9 UNESCO sites you can cruise to in the Mediterranean

Always fancied a cruise around the Mediterranean Sea? Maybe you'd prefer a holiday ticking off some of the Med's most compelling and dramatic UNESCO World Heritage sites?

UNESCO World Heritage sites you can cruise to in the Med © Luka - Fotolia.com
UNESCO World Heritage sites you can cruise to in the Med © Luka - Fotolia.com

How about jumping on a cruise ship that takes you to a flurry of the Med's UNESCO historic, natural and cultural attractions in one glorious trip? Well, that is exactly what you can do with Marella Cruises.

Crusing the Mediterranean Sea: Marella Cruises offers both eastern Med* and western Med* itineraries, which include stops at some of the world's most famous UNESCO sites.

As well as sailing there in style you can either book excursions to take you where you want to go or set about exploring on your own. What are you waiting for?

1. Parque Guell, Barcelona, Spain

Gaudi fans and those looking for a sweeping view of the Catalan capital flock to this gem, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.

You may have heard about Antoni Gaudi's remarkable colourful, angular tiling - you'll have seen it copied in bars and restaurants the world over - but did you know Parque Guell is also a sprawling 17-hectare hillside green lung that is fun to explore?

Opened to the public since 1926, the park is as popular with locals as it is with visitors.

2. Tramuntana Mountains, Majorca, Spain

This vaulting mountain range sweeps for a whopping 90 km, covering almost a third of the island's territory. A great way to see it is on the old timer Soller Train (dating back to the 1920s), which you can book aboard Marella.

Heading for the Tramuntana Mountains on the Soller Railway, Majorca © Anna Lurye - Fotolia.com
Heading for the Tramuntana Mountains on the Soller Railway, Majorca © Anna Lurye - Fotolia.com

This glorious toy town train bundles out of the island capital of Palma, stopping traffic as it goes. After making its way through orange, almond and lemon groves, epic views of the Tramuntana Mountains rear into view and you will see why UNESCO is a fan.

3. City of Valletta, Malta

You can book a number of tours for the deeply historic island capital of Valletta, including boat trips (a great way to appreciate its drama), and you really should as it boasts no fewer than 320 monuments!

This epic fortress city rises like a sturdy stone leviathan from the Mediterranean in a wash of towers, ramparts and fortifications.

You can ease around the ancient walls on foot, strolling with the ghosts of the mysterious Knights Hospitaller, who once held sway here, before descending on to cobbled streets framed by elegant baroque buildings. Here, pavement cafés and souvenir shops await.

4. Pompeii, Italy

Yes, that Pompeii. After learning about it so evocatively at school you just have to visit the tragic town that was buried by a massive volcanic eruption back in 79 AD.

Roman city of Pompeii, in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius © Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com
Roman city of Pompeii, in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius © Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com

Its citizens were going about their daily business when, with little warning, a flush of gas and a torrent of pumice and ash bashed down upon them, killing many instantly and freezing others in time in hard volcanic ash.

Walking the old streets on a guided tour, peering in the houses and mansions, and taking in the grand public spaces is as eerie as it is utterly captivating.

5. Venice and its Lagoon, Italy

There simply is nowhere on the planet quite like Venice. For centuries this improbable city, built in the middle of a tidal marsh and lagoon, ran an empire that stretched its tentacles around much of the Adriatic.

Today, UNESCO recognises the eye-popping legacy, which assaults the senses with canals everywhere, framed by elegant mansions, palaces and vaulting churches, with the epic dome of St. Mark's topping it all off.

It may be a little cheesy, but don't miss out on a gondola ride. It's an unforgettable and unbearably romantic way to appreciate the history of this marvellous floating city.

6. Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Lord Byron had it spot on when he eulogised this remarkable baroque city as the 'Pearl of the Adriatic'. Sweeping stone walls curl up right around Dubrovnik's pedestrianised old town with the Adriatic Sea sparkling on one flank and a hulk of limestone cliffs rising steeply to the rear.

The old walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia - photo courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board
The old walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia - photo courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board

Walk those walls, swim in the sea and take a cable car up to peer down at one of the most striking cities in the world. And that's before we even whisper 'Game of Thrones' - fans, take a tour to see many a familiar site from the mega-hit show.

7. Region of Kotor, Montenegro

A bit of a mouthful, but then again there is a lot to see in the nearest the Mediterranean has to a fjord. The Bay of Kotor is a natural wonder, cobalt blue waters giving way to sheer cliffs that rise up to brooding mountain peaks on either flank.

It would be worth coming here for the natural drama alone, but then there is Kotor. This historic city strikes instantly as you arrive in the shadow of its sturdy walls.

Delve inside and the centuries drift back at every turn on cobbled streets alive with churches and old mansions.

8. Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Perhaps the most famous building in the Western world, the Acropolis is certainly a bedrock of Western civilisation as it was once the epicentre of Ancient Greece.

Built to project power and grandeur, it certainly did, its voluminous columns reaching for the heavens from its already lofty mound. Explore the ancient Temple of Athena Nike and the towering Parthenon.

Dip into the sparkling new Acropolis Museum to see some of the country's greatest archaeological treasures with a view back to the star attraction.

9. Ephesus, Turkey

Not sure if you want to walk around an ancient Greek city or an ancient Roman one? Well at Ephesus you can do both as this brilliantly preserved ancient city has delectable and deeply satisfying touches of both major civilisations.

On the steps of the famous Library at Ephesus, Turkey © laszlo-photo - Flickr Creative Commons
On the steps of the famous Library at Ephesus, Turkey © laszlo-photo - Flickr Creative Commons

You drift through the grand monuments (the most impressive are the Roman remnants) of the Library of Celsus and the truly 25,000-seat amphitheatre. Sit here and you truly bathe in UNESCO heritage.

Weather in the Mediterranean

As you can imagine, the weather in the Med varies greatly from the shores of Spain to the coast of Turkey. Head to our climate guides to discover more about specific destinations and see when we think is the best time to go to explore each of these remarkable UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Ready to set sail? Check out the latest deals on cruises around the Mediterranean Sea with Marella Cruises in 2019/2020.

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie
Posted on Friday 7th June 2019 in: Cruises Culture Europe Excursions

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