Ten years ago, a woman named Patricia Schultz’s brilliant idea went shooting to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” era had begun.
New editions, updates, calendar versions and imitators have come along, proving the book’s ability to tap into the traveler’s second-favorite pastime: taking armchair journeys. Heck, I own more than one copy. (One for the office, one for home — what, you don’t?)
But here’s a way to save a few bucks and broaden your horizons at the same time: Click over to http://whc.unesco.org/en/list and explore what are arguably the 962 most fascinating places on Earth, for free.
Thursday was World Heritage Day, celebrating the cultural and natural wonders of the world that have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, if you’re wondering).
UNESCO World Heritage sites include 745 cultural, 188 natural and 29 mixed properties in 157 nations or territories. And exploring the list is an adventure in itself. Along the way, you’ll likely find you’ve visited a few already — the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, perhaps the Tower of London.
Either way, the site guides you through all the reasons a site was deemed to have enough “universal value” to be added to the list by the World Heritage Committee. You’ll learn about the site’s history and environment, quirks and political challenges.
But the best part — the real joy in exploring these 962 places you’d be so incredibly lucky to see before you die — is discovering the places you’ve never heard of and the wonders therein: Bisotun in Iran. The forts and castles of Ghana. The ancient city of Nessebar on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
It’s a treasure hunt. So go find your “X.”Get travel news daily at www.sctimes.com/travel, on Twitter @lisasschwarz, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sctimeslisa. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.