World Heritage Sites are cultural or natural sites that are honored for bringing universal value to our world. To be deemed a World Heritage Site, a landmark must have special importance and represent a unique cultural or natural heritage.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) strives to protect and preserve these sites under a treaty created in 1972.
Currently, China has 52 World Heritage Sites. Of these, 12 are Natural Heritage Sites, 36 are Cultural and four are a combination of both Natural and Cultural. This gives China the second most World Heritage Sites worldwide.
ChinaTour.com has compiled a list of the most popular must-see World Heritage Sites.
- Great Wall of China – Some parts of this Great Wall date back to as early as 7th century B.C. The portion of the wall that is the most famous was built between 220-206 BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first Chinese Emperor. Very little of this part of the wall remains, but during the Ming Dynasty from 1368 to 1644, a significant portion of the wall was enhanced. The Great Wall is one of the most impressive historical architectural feats, and portions of it are even viewable from Space.
- Forbidden City – The Forbidden City was the imperial palace for the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty, which spanned from 1420 to 1912. It is located in the center of Beijing and features a Palace Museum. More than 14,000,000 people annually visit this impressive site.
- Terracotta Warriors Museum – The extraordinary Terra-Cotta Army helps to serve and protect the tomb of China’s first emperor, Ying Zheng. He was only 13 when he began his reign in 246 B.C. He helped to standardize weights, coins and measures and even interlinked Chinese states with roads and canals. He is also responsible for building the first version of the Great Wall.
- Chengde Summer Resort – Built between 1703 and 1792, this spectacular Mountain Resort took more than 89 years to construct. It covers an area of nearly 2.2 square miles and features a wide variety of temples, imperial gardens, lakes, forests and pasturelands.
- Potala Palace Tibet – The residence of the Dalai Lama until he fled during the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, this palace is now a museum. Construction started in 1645 in the ancient city of Lhasa. Tradition holds that the three main hills of this area represent the “Three Protectors of Tibet.”
- Pingyao Ancient Town – Pingyao was the financial center of China during the Qing Dynasty. This historical city dates back 2,700 years and is protected because of its ancient and well-preserved city walls. In fact, more than 300 sites that are in or near this city have historic ruins.
- Jiuzhaigou National Park – Nothing short of spectacular, this area is known for dozens of green, blue and turquoise-colored lakes. Striking and inspiring, this park is a network of valleys in the Sichuan province. Five Flower Lake is an absolute must see.
- Zhangjiajie National Park – This unique national forest is magical. You can experience the “Bridge of the Immortals” which is a narrow rock bridge that clings to land over a deep chasm. The First Bridge of the World is a natural rock bridge that offers unparalleled panoramic views. Finally, the Yupi Feng features spiky columns that ascend hundreds of feet into the air and resemble strange, Chinese calligraphy letters.
- Chengdu Giant Panda Research Center – Pandas are no longer endangered, but they are an extremely vulnerable species. Thanks to this non-profit research center visitors can interact and see pandas in their natural habitat.
- Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) – This rare mountain range in eastern China has an elevation of over 6,000 feet. Named after the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, in 747 A.D. This area is home to many Buddhist temples.
- Mount Emei – The first Buddhist temple was built here in the 1st century A.D. It is one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains in City.
Book your trip to China and experience these awe-inspiring historical sites first-hand.