Cruising to UNESCO

There are more than 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the globe, which means the United Nations has said there are a millennium of culturally or physically significant places to see (including buildings, cities, deserts, lakes, monuments, mountains, and islands).

What an amazing world we live in!

We love this program SO MUCH because we are a company of intrepid travelers who want to experience the best the world has to offer, sharing our favorite locations with our guests and allowing them to access these awesome places in private yacht style.

Did you know you can access nearly 100 World Heritage sites while cruising on a Windstar yacht?

Windstar_cruise_SantoriniSo many of our itineraries provide access to UNESCO World Heritage Sites that it would be tedious to list them all here, but we may have outdone ourselves on the new Marvels of the Croatian Coast & Greece –a new 12-day cruise departures sail on a Venice to Athens adventure aboard Wind Star. The voyage is a tour-de-force of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with access to 11 on a single cruise – a Windstar record.

In addition to the more historically-focused UNESCO sites, we also love accessing many UNESCO biosphere/reserves all over the world, like the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park on St. Kitts (experienced via scenic railway), and Surtsey in Iceland (with the volcanic island viewed via sea plane).

We recently announced our James Beard Foundation Epicurean Explorations of France, Spain, and Portugal in August, where our guests will have immediate access to seven UNESCO sites: perhaps the most impressive being Mont St. Michel, with access from the lovely port of St. Malo (where the Star Legend prettily docked right outside the historic city walls).

Photography by Kristi Glen

At Mont St. Michel, each day the tide comes in and completely envelops the medieval monastery in Normandy, France. It is considered one of the great religious sites in all of Europe, but it’s the entire structure and the winding street approaching the abbey (which was built on a granite slab 250 feet above the sea) that makes this place so special.

With a guided tour of the abbey, you get a sense of what constructing this architectural achievement was like, as well as the history of the monks and others who called this unusual place home. After the tour, guests have free time to browse the shops and have lunch (we recommend the soufflé-like omelet at La Mère Poulard, which in the 1800s started cooking giant omelets in a wooden hearth to make travelers stay even when the impending tide beckoned them to skedaddle).

Photography by Kristi Glen

“Have you ever been to a place so dreamy you just want to pinch yourself to make sure you are awake and it is for real? That is the feeling when you are in St.-Malo, France—a stunning city in Brittany, northwest of France, and a couple of hours drive from Normandy. A city silently screaming of history, where stories of love and struggle of the yesteryears are preserved.

But history aside, local delicacies here are another story in themselves. Imagine that perfect moment when you are walking along the extended shoreline, with a soft breeze blowing your hair, and you are smiling because you remember the best-tasting Breton Pancake you had from Crêperie le Tournesol this morning. Then you start walking through the long alley of local stores, allowing yourself to be totally absorbed by the culture. The warm and friendly locals smiling at you as they come out from the boulangeries, seeming as if you are neighbors, going about your everyday lives, as they arrange the baguette in their shopping bags. And oh, let us not forget the cheese, that to-die-for cheese you must wash down with wine you may have brought with you from Bordeaux.
Long perfect days do exist in France. And as you end yours day strolling around Mont St. Michel, for a while, tears well up in your eyes because finally—you are standing in front of a place many have written about and taken photographs of. Finally, you have experienced it for yourself; you are spellbound like a little child.” – Star Legend Voayage Leader and photographer Kristi Glen.

Photography by Kristi Glen. St. Malo, France

Following time on “the mont,” we returned to Star Legend along a quiet coastal road, passing small towns and traditional fishing harbors along the short journey.

Also on the same sailing, we were delighted to dock overnight in Bordeaux, which is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its plethora of 13th century cathedrals and 18th century palaces. And due to Windstar’s small ship size, we are able to sail down the Garonne River and allow our guests incredible access to the city – docking in the absolute heart of the action with amazing views of the “Port of the Moon.” Guests who venture beyond the city’s borders to the nearby Saint-Émilion on a shore excursion with Windstar can experience a breathtaking medieval village set among the vineyards that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Photography bu Kristi Glen. St. Emilion, France

What are your favorite World Heritage Sites? Are there any you wish Windstar would sail to? Leave them in the comments!

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