Learn more about the fascinating significance behind these wonders of history

You may have noticed AmaWaterways sometimes uses “UNESCO-designated” or “UNESCO World Heritage Site” when describing excursions available on our river cruises. But what is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and why do we design our itineraries to include so many of them?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, is dedicated to giving both cultural and natural locations of significance the protection and recognition they deserve. The United Nations founded this assembly in 1942, and UNESCO composed an international treaty 30 years later that set the standard for what places must emulate to be considered a World Heritage Site.

Standards and Criteria

Cultural sites, such as Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Angkor Archaeological Park or the magnificent Cologne Cathedral in Germany, must present an outstanding example of human traditions, architecture, values or creative genius to be accepted as a World Heritage Site. These locations exude the wisdom of the past and set a vibrant display of what the world looked like before our time. Natural sites, such as Zimbabwe’s spectacular Victoria Falls, and Austria’s breathtaking Wachau Valley, must display significant ecological and biological development, either past or present, as well as immense native beauty. These preserved pictures of untouched environment boast special gems that can be admired across the globe — many along the rivers we sail.

A Label of Protection

When a location, building, or monument is considered UNESCO-worthy, it receives special care from the organization. Significant resources and time are devoted to ensuring these places thrive. UNESCO’s goal is to keep natural and human history intact, so we can learn from the authentic cultural experience each location offers. The Rhine River, lined with alluring castles and charming historic towns, embodies the long history of human involvement along the region’s natural landscape, which can be explored on our Rhine River itineraries.

Universal Value

Being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is an impressive honor, and thus the landmarks that receive this qualification are held to a higher standard. The universal value UNESCO sites possess rises above country borders, placing responsibility for their care on an international community dedicated to their conservation. Places with the UNESCO stamp of approval are actively demonstrating their importance to the rest of the world by allowing people to come and take part in the culture and history that are cherished and nurtured by their local communities.

Explore UNESCO Sites

The beautiful medieval town of Regensburg, Germany, is a notable member of this list. Some of the buildings have stood there for more than 2,000 years! The fascinating examples of Roman, Romanesque and Gothic architecture can be explored while sailing aboard our Legendary Danube, Blue Danube Discovery, Grand Danube, Iconic Christmas Markets and Christmas Markets on the Danube river cruises.

The Netherlands' Kinderdijk Windmills earned their place on UNESCO’s prestigious list due to the extensive irrigation system they maintain. Built during the Middle Ages, these hydraulic systems are amazing examples of historical technology that can be toured during our Tulip Time itinerary; while Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, a natural World Heritage Site, exhibits a gorgeous seascape of limestone pillars rising out of the dazzling waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. This biological beauty is featured on both our Charms of the Mekong and Riches of the Mekong itineraries. These are just a few of the sites designated as cultural and natural locations that helped create the world as it is seen today.

Towns frozen in time, preserved so you can explore them and see what it is like to be a part of the past. Landscapes separated from civilization, from human influence, show what nature can look like in its most free state. Over 1,000 World Heritage Sites share their stories and these extraordinary places have so much more they long to share with the rest of the world.

Discover the perfect itinerary for yourself that includes a visit to some of these incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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