From the natural beauty of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay to breathtaking architecture in an old Croatian city, AD surveys the best places to travel courtesy of a leading cultural institution.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization maintains the World Heritage List—an index of sites worldwide that boast universal values and meet one of ten criteria. Some sites “represent a masterpiece of human genius,” some testify to lost civilizations, while others feature inspiring natural beauty. In recent years, UNESCO has expanded the catalog to include more examples from traditional cultures worldwide. By maintaining the list, the U.N. draws attention to that which we value as people living in a variety of cultures and ecosystems over a long arc of time. The World Heritage List is also a credible travel resource.
Two days in Riga was long enough to acclimate myself to the relatively small walking area in the central tourist zone of the city. I walked around Old Town Riga. I photographed details on early 20th century Art Nouveau architecture of Alberta iela (Albert Street; iela = street in Latvian). Riga’s Central Market Pavilions are housed in large Zeppelin dirigible airship hangars built in the 1920s, repurposed these days from their original design function as covered market stalls for 3,000 vendors.
Riga is a city abundant in visual detail.
Riga was a major centre of the Hanseatic League, deriving its prosperity in the 13th–15th centuries from the trade with central and eastern Europe. The urban fabric of its medieval centre reflects this prosperity, though most of the earliest buildings were destroyed by fire or war.
In 1928, a 26-year-old Ansel Adams joined a Sierra Club expedition to the Canadian Rockies, trekking deep into Mount Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park. Exploring the alpine slopes, glaciers and waterfalls, Adams photographed them in striking, almost abstract compositions of striated rock and ice that prefigured his later, more famous, images of the Sierra Nevada.
Overwhelmed by the sights around him, he wrote home to his wife, “These mountains are breathtaking…The cold ice crashes down tremendous cliffs to the very edge of deep, somber forests. No dust here—all is snow, ice, clean black rock and mossy earth covered with thick vegetation—all cool and calm and very strong in the primal aspect. These are great mountains we dream about.”
Travel where there’s still wilderness
Nearly 90 years later, the Canadian Rockies and their surrounding territories have retained this ancient majesty.
As idyllic scenes rolled slowly by my window — terraced vineyards, red-roofed villages, turreted castles, all set against a background of craggy green mountains — I watched contentedly from my bed.
Who would expect to see such stunning scenery while wrapped in a cozy duvet?
A European river-cruise vacation last summer had brought me to this beautiful part of Austria. I was exploring the Danube, which crosses 10 countries as it snakes 1,770 miles from western Germany to its destination at the Black Sea.
The sliding glass door that revealed that view not only let cool, fresh air into the cabin, but also allowed me to become immersed in the scenery.
I was close enough to smell bread baking at a riverside restaurant, to hear children playing in a schoolyard, to see a monk hurrying along a village street.
Congolese park ranger Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo wins top honors for his extraordinary heroicism protecting the environment from oil companies, poachers, and rebel forces.
Former child soldier turned wildlife park ranger, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo, 41, is one of the six people who has been awarded the prestigious 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize for his work to protect the natural environment. The prize, given to one person from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions, was given to Katembo for his work protecting the majestic endangered species who populate Virunga, Africa’s oldest’s national park, from oil prospectors who are keen to gain access the pristine and untapped lands of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
At 3,000 square-miles in size, Virunga encompasses sections of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, and Rwanda.
As of July 2016, there were 1,052 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites scattered across the globe. They are considered to have cultural or natural value and so should be safeguarded for future generations. There are currently 22 UNESCO sites spread across 13 islands in the Caribbean: Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Suriname, Puerto Rico, Belize, and Jamaica. 15 of these have a cultural designation and 7 have a natural designation, and Cuba dominates the list, with a total of 9 UNESCO Heritage Sites.
The high level of diversity in the Caribbean is evident in these Sites, but they also give a peek into the history and complexities of the region. A region whose cultural identity has been impacted by many forces and is tied to a colonial past.
On top of being drop-dead gorgeous, Venice’s famed opera house (above) has some serious history going for it. The theater has hosted world premieres for composers like Verdi, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Stravinsky (look ‘em up, they’re legit) since it first opened in 1792. It’s also suffered a number of catastrophes-including a fire as recent as 1996-but it’s still going strong in its 223rd season.
Seebühne, Bregenz, Austria
“Seebühne” means “sea stage” in German, and it’s a fitting title, since this theater is floating on the GD water. The Bregenz Festival first began staging productions on Lake Constance in 1946, and eventually built a stage in 1950. The Seebühne now hosts everything from The Magic Flute to West Side Story, but no matter the show, you can count on some insane sets.
Kickstart your exploration of Japan from Tokyo. There’s just so much to see!
Tokyo, I daresay, is my FAVOURITE travel destination. There’s just something extraordinary about the place that makes it like no other place in the world! Tokyo itself has plenty to offer, but I’ve also found the city to be a great place from which to kickstart any exploration of Japan:
Whether for nature lovers, culture vultures, unconventional travellers or for those who are pure kids at heart – Tokyo has something for everyone. Arm yourself with these itineraries and get set to discover the wonders of Tokyo and its surrounds!
Warning: you might just fall hopelessly head over heels, just like I did.
1. For those who dare to be different
From Tokyo to: Zao Fox Village // Yokohama // Kawasaki
You may have heard of Chennai recently as the trendy new Indian vacation destination, but it’s anything but new. Seasoned adventurers have long celebrated the seaside capital of Tamil Nadu as the “soul” of South India, with its incredibly vibrant people, unforgettable cuisine, and its rich tradition of arts and culture. Today, the city formerly known as Madras is an explorer’s paradise, showcasing a rich diversity in culture and history that is reflected in every facet of life. Don’t expect 24 hours to be nearly enough time to fully explore the soul of South India, but a quick visit is better than nothing, and will certainly leave you intrigued for more.
Head to Mylapore for Kapaleeshwarar Temple and the City’s Best Silk Sarees
With only 24 hours, a great place to start your adventure is Mylapore.