Cultural Gems You Need To Visit Before They Get Famous

Serpent Mound— Ohio

This fascinating display of elevated earth has been a point of interest for archaeologists since the late nineteenth century. According to The Ohio History Connection, this effigy mound (a heightened piece of land constructed in the shape of an animal, symbol, religious or other type of figure) was created by Native Ohioans nearly 900 years ago and is considered a significant symbol of the state's storied past. The mound's name, which implies its depiction of a slithering snake, is only speculative, but its shape is most certainly serpent-like and many past visitors have described the area as a peaceful spot for a picnic.

Paraty Gold Trail— Brazil

Now a historic hiking adventure through the rainforests of Brazil, the Gold Trail in Paraty was once a rugged route used by African Slaves to transport gold and precious stones. The entire route is said to have once been as long as 745 miles, which means the journey may have taken up to 95 days to complete. Now, travel outfitters offer day tours of the trail that include breaks for waterfall swimming and rum drinking.

The Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary— American Samoa

Now referred to as the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, this federally designated underwater area is one of 14 protected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. According to the NOAA , of all the sanctuaries it is the most remote, the only true tropical reef and is believed to contain the greatest diversity of marine life. Established in 1986, the American Samoa was once the smallest of all the sanctuaries but it has since expanded to cover more than 13,581 square miles and is now the largest.

Mistaken Point— Canada

A cliff shaped by waves off the coast of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula, this geologically significant site was named for its tendency to trick sailors during foggy weather. Many often mistook it for the nearby Cape Race and as a result, would accidentally crash their ships into the cliff's craggy edges. According to a historical report by Berkeley College, the area, which was nominated for the World Heritage list in 2004, is said to be home to over 50 wrecked ships. Even more importantly, it is also a source of substantial fossil findings. Some date back 575 million years and one discovered by an Indian professor is said to be the oldest record of multicellular life.

The Trelleborg Fortresses— Denamark

A Trelleborg is a ring-shaped Viking fortress, several of which exist in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.  Three that are located in Denmark have been submitted as World Heritage site nominees. The uniquely designed structures are believed to date back to 980 and are regarded as significant links to the militaristic displays of power during the late Viking era. 

Petrified Forest National Park— Ariz.

This U.S. National park was submitted as a World Heritage Site nominee in 2008. It is home to a slew of scenic and adventurous attractions— like the Painted Desert and of course, the Petrified Forest— and compared to any other area contains the largest amount of petrified wood in the world. "The beauty of this place is phenomenal," said one past visitor on Trip Advisor. "The petrified trees are so cool, and towards the end you can touch them and take close pictures of them."

Taman Negara National Park— Malaysia

According to UNESCO, Taman Negara was Malaysia's first ever national park and is the largest area of protected land in the country. Not only is this lush rainforest enormous in size, but it is estimated to be about 130 million years old, making it one of the most elderly rainforests in the world. An immensely diverse range of plants decorate the landscape and the site is home to an estimated 185,000 animal species.

Western Stone Forts— Ireland

Four historic stone forts in Ireland were nominated to the World Heritage site list in 2010, the most famous and largest being Dun Aonghusa located on the Aran Islands. One recent visitor described a trip to the destination as having changed their soul. "[An] unbelievable place to visit over and over again," they wrote on Trip Advisor.

Bale Mountains National Park— Ethiopia

Submitted for consideration to the World Heritage Site list in 2008, this Ethiopian National Park is situated on a high-altitude plateau and is home to the highest peak in the southern Ethiopia highlands. The stunning landscape features glacial lakes, swamps and volcanic ridges and the hills to the south are masked by the widely uncharted Harenna Forest.

White Sands National Monument— N.M.

With more than 143,000 acres to be explored, this site, which is part of the U.S. National Park System, is considered to be the largest and best protected area of gypsum sand in the world. Submitted for consideration in 2008, the author of this photo says the site is remarkable in that "the sand takes on whatever color is in the sky."