Sites Unseen

Unique, irreplaceable, and still largely unknown—our must-see-now list of the UN's latest World Heritage picks

Oct 10, 2006
Outside Magazine
Geirangerfjord, Norway

UNIVERSE OF VALUE: Exploring World Heritage territory at Geirangerfjord, Norway.    Photo: courtesy, Innovation Norway

IN AUGUST 2005, Expedia and the United Nations Foundation announced a collaboration to promote sustainable tourism to World Heritage sites, places the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has cited for their "outstanding universal value." Last November, the partnership ( began offering 11 trips to places like Taos Pueblo, in New Mexico, Prague's historic center, and Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater. All good, but stay ahead of the Web-clicking masses by visiting one of the following brand-new sites that haven't yet hit Expedia's radar.

Historic Centre of Macao, China
SIZE: 40 acres
OUTSTANDING UNIVERSAL VALUE: Long before Panda Express, this once-major hub in the international silk trade stood as "the most complete example of Western and Chinese cultural interchange," according to UNESCO. The Portuguese settled Macao in 1557 and began importing Japanese silver and salted cod.
DETAILS: Estoril Tours (011-853-710-360; runs three-hour private tours of Macao's historic center for $103 for up to four people.

Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, Thailand
SIZE: 2,376 square miles
OUTSTANDING UNIVERSAL VALUE: Leopards, tigers, bears, and more than 800 other animal species live in this forest, marked by 4,400-foot peaks, dramatic waterfalls, and tributaries of the Mekong River, just three hours northeast of Bangkok.
DETAILS: Hire a naturalist guide and hike through Khao Yai, Thailand's oldest national park, in search of the roughly 300 wild elephants living within the site. Wild Watch Thailand (011-662-251-2584, offers standard or customized jungle trips to Khao Yai from $120.

Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, Norway
SIZE: 193 and 264 square miles
OUTSTANDING UNIVERSAL VALUE: These two steep and deep inlets, which sit 75 miles apart, are "among the most scenically outstanding fjords on the planet," according to UNESCO. One and a half miles across at its widest, Nærøyfjord is surrounded by 4,500-foot cliffs. Better yet, both are fed by rivers that have escaped hydroelectric development.
DETAILS: Grab a sea kayak and paddle through Nærøyfjord, a tributary of Sognefjord, Norway's longest and deepest fjord. Crossing Latitudes (800-572-8747, offers nine-day inn-to-inn kayaking and hiking trips through Norwegian fjordland, including a day and night in Nærøyfjord, for $2,500.

Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California, Mexico
SIZE: 7,097 square miles
OUTSTANDING UNIVERSAL VALUE: This gulf and coastline is a veritable Noah's ark of biodiversity, home to the world's tallest cactuses (topping 80 feet), fish-eating bats, spawning giant squid, and 39 percent of the planet's marine mammal species.
DETAILS: Depart from La Paz on a live-aboard and chug to Espíritu Santo, where you can dive with hammerheads, sea lions, and whale sharks off the island's shores. Baja Expeditions' (800-843-6967, seven-day dive trip starts at $1,445.

Filed To: China

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