If it's not on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it's not coming in. To our round up of the epic global sites (and sights) you need to see, that is, from California to northern China.

Galápagos islands

Where: 1,000km off the coast of Ecuador, South America

What UNESCO says: “Its location at the confluence of three ocean currents makes it one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world.”

What we say: The 19 islands of the Galápagos have been immortalised by their starring role in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, but they’re a natural and geological wonder in their own right. The volcanic island chain’s abundant wildlife include the marine iguana, frigatebird, Galápagos giant tortoise and 13 species of Darwin’s finch.


Where: Barbados

What UNESCO says: “Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison was the focus of trade-based English expansion in the Americas.”

What we say: There’s more to Barbados than rum and beaches – Bridgetown and its historic Garrison show British colonial architecture in all its glory. Walk the twisting city streets (the haphazard layout of them is even similar to Britain) to see examples of the heritage architecture, and watch out for the Garrison’s Changing of the Sentries ceremony on certain days.


Where: Central California, USA

What UNESCO says: “[Yosemite] vividly illustrates the effects of glacial erosion of granitic bedrock, creating geological features that are unique in the world.”

What we say: Nothing can prepare you for the sight that awaits once you cross the park’s boundaries and get your first glimpse of the dramatic forms carved out of the granite. Better still, lose the car and hike to escape the crowds and get the views all to yourself. If that seems too much like hard work, kick back and watch as tiny, ant-like climbers scale near-vertical peaks.


Where: Jordan, Middle East

What UNESCO says: “One of the world’s richest and largest archaeological sites set in a dominating red sandstone landscape.”

What we say: You enter the ancient city – established by Nabataean Arabs in the 6th century BC and carved out of the rose-coloured rock – through a winding gorge (the Siq), and can then spend days exploring the archaeological remnants of lost civilsations. The Bedul Bedouin people still inhabit the surrounding valleys.

The Great Wall

Where: Northern China

What UNESCO says: “Continuously built from the 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD on the northern border of the country as the great military defence project of successive Chinese Empires.” What we say: When it comes to the Great Wall, the numbers do the talking: 13,170 miles, 15 provinces spanned and almost 2,000 years in the making. Yet it’s the magnificence of the structure, much of it built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) that stands out. Badaling is a good place to start.

How to get there

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador: The Virgin Holidays Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands tour takes in rainforest, Andean cities and the volcanic Galápagos islands.

Petra, Jordan: Take the Virgin Holidays Highlights of Jordan tour to see Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum.

Yosemite, California: Visit virginholidays.co.uk for the latest San Francisco deals.

Bridgetown, Barbados: Visit virginholidays.co.uk for the latest Barbados deals.

The Great Wall, China: The Splendours of China tour from Virgin Holidays is a 15-day trip through ancient and modern landscapes.

For more information on tours, visit virginholidays.co.uk/tours