There are over 1,000 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites around the globe, spanning across 167 countries. These awe-inspiring landmarks are designated by UNESCO for their cultural, historical and scientific significance. Among the best-known sites around the world are Peru's Machu Picchu, the Acropolis of Athens and the Great Wall of China, but the United States is home to 24 designated World Heritage Sites that are well worth a visit. Slightly more than half of these are natural sites, including several national parks, but the rest are historic sites dating back up to a millennium BCE. Here, seven notable cultural UNESCO sites within the continental U.S.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis lies the site of a former Native American community that flourished long before the arrival of European explorers. From 1050 to 1350 CE, Cahokia was the largest urban center north of Mexico. Today, the 2,200-acre park offers guided tours along extensive trails and around a recreated village.
This brick landmark in Independence National Historical Park is the site where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were fiercely debated and subsequently signed by the Founding Fathers. On July 8, 1776, it became the backdrop for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, an act now recreated for visitors by National Park Service rangers.
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde, Colorado
Less than 40 miles east of Durango, this park was established a century ago with aims of preserving and honoring the archaeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people, who made homes along the sandstone cliffs overlooking southwest Colorado’s Montezuma Valley. The park boasts nearly 5,000 archaeological sites along more than 40 miles of road.
The Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point
West Carroll Parish, Louisiana
From about 1700 to 1100 BCE, this series of ridges and mounds of earth served as homes and ceremonial grounds for a society of hunter-gatherers living along the Mississippi River flood plains of northeastern Louisiana. Less than one percent of the 400 acres comprising this UNESCO cultural site has been altered in the last 3,000 years.
The Statue of Liberty
New York City, New York
This gift of camaraderie from the French to the United States served as an emblem of welcome to the nearly 14 million immigrants who entered the nation through Ellis Island between 1886 and 1924. Walk from the ground floor to the Statue of Liberty’s crown (the equivalent of walking up 20 stories) for an unparalleled view of New York City.
Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
The multi-story adobe pueblo at Taos in New Mexico has been inhabited for more than 1,000 years. Today, nearly 1,900 Taos Indians live on these lands, speaking Tiwa and governing through a tribal council. Visitors are welcome to take guided tours to learn about the rich history and culture of the Taos people.
Monticello and the University of Virginia
Washington, D.C.; Charlottesville, Virginia
Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, also found time to design his home at Monticello and the nearby Academical Village, which is still the heart of the University of Virginia. With the porticos, cornices and friezes of Monticello and the Academic Village’s rotunda, modeled after the Pantheon, Jefferson brought the classical architecture of ancient Rome to the U.S.