[The following is a guest post from a fellow UNESCO fanatic named Jordan Adkins (his bio and blog link is at the bottom). I found his entries very fascinating (especially #3) so I hope you enjoy them as well. If you would also like to contribute your top 5 UNESCO sites and are a fellow travel blogger, shoot me an email: maximuz04 (at) gmail.com]
Have you ever visited a tourist site and thought it looked better in pictures? Or arrived only to be overwhelmed by hordes in tourist buses? I feel your pain! Global tourism is booming, and yet everyone seems to go to those same few places…Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, Statue of Liberty. Now this is not without good reason but we have a huge planet out there to explore. There must be somewhere we can have a little time and reflection to ourselves? Well yes there is … there are over 1000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, most of which have very few visitors, and are spread out all over the globe. I myself have been to 200+ so far and want to help people explore the lesser-known gems. So I put together a list, from my experiences so far, of 5 Amazingly Un-touristy World Heritage Sites! Hope you enjoy, and are inspired to visit more yourself!
#1 of 5 Amazingly Untouristy World Heritage Sites:
The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum in Malta
The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum (underground cemetery) was only found in 1902 during residential construction in Malta. Little did the workers know they had stumbled upon an enormous subterranean structure which was originally excavated in 2500 B.C.. Little is known of the incredible neolithic find other that its construction at the time was unparalleled with any other known developments on earth. Huge blocks of coralline limestone where lifted into place to create this ancient space, which was originally a sanctuary, but then became a necropolis in prehistoric times. Today it is one of the treasures of Malta and strictly guarded. Only 10 people are allowed in per hour on a limited guided tour (to prevent excess carbon dioxide and air humidity damaging the rock paintings), with no back-packs, cameras or other items. These guys are serious, and tickets sell out months in advance but WOW…It is worth it! Not to be missed!
I’ve said it a million times, but Seoul is definitely the center of everything that is Korea. With so much to offer, it is easy to forget the beauty that lies outside of the ginormous capital. For a complete experience though, check out these places OUTSIDE of Seoul, which have been conveniently placed in descending order of awesomeness.
Note – A couple of places overlap with the list of Top Things to do in Seoul. This was done on purpose for two reasons. First, many of these lie in the greater Seoul subway network, making a separation impractical for a guide. Secondly, it is a good benchmark for you to compare how these places stack up to places in Seoul so that you can pick and choose what you want to see. Seriously, it would take forever to see it all, but you’re welcome to try!
This, Korea’s oldest UNESCO site, is actually a dual submission of ‘two temples’ which are adjacent to each other, the large Bulguksa Temple, and the smaller cave temple of Seokguram. Bulguksa was first built in the 8th century during the Silla period and serves as one of the few remaining examples of their architecture.
One particularly impressive part of the temple is the set of two stone pagodas known as Seokgatap and Dabotap. While nothing has ever been found (officially) inside of Dabotap, the former had a number of relics dating back from the construction of these structures in 750 CE. One of these relics was a piece of the oldest known remaining woodblock print of the Mugujeonggwang Great Dharani Sutra. The two pagodas, the relics and five other structures account for a total of 8 national treasures in Bulguksa alone, 7 of which still remain on site today. Read more →
I left Korea just a few weeks ago and don’t know if I will come back (probably more a matter of ‘when’). I love an awful lot about this country and another list with the positive things is coming up, but I thought I would start with this one first to get the venting out of the way. This is another list of stuff I hate about the RoK.
Korean festivals and I have a long history that I must admit, hasn’t always been a happy one. While I love the idea of festivals and am glad that Korea has SOOO many of them, I approach them with caution. From time to time, I find myself in a place that is too crowded (Fireworks Festival), too overrated (Boryeong Mud Festival), and end up too disappointed (Yeosu Expo). I was pleasantly surprised that the Andong International Mask Festival not only lived up to my expectations, but surpassed them in every way!