Heritage Sites

Explore some of the major UNESCO World Heritage Sites of South East Asia. The World Heritage List contains over 850 sites, which form part of the world’s cultural and natural heritage, and which are considered to have outstanding universal value. To this end it has compiled a list of sites of irreplaceable importance, and 29 of these can be found scattered among the countries of Southeast Asia.

Here are some of the highlights of the Southeast Asia list:

Historic City of Ayutthaya, Thailand

The ancient capital city of Thailand was founded in 1350 and remained the capital for over 400 years. Today, the old city features stark reminders from this period in the form of magnificent temple architecture. The ruins are characterized by Khmer-style temples such as Wat Chaiwatthanaram and located 80km north of Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat should perhaps be in the ‘world wonder’ category as archaeologically it is supremely impressive with Khmer Empire buildings from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Its size is immense, encompassing around 100 square kilometers.

Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras, Philippines

The Philippines’ Luzon Island features a spectacular series of rice terraces that were first developed 2,000 years ago by the Ifugao. The terraces today are still maintained by the same people and are in full use.

Hoi An, Vietnam

This famous Vietnamese coastal town is a delight with its well-preserved streets, striking temple and bridge architecture, and laid back appeal.

Town of Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos’s most visited town was royal capital in the 14th century and was designated a World Heritage Site for its well-preserved traditional village look.

Melaka and George Town, Malaysia

Historic cities of the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia) have developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West in the Straits of Malacca. The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the towns with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

This beautiful bay in northeastern Vietnam features thousands of karsts and islets, and is bordered in the southeast by the Gulf of Tonkin. A tour of the area by boat or kayak is most rewarding.

Historic Town of Sukhothai, Thailand

Older still than Thailand’s famed Ayutthaya ruins, Sukhothai, farther north, is completely a World Heritage Site and the cradle of Thai culture. The main ruins are in Sukhothai Historical Park, yet Si Satchanalai Historical Park, 50kms to the north, is even more atmospheric.

Historic Town of Vigan, Philippines

Vigan is a well-preserved old town in the north of the Philippines, with houses constructed in the old Spanish colonial style. Rich Chinese traders built the old houses along Vigan’s Calle Crisologo – these are robust stone, clay and wood houses built to resist earthquakes and stay cool in the tropical sun.

Complex of Hue Monuments, Vietnam

This peaceful, elegant city in the heart of Vietnam was the country’s political, cultural and religious capital under the Nguyen dynasty from 1802 until 1945. Take a boat trip along the Perfume River and past the walls of the Forbidden Purple City, where only concubines, emperors and those close to them were granted access.

The Temple of Preah Vihear, Cambodia

Situated on the edge of Pey Tadi, a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, this awesome religious site was built by a series of seven Khmer kings from the 9th century onwards. Preah Vihear is composed of a series of sanctuaries dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and can be found in northern Cambodia, very close to the border with Thailand.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Philippines

On the Philippine island of Palawan, the river as it flows from the mountain through South China sea winds through a series of caves, stalagmite and stalactite formations.

Vat Phou, Laos

Vat Phou is a huge temple in southern Laos on the banks of the mighty Mekong River featuring classic Khmer architecture dating as far back as AD 600. Nearby is the Ancient City of Shestupura, the oldest urban settlement in the region.

Pura Taman Ayun, Bali Indonesia

The temple was built in 1634 by the the Raja, I Gusti Agung Anom. The kingdom of Mengwi was powerful enough to control large parts of Badung, Tabanan and Gianyar from the first part of the 17th Century to the latter part of the 19th Century.

Borobudur Temple Compounds, Indonesia

Borobudur is a Buddhist monument in Central Java that stands on a stupendous scale – a Mandala-shaped structure that immortalizes Buddhist cosmology in stone. Visitors climb a series of platforms united by a circling pathway that takes them through three levels of Buddhist cosmology. Visitors walking the pathway see 2,672 well-preserved relief panels that tell stories from the Buddha’s life and parables from Buddhist texts.

Gems of Southeast Asia