In 2021, UNESCO released a list of over 30 new world heritage sites. They're peppered all around the globe and prove there's no shortage of natural and man-made spectacles on planet earth. There are astounding historical and cultural sites to appreciate as well as defiant ecosystems.
Whether you're a seasoned couch traveler or you're curating your ultimate bucket list, here's a primer on the latest additions to this prestigious club.
Sítio Roberto Burle Marx is the first modern tropical garden to be designated a UNESCO world heritage site. The grounds are a magnificent marriage of art and science in the western part of Rio de Janeiro. Over four decades, the landscape architect Burle Marx fashioned a unique urban oasis that influenced modern gardens all over the world.
The well-thought-out use of color, plant types, structure, and traditional folk elements comprise a floral arrangement on a grand scale.
Around the 14th century, Mali was an empire built on gold and salt. As the Islamic faith began to spread in the region, a melded architectural style developed in Djenné and made its way from the Sahara to the Sudanese savannah. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the mosques adapted to the demands of new terrain and became something distinctly Sudanese.
Just over a hundred years ago, hundreds of these small adobe mosques dotted along a route long traversed by merchants and scholars alike. Today, about 20 live on and eight feature on UNESCO's list.
Japan's subtropical Southern Islands of Amami Oshima, Iriomote, and Tokunoshima are rich in biodiversity, and the unique animals that call them home are largely endemic to this nook of the world.
Eleven species of animals on the island have been categorized as Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE). Some of the islands also have their own native species.
Ivindo National Park encompasses 300,000 hectares of relatively unspoiled nature. It is a gem in West Africa that deserves protection.
Ivindo's riverine habitat and its untouched rainforest create an ecological hotspot rich in plant and animal species. There are gorillas, leopards, pangolins, and various types of butterflies in this extraordinary jungle. The park's Koungou Falls made an appearance in the 2016 movie Tarzan.
Nice is a pure pleasure, and it has been that way for quite some time. Midway through the 1700s, the town began to draw members of British high society.
Within the next century, the city made a concerted effort to attract those fleeing harsh winters on the other parts of the continent. Infrastructure didn't just improve but began to reflect some of the immigrant cultures.
Eleven 19th-century spa towns of Europe have been given a collective nod of approval from UNESCO, including the aptly named UK city of Bath. These rather pretty towns sprung up around natural mineral springs and became the focal points of burgeoning recreational resort culture.
They are a mainstay in literature such as the works of Jane Austen and illustrate interest and developments in balneology at the time.
The port city of Quanzhou, with its Buddhist pagodas, Taoist statues, and illustrious past, is a worthy new recipient of World Heritage Site status. This coastal town played a significant part in regional commerce as early as the 6th century CE.
Between the 10th and 14th centuries, Quanzhou became a major international hub on the Maritime Silk Road. It was known not just for its trade but also for shipbuilding and maritime technology.
Dynasties came and went while the city remained significant. The influence of Arab traders is visible in the 11th century Qingjing Mosque and Muslim tombs.
On the north-central Peru coast, smack bang in the middle of a desert, there's an extraordinary testament to human creativity and intelligence. The Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex combined man-made elements with nature to accurately tell the year's dates, give or take a day or two.
This 250 BCE construction had a ceremonial area at its center that likely facilitated sun worship.
For at least five millennia, the Kurdish Hawrami people have hustled to keep hearth and home. In a steep valley amidst the Zagros mountains, this semi-nomadic society has clung to the cliff-face with aplomb.
The Hawrami people migrate seasonally, and they have survived in what many others would consider an unaccommodating environment devoid of productive land. It's a truly exceptional heritage.
The Arica and Parinacota regions of Chile paint a vivid picture of the Chinchorro marine hunter-gatherer culture. On the coastline of the Atacama desert, the Chinchorro were resilient fixtures between 5450 BCE to 890 BCE. That's a staggering timespan.
Even more astonishing are the mummified bodies created by nature and the artificial mummies produced by these ancient people. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains the oldest known archaeological evidence of such a practice.
Seven thousand years ago, the Chinchorro routinely dismembered their dead kin before putting them back together and laying clay masks on them. They did this with remarkable commitment and finesse enough to land a coveted spot.