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UNESCO World Heritage – Notable sites of culture and nature

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

What makes UNESCO sites so special?

You have probably heard of UNESCO sites when traveling to various countries around the world. UNESCO sites are often highlighted in cruise and tour itineraries. The sites, which are over one thousand, are selected because of the incomparable value they bring to humanity. The UNESCO World Heritage list first started in 1978. Most of the UNESCO sites are categorized according to culture, nature, and in some cases, a mixture of the two. Ultimately, these sites are placed on the list to protect them so that future generations can enjoy and appreciate them.

How are UNESCO sites selected?

World Heritage sites designated are diverse and appeal to many travelers. The sites’ selection follows guidelines agreed on by several countries to cooperate in the preservation and protection of natural areas and cultural treasures worldwide.

So how are these heritage sites nominated?

  • Cultural sites comprise outstanding archaeological sites, historical buildings, historic towns, monumental sculptures, or paintings.
  • Natural sites are selected based on several factors, such as their ability to offer examples of unique geological processes or life records; excellent biological and ecological evolutionary processes; phenomena that demonstrate outstanding, rare, or superlative beauty; and sites that are habitats for endangered plants or animals.
  • Mixed sites comprise both cultural and natural significance giving tourists a chance to enjoy an all-in-one site.

Most notable UNESCO sites

The cultural sites surpass the number of natural sites in the UNESCO list, with more being added as late as 2019. Currently, Europe and America have the most number of heritage sites with Arab states having the fewest. Nevertheless, some of the sites stand out, attracting thousands of tourists all year round. Some of these sites include:

  • Bagan – It is one of the most consecrated sites in the world. The Myanmar site comprises unique Buddhist art and exceptional architecture such as monasteries, sculptures, and temples.
  • Yosemite National Park – It is a popular park in the United States with incomparable scenic beauty. The park comprises the Yosemite Valley, alpine meadows, large sequoia groves, and some of the world’s tallest waterfalls.
  • Rocky Mountain Parks – The parks in Canada cover over eight thousand square miles filled with lakes, waterfalls, mountain peaks, canyons, and glaciers. It is a scenic beauty with a lot of ecological importance to the area and beyond.
  • Bwindi National Park – The Park located in Uganda is one of the top places for gorilla trekking. It is filled with a tree canopy and tangled undergrowth that spans 124 square miles.
  • Pyramids of Giza – The pyramids in Egypt have been in existence for 4,500 years. It is recognized for its unique architectural design and political significance.
  • Great Barrier Reef – The reef is considered one of Australia’s most significant living plant organisms. It is a haven for snorkelers and divers looking for a unique experience.
  • Angkor Wat – The 12th-century temple in Cambodia is grandiose and considered an artistic treasure. It stands on approximately 99,000 acres, comprising forests.

List of World Heritage sites in danger

Even as the list of World Heritage sites grows longer, some of them are in trouble. The dangers threaten the characteristics of the property and can be potential or already ascertained. Some of the dangers these sites face include uncontrolled urbanization, conflict, poaching, unchecked developments, pollution, and natural disasters. Currently, fifty-three properties across the world that either natural, cultural, or mixed are in danger. Among the endangered sites are the Historic Centre of Vienna, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo Serbia, Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, and Everglades National Park.

Why UNESCO sites should be on your bucket list

From natural wonders to cultural gems, the ‘World Heritage sites’ list is the perfect guide for many unforgettable trips. The sites are landmarks that epitomize the triumphs, history, and values of the home countries. UNESCO’s goal is to use the sites to promote and educate visitors on the natural beauty and culture of different peoples.

If you have been wondering whether traveling to a World Heritage site should be on your next itinerary, here are some reasons to visit.

Discover hidden destinations: Besides the usual destinations popular with world travelers, the heritage list comprises of undiscovered sites globally. The list has over one thousand sites, giving you a chance to broaden your horizon and discover destinations beyond the regular tourist locations.

Go back to the past: UNESCO’s list includes areas that have a lot of historical significance. Visiting the sites allows you to see some of the earliest creations by human beings, their economic activities, and even their religious tendencies. The majority of these sites have existed for centuries, which is proof of their authenticity.

Be part of their preservation: UNESCO has several objectives for the inclusion of sites in its World Heritage list. One crucial goal is preserving threatened sites by availing funds that protect them from destruction by natural or human-made risks. To ensure conservation efforts are sustained, the agency often accepts donations from well-wishers.

Get a glimpse of awe-inspiring locations: The sites that make it to the list are thoroughly evaluated and must meet specific criteria. The rigorous assessment ensures that every location has excellent sights that are captivating and worth the trip. These sites include volcanic parks, revered monasteries, and natural wonders that interest a majority of travelers.

Get educated: The committee in charge of World Heritage sites works with many partners to ensure visitors have a memorable time. To enable sustainable tourism, UNESCO has partnered with various companies to gives donations and supports educational initiatives. These companies offer tours and cruises to many destinations to increase awareness of these famous sites.

Ultimately, visiting heritage sites gives you a look into a world of destinations that are out of the norm. The sites are designated for travelers to explore, have fun, and preserve incredible sights for future generations.