Australia's World Heritage Sites

Imagine a land where people have lived for 40,000 years. Where natural wonders abound. And where architecture rises to world-class heights. Tour Australia's UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Himeji-jo
Himeji-jo

Himeji-jo

Himeji-jo
Called "White Egret Castle" for its supposed resemblance to a white bird taking flight, Himeji-jo is a perfect archetypal example of Japanese architecture dating back to 1333. The castle is actually a complex of 83 buildings that make up one of the most advanced defensive structures of 14th-century Japan.
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Bernard Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons  

Futarasan Shrine

Futarasan Shrine

Shrines and Temples of Nikko: Futarasan Shrine
Built in 767, the Shinto shrine Futarasan has a collection of over 130 swords that are considered national treasures. Mount Nikko, where the shrine stands, is believed to be the home of Shinto and Buddhist deities and has been where many monks received their religious training.
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Wally Gobetz, flickr  

Yakushima

Yakushima

Yakushima
The island of Yakushima was designated a World Heritage Site because it is home to a remnant of ancient forest. It also happens to be the largest nesting ground in the North Pacific for loggerhead sea turtles, an endangered species.
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Chris Harber, flickr  

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and Its Cultural Landscape
On Honshu Island, a collection of mountains and deep river valleys make up the archaeological remains of the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine. This mine produced silver between the 16th and 20th centuries, and in the 17th century produced a third of the world's silver.
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Yama 1009, Wikimedia Commons  

Kimpu Shrine

Kimpu Shrine

Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range
Due to the role they played in the fusion of Shinto and Buddhist beliefs, the sacred sites of Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan and Koyasan were named one of Japan’s World Heritage sites. Located along the pilgrimage routes in the forests of the Kii Mountains, the sacred sites are visited by up to 15 million hikers each year.
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663highland, Wikimedia Commons  

Ogasawara Islands

Ogasawara Islands

Ogasawara Islands
More than 30 islands make up the Ogasawara Islands, which are the home to 195 endangered bird species and 441 native plants. With its subtropical forests, the islands have been nicknamed the "Galapagos of the Orient."
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OgasawaraEnglishClub, Wikitravel Creative Commons  

Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto: Kinkaku-ji
Kinkaku-ji, or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, is just one of 17 locations that make up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. The original temple was built in 1397 as a villa, and then converted into a temple. Unfortunately, it burned down in 1950; the temple standing today was built as a replica in 1955.
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Keith Pomakis, Wikimedia Commons  

Shirakami-Sanchi

Shirakami-Sanchi

Shirakami-Sanchi
The ancient beech forest of Shirakami-Sanchi is one of the last of its kind in East Asia, and is undisturbed with no trails or manmade structures. Rare birds such as the black woodpecker and golden eagle live among the forest's numerous waterfalls and steep valleys.
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Hidetsugu Tonomura, flickr  

The Horyu-ji Temple

The Horyu-ji Temple

Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area
The Horyu-ji Temple, one of the Buddhist monuments in the Horyu-ji area, was the first historic place listed as a Japanese World Heritage Site. Considered the world's oldest wooden structure, its full name is Learning Temple of the Flourishing Law. The temple houses 38 national treasures along with a vast collection of Japanese art.
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663highland, Wikimedia Commons  

Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
Isolated from the rest of the world, the historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama cultivated mulberry trees and raised silkworms to survive. The architecture of the homes is the only example of its kind in Japan, with its steep thatched roofs allowing the houses to withstand the area's heavy snowfalls.
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Bergmann, Wikimedia Commons  

Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko National Park
The name of the Shiretoko National Park is derived from a word meaning "end of the Earth." The description is fitting since the park is accessible only by foot or boat, making it one of the most remote regions in Japan.
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Thinkstock  

Naha Shuri Castle

Naha Shuri Castle

Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu
Shuri Castle in the city of Naha was the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In the 1945 Battle of Okinawa it was destroyed, then rebuilt in 1992 on the original site thanks to historical records and photographs.
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663highland, Wikimedia Commons  

Genbaku Dome

Genbaku Dome

Hiroshima Peace Memorial: Genbaku Dome
The only building left standing in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb exploded in 1945, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial honors the more than 70,000 people who were killed -- and the additional 70,000 who were injured -- by the blast. The ruin serves as a reminder of the importance of peaceful negotiation.
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SElefant, Wikimedia Commons  

Hiraizumi

Hiraizumi

Hiraizumi
The historic gardens and temples of Hiraizumi are devoted to the ideals of Pure Land Buddhism -- the area represents the pure land of Buddha where believers hope to visit after death.
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ReijiYamashina, Wikimedia Commons  

Kasuga Grand Shrine

Kasuga Grand Shrine

Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara: Kasuga Shrine
Kasuga Grand Shrine, located in the city of Nara, is known for its many bronze lanterns that fill the interior, as well as the more than 1,000 stone lanterns that line the path to the temple.
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663highland, Wikimedia Commons   

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
The Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, built on a pier in the water, looks as if it is floating. It was built this way so visitors to the shrine could pass through the gate and be cleansed before setting foot on the sacred island of Itsukushima.
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Spiegel, flickr  

Angkor’s “Great City”
Angkor’s “Great City”

Angkor’s “Great City”

To enter Angkor’s “Great City,” known as Angkor Thom, visitors must cross a bridge lined by a series of stone figures, representing good and evil. On the left side are 54 protector gods and on the right, 54 demon gods, playing out an ancient Hindu myth. Angkor Thom’s South Gate is one of the best preserved of this site’s entrances. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield   

Terrace of the Elephants

Terrace of the Elephants

These stone elephants have seen centuries of Khmer kingdom pomp and circumstance, serving as the base of the 382-yard-long Terrace of the Elephants. The terrace was the king’s viewing stand for public ceremonies and military victory parades, featuring infantry, cavalry, horse-drawn carriages and elephants, of course. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei

There are some temples on the outskirts of the main Angkor Wat temple complex, and Banteay Srei is an amazingly well-preserved one. Its strong, pink-hued sandstone base could be one of the reasons, along with the fact that it was the first Angkor temple to undergo restoration. Banteay Srei means “Citadel of the Women,” and some believe only a woman could have carved its delicate wall reliefs. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Main Angkor Wat Temple

Main Angkor Wat Temple

An aerial view shows the grand expanse of the main Angkor Wat temple, demonstrating the meaning of its name, “temple that is a city.” It is also the largest religious building in the world -- at a staggering 11,000,000 square feet. The temple is a formidable fortress, surrounded by a 623-foot-wide moat and an outer wall measuring over 3,300 feet by 2,600 feet tall. Inscriptions inside the temple suggest that its construction took 300,000 workers and 6,000 elephants. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

While some temples at Angkor Wat are almost perfectly preserved, others have been taken over by Mother Nature -- like Ta Prohm, making it one of the most hauntingly beautiful of all the temples. Tree roots and toppled stones intermingle at this site, which was once a Buddhist temple dedicated to a Khmer king’s mother. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Lara Croft Was Here

Lara Croft Was Here

Ta Prohm is also one of the most popular temples at Angkor Wat because of its star turn in the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie. Crowds gather to take photos in front of the “Tomb Raider tree,” on the very spot where Lara Croft picks a flower before dramatically falling through the earth. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Angkor Thom South Gate

Angkor Thom South Gate

The Angkor Thom South Gate is a popular tourist entrance on the way to see some of Angkor’s most important temple sites and monuments, including the magnificent multifaceted Bayon temple and the Terrace of Elephants. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Thommanon

Thommanon

Thommanon is one of the smaller temples within the gates of Angkor Thom. Built in the mid-12th century and dedicated to the Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu, it is almost a perfect match with the neighboring temple Chau Say Tevoda. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Cambodia’s Cultural Pride

Cambodia’s Cultural Pride

According to UNESCO, Angkor Wat is one of the most important archeological sites in Southeast Asia, providing a lasting example of a powerful Khmer civilization and its cultural, religious and symbolic significance. For Cambodians, Angkor Wat still holds as much cultural pride as it must have during the height of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th through the 15th century. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Tribute to Vishnu

Tribute to Vishnu

The Khmer King Suryavarman II identified with the Hindu god Vishnu and built the Angkor Wat temple city as a glorious tribute to him. This statue of Vishnu found in the southern tower of the temple has 8 arms instead of 4 to better protect the universe. The city itself is an earthly replica of heaven according to the Hindu faith; it could also have been built to be the king’s final resting place. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Blessings to Buddha

Blessings to Buddha

While the temples of Angkor were originally built to worship Hindu gods, Buddhas were later added as Buddhism became the popular religion. Buddhist monks and worshippers visit the temples today to light incense and offer blessings to these Buddha replicas. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Chau Say Tevoda

Chau Say Tevoda

The same king who designed the main Angkor Wat temple also designed Chau Say Tevoda, located within the walls of Angkor Thom a few miles away. It is almost symmetrical with the Thommanon Temple just across the road. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield  

Angkor’s Enigmatic Faces

Angkor’s Enigmatic Faces

These gigantic, enigmatic faces greet Angkor visitors atop the Angkor Thom South Gate; they also seem to multiply atop the 37 remaining towers of the Bayon temple nearby, with each tower featuring 4 faces for a total of 148 looming visages staring out over a vast, ancient Khmer empire. 960 1280

Robin Bennefield