Where in the world takes your breath away?
Where stops you in your tracks? Is it a view of a landscape that never ends? Perhaps it’s the sight of a thousand-year-old temple that’s as revered today as when it was first built. Or an ancient stone village that has survived everything that nature and history can throw at it. Whatever your ‘wonder’, it is surely somewhere that evokes a “wow!” Somewhere that is truly spectacular.
We have selected just ten of the many World Heritage sites you can explore with Viking. Each of them unique. All of them inspiring. Places you will remember always. Wow, indeed.
GLACIER BAY, ALASKA
From sea to summit, Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park offers endless adventure and inspiration. Wild and remote, it is one of the world’s largest protected areas, part of a 25-million-acre World Heritage site that is the ancestral homeland of the Tlingit people, and a wilderness sanctuary to dozens of land and marine animals. Look out for harbour seals, porpoises, sea otters and whales, including killer whales whose acrobatic breaching is a spectacular sight. Equally impressive are the tidewater glaciers. Their towering beauty is awesome.
ALTO DOURO, PORTUGAL
2,000 years of winemaking have sculpted the landscape along the River Douro into a sight that is dramatic yet peaceful. The entire Alto Douro wine-growing region was declared a World Heritage site in 2001. Medieval stone houses, whitewashed quintas perched high on the hills. Tiny villages clustered around historic churches, monasteries and castles. A traditional way of life that has survived the centuries. Panoramic views at every turn. As you glide along this golden river you cannot help but be drawn into another world.
So ancient (six or seven hundred years BC). So well preserved (Roman streets, houses, temples, shops, cafes, amphitheatres and even a brothel). So atmospheric (the beauty of Pompeii is haunting). It’s hard not to imagine the scene when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 and 11,000 souls perished under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash and lapilli (burning fragments of pumice stone). Fast forward nearly 3,000 years and, due to the lack of air and moisture, many artefacts and buildings have survived. All of which give you a unique and vivid insight into this once thriving, sophisticated Roman city, one of Europe’s most incredible archaeological site.
CHURCH OF THE SAVIOR ON SPILLED BLOOD, ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
The most photographed church in St. Petersburg, this dazzling, multi-coloured confection on the Griboedov Canal is breathtaking. It took 24 years to build, and its name refers to Tsar Alexander II who was assassinated on the site in 1881, and also to the crucified Jesus. The interior is even more lavish than the exterior. Every square inch of wall, floor and ceiling is adorned with intricate mosaics of biblical scenes, in topaz, lazurite and other semi-precious stones – more than any other church in the world. All that glitters is gold.
The epic history. The dazzling art. The priceless treasures. The dolce vita lifestyle. Nowhere in the world can compare to Rome. The Eternal City is a living museum, everywhere you walk reveals another ‘wonder’. A sculpture by Michelangelo. A fountain by Bernini. A fresco by Raphael. St. Peter’s dome on the horizon. Iconic buildings, including the Colosseum, literally take your breath away.
ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA
The world’s largest religious site, the ancient temple complex of Angkor is a place of pilgrimage for all Cambodians and a proud symbol of the country – it even features on the national flag. The beauty of this vast site is intricate and extravagant. Once the capital of the Khmer Empire, it was built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and eventual mausoleum.
BLUE MOUNTAINS, SYDNEY
Named ‘blue’ after the blue grey haze from the eucalyptus trees that carpet the hills and valleys, Australia’s Blue Mountains are less than two hours’ drive from Sydney, and are a highlight of any Antipodean adventure. Stunningly beautiful, the region is a paradise for walkers. Canyons, cliffs and waterfalls – along with the fresh fragrant air are wonderfully relaxing and restorative. The Aboriginal heritage in the form of engravings is inspiring. And the pretty mountain towns are warm and welcoming. You will be enchanted.
Perched above vineyards in the heart of the Bordeaux region, where its world-famous wines are produced, the medieval village of Saint-Émilion is completely captivating. Golden limestone architecture, sleepy shuttered houses, Romanesque churches, a picture-perfect historic square and more wine shops than you can throw a cork at, the town even has its own legend. Centuries ago, a monk from Brittany sought refuge in one of the natural caves, he performed a few miracles and became a local hero. His name was Émilion, and he evangelised the place. You too will sing its praises.
BRIMSTONE HILL FORTRESS NATIONAL PARK, ST. KITTS
Beautiful beaches, majestic mountains and a laid-back culture combine to make the two-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis one of the most memorable Caribbean destinations. St. Kitts’ historical highlight is the mighty Brimstone Hill Fortress. This vast military stronghold was built by the British with slave labour in the 16th and 17th centuries to protect the island from invasion. The rambling passageways lead you to various levels of the enduring stronghold, its walls echo with history.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
The history, the architecture, the art, the beer! Prague is a city you cannot help but fall in love with. Its 14th-century stone bridge, hilltop castle and Old Town Square transport you to another age. Wander through the maze of cobbled streets, and you’ll come across ancient chapels, little cafes, art galleries and traditional bars. It really is a place to get lost in.