Global treasures: New UNESCO World Heritage Sites for 2013

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Golestan Palace in Iran is just one of the beautiful sites that have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list (Photo: Parmida Rahimi)

Golestan Palace in Iran is just one of the beautiful sites that have been added to the UNESCO list (Photo: Parmida Rahimi)

Every year the United Nations World Heritage Committee adds sites to the World Heritage List.  The sites that are selected are natural and cultural areas of “outstanding universal value” and make some of the best tourist attractions in the world.  In June this year the World Heritage Committee met in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and added 5 natural sites and 14 cultural sites to the ever-increasing list. Here are my 6 favourite sites of these 19 newly inscribed global treasures:

Namib Sand Sea

Namibia

The Namib Sand Sea in Namibia is an ecological treasure (Photo: Ángel Hernansáez)

The Namib Sand Sea in Namibia is an ecological treasure (Photo: Ángel Hernansáez)

The Namib Sand Sea is part of the Namib Desert which is located along the south western coast of Africa, stretching from South Africa to Angola. The Namib Sand Sea is a coastal desert which is situated in Namibia between the town of Luderitz in the south and Sandwich Harbour in the north. It covers over three million hectares and is the first natural site in ten years to meet all four criteria used when selecting a natural World Heritage site. The dunes are formed by sand carried by the ocean currents and winds, although sand dunes are not the only feature of the Namib Sand Sea. There are also gravel plains, rocky hills, and a coastal lagoon which create a beautiful and unique environment for the invertebrates, reptiles and desert flora that inhabit the area. It’s an ecological treasure and a must-see if you’re visiting Namibia.

Fujisan

Japan

Picturesque Mount Fuji has made it onto the World Heritage list (Photo: Flickr)

Picturesque Mount Fuji has made it onto the World Heritage list (Photo:Flickr)

Fujisan is recognized by the World Heritage Committee as a “sacred place and source of artistic inspiration”. The beautifully symmetrical Mount Fuji rises above the villages and lakes of Honshu Island in Japan, and is an iconic symbol of the country. During the 12th century Fujisan became an important Buddhist training centre and pilgrimage destination. The new World Heritage site is comprised of 25 locations, including Mount Fuji itself, lakes, hot springs, natural volcanic features and Shinto shrines including Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha. The 25 sites of the inscribed property reflect the sacred landscape of the area. It’s no wonder it’s one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations.

The Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces

China

The Honghe Hani Rice Terraces of Yunnan, China (Photo: Hoang Giang Hai)

The Honghe Hani Rice Terraces of Yunnan, China (Photo: Hoang Giang Hai)

Located in Southern Yunnan, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces and the elaborate system of channels that carry water to the terraces are a testament to the ingenuity of the Hani people. The immense terraces cover 16,603-hectares and are situated on the slopes of the Ailao Mountains and are not only important economically, but are also an important religious and cultural aspect of the Hani community. The unique landscape reflects the Hani people’s extraordinary interaction with the environment that is reinforced by their socioeconomic-religious systems, which is why this fascinating place earned its place on the World Heritage list. Every year tourists and photographers come to the scenic areas of Yunnan, to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the rice terraces and to get a glimpse into the peaceful lives of the Hani people who live in the villages nestled between the mountaintop forests and the rice terraces.

Golestan Palace

Iran

The walls of Golestan Palace are adorned with colourful mosaics (Photo: fulvio)

The walls of Golestan Palace are adorned with colourful mosaics (Photo: fulvio)

If you love exploring the lavish interiors of palaces around the world, then you may want to visit the historic Golestan Palace in Iran. The palace is an architectural masterpiece of the Qajar era, and is a perfect example of how Persian craftsmanship can blend seamlessly with Western influences. The walled palace includes museums and halls and is built around a beautiful garden of pools and planted areas. The palace complex that you see today is a result of around 400 years of construction and renovations. The intricate mosaic patterns that adorn the walls of the interior and exterior of Golestan are exceptional. It’s one of the oldest historic monument in the capital city Tehran, and is a source of inspiration for Iranian architects and craftsmen.

Hill Forts of Rajasthan

India

Jaisalmer Fort in the Indian state of Rajasthan (Photo: Koshy Koshy)

Jaisalmer Fort in the Indian state of Rajasthan (Photo: Koshy Koshy)

History buffs will be thrilled with the decision to include the Hill Forts of Rajasthan in the list of World Heritage Sites. Rajasthan’s six magnificent forts in Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jhalawar, Jaipur and Jaisalmer are symbol of the power of medieval Hindu Rajput rulers. The architecture is typical of Rajput military hill architecture, which makes use of the defensive properties of the terrain. Along with palaces, within the defensive walls of the forts you’ll find temples, memorials, trading centres and water reservoirs, and sometimes complete villages with architecture dating back to the 7th century.  The Hill Forts of Rajasthan are the perfect place to learn about the history of the state and how it was affected by the topography of the region.

Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region

Poland and Ukraine

St Paraskeva Greek Catholic church in Kwiatoń, Poland (Photo: Daniel Duce)

St Paraskeva Greek Catholic church in Kwiatoń, Poland (Photo: Daniel Duce)

In the eastern part of Poland and in Ukraine, you’ll find 16 tserkvas. These fascinating Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches were constructed between the 16th and 19th centuries and are made from horizontal wooden logs.  The influence of the ethnographic groups of the Carpathian region can be seen in decorative and architectural characteristics of the tserkvas.  Along with domes and cupolas, the churches feature wooden bell towers, iconostasis screens, gatehouses and graveyards. The buildings are an outstanding example of how Orthodox ecclesiastic design has been intermingled with the cultural traditions of the local communities.

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KerrynGlobal treasures: New UNESCO World Heritage Sites for 2013

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