We don’t know about you, but we’ve been dreaming of exploring the royal grounds of the glistening Taj Mahal in India, navigating the maze-like sanctuary of Machu Picchu in Peru, and marvelling at the towering Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. These magnificent sites have been put on the map because of their historical, cultural significance, or natural significance — and have achieved UNESCO World Heritage status.
Every year, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee holds a meeting to discuss sites that have been proposed as new members of its list. This year’s session wrapped last week in Krakow, Poland. The 41st edition saw 21 new sites being inscribed on the World Heritage List — consisting of three natural places and 18 cultural ones. This brings the number of UNESCO-listed sites to 1,073 — with the largest number found in the European region.
This year also sees the community extending or modifying the boundaries of five existing sites, namely the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe, W-Arly-Pendjari Complex, Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar, Dessau and Bernau, Strasbourg, and significantly reducing the perimeter of the Georgian site of Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery — withdrawing Gelati Monastery from the List of World Heritage in Danger.
From one of the oldest towns on earth to the sacred land of indigenous tribes in Africa and a district of stunning mountains and mirror lakes in England, check out these newest UNESCO heritage sites.
The island of Okinoshima in Japan, located just 60 kilometres off the western coast of Kyushu island, is home to the Okitsu shrine that was built in the 17th century to pray for the safety of sailors. Before setting foot on the island, men must take off their clothes and go through a cleansing ritual. However, women are banned from entering the ancient religious site.
Why you should visit: The archaeological sites have been preserved on the island — and serve as a chronological record of how the rituals performed there have changed from the fourth to ninth centuries CE. Thousands of ancient artefacts, which were brought as gifts from overseas visitors in the past, have also been found on the island.
One of the oldest towns on earth, Yazd is the first inhabited Iranian city to be inscribed on UNESCO’s list. The desert city boasts a collection of public-religious buildings comprising different Islamic architectural elements of different periods — each coexisting harmoniously.
Yazd is the largest and most remarkable port on the Silk Road. It remains one of the few strongholds of the Zoroastrian faith, while also being a centre of Islamic art and learning.
Why you should visit: UNESCO has declared that this settlement is a good example of using limited resources for survival in the desert, boasting historical structure and magnificent brickwork.
Famed for its stunning scenery with panoramic hilltops, mountain tarns and shimmering lakes, the region is UK’s first national park to be inscribed onto the UNESCO Heritage list. The Lake District in north-west England has provided inspiration for some of England’s renowned writers, and offers sites that have historical significance — such as King Arthur’s Round Table and the country’s largest natural lake, Windermere.
Why you should visit: Besides being home to a vibrant farming community, the region is also an evolving landscape that boasts thousands of archaeological sites and structures, giving us a glimpse of England’s past.
One of the three new African destinations on the list, Khomani Cultural Landscape is located at the border with Botswana and Namibia in the northern part of the country. The area is home to the Khomani San people who are known for their unique cultural practices that are a result of the geography of the region.
Why you should visit: The Khomani Cultural Landscape has evidence of human occupation from the Stone Age, proving how it has shaped the site over thousands of years.
Taputapuātea is a large marae complex (Māori meeting grounds) located on Ra’iatea Island at the centre of the Polynesian Triangle in the Pacific Ocean. The complex, known as the last part of the globe to be settled by humans, includes two forested alleys, a portion of lagoon and coral reef, as well as a strip of open ocean.
Why you should visit: Taputapuātea is an exceptional testimony to 1,000 years of mā’ohi civilisation — ancestors of the Polynesian people.
One of the most important archaeological sites in Anatolia Turkey, Aphrodisias boasts well-preserved sculptures, monuments, inscriptions, structures and marble quarries. The site, named after the goddess of love, Aphrodite (or Venus), is located in the upper valley of the Morsynus River in southwestern Turkey.
Aphrodisias is made up of two components: The archaeological site of Aphrodisias, and the marble quarries northeast of the city. The temple of Aphrodite dates from the 3rd century BCE and the city was built one century later. The city’s large civic structures — including temples, a theatre, and two bath complexes — are carefully preserved, so the streets are built around them.
Why you should visit: Although it was discovered in 1958 and has been named as one of the finest archaeological sites in Turkey, Aphrodisias is still partly excavated and undiscovered.