Every year the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization inscribe new properties. Each of these 31 new properties added by the committee this year represent a location of outstanding universal value and meet criteria set by their strict guidelines. Dedicated to identifying, protecting, and preserving of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. Here are the newest breath-taking additions.
1. Pyu Ancient Cities:
The Pyu Ancient Cities are Myanmar’s first UNESCO Heritage Site ever, how exciting! The remains are of three brick, walled, and moated cities of Halin, Beikthano, and Sri Ksetra located in the Irrawaddy River Basin. The cities have been partly excavated archaeological sites that represent the Pyu Kingdoms flourished over 1,000 years ago. So far, they have found palace citadels, burial grounds, Buddhist stupas, and water management features. For a city so smart, they waited a very long time to be recognized.
2. Stevns Klint, Denmark:
This geological site made this list this year because of its deep ties to history. The fossil-rich coastline has evidence of the Chicxulub meteorite that hit the planet 65 million years ago. Researchers think that this caused the largest mass extinction ever, killing 50% of all life on Earth. Good thing this was so long ago, if it happens again I guess I wouldn’t mind losing bugs and possums.
3. The Okavango Delta in Botswana:
There are a lot of reasons why the Okavango Delta made the list this year. It is one of the few major delta systems that
does not flow into a sea or ocean, while still maintaining a wetland system. The really weird thing is that this River floods during dry season (huh?) and, as a result, the native plants and animals have synchronized themselves in accordance with the river. The delta is also home to quite a few endangered species, including cheetahs, white rhinos, black rhinos, African wild dogs, and lions.
4. The Grotte Chauvet – Pont d’Arc in France:
Located on the Adèche River in France, this property’s wall have the earliest figurative drawings known to man, dating back as far as the Aurignacian period. A rock fell 20,000 years BP and sealed off the limestone cave until 1994. There have been over 1,000 images found so far and, according to art historians, the figures range in topics and techniques, with a huge variety of skill level. You know, like first graders.
5. Rani-ki-Vav in India:
Originally built on the banks of the Saraswati River in the fond memory of a king during the 11th century. The stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water storage system on the Indian subcontinent, and have been constructed since the 3rd millennium BC. Designed as an inverted temple to highlight the importance of water; there are seven levels of stairs with artistic sculptural panels. There are over 500 principle sculptures with thousands of minor ones combine into beautiful religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works. The entire thing is pretty deep, both literally and figuratively. They clearly had waaaaay better pools back in the day.
6. The Caves of Maresha and Bet Gurvin in Israel:
Just take a second to look at the above photo. I can’t even imagine how breathtaking it is in person. The site contains over 3,000 underground chambers carved in soft chalk of Lower Judea under the former towns of Maresha and Bet Guvrin. The caves tell a story of the evolution of the areas culture over thousands of years. During the time of the Crusaders, these caves served as cisterns, oil presses, baths, stables, religious rooms, secret hideaways, and burial areas. It’s basically Flintstone Babie’s Dream House.
7. Lange-Roero and Monferrato in Piedmont, Italy:
The Piedmont landscape is famed for covering five separate wine districts located between the Po River and the Lingurian Apennines. It gained the title of a UNESCO Heritage Site because of its rich history in the technical and economic processes related to winemaking . The beautiful Castle of Cavour is emblematic to the development of the area dating as far back as the 5th century BC.
Piedmont has been a long-standing intersection for contact and trade, so much so that Etruscan and Celtic words are still found in the local dialect. During the Roman Empire, the Piedmont region was one of the most favorable regions for growing vines in ancient Italy. I bet their grape juice isn’t half bad either.
8. Namhansanseong emergency capital city in South Korea:
During the Joson dynasty, Namhansanseong was designed as an emergency capital. Though just south-east of Seoul, the site was defended by Buddhist monk-soldiers and its famed fort accommodated 4,000 people and performed crucial military functions. It’s been rebuilt several times, but the city represents a crucial point in history when Chinese and Japanese influences forced substantial defensive military engineering concepts including the use of fortification and gunpowder. I still can’t get past the fact that there were Buddhist monk-soldiers.
9. Jeddah in Saudi Arabia:
On the eastern shore of the Red Sea sits a beautiful, monochromatic structure known as the Gate to Makkah. From the 7th century onward, Jeddah was a major port for Indian Ocean trade routes to Mecca. It also served as a gateway to Mecca for Muslims traveling by water, making the city an important multicultural hub.
10. The Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex:
Located on the shores of the Volga River, the medieval city of Bolgar was an early settlement of the Volga-Bolgar civilizations between the 7th and 15th centuries AD and was the first capital of the Golden Horde in the 13th century. For several centuries the area impacted formations of civilizations, customs, and cultural traditions in Eurasia. Its most important symbolism, arguably, is its acceptance of Islam in 22 AD and continues to be a sacred pilgrimage point for Tatar Muslims to this day.
11. Bursa and Cumalıkızık in Turkey:
This site, in the southern Marmara region, illustrates the Ottoman Empire’s urban and rural systems in the early 14th century. It embodies the key functions of the civic center, including its social and economical organization. Still-existing features include religious institutes, mosques, public baths, and a kitchen for the poor. It’s also home to the tomb of Orhan Ghazi, the founder of the Ottoman dynasty. While much of the focus is on Bursa, the village of Cumalıkızık hold importance as the only rural village that demonstrates the provision of hinterland support for the capital.
12. The Carolingian Westwork and Civitas Corvey:
On the outskirts of Höxter, along the Weser River, lies the Carolingian Westwork and Civitas Corvey (erected in 822 and 885 AD, respectively). The Westwork is the only standing structure that dates back to the Carolingian era, while the original imperial abbey complex is preserved as partially excavated archaeological remains. This one joins the list as a twofer, both that it illustrates the most important Carolingian architectural styles and decorations and the role the area played within the Frankish empire, spreading its cultural and political order throughout Europe.
13. The Erbil Citadel in Iraq:
Atop an imposing hill sits the beautiful Erbil Citadel. The truly fascinating thing about this city is that is has a tell, and not the kind you think. It sits up high as a result of a man-made hill caused by generations building and rebuilding over the centuries in the exact same spot. The city walls still give is a military fortress-feel, still standing outside the citadel dating back to the Ottoman phase. Like most of the other locations on this list, the citadel has more than just a historical background, the city, itself, holds a special place in antiquity, as it corresponds with Arbela, an important Assyrian (haha, Ass!) political and religious center. There continue to be digs to find more and more about the remains of previous settlements that the city sits atop.
14. The Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point in Louisiana:
I am not sure if “monumental” is the right term for this, but then again, I don’t really get all that excited by nature. Composed entirely of mounts built in between 1650 and 700 BCE by Native Americans, it sits on the edge of the Maçon Ridge and its size (10 acres) make it the largest and most complex Late Archaic earthwork in North America. They still haven’t determined what the area was used for and, I’m not going to lie you, I am highly skeptical that this isn’t just a misnamed part.
15. The Land of Olives and Vines:
Located just south-west of Jerusalem in the highlands between Nablus and Hebron, this Cultural landscape is littered with farmed valleys, stone terrace, many of which are irrigated for market garden production while others are dry and planted with grapevines and olive trees. The terraces are stunning, especially given the mountainous region, and are supported by a network of irrigation channels and fed by underground sources. It’s insane how some of these places have found and used water sources. Also : the UNESCO people are clearly winos, this is the second grape-growing area to appear.
16. Pergamon, Turkey:
This giant site rises high about the Bakirçay Plain in Turkey’s Aegean region. The acropolis of Pergamon was the capital during the Hellenistic Attalid dynasty, a huge cultural hub in the ancient world. The basically had everything. No joke: monumental temples, theaters, stoa, gymnasiums, altars, and libraries, all safe and sound behind the thick city walls. The landscape contains the burial remains of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. How many burial grounds does your town have?! That’s what I thought.
17. The Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements in Costa Rica:
This new addition is one of my favorites because it’s so mysterious. The
entire property covers four separate archaeological sites in the Diquís Delta in southern Costa Rica. Each are considered to be unique examples of previous complex social, economic, and political systems from 500 – 1500 AD. That’s all cool and everything but for some reason, there are the Stone Spheres of the Diquís. Their meaning, use, and production is a total mystery and to make it even more strange: they are distinctive for their perfection, number, size, density, and placement in original locations. It’s like Easter Island, just without the funny faces.
18. Qhapaq Ñan , the Andean Road System:
This site is like the 405 for the Incan people. They used this network of roads, that span over 30,000 km, for communication, trade, and defense. These roads are particularly spectacular because they span over a multitude of extreme geographical terrains like the Andes, hot rainforests, fertile valleys, and dry deserts. It has since been chunked into 273 separate sites that highlight the social, political, architectural, and engineering achievements of the network. I honestly bet I would get to LAX faster walking this road than driving down the 405 in rush hour.
19. Shahr-e Sukhteh in Iran:
Shahr-e Sukhteh, meaning “Burnt City,” was the junction of Bronze Age trade routes on the Iranian plateau. The remains of the Burnt City represent the first complex societies in eastern Iran. Said to have been founded around 3200 BC, the city was populated during four main periods up until 1800 BC. During this time, these people seriously did not take breaks: monuments were built, separate quarters for housing, burial, and business. The city eventually emptied due to changes in climate and the diversions in water courses. The city is still very well preserved due to the desert climate, making the area a rich source of information about ye old times.
20. The Silk Roads in China, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan:
This is one of the oldest road networks (and as you can see from the above photo, has since been paved). UNESCO has selected a specific 5,000km section stretching from Chang’an to the Zhetysu region of Central Asia. It took shape between the 2nd and 1st century AD and remained in use until the 16th century. The road linked multiple civilizations and facilitated exchanges in trade, religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, technological innovation, cultural practices, and the arts. There are 33 components in the routes that include empires, capital cities, palaces, temples, towers, and forts. And here I am living on Hollywood Blvd. Great.
21. The Grand Canal in China:
The Grand Canal is a huge waterway system in the north-eastern and central-eastern plains of China that runs from Beijing in the north to the Zhejiang province in the south. It was constructed in sections from the 5th century BC onwards and was the first type of communication for the Sui dynasty Empire. Its big job was running grain, rice, and raw materials to feed the population, and if you know anything about China, there are a whole lot of people!
22. The Tomioka Silk Mill in Japan:
I know, this one is super recent in comparison to the others, but that doesn’t make it any less important. These were established in 1872 in the Gunma prefecture just north-west of Tokyo. The Japanese government built these factories with machinery imported from France and consists of four separate sites that each are crucial to the production of raw silk. It shows that Japan wanted to rapidly adopt the best production techniques and launched it into the best silk industry in the 19th century. Thank God, too, because silk worms take forever.
23. Van Nellefabriek in the Netherlands:
Van Nellefrabriek was designed and built in the 1920s on the banks of a canal in Rotterdam. This site is an icon of the 20th-century industrial architecture. The factory is comprised almost entirely of steel and glass and is conceived as an “ideal factory.” Now open to the outside world, the factory continuously evolved as needed and the giant windows were designed specifically to let in daylight, which provided more pleasant working conditions. I’d rather have a raise, but I guess you take what you can get.
24. The Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area in India:
This national park sits on the western part of the Himalayan Mountains in northern Idea and is characterized by high alpine peaks, meadows, and riverine forests. The giant property (90,540 acre) has glacial and snow meltwater sources of several rivers and catchments of water supplies that are absolutely vital to millions of downstream drinkers. The GHNPCA protects the area and its biodiversity and has 25 forest types and rich amounts of fauna species, many of which are threatened.
25. The Mount Haiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in the Philippines:
This sanctuary covers a lot of the Pujada Peninsula and the south-eastern part of the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor and sits very high above sea level. This height provides a critical habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species that apparently love super thin air. There are many threatened species, including 8 that can only be found at Mount Hamiguitan, including some trees, the Philippine eagle, and the Philippine cockatoo. Those are cool and everything, but look at that crazy flower!
26. The Trang An Landscape Complex in Vietnam:
Situated on the southern shore of the Red River Delta, the Trang An is particularly spectacular because of its limestone karst peaks and valleys, many of which are submerged into water. The area is continuously explored and human activity there dates back almost 30,000 years. The area includes Hoa Lu (the old capital of Vietnam), temples, pagodas, and sacred sites. Given how rainy and nasty it is outside today, this place looks like the perfect escape.