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The most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world, according to Instagram

Thousands, if not millions of travellers are visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world every single day. That’s because these are notable for being iconic sites of cultural, historical, religious, and natural interest. It’s the crème de la crème of where to go if you’re an avid traveller.

UNESCO stands for United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and it was born out of the horrors of WWII, with the aim to spread peace, and as a precaution to protect areas form future conflict – especially given how many incredible sites were lost during those wars.

In 1978, the first 12 sites were announced: the Galapagos Islands, L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Park, Nahanni National Park, City of Quito, Simien National Park, Rock-Hewn Churches of Ethiopia, Aachen Cathedral, Krakow’s historic centre, Wieliczka and Bochnia Salt Mines, Island of Goree, Mesa Verde National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. Today, there are more than 1,100 UNESCO sites dotted all over the world, with new ones being added every year.

Given that a large portion of these amazing sites can be found in Latin America – such as the Galapagos Islands, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the city of Quito in Ecuador, and Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, we thought we would have a look and see which sites around the world are the most popular – according to Instagram. We turned to the widely used photo sharing platform to analyse the number of times every single UNESCO site has been geotagged by users, sharing a photo in that location.

Read on below to find out the full results.


The coveted number one spot was awarded to the famous city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s capital city that’s home to the iconic Brazil Carnaval which draws travellers from all over the world. In fact, the city has been tagged over 23 million times.

The top 10 was fairly split, with most of the sites hailing from South America or Europe. The only anomaly was the historic monuments found in Ancient Kyoto, a selection of 13 Buddhist temples, three Shinto shrines, and a castle.

Notable South American sites include the city of Cuzco in Peru with 1,172,510 tags, Antigua Guatemala in Guatemala with 961,646 tags, and Panama Viejo in Panama with 188,022 tags.

Following Rio de Janeiro, the top 10 most Instagrammed UNESCO World Heritage Sites were:

  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Historic Centre of Oporto, Portugal
  • Brasilia, Brazil
  • Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, Japan
  • City of Quito, Ecuador
  • City of Verona, Italy
  • Historic Site of Lyon, France
  • Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris, France
  • Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Across the top 100, the most Instagrammed country that kept cropping up was the USA, with 9 sites making their way into the rankings. Of these included Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 494,096 tags, Yellowstone National Park with 872,901 tags, and the Grand Canyon, with over 2 million tags.

The USA was quickly followed by the UK and Italy, which are home to Stonehenge, Tower of London, Pompeii, and the iconic city of Verona.

New UNESCO Sites for 2019

As part of our research, we also thought it would be interesting to investigate the brand-new sites that were announced for 2019 and see how they match up. In June 2019, UNESCO announced 29 brand new sites that would be awarded World Heritage status. These were spread across the world and include Jaipur City in India, and Paraty and Ilha Grande in Brazil, and the Hyrcanian Forests in Iran.

The pink city of Jaipur in Rajasthan, India came in first thanks to beautiful and aesthetic city walls that are mostly pink, making them incredibly Instagrammable. Following not far behind were the 20th century architecture of frank Lloyd Wright across the USA with 524,931 tags, and the region of Bagan in Myanmar, with 455,115 tags.

As you can see, a number of these have relatively low counts when it comes to Instagram posts – making them the perfect off-the-beaten track destination for your next trip away. Given their new status, these are the places people will want to ahead to next, so get ahead of the curve and get those shots in before anyone else.

These include the bird sanctuaries along the coast of the Yellow Sea-Bohai in the Gulf of China, as well as the archaeological ruins of Liangzhu City in China, which currently only has 1,890 tags.


In order to compile our list of the most Instagrammed UNESCO World Heritage Sites crawled Instagram using the geotag location feature, in order to find out how many images had been tagged in each UNESCO World Heritage Site location.

Using this number of posts, we ranked the sites from most to least Instagrammed, and pulled out the top 100 for our final results.


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