Face to face with gods and a dragon valley at these UNESCO sites
Huanglong Valley, Sichuan, China
Shaped like a snaking dragon’s body and with a gold-tinged landscape (thanks to luminous limestone deposits), it’s no wonder this area northwest of Chengdu is named Huanglong, or Golden Dragon.
The scenery here is truly something to behold, ranging from bright turquoise pools (the colour comes from calcite deposits) to stunning travertine formations, waterfalls, forests, snow-capped mountains, hot springs and even glaciers. The area is also home to endangered animal species native to the region, including giant pandas (read our other story on Three Ways to Meet the Pandas of Chengdu).
To get to Huanglong, most people start in Chengdu and commonly travel through Jiuzhaigou. Exploring Huanglong does require some fortitude because of its climate and altitude, so be sure to prioritise your comfort before making the trip. The Millennium Hotel Chengdu will take care of that, offering an indulgent stay complete with spa and yoga services on-site.
Botanic Gardens, Singapore
Recently recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Singapore’s Botanic Gardens are the only tropical botanic gardens, and the first in Asia, to make the list.
The gardens boast 74 hectares of land covering three distinctive ‘Cores’: Tanglin Core, Central Core and Bukit Timah Core. Guided walking tours are available, or you can explore on your own – highlights include the Bandstand, Swan Lake, the National Orchid Garden and the majestic heritage trees. The wide, expansive green is also perfect for a lazy afternoon picnic.
Another good thing about the Singapore Botanic Gardens is its easy accessibility: it’s just a short 10-minute stroll from the famous shopping belt along Orchard Road. The ultra-convenient Orchard Hotel Singapore will have you enjoying the best of both worlds – natural and urban – with ease.
Villa Adriana, Tivoli, Italy
Villa Adriana, or Hadrian’s Villa, was once a majestic villa boasting Greek and Egyptian architectural styles. Today, it lies in ruins, making it an incredibly impressive monument from a bygone era.
Expect to find intact sculptures both surrounding and within the crumbling structure, including statues of Greek and Egyptian gods. These unique cultural influences and its current state sets Villa Adriana apart from the other equally historic ruins in nearby Rome. In fact, the journey to the villa is only a short 30-minute drive from the Italian capital.
As a whole, Italy is home to 51 recognised UNESCO World Heritage Sites, spanning historic, cultural and natural wonders. Get settled in – the Grand Palace Hotel Rome is both suitably located and luxuriously outfitted – and map your way through the sites that interest you.
Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, Japan
Known for their distinctive gassho-zukuri farmhouses, the villages of Shirakawa-go and nearby Gokayama are indeed picturesque.
The farmhouses’ thatched roofs resemble a pair of hands folded in prayer and are constructed without a single nail. Specially designed to protect against heavy winter snowfall, these high roofs also create an attic space suitable for carrying out the region’s traditional industry: silkworm cultivation.
Winter is the best season to visit as you will be treated to a serene, snow-capped spectacle. The villages are a few hours’ drive or a train ride from Tokyo and an overnight stay will allow you to enjoy sparkling night-time views. For a seamless transition from pristine countryside to a buzzing city, Millennium Mitsui Garden Hotel Tokyo can help.
For more unique travel experiences, read our other stories.