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What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

June 27th, 2014 by

Machu PicchuHere at Breakaway, we love history—and no wonder. We’re located in one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the United States: Charleston, South Carolina. The city’s history goes back to the 17th Century, and the local architecture bears this storied past in unforgettable ways. And in recent months, there’s been a movement afoot to name the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site—a fairly rare distinction in the United States. It got us thinking about all of the amazing World Heritage Sites you can visit when you travel abroad …

Tre Cime Three PeaksA little bit of background: In 1972, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization adopted the World Heritage Site program, which both catalogues and conserves those places in the world that are so special to humanity, whether it’s culturally, physically, that they deserve special international recognition and protection. The program is so popular that all but a handful of nations the world over participate in the program—it is one of the international treaties that’s recognized the most widely.

In order to be selected for the list, a site must have “outstanding universal value,” with cultural sites representing such qualifications as being “a masterpiece of human creative genius.” A natural UNESCO site “contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.”

As of the most recent count, more than 1,000 sites have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The country with the most sites is Italy, followed by China, Spain and Germany.

Many of our tours at Breakaway Adventures will give you the opportunity to explore these unique and stunning locations. Here are just a few:

  • Heart of Pyrenees Walk in France. On this trip, you’ll visit the Cirque de Gavarnie, a truly majestic amphitheater-like natural formation carved by ancient glaciers, with black cliffs that tower 1,000 meters.
  • Pathways of the Canal du Midi Cycling in France. This cycling trip offers the chance to see two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Canal du Midi as well as the village of Carcassone with its castle “la Cite.”
  • Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley in Peru. You’ll visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites—the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu and the city of Cuzco.
  • Italian Dolomites Walk—which takes you to the jagged limestone peaks of the Tre Cime, the breathtaking symbol of the mountain range.

These are just a few ideas to get you started as you begin to research which unique places around the world with “outstanding universal value” you might want to visit on your next vacation. Will it be a place of cultural genius that’s valued the world over? Or a location with such stunning natural beauty that you’ll never forget it? The choice is yours!

Moroccan Wonders: Take in the Wonder of the Gorges du Dadès

June 16th, 2014 by

Picture Morocco and what immediately comes to mind for most people are the sprawling markets of Marrakesh, known for their souks selling wares ranging from herbs to slippers to traditional Berber carpets. These bustling stores are accessible by a web of narrow alleyways that could leave you lost for hours among the stalls, your senses excited by the smells of spices and the sights of dazzling woven cloths. But there’s another side of Morocco, one full of natural wonder, and that’s where you’ll find the Gorges du Dadès.

Look for the Dadès River Gorge between the Atlas and Anti-Atlas ranges in central Morocco where the mountains meet the desert. A winding road with death-defying curves brings you from neighboring towns to this place where the entire world seems to open up before you. It’s hard to say if magnificent, dramatic, or majestic is the right word to use. Rock formations rise toward the sky like monuments to Mother Nature, casting shadows on each other that shift as the sun moves toward the opposite horizon. In contrast to the craggy hills, lush vegetation springs up near the river, creating an oasis of palms. The only signs of life are the historic kasbahs built for defending the city, but the native red earth used to build them makes it appear as if they’re just another natural part of the landscape. It’s no wonder Hollywood chose the incredible backdrop of this area for films like Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.

On Day 3 of our Sahara & High Atlas guided walk, you’ll be shown the breathtaking wonder of the Gorges du Dadès after an exploration of the Road of 1000 Kasbahs and exposure to the beautiful architecture of the Berber people. You’ll also take in the sights of the Dadès Valley, known as the valley of the roses, where you’ll see the fields of flowering plants that give the area its name. Buy a vial of rose water at a nearby market, and you’ll be taking home a bit of the very soil you stand on. That night, you’ll stay and feast at the modern Hotel Karam Palace, a four-star hotel with outdoor dining, a swimming pool, and green space that also happens to be a short walk from a lively public town square where you can enjoy an afternoon browsing one of the souks Morocco is so famous for.

Whether it’s the dizzying hustle of the city you’re after or the quiet marvel of the undeveloped terrain, there’s a little bit of amazing for everyone in Morocco.

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