UNESCO World Heritage Sites & National Parks
National Parks and Monuments Traversed
Banff & Jasper, BC: These parks are adjacent to each other and about 8 hours away from Vancouver, Canada at the closest point. You can reach this attraction via tour group in Vancouver or rental car. Before ascending Banff, you will discover a cute little town at the base. Hidden within the mountains is also Lake Louise, a natural beauty complimented by a hotel. You can also enjoy skiing and other winter hobbies within these parks. When ascending, the temperature can drop pretty quickly. At the top, you can ride these vehicles (a cross between a trolley, construction vehicle, and an 18-wheeler) to scale the snow-covered roads to discover the best these mountains have to offer.
Acadia, ME: Located at the Northeast corner of New England, this park is secluded but offers great views of the Atlantic Ocean, especially beautiful in the Fall. The park is mixed with a small town with plenty of views of the ocean, nature, and boats. Make sure to stop by Portland, ME on the way for some delicious seafood, blueberry pie, and beer.
Arches, UT: This park features huge rock formations in the shape of arches. Although there are only a few major attractions, the drive along the way is worth it. Capture a sunrise or sunset here in your photos. Make sure you stop by on the way to Salt Lake City or Denver.
Big Bend, TX: Located 6 hours away from San Antonio and 5 hours away from El Paso, this park contains a huge piece of land that it takes 2 days to just drive around to enjoy the attractions. This park features many biomes such as a desert, mountains, and river so you can see a wide range of plants and animals all in one place. Sleep under the stars to get one of the best views of the night sky in the US. Not as popular as Yellowstone, this park seems to still have more foreigners than nationals visit.
Biscayne, FL: This park is located on a Key not far from Miami and along the way to Key West, the southern most point in the US. Drive across ~100 miles of bridges to get to the small town of Key West. Although nice for a bike-ride, the town is overpriced as it is secluded from the rest of the country. The park itself is mainly the water around the area so there are many opportunities for big game fishing, snorkeling, diving, and similar sports.
Canyonlands and Capitol Reef, UT: These parks are a must-drive area. Be fascinated by canyons of differing rainbow colors and trails. Again, there are many parks along the way between Salt Lake City and Denver.
Carlsbad Caverns (UNESCO), NM: These caverns are the second largest discovered caverns in the world, featuring cafes and souvenir shops both above and below ground. A full walkthrough or tour will set you back 2-4 hours. Enter through the natural bat entrance or on an elevator. Outside the caverns are also some ruins from the Native Americans and colonists who used to live in the area.
Death Valley, CA: In the summer, this park can go above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. but you may still see people running marathons. The drive is pretty easy and straightforward, literally. There is not too much vegetation, mostly black sand. This is great pass by area when heading towards Las Vegas or California.
Denali, AK: This park is huge, you must ride their buses for hours to get to the tourist attractions. As expected, you may see some whales, caribou, or other native animals not seen in most of the country. The park is not far from Anchorage where the cost of living is pretty high.
Kenai Fjords and Wrangell St. Elias, AK: Walk on and close to glaciers as you explore the city Seward, South of the capitol Anchorage. Many cruises also pass by this area for glacier and whale watching.
Everglade (UNESCO), FL: This park features the renounce Florida swamps, alligators, and crocodiles. Just watch out and do not run one over when driving. You can also ride airboats through the swamps. One of the longest straight stretches of highway also runs through here so you may occasionally hear about or see drag racing here.
Grand Canyon (UNESCO), AZ: Due to the pollution, visibility is smoggy in the canyon most days of the week. The climate can be pretty humid, especially in the summer so prepare for dehydration. There are walking and bike trails of differing difficulty as activities. This is a stopover from Las Vegas.
Grand Teton, WY: Check out this park before you head North into Yesllostone. You will see great views of mountains, lakes, and fields of flowers, kind of like in Europe. The scenery is comparable to that in the Sound of Music.
Great Sand Dunes, CO: There is a lot of sand and sand-related activities at this park not far from Denver. What more can be said?
Guadalupe Mountains, TX: This park is relatively small and features mostly hiking activities, not too much in terms of driving. Reminisce about the great plains and plateaus in the prairies.
Volcanoes (UNESCO), HI: Drive down towards a live volcano by the sea and walk over dried black lava-covered roads to get a view. Just do not attempt this park while the volcano is actively erupting. For nature lovers, this is a must see in Hawaii.
Mount Rainier, WA: Be sure to research the roads that enter the park as some are closed during certain colder times of the year. Drive up and walk around for a view of the surroundings. Stop by if you are in Seattle.
North Cascades, WA: This park is known for its hydroelectric dam blocking the river and winding mountain roads. There is also a small town at the base to check out. This park is a stopover from Seattle.
Olympic (UNESCO) WA: When close to Seattle, drive the long circumference around the park and note the different biomes in the area. The drive will take a whole day so be prepared. You get mountains, ocean, swamps, among others and a whole range of biodiversity. You can take a boat that carries vehicles across from Seattle to save time.
Redwood (UNESCO) CA: The renown Redwood trees are the tallest and oldest of the bunch. Walk and drive through the forest to explore trees like you have never before. This is a bit of a drive out between Oregon and San Francisco.
Rocky Mountain, CO: Do not forget to visit this park as it is extremely close to Denver. As the name suggests, you will see plenty of Rocky Mountains.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon, CA: Very similar to Redwood National Park, the giant sequoias are marvelous wonders of nature. This park is more accessible as it is located between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas.
The Smoky Mountains, NC/TN: Beautiful mist-covered mountains only seen in the cloud forests of the world. Smoke ressembling fires appear at all times during the day in different areas. Be prepared for a windy and wet adventure even in the middle of summer.
White Sands, NM: The difference between a National Park and a National Monument is the former is enacted by Congress while the latter is enacted by the President. This national monument features white desert sand dunes and animals that blend in with the background. It is very unique and the biggest of its type in the world. The sand contains gypsum deposits that store water below the ground to allow for living organisms to survive despite the hot desert. Enjoy sliding down the sand or just walking through anytime during the year. See the San Andres Mountains to one side and the Guadalupe Mountains on the other.
Yellowstone (UNESCO): This is the most popular national park in the US and a favorite among foreigners, crossing MT, WY, and ID. The park takes at least two days to drive around and features biodiversity to be in awe of. The main features are the rainbow-colored hot springs that house archaebacteria that produce the vibrant colors. Also featured are geysers, a lake, bison, eagles, and much more. This is the park to visit if you are short of time, just be wary that it will get crowded, especially in the summers. People say this place is similar to Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan, China.
Yosemite (UNESCO), CA: This park is very much like a scene from Jurassic Park, featuring tall mountains with equally tall waterfalls, and vegetation at the base. Take a bus across the plains and view scenery the whole way, similar to Grand Teton National Park.
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island (UNESCO), NY: The last few times I visited this place was on school trips as a child. This used to be a gateway for immigrants coming from across the Atlantic Ocean. Explore the museum of Ellis Island or climb to the top of the statue to see New York.
Delaware Water Gap, NJ: Located on the border between Northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the river eventually flows down towards Delaware, causing the name to be somewhat misleading. This park features mountains and forest as well so naturally there are plenty of hiking and water activities.
Valley Forge and Gettysburg, PA: These places are historical Civil War battlegrounds and feature museums and Civil War remnants for those who would rather enjoy some American History. These are located toward the South of Pennsylvania and not too far from the major cities in Eastern PA.
Independence Hall, Philadelphia: This is where the founding fathers drafted the Declaration of Independence and rang the Liberty Bell; hence leading to the start of the Revolutionary War. There are several museums in this area so take your time and walk around.
National Mall, Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Veterans Memorials, DC: Washington DC has the largest collection of museums and structures in the nation, fitting of the capitol. All of these places have historical significance and to see all of them would take more than a day for sure. Be sure to visit each one of them the next time you come around.
San Antonio Missions (UNESCO), TX: The missions have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since Summer 2015. They are remnants of colonial times when explorers first set foot in Texas. Missionaries built these little communities along with natives to protect their own and increase trade. Originally to attract more colonists, the government offered a great deal of land to those willing to move to Texas. The Alamo is the most famous of the missions from when Texas declared independence from Mexico.
Amistad, TX: This national recreation area features a huge lake along the way to San Antonio or Big Bend.
Craters of the Moon, ID: Climb on dried black lava to view the surroundings. Consider this area a pit-stop away from Yellowstone.
Golden Gate, CA: Shown in movies everywhere, stop by for a long walk or run across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It will literally take you 30-60 minutes to walk across and back on this modern marvel of architecture. Sometimes clouds will cover part of the bridge but whether you are on the bridge viewing afar (ie Alcatraz) or afar viewing the bridge, both conditions make for great photos.
Lake Mead, NV: This huge body of water in the desert is blocked by a dam and a site to see when around Las Vegas. Although the lake is slowly drying up due to the dam, it is still worth a visit. Many water activities are offered at this park.
Joshua Tree, CA: For those who enjoy climbing, this national park will bring out the child in you. Although located in the desert, this park features many types of desert shrubbery and rocks for a full day of fun. It is a 2.5 hr drive East of Los Angeles and close to Palm Springs.
Cabrillo, CA: This monument celebrates the founding of San Diego by a European settler. Educational pieces describe his life and the isolated life of those who worked in this lighthouse area. See a view of San Diego from this peak area.
Glen Canyon, AZ: This national recreation area features a dam along Lake Powell. One can enjoy your typical calm water activities but also view the dam from a museum and bridge.
Saguaro, AZ: This park is split up into two areas, approximately an hour away by car from each other. Both sides area similar in the plants they feature, mainly cacti. The paved roads are short but trails plenty.
Petrified Forest, AZ: This park is unique in that it used to be in the tropics by Costa Rica. However as the trees died and were absorbed into the streams, minerals started to deposit in them. Today, one can see these trees preserved in minerals.
Petroglyph, NM: This small national monument features carvings in stone by the Native Americans were lived in the area. This early form of writing can be found on various stones across the park.
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT: Enjoy unique views of Southern Utah at Bryce. The whole park is a giant overlook of the rock formations underneath from the plateau. Expect this park to be busy, especially during holidays.
Zion National Park, UT: Zion is the preferred park for hikers with Angel’s Landing the signature trail. Walk along with tens of thousands others in this valley. Luckily buses run every 15 minutes but the wait can still be long.
Dixie National Forest, UT: This National Forest is located near both Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. The forest features reddish Earth with green trees above, a unique sight for the eyes.
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, UT: This forest is uniquely located on the Alpine Scenic Highway which provides access to many parks and recreation areas. See snow-capped mountains even in the summer while driving through the narrow, winding roads.
Haleakala National Park, HI: This national park is a mountain with many trails. The major attraction is seeing the sunrise on the mountain. These get booked fast so be sure to reserve a parking spot. Drive up the fastest 37 miles to the highest point.
Foreign UNESCO World Heritage Sites and National Parks Traversed
Imperial Palace, Beijing, China: This palace is surprisingly huge. If you look through all the lined up open doorways, you may not be able to see the end. Each section of the museum features exhibits from imperial China including artifacts and glimpses at the lifestyle of royalty. Come early as this place get really crowded later in the morning. For the name along, this is a must-see for tourists while in Beijing.
Great Wall, Beijing, China: Towards the outskirts of the cities, the Great Wall is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Built in the BC era to defend against invaders from the North, though ineffective, this monument can be seen from space. You can ride of climb to the top but some steeper parts of the wall will require extra effort to traverse.
Summer Palace, Beijing, China: Royalty in ancient China owned many properties. This palace sits on the edge of Kunming Lake, similar to the setup of Hangzhou, China. The lake is small so everything is pretty visible all around.
Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China: Another area of ancient royalty, this temple has more open space than enclosures and feature the imperial courts, the scenes you see in old Chinese movies, made of stone.
Mt. Huangshan, China: These mountains are one of the tallest and well known in China. Most of the steps are carved into the mountain with some steps being very small and no railings present so be extra careful when climbing. Most accommodations and restaurants at the top are overpriced since they are booked full all the time. The climb is worth it as the scenery is similar to those features in many ancient Chinese paintings on scrolls.
Suzhou Gardens, Suzhou, China: This residence was for local royalty but is now a museum. Note the unique circular-shaped doorways with not real boundaries between inside and outside. The city if known for its sweet foods and dialect that sounds somewhat like angry Shanghainese.
Historic Centre, Macau, China: Colonized by Portugal for awhile, this area has become a fusion of Portuguese and Chinese culture in terms of architecture, food, and proliferation. Walk down this pedestrian pathway to discover Portuguese colonial buildings and Chinese businesses. This area is only an hour boat-ride from Hong Kong and home to the biggest casinos in the world. Different from Las Vegas, Macau is geared more towards the gambling than towards family friendly or crude activities.
West Lake, Hangzhou, China: This city, like Suzhou, is very close to Shanghai, either by car or train, and features the Longjing green tea along with the city being built around a lake. Due to the lake, this city can get very hot and humid in the summer, not unlike the other parts of Southern China like Shanghai from smog.
Tianshan, Xinjiang, China: Xinjiang is the Northwestern-most and biggest province in China. Due to its bordering central Asia, there are many ethnic minorities, crosses between Muslims and Han Chinese. The staple food is greasy rice plates and lamb. See Middle East cultures without having to travel through many different countries from here. Bargain hard at the bazaar.
Lijiang, Yunnan, China: This province has the highest elevations in the mountains of China. The cities is naturally historic but nowadays is crowded by many tourists. Located at the border of the Southern Asian countries, there is a plethora of ethnic minorities living here like in Xinjiang. Experience South Asia without leaving the country.
Historical Monuments, Kyoto, Japan: This city was the old capitol in imperial Japan and features all the temples and monuments that you see in the movies. Geishas are still out and about the the food is just as good as anywhere in Japan. The specialty is matcha, or green tea, flavored everything, from ice cream to other desserts.
Westminster, London, England: This well-known area is featured in the James Bond and other movies. The Parliament, church, palace, and other important locations make up this area along the Thames River. Walk along the river and you will be able to see most of the major sites in London.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador: These islands are in the path of migratory wildlife so you can see organisms from the North to the South pole at these islands. Charles Darwin discovered these islands and mentioned them in the Origin of Species. It is getting popular as a tourist attraction, offering many water activities so visit while its’ still nice. Ecuador is currently taking action to limit the number of tourists to these islands which are over 85% protected national park.
City of Cusco, Peru: Located at a higher elevation than Lima, Cusco is the major city closest to Machu Picchu. Crime is very very low and the city is unque in its red-colored roofs over the majority of buildings. Make sure to stock up on supplies here as prices increase closer to Machu Picchu.
Historic Sanctuary of Macchu Picchu, Peru: This is not the largest but certainly the most well known of Incan dwellings in the area. Take a train to the valley town of Aguas Calientes and then a bus up to the ruins. Sunrise and sunset provide great opportunity for photos like the ones you see in magazines and media. The area was built surprisingly sturdy, able to withstand earthquakes. The Incan astronomy was also very advanced and led to current technological developments.
Historic Centre of Lima, Peru: Currently, this is the main city for international flights full of tourists flocking to Machu Picchu. The city has a double digits number of mayors and a large number of subsections. Colonized by the Spanish, Lima hosts many colonial buildings and many many Catholic churches. Incan and Spanish blood have long since mixed so there are no more 100% Incans anymore.
Kruger National Park, South Africa: The largest safari park in South Africa, Krugers hosts many camp sites for both national and private game drive companies. Drive around on paved and dirt roads to view animals in large vehicles with a guide/driver/naturalist. The park is home to many plants so visibility is not always great. You may not see wild action but can spot many species of animal.
Table Mountain National Park, South Africa: The new 7th Natural Wonder in the world, Table Mountain provides a plateau for 360 degree views of the city Cape Town and surrounding areas. Climb or ride the cable car and walk around for spectacular views. Enjoy a guided tour every hour or relax in the cafeteria or wifi lounge. This spot is a must visit in South Africa.
Cartagena, Colombia: This historical city surrounded by Spanish fort was built in colonial times and a major control point for power over the Americas. It is located by the ocean but hot and humid many days. The notable points are all around this small city but mainly the colorful homes from colonial times. The fort was overtaken but well preserved.
Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama: This historical part of the old town includes Bohemian buildings from colonial times. Of course, the Europeans also had the Native Americans show them the way to the other ocean and then subjugate them. Today, the town is surrounded by a highway and close by the Panama Canal which the Americans built.
Pingvellir National Park, Iceland: This famous national park is known for several things. The Game of Thrones was filmed at this location. This is one area where visitors can see the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meeting pretty well. In addition, this is the site of the first Parliament of Iceland.
Historical Areas of Istanbul, Turkey: Istanbul is a city that is a cross between European and Asian empires long ago. Hence, the culture and structures of many civilizations exist here (Roman, Greek, Ottoman, etc)
Petra, Jordan: Similar to Istanbul, Jordan is located where the East meets the West. Even more ancient civilizations have claimed these lands and left wonders including churches, tombs, and more.
Historic Cairo, Egypt: This is one of the earliest Islamic cities in the world. Today, Cairo is bustling with activity from tourists trying to learn about the ancients to crazy driving.
Pyramid Fields, Egypt: This ancient civilization was made popular by the media, especially in monives like The Mummy. Many of their structures still stand, making us think about how advanced they may have been…
Nubian Monuments, Egypt: The Nubians lived between Egypt and Sudan, co-existing with the Egyptian civilization. They have built temples just as great at the Egyptian monuments.