Exploring a historical site without the crowds used to require waking up early. There’s another more convenient option, though: waking up at the right address. Hotels in and around UNESCO-designated sites are increasingly getting creative with their guest experiences and granting travelers exclusive access to each landmark’s highlights, just steps from their front doors.
Hands-on workshops and after-hours tours are underpinned by a growing interest in interacting with nature and culture in a more immersive way. As the impacts of overtourism, climate change, and development continue to threaten UNESCO World Heritage Sites, these hotels are contributing to conservation efforts, while also encouraging a slower and more thoughtful style of travel.
Below are some of our favorite hotels located in UNESCO World Heritage sites—plus, the unique experiences they offer.
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The Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco
Located in: Val d’Orcia, Italy
As fall gilds the vineyards of Castiglion del Bosco, a Tuscan wine estate owned by Massimo and Chiara Ferragamo of the Salvatore Ferragamo clan, it’s not uncommon to see guests of the onsite Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco hotel filling baskets with ripe Sangiovese grapes. Here in Italy’s UNESCO-listed valley of Val d’Orcia—where the property has stood for over 800 years—agricultural communities have always lived in harmony with nature.
During the long-awaited harvest season (September and October), guests of the Rosewood can participate in the ancient traditions of hand-harvesting organic grapes and learn about the production of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wines. The estate’s natural viticultural methods have left much of its 5,000-acre estate free for deer, wild boar, foxes, and rabbits to roam, and flora to prosper. And for good reason: promoting biodiversity naturally shields vines from thunderstorms and insects—and preserves the pastoral landscapes immortalized in paintings by Renaissance artists. For the first time ever, the hotel will stay open for an extended season this year, allowing wine lovers to enjoy the fall and festive season while staying in one of 42 luxury appointed suites (19 of which were renovated last summer) or 11 villas housed in restored 17th- and 18th-century farmhouses.
Located in: Medina of Marrakech, Morocco
With urban development posing a constant threat to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the medieval Medina of Marrakech, supporting the use of traditional Moroccan decorative arts techniques—and the artisans keeping them alive—is critical. That’s why when La Sultana, a boutique hotel nestled in the heart of the old city, began restoring its historical building in 2001, it partnered with the Ministry of Culture to employ several melems (craft experts) to revive its architectural details.