The 35 Places That Could Become UNESCO World Heritage Sites This Year
Most travelers have probably encountered a UNESCO World Heritage Site in their journeys. A plaque may inform visitors of this location’s status as they enter or maybe it’s mentioned by a tour guide in passing. But fewer people know exactly what this demarcation means.
There are currently 1,052 places around the world on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The destinations range from the archeological remains of prehistoric empires to stunning natural wonders to outstanding 20th-century architecture. Whatever the destination, it is considered among the world’s best places to discover history, nature or culture. Although the list of UNESCO sites may seem set in stone, every year the list grows a bit more.
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On July 2, the World Heritage Committee will meet in Krakow, Poland, to consider adding 35 new locations to the list of the world’s most historic and cultural places. Representatives from 21 countries around the world will debate and vote on which sites are worthy of joining UNESCO’s list.
There is a lengthy nomination process which countries must first go through to put forward their best locations for consideration on the World Heritage list. After nomination, the site undergoes evaluation by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Then comes the official selection process. When a nomination comes up for consideration, the World Heritage Committee must first determine whether or not the locations has “outstanding universal value.”
The locations are then judged on 10 separate criteria. In order to be deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the nominee must meet only one of these qualifications. A location can be a testament to “human creative genius,” such as the works of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona or an excellent representation of how a civilization interacted with their land, like the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu in Peru. There are also categories for natural wonders that “contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance” or are excellent places for the conservation of biodiversity.
The 35 locations up for consideration this year stem from all across the planet and are all nominated for vastly different reasons. From Germany, a series of caves with the world’s oldest known ice age art is nominated. There’s also an entire historic city in India and a subarctic farming area in Greenland.
Scroll through to discover the 35 unique locations before all the tourists do.
Asmara is renowned for its modernist buildings, which have remained untouched since the 1930s. Some refer to the city as “Little Rome.” If accepted onto the list, it would become Eritrea’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Referred to as the “Manchester of India,” Ahmadabad’s historic city is brimming with textile markets, grandiose mosques, and ornate tombs of medieval rulers.
Mole National Park, Ghana
Mole National Park is renowned for its biodiversity, which includes 93 mammals, 400 types of birds, 33 reptiles and insects, and five different kinds of butterflies.
Naumburg Cathedral, Germany
This Romanesque cathedral remains basically unchanged since its construction in 1213.
Historical Centre of Mbanza Kongo, Angola
The former capital of the Republic of Kongo in known for the ruins of its 16th-century cathedral, which many Angolans call the first in Sub-Saharan Africa (although there is much debate over this).
This secret religious island has gone through some controversy since its nomination as, historically, women are not allowed to step foot there.
Xam Area, Khomani Heartland, South Africa
This area is home to the Khomani people, thought to be the last surviving indigenous San community in South Africa.
Qinghai Hoh Xil, China
This natural reserve is considered the important summer habitat and breeding ground for the Tibetan Antelope.
Khor Dubai, a Traditional Merchants’ Harbour, UAE
The Dubai Creek, as it’s known in English, was instrumental in establishing Dubai’s commercial success with fishing, pearl diving and trade.
Strasbourg Grand-Ile, France
Strasbourg’s Grand Ile is already a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the organization may choose to expand its borders. The island is renowned for its preservation of medieval buildings from Strasbourg’s history.
This area was used from the Medieval Ages until the start of the 20th century for subarctic farming by eskimos.
Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley, Mexico
This biosphere reserve is nominated for its mountains and valleys. The complex topography also contains three different types of climate: dry, tropical rainforest and temperate rainforest.
Los Alerces National Park, Argentina
This Argentinian national park is known for its series of connected lakes and rivers, mountainous peaks and lush woodlands.
After the first Opium War, this island became a portal through which many western civilizations accessed China.
Luther Sites in Central Germany
This collection of sites in Central Germany (mostly churches) are associated with Martin Luther and the Reformation.
Gelati Monastery, Georgia
The buildings of this monastery were constructed between the 12th and 17th centuries. The complex is renowned for its mosaics and wall paintings and as an excellent example of Georgian medieval architecture.
Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine, Poland
This historic lead mine dates back to the 1500s. It is nominated as an exceptional example of a large-scale mining network.
This ancient Turkish city is renowned as an excellent archaeological site for Greek and Roman period antiquities.
Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians, Germany
This forest is renowned for having the “most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure stands of European beech,” according to UNESCO.
Bhitarkanika Conservation Area, India
This potential world heritage site is a wetland known for its high genetic and ecological diversity. There are over 300 different species of plant, 62 invertebrates, 19 fish and five amphibians recorded here.
Sambor Prei Kuk Archaeological Site, Cambodia
This religious complex, which now lies in ruin, dates back to Cambodia’s Pre-Angkorian Chenla Kingdom (from the 6th to 9th centuries). It was established as a capital city and royal sanctuary.
The Assumption Cathedral of the town-island of Sviyazhsk, Russia
During the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible came upon this island and decided to build a fortress there to help him win a battle. The Assumption Cathedral, which was built around that time, is renowned for its preservation of over 3,500 feet of frescoes.
Talayotic Minorca, Spain
There are 25 archaeological sites across Minorca that are up for nomination. They are all considered to be great examples of the Talayotic culture that dates back to the prehistory and protohistory of the island.
The Bauhaus, Germany
The Bauhaus was the site of one of the greatest architectural revolutions in the early 20th century. The collection of buildings on campus were created and furnished by some of the masters of the movement, including Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Wassily Kandinsky.
The Dauria Reserve is populated by unique Siberian steppes and, according to UNESCO, is “one of few remaining Eurasian extensive grassland steppe where wildlife and domestic livestock co-exist.”
This commune in French Polynesia features a marae archaeological site that was once considered the religious center of Eastern Polynesia.
The English Lake District, UK
The area inspired many of the Romantic poets, like Wordsworth and Coleridge.
Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town, Palestine
Al-Khalil became one of the four sacred cities of Islam, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site, Brazil
This wharf in downtown Rio de Janeiro was an infamous part of the African Slave Trade. It was here where slaves who had caught diseases or died on the boat ride across the Atlantic were buried.
W – Arly – Pendjari Complex, Benin, Burkina Faso
The W Regional Park, Arly National Park and Pendjari Complex is an area of savannah known for having some of the last populations of big game, like West African lions, hippopotamuses and buffalo in West Africa. It stretches across Benin, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. Together, the three parks make up almost 20,000 square miles of land.
Sheki and the Khan’s Palace, Azerbaijan
The historic city of Sheki is nominated for its urban planning, featuring winding streets, narrow alleys and the crowning achievement of the Khan’s Palace.
Ice Age Caves, Germany
These caves in Germany are known for housing the oldest collection of works of art from the Ice Age.
The historic city of Yazd is nominated for its diverse collection of architecture, all dating from different time periods, that come together “in a harmonious combination with climatic conditions,” UNESCO says.
The former capital of Transjordan has nominated 25 different buildings that represent the golden age of Salt, from 1865 to 1920.
Venetian Works of Defense, Italy, Croatia and Montenegro
The Venetians built a complex defense system that stretches over 600 miles from Italy to Montenegro.