Since its inception, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has identified and preserved dozens of natural and cultural sites around the world. From historical buildings to natural marvels, each heritage site is spectacular in its own right.
Many UNESCO sites are staples for world travelers including the Taj Mahal in India, the wilds of the Serengeti of East Africa, and the pyramids of Egypt. But many heritage sites in the US and Canada can be visited by the RV traveler. Be sure to add these seven UNESCO heritage sites in North America to your bucket list.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
A great concentration of ancestral Pueblo Indian dwellings, built from the 6th to the 12th century, can be found on the Mesa Verde plateau in southwestern Colorado at an altitude of more than 8,500 feet. Some 4,400 sites have been recorded including villages built on the Mesa top.
Some 600 cliff dwellings built of sandstone and mud mortar have been recorded including the famous multi-storey Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Square Tower House. The cliff dwelling sites range in size from small storage structures to large villages of 50 to 200 rooms.
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Alberta and British Columbia
Renowned for their scenic splendor, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are comprised of Banff and Jasper national parks in Alberta, Kootenay and Yoho national parks in British Columbia, and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine, and Hamber provincial parks in British Columbia.
The seven parks of the Canadian Rockies form a striking mountain landscape. With rugged mountain peaks, icefields and glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, extensive karst cave systems, and deeply carved canyons, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks possess exceptional natural beauty attracting millions of visitors annually.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is the most spectacular gorge in the world. Its horizontal strata retrace the geological history of the past 2 billion years.
The Grand Canyon is among the earth’s greatest on-going geological spectacles. Its vastness is stunning, and the evidence it reveals about the earth’s history is invaluable. The 0.9-mile deep gorge ranges in width from 0.3 mile to 18.6 miles. It twists and turns 276.5 miles and was formed during 6 million years of geologic activity and erosion by the Colorado River on the upraised earth’s crust.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park.
This exceptionally beautiful park is home to more than 3,500 plant species, including almost as many trees (130 natural species) as in all of Europe. The park is of exceptional natural beauty with scenic vistas of characteristic mist-shrouded (“smoky”) mountains, vast stretches of virgin timber, and clear running streams.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
This karst landscape in New Mexico comprises over 80 recognized caves. They are outstanding not only for their size but also for the profusion, diversity, and beauty of their mineral formations.
The more than 100 limestone caves are outstanding and notable because of their size, mode of origin, and the abundance, diversity, and beauty of the speleothems (decorative rock formations). On-going geologic processes continue to form rare and unique speleothems that include helictites forming underwater, calcite and gypsum speleothems.
San Antonio Missions, Texas
The San Antonio Missions are a group of five frontier mission complexes situated along a 7.7-mile stretch of the San Antonio River. It includes architectural and archaeological structures, residencies, churches and granaries, as well as water distribution systems.
The complexes were built by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century and illustrate the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize, and defend the northern frontier of New Spain.
In a dramatic landscape of steep-sided canyons and coulees, sandstone cliffs, and eroded sandstone formations called hoodoos, Indigenous peoples created rock art. Thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs at more than 138 rock art sites graphically represent the powers of the spirit world that resonate in this sacred landscape and chronicle phases of human history in North America including when Indigenous peoples first came into contact with Europeans.
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.