They transport us back in time and reveal the secrets of ancient civilizations. Others mesmerize us with their striking natural beauty and rich wildlife. The 962 UNESCO world heritage sites spread across 157 countries are recognized for their universal cultural and natural value and now two anonymous individuals have opted to pay a whopping £1m ($1.6 million) to spend the next two years visiting each and every one of them.
Luxury website Veryfirstto.com didn’t expect anyone to accept their proposal and its hefty price tag when they revealed the world’s most expensive holiday package last month. But lo and behold, an unnamed man in China rang in to sign up. The travel agency has since received a second taker and several other inquiries.
Destinations on the tentative itinerary include the Great Pyramids in Egypt, the ancient city of Monte Alban in Mexico and the Taj Mahal in India. The two globe trotters will fly to each destination in business class, and rest their heads at some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, but also includes a £5000 ($8000) donation to UNESCO.
Each year, the World Heritage Committee inscribes about 25 to 30 sites to the world heritage list for their exceptional cultural and/or physical importance. Sites can include islands, waterfalls, forests, monuments, cities and more, and must meet at least one of 10 selection criteria.
Since some of us here at The Huffington Post don’t all have two years or a million dollars to drop on such an outrageous adventure, would-be travellers can live vicariously through this sample of heritage sites across the globe.
15 UNESCO Heritage Sites Around The World. Slideshow text follows for mobile reader
Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System
Seven separate sites make up the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, including the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere. The reef system is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and home to a large number of endangered species.
Canada's Dinosaur Provincial Park
Situated in the heart of Alberta’s badlands, Dinosaur National Park is home to some of the most significant fossil findings from the Age of Dinosaurs, including 35 species of dinosaurs which date back some 75 million years ago. Paleontologists have also found every group of dinosaurs from the Cretaceous period in the area.
Canada's L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
This archeological site in Newfoundland contains the remains of an 11-century Viking settlement, evidence of the first European exploration to North America. It is the only known Norse settlement in North America (outside of Greenland). The site’s
prominent wood-framed, turf structures are similar to those found in Iceland and Greenland from the same century.
Costa Rica's Cocos Island National Park
Located off the coast of Costa Rica, the uninhabited Cocos Island is the only island in the eastern Pacific with a tropical rainforest. Cocos National Park is one of the best places in the world to spot large marine species such as sharks, rays and dolphins, making it a mecca for scuba divers.
Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba
The remains of nearly 170 coffee plantations from the 19th and 20th century rest on the rugged valleys of the Sierra Maestra Mountains in Eastern Cuba. What makes these landscapes special is that they reveal the revolutionary agricultural techniques employed by French settlers and their African slaves to cultivate the harsh landscape.
The Dominica's Morne Trois Pitons National Park
Few places in the world can blend the lush beauty of rain forests and the scenery of volcanoes, yet Morne Trois Pitons does just that. A National Park located on a volcano in the south-central Dominica, this heritage site stands out thanks to its boiling mud ponds, waterfalls, tropical forests, hot springs, freshwater lakes and five volcanoes.
The Dominican Republic's Colonial City of Santo Domingo
The first cathedral, hospital, customs house and university in the
America's were built on Santo Domingo following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. The grid pattern used to build the town gave birth to the standard used by town planners in the New World.
Mexico's Ancient Maya City of Calakmul
Hidden in the tropical forests of southern Mexico in the state of Campeche are the ruins of Calakmul – one of the largest and greatest Maya cities. This site stands out due to the unearthed structures, art, tombs and other relics that have provided a glimpse into the life in this ancient Maya capital.
Guatemala's City Of Antigua
The city of Antigua was founded in the early 16th century, only to have most of it destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. Despite the damage, its architecture, inspired by Spanish colonials, remains well-preserved to this date.
Haiti's National History Park
The Palace of Sans Souci, the buildings at Ramiers and the Citadel are the three structures that make up Haiti's National History Park. The ruins date back to the early 19th century, when Haiti declared its independence and are the first monuments built by
black slaves who gained their freedom.
Nicaragua's Ruins of León Viejo
León Viejo earns its spot on UNESCO's list as one of the oldest Spanish colonial settlements in the Americas. The artifacts discovered on the site date back to first contact between Spanish settlers and Nicaragua's indigenous people back in the 16th century.
Panama's Darien National Park
Panama’s Darien National Park is a natural bridge connecting the Americas. It contains numerous ecosystems from sandy beaches and rocky coasts to swamps and tropical forests. The park is also home to a number of rare and endangered species, as well as two indigenous tribes.
The United States' Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is famous for its wildlife and thousands of geothermal features, such as hot springs and geysers. The majority of Yellowstone National Park is located in the state of Wyoming, though a small percentage also spills into the states of Montana and Idaho.
The United States' Statue Of Liberty
What started as a gift from France to mark 100 years of independence is now one of New York City's most popular tourist attractions. Towering over Liberty Island at the entrance to New York Harbor, the sculpture symbolized the countries’ alliance, as well as the principles of freedom and democracy. At the time, it was considered one of the greatest technical achievements of the 19th century.
Saint Kitts and Nevis' Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is one of the America's most well preserved military fortresses from the 17th and 18th century. It stands as a testament to European colonial expansion and was designed by the British Military and built by African slave labour.