Why The World Heritage List Should Be On Yours

What do the Great Pyramid, Great Barrier Reef, and Great Wall of China all have in common, besides the title “great”? Interestingly, it is the same thing they have in common with the Tower of London, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Give up? They are all considered World Heritage Sites, a designation by UNESCO-the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Great Wall, Ba da ling Section, Near Beijing, China
Great Wall, Ba da ling Section, Near Beijing, China

Regarding the World Heritage List, UNESCO’s stated goal is to “encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.” In layman’s terms, it seeks to preserve the most meaningful, historic and naturally beautiful places on earth. And while the list’s occupants such as the historic center of Rome, or the Galapagos Islands may be familiar to most people, their status among the world’s premier destinations may be relatively unknown.

When it comes time for me to begin considering ideas for a trip—also known as: always—my first order of business is to peruse a given destination’s World Heritage Sites. It’s been my experience that in the 66 WHS I’ve visited (out of 981 total worldwide) every last one was worth the trip. Most are no-brainers. I mean, who doesn’t visit the Taj Mahal when in India? But there are lesser-known sites that were like finding hidden treasure. A case in point is the Goreme National Park, in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. This unique collection of troglodyte dwellings and surreal rock-formations is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever heard of—let alone visited. So as a rule of thumb, when considering a destination, always check to see if there are any World Heritage Sites within striking distance. Your photo album will thank you for it.

Goreme Open Air Museum, Goreme, Turkey
Goreme Open Air Museum, Goreme, Turkey

To find a complete list of World Heritage Sites along with more information, you can log onto the official web site at http://whc.unesco.org. There is also a fantastic unofficial site at www.worldheritagesite.org where travelers the world over post their comments, observations and words of wonder at these bright spots on the world map. After perusing them yourself, you just may be so moved with appreciation to include one or two of these World Heritage Sites on your next trip at home or abroad.

Have you visited a World Heritage Site? Tell me about it!

Welcome to the Trip Accomplice Blog!

Greetings and welcome to the first post of the Trip Accomplice blog! For me, much of my enjoyment from travel happens before my tickets are bought, hotels are booked, or a single suitcase is packed. I’ve found that it’s those initial steps toward researching a potential destination—an obscure reference in a guidebook, an article in a magazine, the first web site with all those pictures—that mark the true beginning of any of my trips. Yes, for me it’s not the kill but the thrill of the hunt that keeps me addicted, and it’s what motivated me to start Trip Accomplice, which is, to my knowledge, the only travel agency that specializes in destination research.

Don’t worry, this blog is not about touting the services I offer but rather a chance for me to share my insights on all things travel: From tips on choosing where to go, to my own, self-proclaimed, “travel philosophy”. Basically this blog is to inform, entertain, and to enhance the traveling experience of anyone willing to take the time to hear what I have to say. And if I manage to elicit the odd chuckle here and there, then so be it.

So in this first blog post I’ve decided that of all possible things to share, the first thing on my list is a basic philosophy that convinced me that I had a service that others would benefit from and moved me to start Trip Accomplice in the first place. I call it: The Pancake Rock Effect. Nestled on the wild, west coast of New Zealand is a tiny natural gem called Paparoa National Park. The main attractions here are the aforementioned Pancake Rocks—a coastal formation of limestone where erosion and seismic activity has sculpted the rocks into bizarre shapes that look sort of like stacks of pancakes (see image below). Arriving there at sunset, breathing in the salty air, listening to the muted thundering of the surf and looking out at the sun breaking through the clouds in hazy shafts of light, was one of the favorite moments of my entire 3 week trip. The reason I mention this is because had I not known 1) that it was there and 2) that it was worth seeing, it would have been so easy to drive right past the entrance and miss out on a truly delightful experience. That’s the value of traveling informed: Knowing the options and making sure to put oneself in the best position to get the most out of any trip. So keep that principle in mind as this blog continues, as it will be the undercurrent to any and all information posted here.

Pancake Rocks, Paparoa National Park, New Zealand

Of course, I invite you not only to keep checking back for new posts, but to feel free to comment, praise, criticize, suggest, imply, mock or complain at your leisure. And also don’t forget to check out my website www.tripaccomplice.com for more info on how I can personally become your own trip’s accomplice.

Thanks for reading,

Ben Pastore