All UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Indochina Tour
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was set up in November 1945 and has a declared purpose of contributing to peace and security through the promotion of international collaboration in educational, scientific, and cultural reforms. There are currently 195 member states of UNESCO, who have signed up to help increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with the right to fundamental freedom, as proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.
World Heritage Sites are areas or landmarks that have been officially recognized by the United Nations and UNESCO as having significant cultural, historical, or scientific interest to the world. Indochina is also no stranger to UNESCO World heritage Sites, and there are a huge number of sites across Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. With 13 sites on the World Heritage Site list, as well as 18 sites on the UNESCO Tentative List of Southeast Asia, there are plenty of amazing things to see on an Indochina tour.
UNESCO calls Angkor “one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia”. Once the biggest city in the world with around 1 million residents, the site stretches over 400 square kilometers and includes the famous Angkor Wat along with other temples such as the Bayon with its sculptural carvings and Angkor Thom. Angkor was the capital city of the Khmer Empire, and flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries.
The ruins of Angkor are located amid forests and farmland north of the Great Lake (Tonlé Sap) and south of the Kulen Hills, near modern-day Siem Reap city. The temples of the Angkor area number over one thousand, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the Angkor Wat, said to be the world’s largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together, they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture.
Temple of Preah Vihear
Situated on the edge of a plateau that dominates the plain of Cambodia, the Temple of Preah Vihear is dedicated to Shiva. The Temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800-meter long axis and dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. Nevertheless, its complex history can be traced to the 9th century, when the hermitage was founded.
This site is particularly well preserved, mainly due to its remote location. The site is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, which is adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, as well as for the exceptional quality of its carved stone ornamentation.
Temple Zone of Sambor Prei Kuk, Archaeological Site of Ancient Ishanapura
Luang Prabang is located in northern Laos at the heart of a mountainous region. The town is built on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan River. Mountain ranges (in particular the Phou Thao and Phou Nang Mountains) encircle the city in lush greenery. Luang Prabang is exceptional for both its rich architectural and artistic heritage that reflects the fusion of Lao traditional urban architecture with that of the colonial era. Its remarkably well preserved townscape reflects the alliance of these two distinct cultural traditions.
Many legends are associated with the creation of the city, including one that recounts that Buddha would have smiled when he rested there during his travels, prophesying that it would one day be the site of a rich and powerful city. Known as Muang Sua, then Xieng Thong, from the 14th to the 16th century the town became the capital of the powerful kingdom of Lane Xang (Kingdom of a Million Elephants), whose wealth and influence were related to its strategic location on the Silk Route. The city was also the centre of Buddhism in the region. Luang Prabang takes its name from a statue of Buddha, the Prabang, offered by Cambodia.
Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape
The Champasak cultural landscape, including the Vat Phou Temple complex, is a remarkably well preserved planned landscape more than 1,000 years old. It was shaped to express the Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity, using an axis from mountaintop to riverbank to lay out a geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extending over some 10 km. Two planned cities on the banks of the Mekong River are also part of the site, as well as Phou Kao Mountain. The whole represents a development ranging from the 5th to 15th centuries, mainly associated with the Khmer Empire.
Citadel of the Hồ Dynasty
The 14th century Ho Dynasty citadel, built according to the feng shui principles, testifies to the flowering of neo-Confucianism in late 14th century Vietnam and its spread to other parts of east Asia. According to these principles, it was built in a landscape of great scenic beauty on an axis joining the Tuong Son and Don Son mountains in a plain between the Ma and Buoi rivers. The citadel buildings represent an outstanding example of a new style of Southeast Asian imperial city.
Composed of the Inner Citadel, La Thanh Outer Wall and the Nam Giao Altar, it demonstrates the use of architectural elements in terms of space management and decoration designed for a centralized imperial city in order to show a concept of royal power, based on the adoption of the Confucian philosophy within a predominantly Buddhist culture.
Complex of Hué Monuments
The Complex of Hue Monuments is located in and around Hue City in Thua Thien-Hue Province in the geographical centre of Vietnam and with easy access to the sea. Established as the capital of unified Vietnam in 1802 CE, Hue was not only the political but also the cultural and religious centre under the Nguyen Dynasty, the last royal dynasty of Vietnamese history, from 1802 to 1945 CE.
The Ngu Binh Mountain (known as the Royal Screen) and the Perfume River, which runs through the city, give this unique feudal capital an entire setting of great natural beauty as well defining its symbolic importance. The site was chosen for a combination of natural features – hills representing a protective screen in front of the monuments or taking the role of “a blue dragon” to the left and “a white tiger” to the right – which shields the main entrance and prevents the entry of malevolent spirits. Within this landscape, the main features of the city are laid out.
Hội An Ancient Town
Hoi An Ancient town is located in Viet Nam’s central Quang Nam Province, on the north bank near the mouth of the Thu Bon River. The inscribed site comprises 30 ha and it has a buffer zone of 280 ha. It is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a small-scale trading port active the 15th to 19th centuries which traded widely, both with the countries of Southeast and East Asia and with the rest of the world. Its decline in the later 19th century ensured that it has retained its traditional urban tissue to a remarkable degree.
The town comprises a well-preserved complex of 1,107 timber frame buildings, with brick or wooden walls, which include architectural monuments, commercial and domestic vernacular structures, notably an open market and a ferry quay, and religious buildings such as pagodas and family cult houses. The houses are tiled and the wooden components are carved with traditional motifs. They are arranged side-by-side in tight, unbroken rows along narrow pedestrian streets.
Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary
My Son Sanctuary dates from the 4th to the 13th centuries CE. The site is located in the mountainous border Duy Xuyen District of Quang Nam Province, in central Viet Nam. It is situated within an elevated geological basin surrounded by a ring of mountains, which provides the watershed for the sacred Thu Bon River. The source of the Thu Bon River is here and it flows past the monuments, out of the basin, and through the historic heartland of the Champa Kingdom, draining into the South China Sea at its mouth near the ancient port city of Hoi An. The location gives the sites its strategic significance, as it is also easily defensible.
Hạ Long Bay
Ha Long Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin, within Quang Ninh Province, in the northeast of Vietnam, is165 km from the capital of Ha Noi. Covering an area of 43,400 ha and including over 1600 islands and islets, most of which are uninhabited and unaffected by humans, it forms aspectacular seascape of limestone pillars and is an ideal model of a mature Karst landscape developed during a warm and wet tropical climate. The site’s exceptional scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest.
The outstanding feature of the site is centered on the drowned limestone karst landforms, displaying spectacular pillars with a variety of coastal erosion features such as arches and caves, which form majestic natural scenery. The repeated regression and transgression of the sea on the limestone karst over geological time has produced a mature landscape of clusters of conical peaks and isolated towers, which were modified by sea invasion, adding an extra element to the process of lateral undercutting of the limestone towers and islands.
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is located in the middle of the Annamite Mountain Range in Quang Binh province, Viet Nam, and shares its boundary with the Hin Namno Nature Reserve in the Lao PDR to the west. The site comprises an area of 123,326 ha and contains terrestrial and aquatic habitats, primary and secondary forest, sites of natural regeneration, tropical dense forests and savanna and is rich in large, often spectacular and scientifically significant caves.
The site contains over 104 km of caves and underground rivers, making it one of the most outstanding limestone karst ecosystems in the world. The karst formation has evolved since the Paleozoic period (some 400 million years ago) and as such is the oldest major karst area in Asia. Subject to massive tectonic changes, the karst landscape is extremely complex, comprising a series of rock types that are interblended in complex ways and with many geomorphic features.
Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long — Hanoi, located in the heart of the capital of Viet Nam, is the most important and best-preserved part of the ancient Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. The Thang Long Imperial Citadel was built in the 11th century by the Vietnamese Ly Dynasty, marking the independence of the Đại Việt. It was built on the remains of a Chinese fortress dating from the 7th century, on drained land reclaimed from the Red River Delta in Hanoi. It was the centre of regional political power for almost thirteen centuries without interruption.
The buildings of the Imperial Citadel and the remains in the 18 Hoang Diêu Archaeological Site reflect a unique South-East Asian culture specific to the lower Red River Valley, at the crossroads of influences coming from China in the north and the ancient Kingdom of Champa in the south. The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is characterized by its longevity and continuity as a seat of power, evidenced by different archaeological levels and monuments.
Tràng An Landscape Complex
Tràng An is a scenic area near Ninh Bình, Vietnam renowned for its boat cave tours. Situated near the southern margin of the Red River Delta, the Trang An Landscape Complex is a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, many of them partly submerged and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. Exploration of caves at different altitudes has revealed archaeological traces of human activity over a continuous period of more than 30,000 years.
The story of human occupation continues through the Neolithic and Bronze Ages to the historical era. Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Viet Nam, was strategically established here in the 10th and 11th centuries AD. The site also contains temples, pagodas, paddy fields and small villages.