27 Destinations Recently Dubbed World Heritage Sites
This weekend, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced the latest inscriptions to its World Heritage List, which recognizes and protects cultural and natural sites that have contributed to human history. This year, there’s a total of 24 new sites, including an American cultural institution in San Antonio, the Champagne region of France, and religious pilgrimage destinations in Spain and Jordan. Three previously existing World Heritage sites have seen their protections expanded this year as well. Here’s a look at UNESCO’s new World Heritage sites.
Tusi Sites, China
China received its 48th addition to the World Heritage list this weekend with the inclusion of three Tusi sites—Laosicheng, Tangya, and Hailongtun Fortress—in the southwestern region of the country. These sites represent a political system in which the central government appointed hereditary rulers over tribal domains as a means of “[unifying] national administration, while allowing ethnic minorities to retain their customs and way of life.”
The San Antonio Missions, United States
The Alamo, an icon of Texas history, has finally been recognized on UNESCO’s World Heritage list alongside four other 300-year-old Spanish missions that make up a national park in San Antonio. According to the State Department, which lauded the decision, these missions—Espada, San Juan, San José, Concepcion, and Valero (The Alamo)—“[played] an important role in early Mexican history and in the struggle for Texas independence.”
French wine-makers got another big win this weekend with the inclusion of the “climats” of Burgundy on the World Heritage list. The 60-kilometer area encompasses the vineyards of Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, as well as the historic center of Dijon, “which embodies the political regulatory impetus that gave birth to the climats system.”
The French have long insisted that bubbly wines can only be known as champagne if they come from the region of Champagne, where they originated, and now they have a World Heritage site to bolster the point. UNESCO named the hillsides, houses, and cellars of Champagne that make up the entire champagne-making process to the list, calling it “a very specialized artisan activity that has become an agro-industrial enterprise.”
Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al Maghtas), Jordan
On the east bank of the Jordan River, this is the site where Jesus was believed to be baptized by John the Baptist some 2000 years ago. Christian pilgrims from across the world, including several Catholic popes, have visited this holy spot.
Home to the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the port city of Ephesus was once an important trade, religious, and cultural center. It remains a popular draw for tourists thanks to its Roman Imperial period monuments, the nearby House of the Virgin Mary, and the columns that are all that remains of the Artemis temple.
Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and its surrounding sacred landscape, Mongolia
This mountain in the Khentii mountain range of Mongolia is sacred as it is considered to be both the birthplace and the burial site of Genghis Khan, the great warrior and founder of the Mongol empire. According to the UNESCO inscription, this site “testifies to his efforts to establish mountain worship as an important part of the unification of the Mongol people.”
Iran’s newest World Heritage property includes the archeological mounds of Susa, at the foot of the Zagros Mountains, as well as the palace on the opposite side of the Shavur River. The Iran Chamber Society describes Susa, built as early as 4000 B.C., as “one of the oldest cities in the world.” UNESCO reports that Susa “bears exceptional testimony to the Elamite, Persian and Parthian cultural traditions, which have largely disappeared.”
The Forth Bridge, United Kingdom
Opened as the world’s longest multi-span cantilever bridge, the Forth Bridge has been carrying passengers and freight across the Firth of Forth since 1890. It remains an impressive sight to behold and UNESCO points out that the bridge marked “an important milestone in bridge design and construction during the period when railways came to dominate long-distance land travel.”
Blue and John Crow Mountains, Jamaica
The Blue and John Crow mountains in southeast Jamaica are a cultural institution for their role throughout Jamaican history as a safehaven for escaped slaves, starting with the indigenous Tainos and including the escaped African slaves known as Maroons. The Jamaica Observer reports that this is the country’s first site listing, and UNESCO included it for both its cultural and natural qualities as a “biodiversity hotspot.”
Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System, Mexico
Dating back to the 16th century, this aqueduct on the Central Mexican Plateau is praised as “an example of the exchange of influences between the European tradition of Roman hydraulics and traditional Mesoamerican construction techniques.” The aqueduct is 28 miles long and includes “the highest single-level arcade ever built in an aqueduct.”
Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalu and Monreale, Italy
The Sicilian city of Palermo is renowned for its historical blending of Norman, Arab, and Byzantine cultures. The nine sites included on the World Heritage list date back to the Norman kingdom in the early 12th century and include two cathedrals in Cefalu and Monreale.
Baekje Historic Areas, Republic of Korea
Baekje is known as one of the three ancient kingdoms of the Korean peninsula, according to its official conservation foundation, which adds that the kingdom of Baekje was a leader in adopting and refining advancements from abroad, as well as exporting its own cultural artifacts to neighboring states. This World Heritage listing comprises eight sites, including the Gongsanseong fortress and royal tombs at Songsan-ri.
Christiansfeld was founded in 1773 by members of the Moravian Church, whose “pioneering egalitarian philosophy” UNESCO says is evident in the town’s planning. Buildings are modest and homogenous, and large communal houses were built for widows and unmarried members of the community. This is Denmark’s fourth World Heritage site listing.
UNESCO added the “cultural landscape” of Iran’s Maymand region to the World Heritage list this year as a representative of a semi-nomadic agricultural system that persists to this day. In Maymand, villagers live in mountain settlements in the spring and fall, and live out the winter months in caves.
Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens, Turkey
For thousands of years, Turkey’s Hevsel Gardens have served as a link between the walled city of Diyarbakir and the Tigris River. As UNESCO says, both the fortress city and the gardens have “been an important centre since the Hellenistic period, through the Roman, Sassanid, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman times to the present.”
Fray Bentos, Uruguay
The Uruguayan town of Fray Bentos has been known as a center of meat processing since around 1865, when the Liebig Extract of Meat Company opened a plant there to process and export meat extract and corned beef across the world. Not too long after, the Anglo Meat Packing Plant also opened up in town, exporting corned beef and meat pies. Factory buildings and equipment are all included in the World Heritage designation as part of the “cultural-industrial landscape.”
Necropolis of Bet She’arim, Israel
Described as “a landmark of Jewish renewal,” the Necropolis of Bet She’arim was named to the World Heritage list for its network of catacombs bearing ancient artworks and inscriptions naming community leaders and other historical information. The site “bears unique testimony to ancient Judaism under the leadership of Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, who is credited with Jewish renewal after 135 CE.”
The Norwegian towns of Rjukan and Notodden were placed on the World Heritage list together as part of an “industrial heritage” landscape established by the Norsk-Hydro Company. The company’s mission was to create fertilizer from the nitrogen in the air and the two towns boomed under this mission. UNESCO states that this landscape “stands out as an example of a new global industry in the early 20th century.”
Rock Art in the Hail Region, Saudi Arabia
Petroglyphs and inscriptions dating back 10,000 years mark the rock faces in the Hail region of Saudi Arabia, in particular the Jabel Umm Sinman at Jubbah and the Jabal al-Manjor and Raat at Shywaymis. UNESCO has previously stated that this “stands as one of the most fascinating and largest rock art sites of the world.”
Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore
Founded more than 150 years ago, the Singapore Botanic Gardens claims to be the most visited botanical garden in the world. UNESCO reports that “the site demonstrates the evolution of a British tropical colonial botanic garden that has become a modern world-class scientific institution.” It has been a leader in the development of rubber and orchid crops.
Sites of the Meiji Industrial Revolution, Japan
From the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, the southwestern region of Japan was home to what is known as the Meiji industrial revolution. That revolution, UNESCO says, “testifies to what is considered to be the first successful transfer of Western industrialization to a non-Western nation.” The eleven properties protected under this designation include shipyards, furnaces, the Hashino iron mining and smelting site, a naval dock, a Mitsubishi pattern plant, and more.
Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus, Germany
Both the Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus districts of Hamburg, Germany made the World Heritage list this time around for their roles in the ramping up of international trade in the late 19th century—Speicherstadt as a large and historic warehouse district, and Kontorhaus as a port-related business office complex. The ten-story modernist building Chilehaus in the Kontorhaus is included in the listing as well.
The par force hunting landscape in North Zealand, Denmark
Through the 16th century, Danish kings engaged in par force hunting—the pursuit of deer on horseback using hounds—in the North Zealand region of Denmark. This World Heritage zone includes two forests and a park traditionally used in the hunt, of particular interest for the patterned landscaping of its hunting lanes and lodges.
Routes of Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Originally named to the World Heritage list in 1993, this network in northern Spain has just seen its protection expanded to include nearly 1,500 more kilometers of the Basque Country. These newly named cathedrals, churches, and monasteries are part of the paths taken by pilgrims to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the believed site of the tomb of St. James the Great.
Cape Floral Region, South Africa
The Cape Floral Region in South Africa was first named to the World Heritage list in 2004, but this year that listing has been expanded to include more national parks, state forests, nature reserves, and more that also showcase the great and unique biodiversity of the region.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam
First listed as a World Heritage site in 2003, the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park has been extended under the list by a 46 percent increase of its total surface area—now listed at 126,236 hectares rather than 85,754. UNESCO explains that this addition “ensures a more coherent ecosystem while providing additional protection to the catchment areas that are of vital importance for the integrity of limestone landscapes.”