Gaya Kingdom, an ancient Korean state, and these mounds show just how advanced the Gaya people were. Visitors can stay in Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city, just a short drive away and home to rugged mountains, glistening beaches and steaming hot springs. To experience more that UNESCO has to offer, book a Gyeongju UNESCO World Heritage One Day Tour From Busan which offers an immersive journey through the region from the Yangdong Village to the Bulguksa Temple showcasing traditional Korean life.
Where to stay: Enjoy luxury at its finest at the Lotte Hotel Busan, situated a stone’s throw away from a subway station in Busan for easy access to Gimhae (an hour’s scenic journey via metro) and the beautiful Gwangalli Beach. Set in a glass high-rise, guests can take a dip in the pool, enjoy a film at the movie theater or head to the onsite driving range for a game of golf. There are five restaurants, a bakery and a bar with regular live music, and excellent street food stalls nearby. What’s more, this Booking.com Travel Sustainable property uses 100% renewable electricity and offsets a portion of its carbon footprint.
Split between Chile and Argentina, the rugged region of Patagonia boasts many national parks, and these nature reserves protect huge swaths of one of the last truly pristine wildernesses on Earth. One of these is Los Alerces National Park, molded by glaciations in the Andean landscape with a labyrinth of mirror lakes and alpine meadows. West of the town of Esquel, this park protects some of the largest forests of ancient and endangered Alerce conifer trees that still remain, and one that might have sprouted well before the Great Pyramid of Giza was built. Recently declared a natural UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to these specimens, which have survived up to 4,000 years, the park is also home to several endangered animals like the huillín otter and the Patagonian huemul and pudú deer, as well as the botanical riches of the verdant Valdivian temperate rainforest. This protected area is synonymous with outdoor adventure, and travelers can enjoy boat trips and kayaking on the nearby Futalaufquen Lake, or walk one of the many stunning trails in the area.
Where to stay: Laguna Larga Lodge is located on a 270-acre (110-hectare) estate in a virgin forest close to the national park. It’s a short drive to the magnificent Futalaufquen Lake, and just a couple of steps from the peaceful Laguna Larga. The lodge boasts its own beach and pier, and cozy Alpine-style accommodation with views of the lake and the majestic Andes. Guests can enjoy a full American breakfast and the restaurant offers international dishes. Horse riding through the beautiful landscape can be arranged as well as fishing trips.
The world’s largest religious structure, Angkor Wat, dominates perceptions of Cambodian heritage – but the kingdom of Chenla, which flourished in the sixth and seventh centuries, was also a force. The UNESCO World Heritage site, Sambor Prei Kuk, an archaeological site where more than 100 temples are shrouded in jungle, has been identified as the ‘lost’ ancient Chenla capital of Isanapura and houses some of the oldest structures in the country. A short journey (via ox-cart or moto) from the city of Kompong Thom, travelers can walk the sandy trails of Sambor Prei Kuk looping between unique octagonal temples and discover beautifully decorated lintels, colonnades and pediments. From its glorious temples to its rare wildlife, Cambodia has it all – and this off-the-beaten-path destination is no exception. The slow-paced Kompong Thom lies along the Stung Sen River and visitors can meander past friendly local fisherman, gold-adorned shrines and verdant rice paddies on a boat trip, and spot beautiful Yellow-breasted Bunting birds in the sky.
Where to stay: Overlooking the scenic Stung Sen River, the Sambor Village Hotel is located in a leafy residential area of Kompong Thom and an ideal stop off for travelers looking to break up the popular journey between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Rooms at this authentic stay come with a spacious veranda, and guests can cool down in the pretty pool or make the most of free bicycles to explore the area. The restaurant at this Booking.com Travel Sustainable hotel uses the freshest local ingredients to prepare delicious traditional dishes, and offers well-priced tours to Sambor Prei Kuk organized by expert local guides.
Yukon’s newest UNESCO World Heritage site tells the story of the Klondike Gold Rush, a mass exodus of prospecting migrants from their hometowns to Yukon after gold was discovered there in 1896. Located along the Yukon River in the sub-arctic region of northwest Canada, this serial property features a collection of eight parcels of land in the Dawson City area from Moosehide Village to Fort Reliance. The vast and beautiful wilderness of Yukon, where four-legged species such as elk, moose and Arctic fox far outnumber humans, is inhabited by six principle indigenous tribes today. In winter, travelers can ski through nature reserves and skate across glistening lakes. In June and July, Yukon gets around 21 hours of sunlight a day and is ideal for mountain biking, canoeing and the hiking trails in the Kluane National Park and Reserve come highly recommended.
Where to stay: The pet-friendly Dawson Lodge in Dawson City is a short drive to the UNESCO World Heritage site and a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Yukon River. The town is always buzzing with activities that will take travelers back to gold rush times, such as elegant paddle wheelers on the water and gold panning competitions. The lodge offers in-room massage and beauty treatments and, with a Booking.com Travel Sustainable badge, uses 100% renewable electricity and offers activities organized by local guides.
*Travel Predictions 2024 research commissioned by Booking.com and conducted among a sample of adults who plan to travel for business or leisure in the next 12-24 months. In total, 27,730 respondents across 33 countries and territories were polled (including 1008 from Argentina, 1012 from Australia, 505 from Austria, 1001 from Belgium, 1002 from Brazil, 1009 from Canada, 1009 from China, 1002 from Colombia, 508 from Croatia, 504 from Denmark, 1011 from France, 1011 from Germany, 1016 from Hong Kong, 1004 from India, 510 from Ireland, 504 from Israel, 1014 from Italy, 1004 from Japan, 1009 from Mexico, 1014 from The Netherlands, 1015 from New Zealand, 500 from Portugal, 502 from Singapore, 1010 from South Korea, 1009 from Spain, 502 from Sweden, 507 from Switzerland, 504 from Taiwan, 1003 from Thailand, 502 from the UAE, 1007 from the UK, 1005 from the US and 1007 from Vietnam). Respondents completed an online survey in July 2023.