Have you ever heard or seen referenced the term "UNESCO Heritage site," or simply "UNESCO site," when looking at destinations or travel itineraries, wondering what that means? It's actually a very interesting designation given by a special agency within the United Nations.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was originally established after World World II, with a mission to establish peace that, according to their vision, "must be built upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity." They felt that preserving a shared humanity was an important step to preserving peace globally.
In an effort to further that vision, they started the World Heritage List, which identifies sites that have cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significant value to humanity. There is a strict process that countries must follow to get their sites added, including adding items to a Tentative List, then to a Nomination File, which is then evaluated by the World Heritage Committee. They are evaluated against specific criteria before being designated a World Heritage Site. As of April, 2021, there are 1,121 properties on the World Heritage list. Of those properties, 869 are for cultural significance and 213 are for natural significance.
The Cultural Sites are evaluated on six criteria, including being an "outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history, "bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared," and even those that "represent a masterpiece of human creative genius." Such sites include: The Great Wall, in China; Sangiran Early Man site, in Indonesia; Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests, in Kenya; Rock Art of Alta, in Norway; or Taos Pueblo, in the United States.
There are four criteria for the Natural Sites, such as, "contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance," and "be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features." This list includes: the Aldabra Atoll, in Seychelles; Giant's Causeway, in Northern Ireland; Victoria Falls, in Zambia; and Grand Canyon National Park, in the U.S.
Now that you know a bit about the UNESCO sites, you can look out for itineraries that may include some of interest to you, or create one that includes the ones you'd like to visit! We can help you put together a vacation that includes one of these properties, as you travel to globally-recognized (and hopefully, peace-inspiring) destinations.
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