The Newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites, In Photos

A look at the newly added cultural and natural heritage sites – from Italy to India.

Every year, UNESCO meets to determine the next round of places that will be added to the organization’s coveted list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. To qualify, a place or structure must have great cultural, historical, and / or natural significance – say, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or Machu Picchu in Peru. The most recent list includes nominations from 2020 and 2021 (the committee didn’t meet last year due to COVID-19), narrowed down to a whopping 34 new spots, including islands in Japan, frescoes in Italy, and ancient cities from Jordan to China. Below, you’ll find 14 of the places we were most excited about from the list. Each is as beautiful and diverse as the next, so get your passports ready.

Frescoes Of Padua, Italy

Italy is filled with beautiful artwork, but UNESCO decided to specifically honor the 14th – century frescoes in the historic city of Padua. The listing is composed of eight religious and secular building complexes, with fresco cycles (a series of frescoes about a particular subject) painted between 1303 and 1397. The collection of cycles represent how fresco art developed as a creative expression during the 14th century.

Ivindo National Park, Gabon

Situated on the equator in northern Gabon, the 740,000 – acre Invindo National Park is now Gabon’s second UNESCO World Heritage Site. (The other is Lope Park, inscribed in 2007). The national park features waterfalls and rapids, rainforests and rivers, and a huge population of diverse animals: think crocodiles, elephants, leopards, and gorillas.

Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex, Peru

Built more than 2,300 years ago, the Chankilloa Archaeostronomical Complex of northern Peru is the earliest known astronomical observatory in the Americas. The site includes thirteen towers made from cut stone, flanked by two observation points which were used to track the sun’s movement throughout the year. The construction and placement of the structures are so precise, inhabitants were able to determine the date with an error margin of 1 to 2 days.

Church Of Atlantida, Uruguay

Located about 30 miles east of Montevideo, the Church of Atlantida was designed by Uruguayan engineer Eladio Diesto in 1960. The church complex is a marvel of brick architecture, from the undulating outer walls to the inner spiral staircase. UNESCO notes that the church provides a remarkable example of modern architecture in Latin America during the second part of the 20th century.

Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, Thailand

The Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex is a massive forest area on the Thailand – Myanmar border. Aside from containing a wide array of tropical vegetation, the site is home to endangered animal species like the Siamese Crocodile, Asian Elephant, Asian Giant Tortoise, and Asiatic Wild Dog. You can also fight eight wild cat species here, including several species of leopards and tigers.

Nice, France

Probably the most recognizable addition this year is the French Mediterranean city of Nice, which UNESCO has dubbed the ‘Winter Resort Town of the Riviera‘. The city become a popular vacation spot for English and Russian aristocrats at the beginning of the 19th century, offering delightfully warm weather during the winter months. The UNESCO inscription means that urban development will be strictly controlled along the Promenade des Anglais on the old town of Nice, ensuring the city’s heritage will stay well preserved.

Southern Island, Japan

Encompassing 165 square miles in southwestern Japan, Amami – Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, the northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island are among the newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The parts of the islands include in the listing are entirely uninhabited by humans, which means its biodiversity value is off the charts. Its collection of endangered mammals, reptiles, and birds – and endemic plants, of course – will certainly benefit from this added layer of global protection.

As – Salr, Jordan

Thought to be inhabited since the Iron Age, the city of As-Salt was a major trading hub on the East Bank of the Jordan River. The town particularly thrived during the end of the Ottoman period, when craftsmen and farmers from neighboring countries moved here and transformed the rural settlement into a robust town. The site’s urban core includes around 650 significant historic buildings, and farmers still use its fertile soil to harvest grapes and olives to this day.

Ramappa Temple, India

Rudreshwara (more commonly known as Ramappa Temple) is located in the village of Palampet anout 124 miles northeast of Hyderabad. Built in the 13th century, the temple ruins feature decorative pillars, carved ceilings, and sculptures of dancers and musicians. But its main claim to fame are the ‘floating bricks’ that make up the roof structure. Composed of clay and wood, these bricks have a density lower than water, which puts less strain on the temple and reduces the chance of collapse.

The Great Spa Towns Of Europe

This listing is comprised of 11 towns, located in seven European countries: Baden bei Wien(Austria); Spa (Belgium), Frantiskovy Lazne (Chech Republic); Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic); Marianske Lazne (Czech Republic), Vichy (France); Bad Ems (Germany), Baden – Baden (Germany); Bad Kissinger (Germany), Montrcatini Terme (Italy); and the City of Bath (United Kingdom). All of these cities developed around natural mineral water springs and are indicative of the European spa culture that developed from the early 18th century to the 1930s.

Quanzhou, China

Encompassing 22 historical sites and monuments, Quanzhou was one of the most important Chinese ports along the Maritime Silk Roads from the 10th to 14th centuries AD. Merchants and explores (including Marco Polo) flocked here from all over the world, and evidence of the coexistence among religious and cultures can be seen throughout the city. Notable landmarks include Islamic tombs, Taoist statues, and Buddhist temples.

Cordouan Lighthouse, France

The Lighthouse of Cordouan is hard to miss. Jutting out of the GirondeI estuary in southwest France, the white limestone structure (complete with gargoyles) was built at the end of the 16th century – and it’s amazingly still active today. Organized both trips are available from the commune of Royan, allowing visitors to see the architectural details up close. When there’s low tide, you can even walk up to the lighthouse via a sandbar.

The Works Of Joze Plecnik In Ljubljana, Slovenia

It’s hard to turn a corner in Ljubljana without running into a structure designed by architect Joze Plecnik. (His influence is similar to that of Gaudi’s in Barcelona). In the years between World War I and World War II, Plecnik contribute to the new, proudly Slovenian identity of the city with a series of new public spaces, buildings, and green areas. Notable examples of his work include the Triple Bridge, Zale Cemetery, National and University Library, and covered market buildings along the Ljubljanica River.

Sitio Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil

Located in the western Rio de Janeiro, Sitio Roberto Burle Marx is a botanical garden that boasts more than 3,500 species of plants. Developed over the courses of 40 years by landscape architect and artist Roberto Burle Marx, the site is the first modern tropical garden to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.