Insider's guide: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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The Lakes and Mountains region across Europe is littered with valuable UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Areas, or sites of interest that have been deemed of cultural value, whether they are famous for their outstanding natural beauty, have a fascinating historical footprint, or feature some geographical phenomenon’s, one thing is certain: these areas contribute to our rich and outstanding human history and must be conserved for generations to come.

Whether it’s an ancient archaeological site, city brimming with historical significance or a region of outstanding natural beauty, we’ve pulled together a list of our favourite UNESCO World Heritage Sites that can be visited from the Inghams resorts.

Italy

World Heritage

The Dolomite Mountains

Anyone who has visited the Dolomite Mountains before will tell you instantly what a breathtakingly beautiful area they are. And for that very reason, the mountain range has been rewarded a UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
But what makes the Dolomites truly unique are the enormous vertical walls, sheer cliffs and high density of narrow, deep and long valleys. The enormous rock monoliths stick up out of the surface of the earth and form one of the most iconic and unique skylines in the world.

Apart from sitting back and admiring the view, tucking into some delicious Italian food and drink while you’re at it, there is plenty of buzz and activity happening across the Dolomite region with some fabulous walking trails, cycling routes and more.

Inghams recommends: 

Sitting right on the border of the Dolomite National Park, La Villa is one of the best places to stay if you’re searching for a walking holiday in the Italian Alps. Here at Inghams we are famous for our excellent hospitality and a stay in our fabulous Chalet Hotel Al Pigher (aka The Beehive) will be the perfect opportunity to experience it yourself! Located a short walk away from the gondola lift in La Villa, this is the perfect chalet hotel for the avid rambler to come home to after a day of exploring the Dolomites.

2 Verona

Verona

Founded in the 1st Century BC, there is a lot more to the city of Verona than meets the eye. Perhaps best known for being the city of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet where the titular characters lived and died, the city holds a remarkable number of monuments from antiquity, including those from the Italian medieval and Renaissance periods.

Modern day Verona sees a seamless blend between the ancient Roman fortress city, and the modern day buzzing cosmopolitan city that it is today. You can visit the world-famous Verona Opera, and perhaps even recite a few lines from the star cross’d lovers tale at Juliet’s balcony!

Inghams recommends: 

You can enjoy your trip to Verona by staying in the heart of it all at the Hotel Italia. Only a 10 minutes’ walk from the Piazza delle Erbe, and a 2-3 minute walk from the Arena. With the bedrooms recently upgraded and wonderfully comfortable communal areas.

Venice

Venice

If there was any city in Europe that was so worthy of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it would be Venice. 

Foundered in 5th Century BC in a prime location on the Mediterranean sea, it quickly became a multicultural hub of trade across the Roman and Ottoman Empires, bringing in exotic products, foods, fabrics, and drinks from across the globe. One of the most influential imports to go through the city of Venice onto worldwide distribution was Arabic coffee, and soon coffee became the signature drink of Italy.

Building Venice was no easy feat, and as the city grew across the collection of islands in this lagoon, the buildings extended over the water and the iconic waterways and canals began to grow. The old sector of the city has retained its heritage and characteristic buildings over the centuries, and hopefully will be preserved for many more!

Inghams recommends:

Sitting in one of the most sought after positions in Venice, the Palazzo Sant’ Angelo hotel is positioned right on the Grand Canal between Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square. A prime location for exploring the city of Venice, this hotel provides an ideal spot to savour the life and atmosphere of this fabulous city.

France

4 Lyon

Lyon

While this site may come as a surprise to some of our Inghams guests, the city of Lyon is enriched with heritage and is one of the gastronomic capitals of France. For more than two millennia people have settled in this area which was once a Roman fortress established in the first century BC. 

With thousands of years of people living in Lyon, the city has layers of fascinating historical architecture. From the Roman district, the Renaissance district, and the silk district (the city was famous for silk weaving for many hundreds of years), and the Presqu’ile district which features architecture from the 12th century to modern times. All of this rich history is immaculately preserved in Lyon and you can take a literal wander through time. 

Inghams recommends: 

You can visit Lyon from the nearby lake resort of Annecy. Lake Annecy is a beautiful lake and enchanting village of Talloires is the perfect tranquil holiday destination for exploring the lakes and mountains region of France, and beyond. Arguably one of the best hotels on offer on Lake Annecy, the Hotel l’Abbaye de Talloires is an old Benedictine monastery that has been lovingly restored and renovated into a hotel that sits in an enviable position on the shore of the lake. 

Switzerland 

5 Jungfrau Region

Jungfrau Region

Alike the Dolomite Mountains, the Jungfrau region in Switzerland is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and thanks to its UNESCO World Heritage tag hopefully this glacial region will be conserved for centuries to come.

Some of the defining features of the Jungfrau region include the formidable North Face of the Eiger Mountain, one of the most challenging climbs for the hardiest of climbers. But for the rest of us, it makes the most spectacular backdrop to this breathtakingly beautiful area in the Bernese Oberlands. Perfect for sitting back and enjoying a glass of wine!

The Jungfraujoch was also a hotspot during the early days of Alpine tourism, and is home to the Jungfraubahn cog railway, leading to the highest station in Europe. The journey along the railway is one of the most picturesque journey’s in Europe so don’t forget to pack your cameras!

Inghams recommends: 

Enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding Eiger and Wetterhorn Mountains, the Hotel Belvedere in Grindelwald is a deluxe hotel with one of the best sun terraces in town, perfect for sitting back and soaking in the beauty of the Jungfrau Mountain region. A 3 minutes’ walk from the centre of the village, the mountain railway is easily accessible for hill walking and rambling.

6 Bellinzona

Bellinzona

Since the prehistoric era and pre-dating the Romans, there has always been some sort of settlement here at Bellinzona in Switzerland making this an area of historical and political importance. Despite the obvious beauty of the region, nestled between the high mountains in Switzerland and close proximity to Lake Lugano and Locarno on Lake Maggiore, Bellinzona made the ideal settlement for a protective fortress, marking the Roman campaign to conquer the Alpine regions around 15/16 BC.

While it is suspected that the ancient fortress fell into disrepair, due to the excellent strategic position, it was re-erected again, and expanded, demolished, refurbished, reshaped and restored countless times and passed through numerous different hands, including those of Italian, Milanese, Swiss and French heritage. 

As you’ve probably gathered by now, that with the layers and layers of history in the foundations at Bellinzona, it is a pinnacle location for archaeology. 

Inghams recommends: 

Only a half an hour journey away, the town of Ascona sits on the edge of Lake Maggiore, which shares its shores with Italy, celebrating a wonderfully balmy climate, outstanding views and fresh mountain air. Perfectly located is the Hotel Casa Berno, an idyllic retreat surrounded by a subtropical park and enjoying an unbeatable view across Lake Maggiore

Austria

7 Hallstatt

Hallstatt

Literally meaning ‘salt settlement’, the town of Hallstatt and the surrounding areas are famous for the salt mines, a mineral that has been exploited here since the prehistoric era, possibly even as early as the 2nd millennium BC. This mineral resource formed the foundations for the prosperity in the area up to the middle of the 20th Century, and the affluence can be seen in the rich and fine architecture in the town of Hallstatt.

The landscape in this area has played a vital role in human history, and the salt trading links coming out of Hallstatt became known as ‘Hallstatt Culture’, as they stretched across Europe and beyond. It is outstanding that somewhere in the Alpine region should retain such a high degree of historical authenticity, and we can see here a harmonious interaction between man and environment.

Inghams recommends: 

Our closest resort to Hallstatt is the village of Filzmoos. One of Austria’s prettiest villages, when not enjoying a day out in nearby Hallstatt, there is plenty of walking to be found in the hills and mountains. The Hotel Unterhof is brimming with history and character, and comes set within its own lovely gardens on the edge of the village.

8 Salzburg

Salzburg

Despite being the renowned city of modern classical music, Salzburg has managed to maintain a fabulously rich and diverse urban ‘fabric’. The city itself holds one of the most immaculately preserved Old Towns north of the Alps, filled with Gothic architecture and art works. Salzburg was a hub of the Baroque architectural movement and attracted numerous famous architects and artists of the time. While many cities in Austria, Germany and Eastern Europe saw their heritage and history suffer in the hands of war, Salzburg has withstood the test of time and after WWII it became an independent city-state. 

But, of course, Salzburg is probably widely associated with being the home and birthplace of the world-famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You can see many tributes to the great composer and other musical prodigies (Haydn and Schubert, to name a few) across the city. Mozart’s house is still a popular destination to visit. Sitting against a backdrop of the Austrian Alps, this was a town where Italian and German cultures met, and the cosmopolitan city flourished throughout the centuries. 

Inghams recommends: 

Set just a 5 minutes’ walk from the Mirabelle Gardens and the centre of Salzburg, the Hotel NH Salzburg City is a stylish and contemporary hotel with a summer terrace and garden, free sauna and gym for guests to use and a cafe in the lobby.

9 Wachau Valley

Wachau Valley

Cycling through the River Danube valley, you might pause to have a look around you, and naturally you are taken aback by the beauty of the region.

Chances are you’re in the Wachau Valley. At one point in history this area was covered in a thick, dense forest. But thanks to the proximity to the River Danube, it became an ideal location for prehistoric settlements, and over time it grew, seeing a particular burst in growth during the medieval period where several abbey’s were established and started cultivating vineyards for wine. 

With a close source of water, this lush valley had the perfect ecosystem for agriculture

In fact, the region is still famous for its impeccable wines many hundreds of years after the first trees were planted and the rolling hills are immediately recognisable with their perfect rows of trees.

Inghams recommends:

As aforementioned, perhaps one of the best ways to soak in the beauty of the Wachau Valley and its surrounding areas would be by bicycle. Inghams run the exclusive Treasures of the Danube: a 7 day cycle tour, self-guided, the first stage of this cycle route stretches from Passau to Vienna and you enjoy a hassle-free luggage transportation service that sees your bags arrive in your hotel for the evening ahead of you.

Slovenia

10 Skocjan Caves

Skocjan Caves

Perhaps the most stunning natural feature you may ever visit. The Skocjan Caves sit in south-western Slovenia and stretch for around 6km deep underground and are formed by thousands of years of subterranean rivers and waters flowing through the limestone rock turning the enormous caverns into works of art. 

The sheer scale of the caves, creatively illuminated with electric flood lights, will blow you away, and they are also home to the world’s largest (known!) underground river canyons. Deep underground the Reka River dips and dives through the rocks, disappearing altogether at one point before resurfacing with roaring rapids and waterfalls. The halls, chambers and canyons are filled with breathtaking and almost supernatural stalactites and stalagmites as big as houses and a 2km tour will lead you along a winding path through these great ‘rooms’, past rock features that seem to deny the laws of physics and around rippling rock pools. 

Whilst it is clear that these stunning caves need to be preserved for centuries to come for people to enjoy their beauty, there is another reason for why their conservation is extremely important: The Skocjan Caves are home to the extremely rare and endangered ‘Human Fish’. Technically a breed of cave salamander, the Human Fish is born and spends its life in the pitch black rock pools deep underground and has evolved over thousands of years to be blind and have milky pale skin... in times gone by, people thought that they were baby dragons!

Inghams recommends: 

Turn your holiday to the lakes and mountains into a beach holiday! Close to the Skocjan Caves, the nearby town of Piran is filled with Mediterranean charm and sits right on the Adriatic Sea, across the Gulf of Treieste from Venice. Stay with Inghams at the Hotel Tartini, in a superb location in the centre of Piran with views of the charming harbour, and a wonderful panoramic dinner terrace to soak in those balmy summer sunsets.

Germany

11 Richenau

Reichenau

This island in Germany perched on the shores of the tranquil Lake Constance, bears evidence and remains of an ancient Benedictine monastery, marking the area one of cultural significance. With three churches currently on the island of different architectural styles, it makes this island an exceptional example of creativity and design going hand-in-hand with religion.

The Monastery of Reichenau was a very important artistic centre of significance to the history of art during the Middle Ages, and leading up to the Renaissance in Europe. In the modern day churches, particularly St George at Oberzell, there are some wall frescos which are immaculately preserved, and constitute the only example of a complete set of pre-1000 scenic wall paintings north of the Alps.

Inghams recommends: 

While there are an enormous number of building restrictions within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Reichenau, including the dictation of what buildings on the island can be repurposed as, it doesn’t hinder Inghams from seeking out one of the best hotels on the island for our guests: the Ganter Hotel Mohren. Dating back to 1756 this family run hotel combines historic features with modern facilities and sits in a quiet, secluded and tranquil location on the island, but still close to the centre and harbour.

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