From awe-inspiring natural wonders to unmatched feats of human engineering, UNESCO’s World Heritage List is your guidebook for the trip of a lifetime.
UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Founded in 1945, it is the arm of the United Nations dedicated to fostering peaceful communication between nations and preserving cherished heritage sites around the world. The agency promotes growth in five core areas: education, culture, natural sciences, social and human sciences, and communication and information.
In 1972, UNESCO inaugurated the World Heritage List, a prestigious index of places around the world with resounding universal value. The World Heritage sites are bastions of natural beauty, cultural significance, or a combination of both, and they epitomize the values, history, and triumphs of their home countries. With over 1000 sites and counting, the World Heritage List is the ultimate traveler’s guide—a bucket list of destinations worth seeing.
In addition to the landmarks on every world traveler’s radar, like the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu, the World Heritage Committee surfaces sites you’ve likely never heard of. From the wooden churches on Chile’s Chiloé Island to the Jodrell Bank Observatory in northwestern England, the list will broaden your travel horizons beyond the usual tourist destinations.
The World Heritage List unearths some of man’s earliest creations: rock engravings in the Great Plains dating to the Contact Period; the oldest salt mine in Europe; Buddhist cave art from the 5th and 6th centuries. It’s one thing to know that we’ve been around for a long time—it’s another thing altogether to see proof of it.
Preserving the cultural and natural integrity of threatened sites is one of UNESCO’s core objectives. The World Heritage List has a special designation for properties at risk of destruction—whether by natural disasters, armed conflict, or any other forces—and reserves funds to support and protect these sites. The ongoing conservation efforts ensure that cherished cultural landmarks will thrive for generations to come.
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To make the World Heritage List, a site must pass several stages of rigorous evaluation and meet at least one of 10 selection criteria. In short, every location is unequivocally superb. From archaeological ruins and sacred monasteries to animal sanctuaries and volcanic parks, there are marvels of all kinds for travelers of all interests.
The World Heritage Committee works with a range of stakeholders to preserve the integrity of cherished landmarks and foster sustainable tourism.
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