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The Australian: Travel bucket list: UNESCO sites to behold

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Tuesday, 10 October 2017

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/travel/travel-bucket-list-unesco-sites-to-behold/news-story/b8efb616fe6a69d143428de695068d12

Travel bucket list: UNESCO sites to behold

Curious sheep at sunset in the Lake District, England.
Curious sheep at sunset in the Lake District, England.
  • KENDALL HILL
  • The Australian

  • The Daurian Steppes and ancient city of Yazd may not figure on many bucket lists yet but that probably is about to change. The sites are among 26 new or expanded entries added to the World Heritage register this year by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Here are some highlights of these new world-best experiences.
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THE LAKE DISTRICT, ENGLAND
Britain’s favourite national park is perhaps the most obvious of this year’s inclusions on the UNESCO register. The Lake District landscapes of fells (mountains) and glacial valleys, dry-stone hedges and slate-roofed cottages have inspired everyone from William Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter. Home to England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike, and deepest lake, Wastwater, its natural beauty is undisputed. But its cultural significance also has been recognised by the World Heritage judges; the citation notes the centuries of sheep farming that have reshaped the land into enclosed fields, noble estates and bountiful sources of inspiration for romantic artists.
HOW TO VISIT
Lake District Tours runs small-group chauffeured itineraries to local beauty spots. Tours can be tailored, such as the Wordsworth trail, with a blue badge guide leading the way. More: lakedistricttours.co.uk.
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THE OLD CITY OF AHMEDABAD, INDIA
Beyond the car horns and constant exhaust fog of Ahmedabad, the industrial powerhouse of western India, lies a cloistered world dating back to the 15th century. The walled city of Old Ahmedabad, on the east bank of the Sabarmati River, is still divided into close-knit housing clusters, called pols, based on caste, religion and profession. Each has its own well, market and a bird-feeder or chabutro to encourage nature into the city’s heart. Its many lovely old mansions, ornamented with gothic flourishes, guardian lions and decorative lintels, are in various states of disrepair but World Heritage status should help bankroll much-needed restorations.
HOW TO VISIT
Melbourne-based operator India Unbound organises itineraries full of colour, culture and cuisine to Gujarat state, with an emphasis on the old city and new architecture of Ahmedabad. More: indiaunbound.com.au.
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APHRODISIAS, TURKEY
The Greco-Roman ruins of this settlement dedicated to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, are one of the great archeological sites of Anatolia. Sacked by Tamurlane in the 15th century, the city has lain in ruins since but visitors still can find remnants of the ancient Acropolis, the third-century Temple of Aphrodite where pilgrims worshipped the goddess for generations, and the fourth-century city with its agora, odeon and baths. The museum has a significant collection of Roman marbles, a legacy of the once-famous sculpture school of Aphrodisias.
HOW TO VISIT
Bunnik Tours has 20-day Turkey In Depth itineraries that start in Istanbul before visiting the greatest hits, including Cappadocia’s cave churches, whirling dervishes, Pamukkale hot springs, Ephesus, Gallipoli, and Aphrodisias. More: bunniktours.com.au.
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LOS ALERCES NATIONAL PARK, ARGENTINA
Thrill-seekers already familiar with the Los Glaciares and Tierra del Fuego national parks now have a new adventure playground to explore in Argentina’s beautiful south. Located in northern Patagonia and bordering Chile, Los Alerces National Park has been elevated to international acclaim for its spectacular variety of pristine glacial habitats, from mirrored lakes and snowy mountains to alpine meadows and temperate forests. It also is home to 3000-year-old alerce trees, one of Earth’s oldest organisms.
HOW TO VISIT
Boutique US operator SA Expeditions can organise itineraries to Los Alerces and recommend the best hiking and fly-fishing spots. More: saexpeditions.com.
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OKINOSHIMA, JAPAN
There are no women allowed. Photography is forbidden. In fact, pretty much the only people permitted to set foot on this island shrine are Shinto priests, who must first bathe naked in the sea to purify themselves before coming ashore and paying their respects to the divine beings, or kami, who inhabit this taboo-shrouded isle in the Korea Strait. Okinoshima is never going to become a major tourist attraction but UNESCO hopes that making Okinoshima better known will ensure it continues to be respected and preserved as “an exceptional example of the tradition of worship of a sacred island”.
HOW TO VISIT
You can’t. The closest visitors can get is Okitsu-miya Yohaisho, an elevated worship hall constructed on an island coastal terrace off Kyushu, about 50km from Okinoshima. On a clear day you can just make out the Okinoshima shimmering on the horizon. More details: okinoshima-heritage.jp.
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ASMARA, ERITREA
Already on the radar of intrepid African travellers, the Eritrean capital Asmara is a mix of time warp and culture clash perched high on the east African escarpment. Eritrea was an Italian colony for about 50 years from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries and Asmara is a relic of that era, a treasury of what may be termed Mussolini modernist architecture. There’s a distinct retro charm in the villas, cinemas and even service stations rendered in styles as diverse as art deco, cubist and neo-romanesque. Visitors also will appreciate those other legacies of Italian occupation, pizza and pasta.
HOW TO VISIT
British adventure holiday outfit Undiscovered Destinations organises 10-day trips to Eritrea that visit Asmara, the mountains, the Red Sea coast and remnants of imperial Rome. More: undiscovered-destinations.com.
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STRASBOURG, FRANCE
Grand Ile, the medieval centre of Strasbourg, is already on the World Heritage List; now it’s been joined by Neustadt, the Haussmann-inspired “new” city centre built under German rule in the late 19th century. Both are remarkably well preserved, allowing visitors to wander at will between Roman antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Rhineland Renaissance. The citation praises Strasbourg’s eye-catching assembly of baroque revival, neo-gothic and late art nouveau landmarks, all arrayed around the gothic masterpiece of Our Lady of Strasbourg Cathedral to create “a unified landscape around the rivers and canals”.
HOW TO VISIT
Avalon Waterways’ eight-day Romantic Rhine river cruises between Amsterdam and Basel include a full day to discover the Alsatian capital. More: avalonwaterways.com.au.
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YAZD, IRAN
Yazd unfurls like a magic carpet high on a plateau on the edge of the Iranian central desert. Sustained by its strategic trading position on the Silk Road and the Spice Route, the oasis city has triumphed over its harsh environment for more than 1000 years. Ringed by mountains and watered by an ingenious system of aquifers, Yazd’s skyline is dominated by domes and minarets; covered alleys known as sabats; and badgirs, chimney-like wind-catchers that funnel breezes into desert dwellings. All of this is created from mud-bricks in a remarkable expression of the resilience and ingenuity of the Yazdis.
HOW TO VISIT
World Expeditions has a 10-night Best of Iran guided adventure tour that visits Yazd by car, on a 425km drive over mountains and desert from Shiraz. More: worldexpeditions.com.
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KULANGSU, CHINA
This tropical island trading post, found off the coast of Xiamen in southeastern China, has been a bridge between East and West for more than two centuries and has absorbed both worlds into its heritage architecture and traditions. Bicycle and car-free, shaded by banyans and palms, Kulangsu (Gulangyu) remains relatively untouched with more than 900 buildings of historic significance, including more than a dozen consulates. The UNESCO citation also praises its “historic roads, natural landscape elements and historic gardens”. Kulangsu’s nickname is Piano Island, so-called for its high concentration of keyboards (a legacy of all the foreign grandees who settled here) and its claim to have the world’s largest piano museum. Charming and compact, this tiny island of 30,000 inhabitants is visited by more 10 million tourists a year.
HOW TO VISIT
Independent travellers can reach Kulangsu easily by 24-hour ferry service from Xiamen. Wendy Wu Tours organises five-day Xiamen and Nanjing tours that include a day on Kulangsu Island. More: wendywutours.com.au.
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LANDSCAPES OF DAURIA, MONGOLIA AND RUSSIA
Inscribed as a wonder of nature, the remote Daurian steppes are a one million square kilometre expanse shared by Mongolia and Russia. They cover a pristine region of globally significant wetlands and lakes where millions of migratory birds touch down between East Asia and Australia, including more than a dozen endangered species such as the great bustard and the white-naped crane. The rare Mongolian gazelle, or dzeren, also is found in these grasslands and taiga forests on the borderlands between eastern Mongolia, Siberia and northeast China. Trip timing may be an issue: July temperatures can peak around 50C, while January plunges into the minus 20s.
HOW TO VISIT
Timing is an issue as July temperatures can peak around 50C while January plunges into the minus 20s. Nomadic Journeys ventures into Mongolia’s remotest corners; its 11-day Eastern Steppes tour takes in the Daurian Steppe Lakes region. More: 360degreesmongolia.com.




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