ASIA’S significant historical and cultural landmarks Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China dominate the list of the best UNESCO world heritage sites among tourists.
They occupy the top three spots when it comes to the TripAdvisor’s list of UNESCO cultural and natural heritage sites.
First overall was the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia – one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Angkor Wat’s immense intricate detail includes more than 300 individually carved Celestial nymphs, as well as carvings that depict stories and myths for by-gone times. “The best views are at dawn or dusk when the crowds have gone, and the lighting reveals its true majesty,” TripAdvisor said.
Here are some of the UNESCO World Heritage sites that travel buffs swear by.
The importance of preserving our cultural and natural heritage is crucial, and groups like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) are key in this endeavour. As travellers, we can visit these locations which are a true legacy from the past, helping preserve and protect them. TripAdvisor presents the UNESCO cultural and natural heritage sites best rated by travellers around the globe.
ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA
Whilst one could be in danger of being ‘templed out’ due to the sheer number of them in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat should not be missed and is best toured with a knowledgeable guide to provide you with fascinating facts on the building process, history of it and Cambodia generally. The best views are at dawn or dusk, when the lighting reveals its true majesty.
The Taj Mahal, India’s iconic ivory-white marble mausoleum in Agra, is the second best UNESCO world heritage site in the world, according to a new survey.
With over 8 million visitors per year, the monument of love built by mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, is rated after Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.
Conducted by online travel portal TripAdvisor, the survey lists the UNESCO Cultural and Natural heritage sites best rated by travellers around the globe. “You can find hundreds of tours and experiences to visit this mesmerizing site, from a private tour with guide and visit at sunset or sunrise, to a visit including a home cooked meal at a local home in Agra,” the travel portal said.
Best toured with a knowledgeable guide, Angkor Wat has in store fascinating facts about its building process as well as history.
I was walking with tour guide Suon Chhavirak across a hilly field framed by orchid trees, just 5 miles south of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. The verdant beauty created a chilling contrast to what came next, when Suon pointed to the ground, dotted with the human bones, teeth and clothing that still surface after rain storms.
“My father was killed here,” he said softly, as we took in the ghastly Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, one of more than 300 killing fields where the Pol Pot regime massacred between 1 and 3 million Cambodians (out of a population of 8 million) between 1975 and 1979. “We just want to know why,” he said. “Why?”
Four decades after the Khmer Rouge’s brutal reign, the fault lines suffused nearly every exchange I had while touring Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The country’s trauma is profound, and so is its magnificence.
Acrucial piece of the jungle-swathed jigsaw that is south-east Asia, Cambodia (tourismcambodia.com) has stepped increasingly into the tourism spotlight since the turn of the millennium, pushing away (to an extent) the darkness which swallowed it during the second half of the 20th century.
It is a fascinating country to visit, offering epic heritage as well as dark history – plus flashes of luxury which make it a surprisingly chic place to stay for those with the budget.
Today (November 9) is Cambodia’s Independence Day – which seems a splendid enough reason to run through 15 fascinating facts about the country. Read on…
1. Its independence was from France
Paris ruled Cambodia as a colony for the best part of a century, between 1867 and 1953 – taking charge of it as a protectorate via clever exploitation of the country’s ongoing fears about aggression from its neighbour Thailand.
Cambodia, heir to the ancient Khmer Empire, is a land of many facets. It boasts awe-inspiring heritage sites such as Angor Wat, the world’s largest religious structure ever built. It offers impressive natural wonders like the Cardamom Mountains, a fresh water lake with floating villages, and massive rainforests with endangered animal species like tigers, sun bears, and leopards.
Cambodian traditions date back many centuries, such as the unique Apsara dances and funeral, fortune telling, and ancestor worshipping practices — combining Buddhist, Hindu, and animist beliefs. The influence of a nearly century-long French rule is still noticeable in Cambodia’s colonial architecture, café’s, and cuisine.
CAMBODIA: It has survived centuries of monsoon rains, a US bombing campaign and rampant looting.
Now the ancient temple city of Sambor Prei Kuk in Cambodia is finally ready for a renaissance – and is teasing tourists to its forest-cocooned ruins.
Cloistered by trees and linked by winding dirt trails, the site has played second fiddle to its much bigger cousin to the west – Angkor Wat – Cambodia’s top tourist destination.
But in July it gained a listing by the Unesco World Heritage, promising a tourist bonanza that could breathe new life into a once-thriving 6th and 7th century metropolis.
“We have already seen more and more local and foreign tourists flocking to visit our site,” said Hang Than, an official who manages the compound, as he strolled towards one of several temples spectacularly wrapped in tree roots.
Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex in bucolic Kompong Thom province was recently added to Cambodia’s list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Set amidst forest and shaded by towering trees, the unique late 6th century temple city is one of Cambodia’s oldest.
Around 170kms from Siem Reap, Sambor Prei Kuk – which means “the temple in the richness of the forest” in Khmer – is a sprawling complex of one hundred temples scattered over nearly 1,400 hectares of forest, rice paddies and marshlands on the west bank of the Steung Sen or Sen River in rural Kompong Thom.
One of Cambodia’s more off the beaten track archaeological sites, Sambor Prei Kuk sees nowhere near the numbers of the least visited temples in Angkor Archaeological Park near Siem Reap.