As we eagerly anticipate which destinations will be on the next World Heritage List, we look back at what added most recently to the UNESCO properties list.
Gaining UNESCO status can be highly beneficial in preserving site, promoting conservation and preventing destruction. It also raises the profile of a property to international level which in turn brings tourists and directs revenue back into the preservation.
A total of 26 properties have been added with 20 marked as cultural, 5 natural and 1 mixed site.
Cultural UNESCO Properties
Lenggong Valley, Malaysia
Located in the lush Lenggong Valley in Peninsular Malaysia’s Ulu Perak, the new UNESCO listing encompasses four key archaeological sites which date back 2 million years. This is one of the earliest ever records of man’s existence and the oldest outside of Africa. . There are ancient caves with tool workshops dating back to the Palaeolithic period. There are also remains of the Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Metal age cultures.
Bassari Country, Senegal
The south eastern region of Bassari is recognised for settlements of the Bassari, Fula and Bedik cultures, which date as far back as the 11th century. The area was comprised of thatched huts and rice paddies and remains a well-preserved example of traditional local cultures and multicultural landscapes.
Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem, Palestine
The birthplace of Jesus, the holy Church of the Nativity and also the sacred Pilgrimage Route within Bethlehem have been included on the World Heritage list. The site also includes floor mosaics from 339 AD, Latin, Franciscan and Armenian churches.
The Elvas Garrison Border Town, along with its 17th century fortifications have been included on the list. The site in Alentejo includes military barracks and churches with parts dating back to the 10th century. The many fortifications were established in 1640 when Portugal declared independence.
Gonbad-e Qābus, Iran
The Gonbad-e Qābus tomb stands at 53m and was built in the year 1006 for the former ruler. Located in north east Iran, close to the ancient city of Jorjan, the site features a culturally important tower that remains the only evidence of Jorjan itself.
Grand Pré, Canada
The Grand Pre landscapes are located in the Minas Basin in Canada’s Nova Scotia. The landscapes are comprised of marshland dotted with important archaeological sites. The site bears evidence of Acadian settlements in the 17th century and their use of pioneering agricultural systems.
The masterpiece that is the Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth in Germany’s northern Bavaria region is also included on the UNESCO list. The Baroque theatre was built in 1745 and is a fine architectural example and remains the only completely preserved baroque court opera structure in existence.
Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan, Iran
The Friday Mosque is situated in Isfahan, a historically important town in Iran. This is a fine example of mosque architecture development, stemming from the year 841 AD. The Masjed-e Jāmé mosque went on to inspire many mosques built throughout Central Asia.
The Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey is important as it charts the transition from village life to major urban living. The site features two major hills of which one contains 18 levels with rich Neolithic remains including sculptures, wall paintings and reliefs.
Here lies the rich heritage of the mining basin within Nord-Pas de Calais, where coal was extracted for over 300 years. The sprawling French site shows how the landscape has changed with examples of mining pits, miner’s housing estates and their recreational pursuits.
Both the modern and historic heritage of Rabat is UNESCO recognised. The old city dates back to the 12th century and includes the Hassan Mosque and the Almohad fort. The newer part of Rabat has been hailed as the most ambitious urban project in Africa.
The mystical site of Xanadu lies to the north of China’s Great Wall. Here lie the remains of the legendary city forged by Kublai Khan in 1256. Xanadu attempted to integrate both the Mongolian nomadic and Han Chinese cultures and today remains of palaces, tombs and camps can be seen.
Mount Carmel, Israel
This is designated as an important site as it charts human evolution with several notable caves. Archaeological efforts of the last 90 years have revealed human life dating back at least half a million years.
Natural UNESCO Properties
The ancient fossil site at Chengjiang in China’s Yunnan province is thought to be the most complete site of early Cambrian marine settlement. The site provides invaluable information about ancient marine ecosystems dating back 530 million years.
The Lakes of Ounianga in the central African country of Chad have been included on the World Heritage List thanks to 18 pristine connected lakes. Lying in the Sahara Desert region, the area is notable for its natural landscapes of diverse colours and marine life.
Lena Pillars, Russian Federation
The amazing rock pillars within the Lena Pillars Nature Park in Russia rise to a height of 100m over the Lena River. The pillars were forged from the extreme climate which varied by 100 degrees C, from -60C in winter to a summer temperature of +40C.
Mixed UNESCO Properties
Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, Palau
The site of Rock Islands spans 100,200 hectares and contains a series of uninhabited islands forged from limestone. The 445 islands stem from volcanoes and are a unique mushroom shape. The area is rich in coral reefs, plantlife and marine life, including 13 species of shark.
Cultural UNESCO Properties
The cultural landscape of Bali is a new inclusion on the UNESCO list thanks to ancient rice terraces and water temples. The temples are an intricate system and provided water to the fields as far back as the 9th century.
Seven of the traditional decorated timber farm houses are included on the new list. They highlight the very peak of elaborate timber house construction, which has roots in the Middle Ages.
Mercury Mines in Slovenia and Spain
The combined mercury mines sites at Almadén in Spain and Idrija in Slovenia have also been included. The site at Idrija first discovered mercury on the site in 1490 AD. These are the two biggest mercury mines that until only recently, still operated.
Grand-Bassam, Côte d'Ivoire
The historic town of Grand-Bassam in the Ivory Coast was the countries first capital and is a fine example of a colonial settlement. Dating back to the late 19th century, the town tells of the relationship between the European and Africans.
The extensive mining sites of Wallonia in Belgium are now UNESCO recognised. There are 4 key areas here which cover much of Belgium. There is a rich heritage of early European-industrial architecture, workers city and the oldest colliery within Europe.
The ancient tradition of pearling relates to the harvesting of pearls. This listing includes 17 structures in Muharraq City and sections of sealife and includes oyster beds that lie offshore. The merchant’s houses, shops and mosque that the pearl traders used are also notable. This is the last remaining complete pearl harvesting site which dominated the market from the 2nd century, until cultured pearls were developed in the 1930s.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Carioca Landscapes of Rio de Janeiro now find themselves UNESCO listed, specifically the region that lies between the sea and Tijuca National Park’s mountains. The urban development is praised for the artistic and cultural influences. Also included are the Botanical Gardens, Corcovado Mountain, statue of Christ the Redeemer, Guanabara Bay hills and the Copacabana Bay landscape.
Natural UNESCO Properties
Sangha Trinational, Africa
The central African countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic and the Congo are recognised for the meeting point of Sangha. Here are three national parks covering 750,000 untouched hectares of tropical forest which supports rich animal life including the Nile crocodile and the predatory goliath tigerfish.
Western Ghats, India
The Western Ghats mountain range in India (pictured at the very top) is known to be older than the Himalayas. The complex forest ecosystem controls the monsoon system over India. This is also one of the eight sites in the world that is recognised as the ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.