The World Heritage Committee recently added 26 news sites to Unesco's World Heritage List of places of outstanding universal value.
The new additions brings the list of the world's cultural and natural wonders on the preservation list to more than 1,000.
This year's additions are extremely varied, and include many off-the-beaten-track gems, from the stunning Caves of Maresha and Bet-Guvrin in the Judean Lowlands to the Tomioka Silk Mill in Japan. Stevns Klint in Denmark, where there is evidence of the end of the dinosaur age, is also added.
Other beautiful additions include Mount Fuji in Japan, the University of Coimbra in Portugal and India's Hill Forts of Rajasthan.
So how does the list get compiled?
In addition to a site being seen as offering outstanding universal value, an inscribed site needs to meet at least one of 10 criteria. These include "representing a masterpiece of human creative genius"; featuring "exceptional natural beauty"; being an "outstanding example of a human settlement" or "containing superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance".
To find out what magnificent sites made the list for this year, check out the slideshow below. Let us know if you have visited any of them and whether you agree with this year's additions!
World Heritage Sites for 2014
New World Heritage sites to add to your bucket list
Where: Russian Federation
This property lies on the shores of the Volga River, south of its confluence with the River Kama, and south of the capital of Tatarstan, Kazan. It contains evidence of the medieval city of Bolgar, an early settlement of the civilization of Volga-Bolgars, which existed between the 7th and 15th centuries AD, and was the first capital of the Golden Horde in the 13th century. Bolgar represents the historical cultural exchanges and transformations of Eurasia over several centuries that played a pivotal role in the formation of civilizations, customs and cultural traditions. The property provides remarkable evidence of historic continuity and cultural diversity. It is a symbolic reminder of the acceptance of Islam by the Volga-Bolgars in AD 22 and remains a sacred pilgrimage destination to the Tatar Muslims.
This property is a serial nomination of eight component sites in the City of Bursa and the nearby village of Cumalıkızık, in the southern Marmara region. The site illustrates the creation of an urban and rural system establishing the Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century. The property embodies the key functions of the social and economic organization of the new capital which evolved around a civic centre. These include commercial districts of khans, kulliyes (religious institutions) integrating mosques, religious schools, public baths and a kitchen for the poor, as well as the tomb of Orhan Ghazi, founder of the Ottoman dynasty. One component outside the historic centre of Bursa is the village of Cumalıkızık, the only rural village of this system to show the provision of hinterland support for the capital.
These structures are located along the Weser River on the outskirts of Höxter where they were erected between AD 822 and 885 in a largely preserved rural setting. The Westwork is the only standing structure that dates back to the Carolingian era, while the original imperial abbey complex is preserved as archaeological remains that are only partially excavated. The Westwork of Corvey uniquely illustrates one of the most important Carolingian architectural expressions. It is a genuine creation of this period, and its architectural articulation and decoration clearly illustrate the role played within the Frankish empire by imperial monasteries in securing territorial control and administration, as well as the propagation of Christianity and the Carolingian cultural and political order throughout Europe.
The archaeological site contains some 3,500 underground chambers distributed among distinct complexes carved in the thick and homogenous soft chalk of Lower Judea under the former towns of Maresha and Bet Guvrin. Situated on the crossroads of trade routes to Mesopotamia and Egypt, the site bears witness to the region’s tapestry of cultures and their evolution over more than 2,000 years from the 8th century BCE—when Maresha, the older of the two towns was built—to the time of the Crusaders. These quarried caves served as cisterns, oil presses, baths, columbaria (dovecotes), stables, places of religious worship, hideaways and, on the outskirts of the towns, burial areas. Some of the larger chambers feature vaulted arches and supporting pillars.
Located in a limestone plateau of the Ardèche River in southern France, the property contains the earliest-known and best-preserved figurative drawings in the world, dating back as early as the Aurignacian period (30,000–32,000 BP), making it an exceptional testimony of prehistoric art. The cave was closed off by a rock fall approximately 20,000 years BP and remained sealed until its discovery in 1994, which helped to keep it in pristine condition. Over 1,000 images have so far been inventoried on its walls, combining a variety of anthropomorphic and animal motifs. Of exceptional aesthetic quality, they demonstrate a range of techniques including the skilful use of colour, combinations of paint and engraving, anatomical precision, three-dimensionality and movement. They include several dangerous animal species difficult to observe at that time, such as mammoth, bear, wildcat, rhino, bison and auroch, as well as 4,000 inventoried remains of prehistoric fauna and a variety of human footprints.
Erbil Citadel is a fortified settlement on top of an imposing ovoid-shaped tell (a hill created by many generations of people living and rebuilding on the same spot) in the Kurdistan region, Erbil Governorate. A continuous wall of tall 19th-century façades still conveys the visual impression of an impregnable fortress, dominating the city of Erbil. The citadel features a peculiar fan-like pattern dating back to Erbil’s late Ottoman phase. Written and iconographic historical records document the antiquity of settlement on the site – Erbil corresponds to ancient Arbela, an important Assyrian political and religious centre – while archaeological finds and investigations suggest that the mound conceals the levels and remains of previous settlements.
Where: Saudi Arabia
Historic Jeddah is situated on the eastern shore of the Red Sea. From the 7th century AD it was established as a major port for Indian Ocean trade routes, channelling goods to Mecca. It was also the gateway for Muslim pilgrims to Mecca who arrived by sea. These twin roles saw the city develop into a thriving multicultural centre, characterized by a distinctive architectural tradition, including tower houses built in the late 19th century by the city’s mercantile elites, and combining Red Sea coastal coral building traditions with influences and crafts from along the trade routes.
Where: United States of America
Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point owes its name to a 19th-century plantation close to the site, which is in the Lower Mississippi Valley on a slightly elevated and narrow landform. The complex comprises five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges separated by shallow depressions and a central plaza. It was created and used for residential and ceremonial purposes by a society of hunter fisher-gatherers between 3700 and 3100 BP. Research has not yet clarified whether the complex had a steady residential function or was a campground occupied temporarily during ceremonies or trading fairs. It is a remarkable achievement in earthen construction in North America that was unsurpassed for at least 2,000 years.
Where: Republic of Korea
Namhansanseong was designed as an emergency capital for the Joson dynasty (1392–1910), in a mountainous site 25 km south-east of Seoul. Built and defended by Buddhist monk-soldiers, it could accommodate 4,000 people and fulfilled important administrative and military functions. Its earliest remains date from the 7th century, but it was rebuilt several times, notably in the early 17th century in anticipation of an attack from the Sino-Manchu Qing dynasty. The city embodies a synthesis of the defensive military engineering concepts of the period, based on Chinese and Japanese influences, and changes in the art of fortification following the introduction from the West of weapons using gunpowder. A city that has always been inhabited, and which was the provincial capital over a long period, it contains evidence of a variety of military, civil and religious buildings and has become a symbol of Korean sovereignty.
This site is located a few kilometres south-west of Jerusalem, in the Central Highlands between Nablus and Hebron. The Battir hill landscape comprises a series of farmed valleys, known as widian, with characteristic stone terraces, some of which are irrigated for market garden production, while others are dry and planted with grapevines and olive trees. The development of terrace farming in such a mountainous region is supported by a network of irrigation channels fed by underground sources. A traditional system of distribution is then used to share the water collected through this network between families from the nearby village of Battir.
This site rises high above the Bakirçay Plain in Turkey’s Aegean region. The acropolis of Pergamon was the capital of the Hellenistic Attalid dynasty, a major centre of learning in the ancient world. Monumental temples, theatres, stoa or porticoes, gymnasium, altar and library were set into the sloping terrain surrounded by an extensive city wall. The rock-cut Kybele Sanctuary lies to the north-west on another hill visually linked to the acropolis. Later the city became capital of the Roman province of Asia known for its Asclepieion healing centre. The acropolis crowns a landscape containing burial mounds and remains of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires in and around the modern town of Bergama on the lower slopes.
Where: Costa Rica
The property includes four archaeological sites located in the Diquís Delta in southern Costa Rica, which are considered unique examples of the complex social, economic and political systems of the period AD 500–1500. They contain artificial mounds, paved areas, burial sites and, most significantly, a collection of stone spheres, between 0.7 m and 2.57 m in diameter, whose meaning, use and production remain largely a mystery. The spheres are distinctive for their perfection, number, size and density, and placement in original locations. Their preservation from the looting that befell the vast majority of archaeological sites in Costa Rica has been attributed to the thick layers of sediment that kept them buried for centuries.
Pyu Ancient Cities includes the remains of three brick, walled and moated cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra located in vast irrigated landscapes in the dry zone of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River basin. They reflect the Pyu Kingdoms that flourished for over 1,000 years between 200 BC and AD 900. The three cities are partly excavated archaeological sites. Remains include excavated palace citadels, burial grounds and manufacture sites, as well as monumental brick Buddhist stupas, partly standing walls and water management features – some still in use – that underpinned the organized intensive agriculture.
Where: Argentina, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
This site is an extensive Inca communication, trade and defence network of roads covering 30,000 km. Constructed by the Incas over several centuries and partly based on pre-Inca infrastructure, this extraordinary network through one of the world’s most extreme geographical terrains linked the snow-capped peaks of the Andes – at an altitude of more than 6,000 m – to the coast, running through hot rainforests, fertile valleys and absolute deserts. It reached its maximum expansion in the 15th century, when it spread across the length and breadth of the Andes. The Qhapac Ñan, Andean Road System includes 273 component sites spread over more than 6,000 km that were selected to highlight the social, political, architectural and engineering achievements of the network, along with its associated infrastructure for trade, accommodation and storage, as well as sites of religious significance.
Rani-ki-Vav, on the banks of the Saraswati River, was initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century AD. Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resource and storage systems on the Indian subcontinent, and have been constructed since the 3rd millennium BC. They evolved over time from what was basically a pit in sandy soil towards elaborate multi-storey works of art and architecture. Rani-ki-Vav was built at the height of craftsmens’ ability in stepwell construction and the Maru-Gurjara architectural style, reflecting mastery of this complex technique and great beauty of detail and proportions. Designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, it is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural panels of high artistic quality; more than 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones combine religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works. The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank 9.5 m by 9.4 m, at a depth of 23 m. The well is located at the westernmost end of the property and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep.
Shahr-i Sokhta, meaning ‘Burnt City’, is located at the junction of Bronze Age trade routes crossing the Iranian plateau. The remains of the mudbrick city represent the emergence of the first complex societies in eastern Iran. Founded around 3200 BC, it was populated during four main periods up to 1800 BC, during which time there developed several distinct areas within the city: those where monuments were built, and separate quarters for housing, burial and manufacture. Diversions in water courses and climate change led to the eventual abandonment of the city in the early second millennium. The structures, burial grounds and large number of significant artefacts unearthed there, and their well-preserved state due to the dry desert climate, make this site a rich source of information regarding the emergence of complex societies and contacts between them in the third millennium BC.
Where: China , Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan
This property is a 5,000 km section of the extensive Silk Roads network, stretching from Chang’an/Luoyang, the central capital of China in the Han and Tang dynasties, to the Zhetysu region of Central Asia. It took shape between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD and remained in use until the 16th century, linking multiple civilizations and facilitating far-reaching exchanges of activities in trade, religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, technological innovation, cultural practices and the arts. The thirty-three components included in the routes network include capital cities and palace complexes of various empires and Khan kingdoms, trading settlements, Buddhist cave temples, ancient paths, posthouses, passes, beacon towers, sections of The Great Wall, fortifications, tombs and religious buildings.
The Grand Canal is a vast waterway system in the north-eastern and central-eastern plains of China, running from Beijing in the north to Zhejiang province in the south. Constructed in sections from the 5th century BC onwards, it was conceived as a unified means of communication for the Empire for the first time in the 7th century AD (Sui dynasty). This led to a series of gigantic construction sites, creating the world’s largest and most extensive civil engineering project prior to the Industrial Revolution. It formed the backbone of the Empire’s inland communication system, transporting grain and strategic raw materials, and supplying rice to feed the population. By the 13th century it consisted of more than 2,000 km of artificial waterways, linking five of China’s main river basins. It has played an important role in ensuring the country’s economic prosperity and stability and is still in use today as a major means of communication.
This property is a historic sericulture and silk mill complex established in 1872 in the Gunma prefecture north-west of Tokyo. Built by the Japanese Government with machinery imported from France, it consists of four sites that attest to the different stages in the production of raw silk: production of cocoons in an experimental farm; a cold-storage facility for silkworm eggs; reeling of cocoons and spinning of raw silk in a mill; and a school for the dissemination of sericulture knowledge. It illustrates Japan’s desire to rapidly adopt the best mass production techniques, and became a decisive element in the renewal of sericulture and the Japanese silk industry in the last quarter of the 19th century. It marked Japan’s entry into the modern, industrialized era, and propelled it to become the world’s leading exporter of raw silk, notably to France and Italy.
Van Nellefabriek was designed and built in the 1920s on the banks of a canal in the Spaanse Polder industrial zone north-west of Rotterdam. The site is one of the icons of 20th-century industrial architecture, comprising a complex of factories, with façades consisting essentially of steel and glass, making large-scale use of the curtain wall principle. It was conceived as an ‘ideal factory’, open to the outside world, whose interior working spaces evolved according to need, and in which daylight was used to provide pleasant working conditions. It embodies the new kind of factory that became a symbol of the modernist and functionalist culture of the inter-war period and bears witness to the long commercial and industrial history of the Netherlands in the field of importation and processing of food products from tropical countries, and their industrial processing for marketing in Europe.
This landscape covers five distinct wine-growing areas with outstanding landscapes and the Castle of Cavour, an emblematic name both in the development of vineyards and in Italian history. It is located in the southern part of Piedmont, between the Po River and the Ligurian Apennines, and encompasses the whole range of technical and economic processes relating to the winegrowing and winemaking that has characterized the region for centuries. Vine pollen has been found in the area dating from the 5th century BC, when Piedmont was a place of contact and trade between the Etruscans and the Celts; Etruscan and Celtic words, particularly wine-related ones, are still found in the local dialect. During the Roman Empire, Pliny the Elder mentions the Piedmont region as being one of the most favourable for growing vines in ancient Italy; Strabo mentions its barrels.
This National Park in the western part of the Himalayan Mountains in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is characterized by high alpine peaks, alpine meadows and riverine forests. The 90,540 ha property includes the upper mountain glacial and snow meltwater sources of several rivers, and the catchments of water supplies that are vital to millions of downstream users. The GHNPCA protects the monsoon-affected forests and alpine meadows of the Himalayan front ranges. It is part of the Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and includes twenty-five forest types along with a rich assemblage of fauna species, several of which are threatened. This gives the site outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation.
Forming a mountain ridge running north-south along the Pujada Peninsula in the south-eastern part of the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor, the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary has an elevation range of 75–1,637 m above sea level and provides critical habitat for a range of plant and animal species. The property showcases terrestrial and aquatic habitats at different elevations, and includes threatened and endemic flora and fauna species, eight of which are found only at Mount Hamiguitan. These include critically endangered trees, plants and the iconic Philippine eagle and Philippine cockatoo.
This delta in north-west Botswana comprises permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains. It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact. One of the unique characteristics of the site is that the annual flooding from the River Okavango occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronized their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods. It is an exceptional example of the interaction between climatic, hydrological and biological processes. The Okavango Delta is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion.
This geological site comprises a 15 km-long fossil-rich coastal cliff, offering exceptional evidence of the impact of the Chicxulub meteorite that crashed into the planet at the end of the Cretaceous, about 65 million years ago. Researchers think that this caused the most remarkable mass extinction ever, responsible for the disappearance of over 50 per cent of all life on Earth. The site harbours a record of the cloud of ash formed by the impact of the meteorite – the exact site being at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. An exceptional fossil record is visible at the site, showing the complete succession of fauna and micro-fauna charting the recovery after the mass extinction.
Situated on the southern shore of the Red River Delta, Trang An is a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, some of which are submerged, and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. Exploration of some of the highest altitude caves dotted across the landscape has revealed archaeological traces of human activity dating back almost 30,000 years. They illustrate the occupation of these mountains by hunter-gatherers and how they adapted to climatic and environmental changes. The property also includes Hoa Lu, the old capital of Viet Nam in the 10th and 11th centuries AD, as well as temples, pagodas, paddy-field landscapes, with villages and sacred sites.
New World Heritage sites to add to your bucket list
Victoria Falls are located on the Zambezi River on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The falls plummet 108 metres, creating a mist that is visible from 20km away.
The Dallol volcano in north-east Ethiopia forms part of the Great Rift Valley. It is the world's largest rift system and stretches 6,000km from the Red Sea to Lake Malawi. The valley is up to 75km wide in places and it is cradled by cliffs.
The incredible honeycomb rock formations of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland look like they were carved out by a stonemason. People once believed the rocky peninsula was the handiwork of an angry giant.
This marble-clad mausoleum is considered the most beautiful building in the world.
The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures including more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots and 670 horses. The life-size clay army was buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Their purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.
This magnificent 6,500km wall weaves across mountaintops and plunges deep into canyons. The Great Wall is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tampered earth, wood and other materials.
The Ngorongoro crater, at 610 metres deep and covering 260 sq km, is the largest unflooded caldera in the world. It is a haven for endangered wildlife and maasai livestock.
Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world and been constantly erupting for over three decades, creating the fastest-growing piece of land on the planet.
The Hagia Sophia in Turkey was once a cathedral and a mosque and is now a museum in Istanbul. The building was transformed into a museum in 1935.
Potala Palace in Tibet is the spiritual home of the Dalai Lama. The architectural wonder is 13 storeys high and at 3,700m above sea level, it is the world's highest palace.