By Tiffany Ryes, International Banker
The world is rich in history and wonder. A look at the hundreds of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with more being added every year, shows just how splendidly endowed the world is with historical, cultural and natural marvels. From the famous Egyptian pyramids and the Taj Mahal to the equally breathtaking Gondwana Rainforests and Flemish Béguinages, a trip to any one of these places is indeed an inspiring, at times life-changing one.
So, history buffs, architecture fans, discerning travellers and simply lovers of all things beautiful can soak in these prestigious sites while nestled in superior accommodations. These select spots provide the best in high-end accommodations while giving guests access to the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage destinations.
Avaton Luxury Villas Resort (Halkidiki, Greece)
For a kind of luxury that is truly of mythical proportions, the Avaton Luxury Villas Resort offers the crème de la crème right next to the Holy Mount Athos.
Tucked away at a serene and sun-kissed beachfront location in the quaint town of Nea Roda, Avaton is the sparkling Mediterranean’s hidden gem. Its contemporary suites, scattered across the property, overlook the Aegean Sea. These high-end accommodations have all the makings of an unforgettable Greek holiday steeped in history, tradition and myth.
The 16 ultra-luxurious villas are nestled in lush Mediterranean gardens. The well-appointed villas tastefully show that no expense has been spared to make every guest feel special and pampered. From the handmade French porcelain dishware to the classy colonial armchairs, the interior beckons guests to indulge. Guests may also enjoy a dip, with most of the villas equipped with private pools against the lush and thriving Mediterranean garden. Meanwhile, the exceptional staff provides discreet yet warm hospitality. Notable, in particular, is their superior concierge service, which completes the whole Avaton experience.
However, the real star of the show is Holy Mount Athos, which is regarded as one of the most spiritual places on Earth. With 20 monasteries housing more than 1,400 monks, travelling to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is truly a life-changing experience. From the breathtaking Byzantine architecture to the Hellenistic city of Stagira, where Aristotle was born, you’ll find this place captivating. Take your experience to another level with a cruise along the Mt. Athos Peninsula to soak in all of the beautiful landscapes set on the sparkling turquoise sea.
Cape Weligama (Sri Lanka)
Find yourself on a romantic and inspiring break in the middle of the Indian Ocean, right in one of Sri Lanka’s most treasured gems, Cape Weligama. A cliff-top resort that towers over the quaint fishing town of Weligama 40 meters above the Indian Ocean, Cape Weligama can impress even the most discerning travelers. From the uninterrupted panoramic view of the Indian Ocean to the impressive free-standing luxury villas and accompanying butler service, luxury is indeed served Sri Lankan style.
Each of the 20 villas, designed by world-renowned architect Lek Bunnag, is nestled in its own flower-scented garden, just a few steps from a private dipping pool. Meanwhile, private bays and pristine beaches are just a short sun-kissed stroll away. The ochre-and-ultramarine villas themselves are irresistible, with all of the fittings fit for royalty. The high-end furnishings are custom-designed, with a homely yet understated charm that is definitely unique to Sri Lanka. Many of the villas have luxurious sea views, and each of the bedrooms is spacious, with enough space for lounging and passing the time away in a truly relaxing holiday.
What sets this resort apart from all others, aside from its incredible luxury and strategic position, is that it offers guests a cultural experience within a 30-minute trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle. A fortified Dutch city that served as an important fixture in the 16th-century spice trade, this town has numerous historical buildings bordered by thick stone ramparts. These structures provide a remarkable peek into the history of the Dutch East India Company and how it operated in the area.
Inkaterra La Casona (Cusco, Peru)
To get a real feel of how it must have been to live in Peru during the 16th century at the time of the conquistadors, perhaps a holiday in the Inkaterra La Casona in Cusco, Peru, is in order.
Cusco itself is a rich and historic city—in fact, a UNESCO World Heritage Site—with plenty of stories to tell within its Spanish-style structures and along its hundreds-of-year-old cobblestone streets. The city used to be the imperial city of the Incan civilization, and when the Spanish conquistadors came, they built colonial structures over the city’s framework. One of its most storied dwellings, a manor house, has been renovated and restored to become a luxury hotel: Inkaterra La Casona.
The famed halls of this manor-turned-intimate-hotel have seen several notable guests—from legendary Incas to South America’s historical figureheads. The walls themselves hold much history, and the hotel’s superb restoration boasts of this in every detail. From the antique furnishings to the local Peruvian art that decorates its halls and walls, the hotel is a truly immersive and Incan-inspired experience.
The 11 spacious suites invoke romance and tranquillity, with pre-Columbian textiles that beautifully set off the Spanish-style wooden furniture. The vibrant Peruvian rugs add a pop of color against the ancient stonework and the meticulously restored exposed beams, creating an authentic experience. Meanwhile, the suites either overlook the town through the outer balcony or the inner arcaded courtyard that towers over a lush garden. There are also two plaza suites, with spectacular views of the Plazoleta de las Nazarenas beyond.
For another World Heritage experience, guests can go to Poroy Station right outside of Cusco to take a train to another legendary Inca structure and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Machu Picchu.
Azura Selous Game Reserve (Serengeti, Tanzania)
When it comes to an ultra-luxurious safari experience in the middle of the Serengeti, nothing beats Azura Selous Game Reserve. Nestled within a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, Azura Selous artfully blends luxury with an authentic African safari experience.
The property, what you may call a luxury boutique bush camp, consists of 12 well-appointed tented villas. Each of the villas is air-conditioned and fitted with stone bathrooms. The furniture and fixtures showcase earthy colors, while rugs and African artwork show touches of purple, blue, red and lime to add color to the space. Meanwhile, private terraces lead to private plunge pools. These also look out to Tanzania’s picturesque Great Ruaha River. Don’t be fooled, however, because despite their strategic location, the villas give guests privacy and security from the African wild. In fact, the resort’s presence in this part of the Serengeti actually helps protect and conserve African wildlife. After all, the Serengeti is well known for having the greatest numbers of wild dogs, elephants, lions, hippos and buffalos than any other reserve in the world. And all of this can be part of the Azura Selous experience.
Guests are treated to an unforgettable African experience like no other. Days are filled with exciting activities on which to embark, such as tracking various wildlife and observing them in their natural habitats—all within the safety of a private Land Rover fitted for game viewing and taking photographs to preserve the amazing encounters.
While there are literally hundreds of UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered across the globe, these luxury destinations can provide unique and unparalleled experiences that suit any dream and whim of each discerning traveler. While there are many different accommodations that cluster around these certified tourist spots, none are close to capturing the full experience that the luxury destinations above provide.
A stay in one of these superior resorts would allow you the best experiences that harmoniously complement the remarkable trip you are on with the World Heritage Sites. Thus, you would be able to fully immerse yourself in the beauty, culture and history of these select parts of the globe.