5 UNESCO Destinations to Visit by Boat

If you want to make sure that your next vacation will be one to remember, why not pay a visit to a UNESCO World Heritage status destination?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has given its iconic UNESCO status to over a thousand cultural and natural landmarks across the globe, considered to be particularly valuable as historically significant landmarks. As well as being deemed worthy of protection for future generations to enjoy, these sites are often remarkable both to look at and explore, making them the perfect place for a trip away.

With so many fantastic sites on the list, you may find it difficult to narrow down your choices! To give you some inspiration, house boat vacation company Le Boat is  here to share five of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage status destinations around the world.

If you are new to boating, good news – no boat license or previous boating experience is required!  Before you set off you will be taught everything you need to know to captain your own boat so you can eat, sleep and live on board while you explore some of the world’s most famous UNESCO listed inland waterways and canals.

Rideau Canal, Canada

If you’re looking to explore beyond the United States for your next getaway, but don’t want to venture too far, this Canadian national treasure is the perfect destination for you. Just a short car ride from the border, it’s one of the most interesting landmarks in the country. This amazing feat of engineering was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 2007 and is the only remaining functioning canal from North American canal-building era of the 19th Century.

The Rideau Waterway stretches for an impressive 125 miles from Ottawa to Kingston so you won’t be short of fantastic views and things to do along its route. There are many picturesque towns dotted along the canal too, including Smiths Falls, Westport, and Perth. These are perfect places to explore for picking up souvenirs or grabbing a bite to eat.

The best way to explore this landmark is of course taking to the water and traveling via your own luxury houseboat. As well as being able to see the canal from a completely different angle, this will give you more of a close-up at the wide range of wildlife and great outdoor landscapes which can be seen from the water. You can also do plenty of exploring on your bike as there are a variety of cycling trails to explore in the area.

Venice, Italy

This small but, striking city, is a hit with visitors and it’s easy to see why. Venice comprises of over 100 small islands in the beautiful Venetian Lagoon. Boat lovers will  enjoy exploring the area as getting around is easily done on the water — and this is by far the most picturesque way to travel. There are many ways to explore the city by boat, including on a tour, on a romantic gondola ride, or on your own boat, which gives you even more freedom.

As well as exploring the famous canals in the city, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in Venice. This unique destination is home to several grand churches, including the popular St. Mark’s Basilica. Alongside the many canals, there is also a variety of beautiful bridges to admire such as Ponte di Rialto.

If you’re looking to combine a picturesque city break with something a little more relaxing, you can extend your vacation by venturing further north along the rivers in the region. There are a great variety of traditional Italian towns to explore, including Cavallino and Casier. Another beautiful nearby city is Treviso, which can also be reached from Venice by boat.

Bruges, Belgium

If you’re looking for a European vacation that feels like you’re stepping back in time, you need to pay Bruges a visit. This medieval city is one of the most popular destinations in Belgium. The Historic Centre of Bruges has had UNESCO heritage status since 2000 as the history of the city has been so well preserved. It’s exactly how you’d imagine an old European town, with classic Gothic architecture and quaint cobbled streets.

There are a wide variety of iconic European landmarks in the city, including the Belfry of Bruges and the Markt. If you’re looking to improve your knowledge on European history, you’ll find plenty of fascinating museums in Bruges, including Groeningmuseum which covers the city’s rich art history. And of course, a visit to Bruges wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the city’s famous canals.

You’ll also find plenty to see in the nearby cruising region of Flanders too. This is a must for anyone interested in the history of World War One, as you can visit the famous Flanders Fields. As well as this fascinating history,  you can take a dip in the refreshing North Sea found in the region too.

Canal du Midi, France

The south of France is one of the most popular vacation destinations for Europeans, so Americans are sure to love what this region has to offer too. There’s no better place to start than with the Canal du Midi, which received UNESCO World Heritage status all the way back in 1996. You’ll come across some beautiful sites cruising down this canal, from a wide variety of wildlife to lush green vineyards.

The canal starts in one of France’s most popular cities, Toulouse. Here, you’ll find a wide variety of things to see and do, so you should be able to keep the whole family entertained. If you’re looking to soak up the culture, you can pay a visit to Muséum de Toulouse and one of the city’s many churches. The kids’ will also be kept happy with the variety of watersports on offer and a visit to the Cité de l’Espace theme park.

One aspect of both Toulouse and the wider region you can’t skip is the fantastic food and drink scene. There are several fine dining restaurants in both Toulouse, and the wider region, which serve only the best French cuisine. Wine lovers will also love the wine tasting options this region has to offer.

Amsterdam’s Canals, Holland

Amsterdam is known for many things, but it’s perhaps most well-known for the 100 plus canals in the city. The iconic canals aren’t just a hit with tourists: the 17th century canal ring area of Amsterdam has had UNESCO World Heritage status since 2010. While many choose to view the canals from one of the city’s 1700 bridges, why not get on the canals and get even closer to this iconic UNESCO site? You can view the city from the water and even enjoy a romantic dinner on the canal in the evening.

Once you’re ready to explore the city by land, you won’t get stuck for things to do either. Holland’s capital is full of cultural and historical sites. For art lovers, the Van Gogh Museum is home to some of the painter’s most famous works. there is also plenty in the city for foodies too, from sweet treats like stroopwafels to the popular savory dish, fries with frietssaus.

If you’re planning on exploring the area by boat, the good news is that there’s plenty more for you to see beyond the capital. The province of Friesland lies north of the city and is full of places of interest, such as beautiful meadows, classic Dutch architecture, and the popular West Frisian Islands. If you’re looking to add even more UNESCO World Heritage status destinations to your trip, the Wadden sea can also be reached from Friesland, which was made a UNESCO site in 2009.

“If you’re stuck for vacation inspiration, the UNESCO World Heritage list is a great place to turn to. It includes some of the world’s most stunning and interesting manmade and natural landmarks, so you know you’ll find something you love on your trip away.

“For fans of city breaks, the World Heritage list is a great resource as sometimes you can find whole cities with UNESCO status! Both Venice and Bruges are two beautiful and historic European cities which have been deemed worthy enough to be listed. But don’t limit your vacation to just the UNESCO status area as there will likely be plenty of places to explore nearby. For example, while the canals of Amsterdam are perfect for exploring, there’s plenty of rivers and waterways to discover in the nearby region of Friesland too.”Cheryl Brown, Managing Director of Le Boat


Le Boat pride ourselves as being the number one provider of boating vacations on Europe and Canada’s inland waterways. With over 50 years of experience on the water, you can rely on Le Boat to provide you with excellent service and support to make sure you have the best canal vacation possible — with no license or previous experience required.

To find out more, please visit: https://www.leboat.com/

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