Top Six UNESCO World Heritage Sites To Visit On A Cruise

Top Six UNESCO World Heritage Sites To Visit On A Cruise

Embark on an enthralling adventure where history, culture, and nature meet at the world’s most spectacular destinations. In this exploration of top UNESCO World Heritage Sites, we share with you some of the best places recognised for their treasured wonders.

From the mysterious allure of ancient ruins to the vivid beauty of natural marvels, each site on our list promises an experience brimming with awe and global significance. And the best thing? You can discover these captivating places while travelling via the luxury of a cruise ship!

Imagine gliding across the ocean and waking up to a new wonder each day – that’s the magic of a cruise holiday. So, read on to get inspired for your next adventure at sea, filled with cultural richness and historical marvels.

What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

UNESCO World Heritage Sites are landmarks or areas recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for their cultural, historical, or other forms of significance.

These sites are protected and preserved for their exceptional value to humanity, ensuring their legacy for future generations. From awe-inspiring natural landscapes to architectural masterpieces, each location tells a unique story of our world’s heritage and humanity’s journey.

How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites are there?

At the time of writing, there are 1,199 UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the globe. On this ever-growing list, 933 sites are cultural (such as monuments, archaeological sites or objects, as well as performing arts or traditions), 227 are natural (whether physical, biological or geological formations), and 39 are mixed properties (where both elements are present).

There are 168 countries with UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the UK, UNESCO World Heritage Sites currently total 33 and include places such as the Tower of London, Maritime Greenwich, Stonehenge, The Lake District and Giant’s Causeway.

Six of the Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Choosing six of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites to visit is a tricky task as every place has its unique charm, with either immense historical significance or stunning natural beauty.

However, we’ve carefully selected a diverse array of destinations that not only promise breathtaking experiences but are also accessible via various UNESCO World Heritage Sites cruise itineraries.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

A natural wonder like no other, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, stretching over 2,000 kilometres and boasting an unparalleled array of marine biodiversity.

You’ll find a variety of Great Barrier Reef cruise itineraries offered by leading cruise lines. These typically sail along the Queensland coast, stopping at ports like Cairns, Port Douglas and Airlie Beach. From here, you can take day trips to the reef and embark on guided snorkelling and diving excursions to explore this vivid underwater world teeming with colourful coral, turtles, and tropical fish.

The Acropolis, Greece

Perched above the ancient city of Athens, the Acropolis stands as a symbol of classical civilisation. Visit this iconic site, featuring the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Propylaea, to gain an incredible insight into the architecture, arts and culture of this magnificent ancient world.

It is around half an hour’s drive from the Port of Piraeus, where many Mediterranean cruise ships dock. Most cruise lines will offer shore excursions, however, taxis and public transport will also take you to these timeless ruins.

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

A living museum of evolutionary changes, the Galápagos Islands offer an extraordinary encounter with unique wildlife, including giant tortoises, land iguanas and blue-footed boobies.

A fantastic way to explore the Galápagos Islands and make them more accessible is to take a UNESCO World Heritage Sites cruise specifically tailored to these remote islands. Many leading cruise lines and more specialist expedition-style voyages offer exciting itineraries, providing onboard naturalists and special excursions to various islands that allow you to experience this unparalleled natural habitat up close.

Venice and its Lagoon, Italy

Venice, a city built on water, is a marvel of engineering and artistic achievement. It also makes it onto our list of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its alluring beauty and captivating culture.

With its intricate network of canals, historic architecture, and notorious landmarks like St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice makes for an enchanting experience you will never forget.

Many European cruises include Venice as a favourite port stop, allowing guests to step directly into the heart of the city and explore its enchanting streets or take to the waterways via gondola or vaporetto.

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The Pyramids of Giza, an enduring testament to the ancient Egyptians’ architectural prowess, are among the largest constructions of this time-honoured era. These monumental structures are also known for being one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, providing tombs for the kings of the old kingdom.

With the Pyramids of Giza located just outside Cairo, you can visit them from Port Said or Alexandria, common stops for cruises in the region. Cruise line shore excursions will also often include a visit to the Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum or the ancient capital of Memphis.

However, be aware that the ports are around a three-hour bus ride away, and while day trips are offered, opting for an overnight option, if available, will make for a more relaxed experience.

Old Havana, Cuba

With its vibrant streets, colourful buildings, and rich history, Old Havana offers an immersive cultural experience. This fascinating city has plenty to discover, including its historic plazas, colonial architecture, and lively music scenes.

Guided walking tours are a popular option for discovering Old Havana, providing insights into the area’s historical significance while helping you navigate its maze of bustling, narrow streets.

Many of the leading cruise lines offer port stops in Havana Cruise Port. Old Havanna is very accessible from here, allowing you to explore the city on foot with ease.


Cruises visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites provide more than just a relaxing, luxury holiday; they offer a gateway to the treasures of our world, delivering enriching cultural experiences and memories to last a lifetime.

We hope our exploration of some of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites accessible by cruise holidays has ignited your wanderlust to discover these remarkable places first hand.

If you have any questions about cruise itineraries that visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites, please get in touch with our cruise specialists.

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