UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) maintains the World Heritage List—the places that are “meaningful to mankind” and have significant history. UNESCO sites can be natural or manmade. You probably know some of the most famous ones: Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, the Galapagos Islands, and Yellowstone National Park. Here’s a list of 100 popular sites.
How are UNESCO World Heritage Sites determined?
To be selected, a site has to have “outstanding universal value,” which sounds vague, I know. But the UNESCO folks have defined it nicely: “Outstanding universal value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance to the international community as a whole.”
What kind of places qualify?
Here’s the complete list, from the UNESCO website:
- Monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding value from the point of view of history, art or science;
- Groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding value from the point of view of history, art or science;
- Sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and of man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological points of view.
- Natural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding significance from the aesthetic or scientific point of view;
- Geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding significance from the point of view of science or conservation;
- Natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding significance from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty.
- Traditional cultures around the world
What does UNESCO mean for travel and tourism?
- Many people who travel include World Heritage Sites in their itinerary. The sites are important, historical, and often beautiful, definitely worth a visit. Each country that joins the World Heritage Convention is committed to protecting its cultural and natural treasures.
- UNESCO wants to make travel serve as a way to build understanding between countries and culture.”Travel helps opens the doors to intercultural exchange and dialogue. With over 1.2 billion people now crossing international borders each year, tourism represents a golden opportunity to break down the barriers of ignorance and prejudices.”
- The United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 The Year of Sustainable Tourism. United Nations General Assembly noted “the importance of international tourism in fostering better understanding among peoples everywhere, in leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world.”
Interested in learning more about UNESCO sites? A new edition will be released on 25 September 2017. Order the book here.
Want to visit some of the U.S. UNESCO sites? Click here!
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