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These 24 UNESCO Heritage Sites In Latin America Will Trigger Your Wanderlust

Traveling the world is one of the most rewarding and spellbinding things someone can do. You are exposed to different cultures, people, food and ways of thinking. Experiencing global heritage connects you deeper with this world. Here are 24 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites to visit next time you make your way to Latin America.

1. El Tajín: Veracruz, México

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This area is one of the most important, pre-Columbian archeological sites in Latin America. It gives visitors and historians a vivid picture of what city life was like in Mesoamerica.

2. Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca: Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

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The intricate complex of forts and armament has been protecting the port of Santiago de Cuba since the mid 17th century. It is, according to UNESCO, the most complete and well-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture.

3. Canaima National Park: Bolívar, Venezuela

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You can find this park in the southern part of Venezuela along the border with Guyana and Brazil. It covers 3 million hectares, almost 12,000 square miles, and is predominately tepui mountain formations giving visitors spectacular views.

4. La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site: San Juan, Puerto Rico

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La Fortaleza was built in San Juan between the 16th and 20th centuries to protect the city and bay. The importance of the structure is that is shows the transfer of technology and architecture from Europe to the Americas.

5. Viñales Valley: Viñales, Cuba

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The valley is encircled with breathtaking mountains and the multi-ethnic villages around the area add to its majesty. The more important part of the valley is the unchanged agriculture practices that have grown tobacco for several centuries on the plains.

6. Churches of Chiloé: Chiloé Archipelago, Chile

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The 70 churches that make up the Churches of Chiloé were first constructed by the Jesuit Peripatetic Mission in the 17th and 18th centuries. The buildings were further enriched by use from Franciscans the following decade and represent a merging of Chilean and European culture at the time.

7. Sian Ka’an: Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, México

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Sian Ka’an translates to “Origin of the Sky” from the language of the native people who first called this place home. The wetlands of the area contain tropical forests, mangroves, marshes, a barrier reef and around 300 species of birds.

8. Xochicalco: Miacatlán, Morelos, México

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The archeological site is home to structures built at the beginning of the Epiclassic Period after the fall of the Mesoamerica powerhouse political cities of the Classic Period. The site shows what it looked like to have a fully fortified city during these politically tumultuous times.

9. Catedral de León: León, Nicaragua

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Construction for the Léon Cathedral, aka Our Lady of Grace Cathedral, began in 1747 and lasted until the early 1800s. While it is located in Nicaragua, the style is in Antigua Guatemala Baroque style with hints of Spanish influence.

10. Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve: Honduras

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The reserve located in the north-eastern part of the Central American country is one of the most bio-diverse tropical forests in Central America. Not only does the reserve boast varied plants and wildlife, around 2,000 indigenous people still call this area home.

11. Cocos Island: Costa Rica

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Cocos Island National Park is the only island in the Pacific Ocean that has a tropical rain forest. Its biosphere of plant life and location in the Pacific Ocean lends itself to a very diverse marine life.

12. Tikal National Park: Tikal, Guatemala

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Located in the northern rainforests of Guatemala is this ancient Mayan citadel. The site was inhabited between 6th century B.C. and 10th century A.D. It is one of the major sites of the Mayan civilization.

13. Portobelo-San Lorenzo: Portobelo, Colón, Panama

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These ancient fortifications line a portion of the Caribbean coast of Panama. They protected the city of Portobelo, Colón, Panama from invasion by sea and are a magnificent example of 17th to 18th century military architecture.

14. Machu Picchu: Peru

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At 2,430 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu is one of the most impressive structures in the world. This Incan city is located in mountainous rainforests and gives visitors views and photos of a lifetime. It was abandoned in that 16th century when the Spanish conquered the country and stayed unknown to the world until 1911.

15. Tiwanaku: Tiwanaku Municipality, Bolivia

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This archeological site is the center of the Tiwanaku civilization. The indigenous population who lived here ruled over a major portion of the South Andes from 500 to 900 A.D. This piece of pre-Hispanic culture is one of the purest examples of an indigenous American culture.

16. Galápagos Islands: Ecuador

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The Galápagos Islands are composed of 19 islands just off the cost of Ecuador. The ecosystem is so diverse it is commonly referred to as a living museum showing the path of evolution. These are the islands that inspired Charles Darwin to pursue evolution.

17. Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves: Brazil

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The Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves is a protected forest that stretches from Rio Grande do Norte state in the north to Rio Grande do Sul to the south. It is one of the last living examples of Atlantic forest left in northern Brazil.

18. National Archeological Park of Tierradentro: Inza, Cauca Department, Colombia

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This park is home to the largest concentration of hypogea, underground temples or tombs, as well as statues of human figures. The structures date from the 6th to 10th century giving visitors a peak into pre-Hispanic culture in the North Andes.

19. Jesuit Missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue: Trinidad, Paraguay

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The ruins here are the lasting reminders of 30 Jesuit missions to the Río de la Plata basin during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was part of the European attempt to Christianize the indigenous people of South America.

20. Cueva de las Manos: Santa Cruz Province, Argentina

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Argentina is home to some interesting prehistoric art dating back to 13,000 to 9,500 years ago. The hand art that has been immortalized on the stone gives the UNESCO World Heritage site its name.

21. Joya De Cerén: Agua Escondida, El Salvador

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Joya de Cerén was a small farming village in 600 AD that was wiped out by a volcano eruption. Much like Pompeii in Italy, the Laguna Caldera volcano erupted and killed the village and perfectly preserved it. The people and artifacts are so well persevered, you can clearly see daily life in Central America at that time.

22. Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works: Región de Tarapacá, Chile

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Thousands of people from Chile, Bolivia and Peru worked and lived in this company town mining saltpeter to create fertilizer sodium. The town was operation for 60 years and created it’s own culture since the people were very isolated in one of the driest deserts in the world.

23. Historic Quarter of the City of Colonia del Sacramento: Uruguay

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Colonia de Sacramento was founded by the Portuguese in 1680 to resist the Spanish expansion in South America. The site is preserved because of its unique and historic architecture that was influenced by multiple groups of people. It is also strategically placed on the bay facing Buenos Aires, Argentina.

24. Belize Barrier Reef: Belize and Honduras

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The barrier reef stretches from Belize to Honduras is the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere. The large ocean ecosystem is home to several threatened species including American marine crocodiles, manatees and marine turtles. It includes mangrove forests, sand cays, coastal lagoons and estuaries.

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