The world is filled with astounding places, locations that for reasons cultural or natural are one-of-a-kind and absolutely irreplaceable. In an effort to help preserve them, some of these locations were named UNESCO World Heritage sites this week.
For UNESCO—aka the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization—the idea for World Heritage sites came from a dam. Egypt’s Aswan High Dam, to be specific. When the dam was built on the Nile during the 1960s, the rising waters of Lake Nasser threatened to submerge a temple complex built more than 3,000 years ago. An international effort subsequently came together to save it. Workers cut the Abu Simbel temple into enormous blocks before moving it uphill, where it remains today.
Out of that enormous effort came the realization there were cultural treasures and natural wonders around the world also in need of protection. So, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted in 1972. Among the first inductees were the Galapagos Islands and Yellowstone National Park. Since then, 1,123 more World Heritage sites have joined the list. However, not all sites stay on the list. Liverpool was stricken because development including a new football stadium destroyed infrastructure related to its maritime history.
The World Heritage Committee didn’t meet last year, so this year they were reviewing nominations for 2020 and 2021. Out of those, the following 37 locations subsequently joined the World Heritage list and can now be considered “officially” amazing.
1. Sítio Roberto Burle Marx
Landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx created this “landscape laboratory” in the last 20 years of his life, west of Rio de Janeiro. Alongside native vegetation, Marx planted more than 3,500 species of tropical and subtropical plants.
2. Settlement and Artificial Mummification of the Chinchorro Culture in the Arica and Parinacota Region
Marine hunter-gathers—whose earliest origins came 7,000 years ago—the Chinchorro people had complex mortuary practices that included dismembering and reassembling bodies.
3. Emporium of the World in Song-Yuan China
During the Song and Yuan period in China (10th to 14th centuries), the city of Quanzhou was a center for maritime trade. The site includes religious buildings including a mosque, tombs, administrative buildings, stone docks, and sites for ceramic and iron production.
4. Sudanese-style mosques in northern Côte d’Ivoire
Built in a style that originated in 14th-century Sudan, these eight distinctive adobe mosques feature intricate designs and decoration that includes pottery or ostrich eggs.
5. Cordouan Lighthouse
Dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, the Cordouan lighthouse on the Atlantic Ocean is decorated with columns and gargoyles. Built of white limestone, three additional stories were added in the 18th century because sailors had criticized its height.
6. Nice, winter resort town of the Riviera
Proving that not every World Heritage site is a little-known wonder is the French city of Nice. Located on the Mediterranean, the resort city has been popular with aristocrats and the wealthy since the 18th century.
7. Ivindo National Park
The almost 1,200-square mile Ivindo National Park features rapids and waterfalls surrounded by rainforest. It’s home to critically endangered animals such as the forest elephant and western lowland gorilla.
8. Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands
Located along a 49-mile corridor, this Georgian site includes rainforests and wetlands from sea level to more than 8,000 feet. These extremely humid broad-leaved rainforests are home to 1,100 species of vascular and non-vascular plants.
9. Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt
Established as an artist’s colony in 1897, Darmstadt‘s buildings were created as experimental modernist living and work spaces. The site includes 23 elements including 13 houses and art studios, as well as an Exhibition Hall and Wedding Tower.
10. ShUM Sites of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz
Focusing on Jewish sites from the 11th to 14th centuries, this site includes a synagogue, religious school, ritual bath, and two Jewish cemeteries. ShUM comes for the Hebrew initials for the cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz.
11. Dholavira: a Harappan city
Located on the island of Khadir in the Indian state of Gujarat, the ancient, fortified city of Dholavira was occupied between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago by the Harappan civilization.
12. Kakatiya Rudreshwara Temple
Work on the sandstone temple—known as Ramappa Temple—began in 1213. With beams and pillars of carved granite and dolerite, the temple includes “floating bricks” that reduce the weight of roof structures.
13. Cultural landscape of Hawraman/Uramanat
A Kurdish tribe, the Hawrami people have inhabited the remote mountainous region of northwest Iran for 5,000 years. The semi-nomadic people practice seasonal vertical migration and are known for their steep-slope architecture and terraced farming.
14. Trans-Iranian Railway
Connecting the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, work on the 866-mile railway was completed in 1938. The Trans-Iranian Railway crosses two mountain ranges and includes 174 large bridges, 186 small bridges, and 224 tunnels.
15. Padua’s 14th-century fresco cycles
Painted by different artists for different buildings between 1302 and 1397, Padua’s frescoes still share a similar style. The work that was done over nearly a century is considered a revolutionary development in mural painting.
16. Porticoes of Bologna
Porticoes can be roofed porches supported by columns that lead to building entrances or form walkways. And the city of Bologna has, according to UNESCO, 38 miles of porticoes made of brick, stone, wood, or concrete. Some date back to the 12th century.
17. Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island
Entirely uninhabited by humans, the 164 square miles of subtropical rainforests on these Japanese islands are filled with life. Along with native species, they’re home to the endangered Amami Rabbit and the Ruukyu Long-Haired Rat.
18. Jomon prehistoric sites in Northern Japan
The Jomon culture existed 10,000 years ago on the southern part of Hokkaido Island and the northern part of Tohoku region of Honshu Island in Japan. Though they existed prior to agriculture, the hunter-fisher-gatherer culture was not nomadic and known for its lacquered pots and “goggle eyed” dogu figurines.
19. As-Salt – the place of tolerance and urban hospitality
Located in western Jordan, the city of As-Salt with its yellow limestone buildings and homes was an important Ottoman trading post between the eastern desert and the West. The site features 650 historic buildings at the city’s core that mix local tradition with European Art Nouveau and Neo-Colonial styles
20. Franciscan Ensemble of the Monastery and Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Tlaxcala
This is an extension of an existing World Heritage site, adding a monastery and cathedral to two previous monasteries built during the 16th century. The new extension includes a free-standing tower and a wooden mudéjar ceiling.
21. Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe
This is an extension of an existing World Heritage site that now includes beech forests in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia, and also Switzerland.
22. Colonies of Benevolence
Containing four settlements—three in The Netherlands, one in Belgium—the Colonies of Benevolence were an effort to fight urban poverty in the early 19th century. Because of this, poor families from larger cities were granted land where they could farm.
23. Frontiers of the Roman Empire – The Danube Limes
The frontier of the Roman Empire was established along the Danube River during the 1st century and lasted until the 7th century. This 372-mile site that crosses through Austria, Germany, and Slovakia includes fortresses, camps, and also roads.
24. Frontiers of the Roman Empire – The Lower German Limes
A joint site shared by Germany and the Netherlands, this site follows the left back of the Lower Rhine River for 248 miles. Significantly, it includes 102 buried components from the Roman Empire including bases, forts, towers, towns, a palace, and more.
25. The Great Spa Towns of Europe
This cultural site involves towns and cities developed around natural mineral springs and celebrates a spa culture that started during the early-18th century. Among the 11 spa towns are Baden-Baden, Germany; Vichy, France; and also Bath in the United Kingdom.
26. Dutch Water Defense Lines
An extension on an existing World Heritage site, this site is a testament to how the Dutch have used hydraulic engineering for defense purposes since the 16th century. The country was protected by a network of 45 forts and also an intricate canal and lock system that allows defensive flooding.
27. Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex
Built in Peru’s Casma Valley, the prehistoric Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex consists of three towers, as well as 13 towers along a ridge. Together with natural features, the complex forms a calendar-like instrument that marks the progress of the sun through the year. While it’s more than 2,000 years old, it’s accurate to within one or two days.
28. Getbol, Korean Tidal Flats
Republic of Korea
Located on the Yellow Sea on the southern and southwestern coast of Korea, these tidal flats are home to 2,150 species of fauna and flora, including Mud Octopuses and Stimpson’s Ghost Crabs.
29. Roșia Montana mining landscape
Nestled in Romania’s Apuseni Mountains, the mines of Roșia Montana were an incredible source of wealth for the Roman Empire. During a single 166-year period, the empire took 500 metric tons of gold from the mines.
30. Petroglyphs of Lake Onega and the White Sea
Located in the Republic of Karelia, this site includes 4,500 petroglyphs carved into rock 6 to 7 thousand years ago. The figures include birds, animals, human figures, and also shapes.
31. Hima Cultural Area
Situated on an ancient caravan route, the Hima Cultural Area features a large collection of rock art images that show hunting, fauna, and flora. For 7,000 years, travelers have been leaving their marks and, surprisingly, they remain in pristine condition.
32. The works of Jože Plečnik in Ljubljana
There was a period between World Wars I and II when architect Jože Plečnik transformed the city of Ljubljana. He designed the Triple Bridge and the Slovene National and University Library, as well as parks, plazas, and a cemetery.
33. Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro, a landscape of Arts and Sciences
This tree-lined avenue of Paseo del Prado in central Madrid is home to the Jardines del Buen Retiro (Garden of Pleasant Retreat), the terraced Royal Botanical Garden, as well as the residential Barrio Jerónimos neighborhood.
34. Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex
Home to the critically endangered Siamese crocodile, the Kaeng Krachan forest is found along the Tenasserim mountain range. It’s also home to eight cat species including the fishing cat and the clouded leopard.
35. Arslantepe Mound
The mound is an archaeological site that includes a palace complex that dates back to the Early Bronze Age. Additionally, metal weapons have been found at the site, some of the earliest known swords in the world.
36. The slate landscape of Northwest Wales
During the Industrial Revolution and beyond, slate mining was huge in Wales. This World Heritage site includes former quarries and mines, historic homes, and also the rail, harbor, and road systems that made it work.
37. Church of Atlandida
Just 27 miles from Montevideo, the Church of Atlantida was built in 1960. Designed by Eladio Dieste, the curving walls of the church and bell tower are built with exposed and reinforced brick.
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