12 Fascinating World Heritage Sites in Warm-Weather Destinations

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UNESCO World Heritage Sites are some of the most amazing places on earth. And with over 851 heritage sites dotting the globe, visiting one (or a few) while on vacation is a definite possibility.

Experiencing a world heritage site can open your eyes to parts of a destination you probably would have never seen before and enrich your entire travel experience. So as snow begins to become a regular part of the weather forecast, and winter vacations become an everyday thought, consider visiting some of these unforgettable heritage sites while enjoying your winter getaway in the Caribbean or other warm-weather destination.

#1. Colonial City of Santo Domingo — Dominican Republic

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The Colonial City of Santo Domingo was founded by Christopher Columbus in 1498. It was the first lasting establishment of the New World, the capital of the West Indies and the departure place for the spread of European culture across the continent. Later developed destinations, like San Juan and Havana, were modeled after Santo Domingo’s strategic grid pattern.

#2. San Pedro de la Roca Castle — Cuba

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The San Pedro de la Roca Castle is one of Cuba’s most outstanding and important sights. The stone fortress has guarded Santiago de Cuba Bay’s entrance since 1638 and has served as a defensive stronghold throughout multiple rivalries of the 17th and 18th centuries. San Pedro de la Roca Castle serves as one of the best representations of the Spanish-American school of military architecture.

#3. Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison — Barbados

Photo credit: Gouldy99
Photo credit: Gouldy99

Historic Bridgetown served as the center point of British trade-based expansion in the Americas. Admire numerous existing examples of British colonial architecture from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and take note of the city’s unique serpentine lay-out, which differentiates it from the Dutch and Spanish colonial cities. Although Bridgetown has transformed from a fortified port town to a modern tropical city, the town’s street configurations, a number of historic houses, and the main barracks and buildings of the garrison still retain authenticity.

#4. Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System — Belize

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The longest barrier reef in all of the Americas is a must-see on any Belize vacation. Whether you’re a diver, snorkeler, photographer, birdwatcher or sightseer, the Belize barrier reef is one of the most incredible sights in the world.

#5. Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua — Guatemala

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Travel back in time to the 2nd century A.D., at the Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua. Quirigua’s ruins include some incredible monuments, altars, calendars, animal-shaped sculptures and carved stelae dating back to the 8th century. The Archaelogical Park and Ruins of Quirigua have become an essential source in studying the Mayan Civilization, but they’re a must-see for everyday sightseers as well.

#6. Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino — Mexico

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The Baja California Peninsula’s Pacific coast has long been known as a premier whale-watching destination. The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino, composed of the Laguna Ojo de Liebre and Laguna San Ignacio, serves as a key reproduction and wintering site for harbor seals, California sea lions, elephant seals, blue whales, grey whales and four species of endangered marine turtles.

#7. Pitons Management Area — Saint Lucia

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Saint Lucia’s Pitons, two volcanic cones standing over 740 meters high, overlook the island’s pristine southwestern coast. The volcanic complex includes hot springs and a geothermal field, while the site’s marine area consists of roughly 60-percent coral reef. More than 148 plant species have been found on Gros Piton, the higher of the two volcanic cones measuring 770-meters tall. The Pitons are visible from nearly every point on Saint Lucia, and they provide a big portion of the island’s unparalleled beauty.

#8. Old Havana and its Fortifications — Cuba

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The town of Havana dates all the way back to 1519 when it was founded by the Spanish. Two centuries later, the city had become a main ship-building center in the Caribbean. Havana has endured a number of severe tropical storms and is now home to roughly 2 million people, yet the old centre still remains a unique mixture of neoclassical and Baroque monuments. Despite the city’s now cosmopolitan feel, the location and many of the designs, substances and materials remain the same as they were centuries ago.

#9. Morne Trois Pitons National Park — Dominican Republic

Photo credit: Neiro
Photo credit: Neiro

Literally meaning “mountain of the three peaks,” Morne Trois Pitons National Park has been a must-visit park in Dominica since 1975. The 1,342-meter tall Morne Trois Pitons volcano is the center of one of this breathtaking heritage site featuring a tropical forest, hot springs, 50 fumaroles, deep valleys, a boiling lake, three freshwater lakes and five volcanoes. The park spans roughly 7,000 hectares and is known for the stunning natural beauty it brings to Dominica.

#10. National History Park — Haiti

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Haiti’s National History Park includes must-see monuments honoring the country’s declaration of independence in 1803. The site includes the Citadelle Henry, the Palace of Sans Souci and the buildings at Ramiers. The monuments stand in a picturesque setting of lush mountain peaks, bringing centuries of history and natural beauty together into an off-the-beaten path attraction.

#11. Everglades National Park — United States

Photo credit: Nate Bolt
Photo credit: Nate Bolt

Winter vacations to Florida can extend deeper than the state’s ideal temperatures and pristine beaches. Everglades National park, at the southern tip of Florida, is the largest sub-tropical wilderness reserve in North America, and the exceptional variety of habitats make it the perfect refuge for an unimaginable number of animal and plant species. The Everglades are home to more than 400 bird species, 20 rare, endangered or threatened species and countless other flora and fauna including hardwoods, coral reefs and more.

#12. Brimstone Hill Fortress — Saint Kitts

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It’s almost odd to see 18th-century architecture in a Caribbean setting, but the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is one of the most exciting sights in all of Saint Kitts. This well-preserved fortress was designed by the British in the 17th and 18th centuries and constructed by African slaves. It serves as an incredibly scenic history lesson in colonial expansion, the African slave trade and the creation of new societies and cultures in the beautiful Caribbean.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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