There are some places in the world that have become household names in travel. These are the bucket-list destinations, the places people visit on once-in-a-lifetime getaways. To protect and preserve them for future generations, these locations have been given UNESCO status as World Heritage Sites – and as of 2015, there are just under a thousand of these sites in the world. Wherever you’d like to cruise in the world, there’s a UNESCO site to suit you…


Petra, Jordan

Jordan’s famous rock city, or ‘Rose City’ owing to the colour of its stone, is one of the most popular tourist attractions for visitors to the Middle East. The city’s buildings range from simple caves and hovels to the magnificent treasury, all cut out of solid rock by the ancient Nabataeans who thrived before the spread of the Roman Empire. Cruises to visit Petra will take you to the port of Aqaba, a gateway city which presents its visitors with a spectacular modern resort set against arid mountains beyond. It’s Petra that’s the real attraction here, though – this ancient city boasts over 1000 stone monuments cut, hollowed and smoothed from the twisting grain of the local sandstone. Petra makes unforgettable viewing during the day, under the same searing sun that Lawrence of Arabia once saw here – but it only becomes truly enchanting once night falls, and countless candles light the stone buildings and winding desert paths.

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The world’s largest coral reef is made up of more than 3,000 smaller reefs, creating spectacular islands and white sand bars in Queensland’s bright blue tie-dye waters. A cruise to the town of Cairns, or simply an excursion to the reef itself, might give you the chance to snorkel or scuba among the coral’s vivid colours and alien shapes. Visitors here can swim with the native turtles off Heron Island, or escape to Bedarra or Haggerstone and enjoy complete seclusion on these tropical islands. In the turquoise deep, bright orange clownfish hide among the drifting tentacles of giant sea anemones; huge clams gape open at the sun that shines down through the rippling surface; and rays, sea snakes and schools of fish weave in and out of the coral outcrops. The Great Barrier Marine Park covers much of the reef’s area, allowing the billions of coral structures and native wildlife to thrive here in the warm waters.

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

The volcanic Galapagos are synonymous with Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection, thanks to the rich and varied wildlife that he observed during his time there. Be sure to bring your camera if you’re heading ashore – the birds, reptiles and sea life make up the real sightseeing in this lava-rock landscape. Much of the shore along the archipelago is dark and bare, but there are also grasslands and white sandy beaches to be found too. The clear, pale sea teems with fish, seahorses, stark orange crabs and golden sea lions – and remarkable marine iguanas, diving into the surf. 1959 saw much of the Galapagos declared national parkland to protect the unique wildlife here, especially the islands’ famous giant tortoises. Look out for finches flitting around in the Galapagos, too – the unique species of birds whose particular differences inspired Darwin’s thoughts on specialisation and evolution.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, Peru

Meaning ‘old peak’, the lost city of the Incas was built for Emperor Pachacuti – something of a Peruvian Julius Caesar 600 years ago. Travel to Machu Picchu and you’ll find a complex of around 200 homes and religious buildings, surrounded by views of forested mountains and cloaked in drifting cloud. The people here grew food on irrigated terrace fields, built into the natural lay of the mountain 8,000 feet above sea level. The round wall of the observatory gives perhaps the greatest insight into Incan culture – this was a city built under the worship of the sun god, Inti. The Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru but never found this mountain city – it wasn’t discovered until 1911. Since then, these magnificent restored ruins have become Peru’s biggest tourist attraction.

Medieval Rhodes

Rhodes, Greece

The beauty of Rhodes lies in the wealth of the architecture that visitors can see here. This is Greece at its most beautiful – the island enjoys more sunlight than any other off the mainland, and standing among the classic whitewashed homes are the solid stone walls of medieval fortifications. The island’s historic centre is marked out by the turreted Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, an historic landmark every bit as grandiose as it sounds. This is the focal point of much of the island’s rich history, and home to statues and intricate mosaics dating back to the 2nd century. Even the surrounding town is enough to tempt visitors back; a warren of arches, narrow alleys, domed buildings and squares dotted with cypress trees, all in bright cream-coloured stone. You’ll also discover ancient ruins in the outlying land – all gleaming under the bright Greek sun, set against jaw-dropping coast and a cloudless pale blue sky.

Old Quebec

Old Quebec City, Canada

Quebec has a monumental historic quarter at its heart, a remnant from its French colonial beginnings. Sights include the Chateau Frontenac grand hotel and the spellbinding golden interior of Notre Dame Cathedral; both essential sights on a cruise here. Quebec is a place of historic wealth dating back to the 1600s, but also a lively modern city which takes on an entirely different character once night falls over the lights of the bay. Historically, Quebec’s old fortified walls limited the growth of the city in decades past, and there were once calls to demolish them – but with resistance to the plans, the city retained its grand historic centre. You’ll find a variety of parks and museums in and around the old Lower Town, which was once the province of artists, merchants and the working class. The Upper Town, on the other hand, was once reserved for the clergy and the nobility. Here, you’ll be able to wander cobbled streets past period shops and restaurants, within sight of palatial chateaus and towering government buildings that show off some outstanding colonial architecture.

Tallinn’s Historic Centre

The historic centre of Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia’s historic capital is one of the most beautiful destinations in the Baltic, and the perfect cruise destination to whet your appetite for the grandeur of St Petersburg. As well as enjoying some of the best-preserved fortifications in Europe, Tallinn is also one of the foremost Digital Cities in the world – a destination embracing technology and connectivity, as well as  the charm of its medieval past. The ice-cream pink of Toompea Palace is one of the most remarkable attractions here, seating the Estonian Parliament since 1922; but the fairytale spires of the city’s red-tiled defence towers are an equally popular photo opportunity. You don’t need to journey to St Petersburg to see domed churches, though – Tallinn’s own St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral makes for an eye-popping landmark in white and orange, lovingly restored since Estonia won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Plenty of cafes here give you the chance to relax and enjoy life in Tallinn – the perfect way to see this enchanting World Heritage city on your next cruise.

Planning your trip

Here at Cruise118, we have a team of expert cruise concierge on hand to help plan every aspect of your trip. With a wealth of destination experience, they’ll be able to find the best cruise for you to see all the landmarks on your bucket list. Just give us a call on 0207 980 2847 for a chat.

Emma Smith
Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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