Travel with Ker & Downey to see UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the globe. You’ll enjoy the best of luxury travel with private guides and custom journeys.

A Brief History of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) formed in 1945 with a purpose to promote international collaboration through education, science, and culture. Flash-forward to Egypt, 1954 and the government’s decision to build the new Aswan High Dam which would result in a large stretch of the Nile River valley flooding. Several Ancient Egyptian cultural treasures in Nubia were in danger of destruction so in an effort to protect and rescue the endangered monuments, the governments of Egypt and Sudan requested assistance from UNESCO. In what became known as the International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia, hundreds of sites were excavated and recorded, thousands of objects recovered, and a number of temples were moved to higher ground, including the famous temple complexes of Abu Simbel and Philae. The project spurred the initiative to project the common cultural heritage of humanity, thus creating the UNESCO World Heritage sites. As of July 2015, there are 1,031 sites (including buildings, cities, complexes, deserts, forests, islands, lakes, monuments, and mountains) on the list.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Egypt

Saint Catherine’s Monastery is located at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula where, according to the Old Testament, Moses received the Ten Commandments tablets. Saint Catherine’s is built between 548 and 565 at the site where Moses first heard the Word of God at the burning bush. Today it is the oldest working Christian monastery with about 20 monks living there and has become a pilgrimage site.

World Heritage Sites | UNESCO | Saint Catherine's Monastery | Luxury Egypt Travel | Ker Downey

In addition, Saint Catherine’s contains the world’s oldest continually operating library and preserves the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world, second only to the Vatican Library. It contains Greek, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Hebrew, Georgian, and Aramaic texts. It’s also significant for containing the best collection of early icons in the world, with a few dating to the 5th and possibly 6th centuries. The irreplaceable works of art also include the oldest icon of an Old Testament theme.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2002. On our Secrets of Egypt journey, you’ll travel with a private guide to St. Catherine’s Monastery to see the site for yourself. Over the course of 12 days, you’ll also visit a wide range of Egypt’s greatest historical treasures like the secret catacombs of Kom El Shogafa and the Roman-era Pompey’s Pillar, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the El-Alamein World War II Museum and Memorial, commemorating a series of battles between Axis and Allied forces in northern Africa. You’ll conclude your journey with a Nile River cruise aboard one of the most elegant ships on the river, stopping at ancient Egyptian temples and some of the new wonders of the region, like the High Dam and relocated Philae Temple.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is the lifeblood of Botswana, a permanent marshland and seasonally flooded plains in north-west Botswana. It’s one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, drawing massive herds of elephant and huge concentrations of game, wildlife, and birds. It’s also home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammals, including cheetah, white and black rhinos, African wild dog, and lion.

World Heritage Sites | UNESCO | Okavango Delta | Luxury Botswana Safari | Ker Downey

It joined the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2014 as the 1000th site on the list. It’s unique because the annual flooding from the Okavango River occurs during the dry season and as a result, the native plants and animals have adapted to the seasonal rains and floods.

The Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s top safari destinations. In addition to game drives in open 4×4 vehicles and walking safaris, you can view game and the excellent birdlife along the delta from mokoros. Visit the Okavango Delta on our Luxury Okavango Delta journey. It’s an excellent option for a quicker trip to Africa or as an add on to extend your stay and is ideally suited for families or small groups.

Historical Monuments of Mtskheta, Georgia

The historical monuments of Mtskheta joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1994 and include the Jvari Monastery, the Svetitstkhoveli Cathedral, and the Samtavro Monastery. The Jvari Monastery is traditionally regarded as the place Saint Nino, a 4th century female evangelist converted King Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity and the most sacred place in Georgia. The Svetitstkhoveli Cathedral is the current seat of the archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi and the burial site of Christ’s mantle. The Samtavro Monastery is made up of a small domed church built in the 4th century and the main church, built in the early 11th century. The graves of King Mirian, who adopted Christianity, and his wife are also located in the church.

World Heritage Sites | UNESCO | Mtskheta Historical Monuments | Luxury Georgia Travel | Ker Downey

Mtskheta is one of the oldest cities in Georgia and the birthplace of one of the most vibrant Christian centers in Georgia. As one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world (dating back to 1000 BC), the historic churches of Mtskheta are significant examples of medieval religious architecture in the Caucasus. They are also listed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites in Danger because of the deterioration of the stonework and frescos. With any one of our journeys to Georgia, you can visit the historical sites of Mtskheta for yourself.

For more information about adding a visit to these or any other UNESCO World Heritage Sites to your next Ker & Downey journey, contact your Ker & Downey Travel Professional. To stay up to date on all of our online content, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.