Most Amazing New UNESCO World Heritage Sites
UNESCO recently released its list of 2019 World Heritage Site additions, and as always, it encompasses a captivating array of cultural and natural wonders across the globe.
The new sites vary in obscurity, from the famous architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright to the little-known Neo-Confucian academies in the Republic of Korea. But all hold universal value and undeniable appeal for travelers.
Every site that is inscribed into the World Heritage list must meet one of 10 selection criteria, including qualifiers such as representing a masterpiece of human creative genius or bearing testimony to a civilization that has disappeared.
The committee gathered in Baku, Azerbaijan to evaluate these wonders; by inscribing 29 new sites, it raised the total number of UNESCO properties to 1,121. Renowned places like Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands were inscribed years ago, but as the organization grows, it’s successfully searched for more enigmatic yet equally important properties to certify.
Here are 20 of the most amazing new sites inscribed by UNESCO. Which ones will you be adding to your bucket list?
20. Budj Bim Cultural Landscape
Where: Victoria, Australia
Why UNESCO loves it: This area of wetlands and volcanic rock features an extensive and unique aquaculture system. Developed by the Gunditjmara Aboriginal people 6,000 years ago, the complex system of channels, dams and weirs were once used to trap short-finned eel. Today, they just look really cool.
Must-see: The site includes the remains of 300 stone huts — the country's only remaining permanent homes constructed by an indigenous community.
19. Hyrcanian Forests
Where: Southern coast of the Caspian Sea, Iran
Why UNESCO loves it: This ancient forest dates back 25 to 50 million years, when it covered most of the Northern Temperate region. UNESCO praises the forest’s biodiversity, which encompasses 4 percent of the vascular plants known in Iran and 58 mammal species, including the Persian Leopard. (UNESCO rightly calls this magnificent creature “iconic.”)
Must-see: That biodiversity also involves 180 species of birds; bring your binoculars to look for the massive peregrine falcon and small squacco heron.
Where: Between the Serra da Bocaina mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil
Why UNESCO loves it: The only mixed property on the 2019 list — meaning that it is inscribed for both its cultural and natural value — Paraty is a charming coastal town that played a major role in the Brazilian gold rush (Caminho do Ouro) of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The UNESCO inscription goes beyond the town to also include the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s five key biodiversity hotspots. A number of threatened species live here, including the white-lipped peccary and the jaguar.
Must-see: Paraty has retained much from its history, including cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. The Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, fronted by the sea and backed by the mountains, is particularly stunning.
17. Landscape for Breeding and Training of Ceremonial Carriage Horses
Where: Kladruby nad Labem, a village in the Czech Republic
Why UNESCO loves it: This bucolic property contains fenced pastures, forested areas and fields, all maintained with the objective of breeding and training the traditional Habsburg draft horses, kladruber. The farm was established 440 years ago and has since become a leading horse-breeding institution.
Today the horses are more ceremonial, but the site was created during a time when horses were a major method of transportation and military power.
Must-see: The Museum of Horse Breeding is your go-to spot for exploring the history of a time-honored tradition.
16. Water Management System of Augsburg
Where: The city of Augsburg in Germany
Why UNESCO loves it: Augsburg's intricate water-management system — comprised of a network of canals, water towers, fountains and now hydroelectric stations — has been going strong for 800 years.
Augsburg has been a pioneer in water management since the 14th century, when it became one of the first European cities to have engineers redirect river waters to reach the entire city. The canals wind through Augsburg like arteries.
Must-see: Because of its wealth of canals, Augsburg has more bridges than Venice (over 500!), and they’re a sight to behold.
15. The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright
Where: Multiple locations throughout the United States
Why UNESCO loves it: Despite the U.S. recently leaving UNESCO, the organization still acknowledged the works of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his global impact. The sites inscribed include Fallingwater in Pennsylvania and the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House in Wisconsin.
UNESCO specifically points to the unique elements of Lloyd Wright's masterful designs — “These buildings reflect the ‘organic architecture’ developed by Wright, which includes an open plan, a blurring of the boundaries between exterior and interior and the unprecedented use of materials such as steel and concrete.”
Must-see: You can’t go wrong with any Wright property, truly, but the Guggenheim Museum in New York dazzles most. Inspired by nature, it includes galleries divided like the membranes of citrus fruit and a spectacular rotuna topped by a skylight.
14. Seowon, Korean Neo-Confucian Academies
Where: Republic of Korea
Why UNESCO loves it: Nine seowon — Neo-Confucian academies of the Joseon dynasty — were constructed between the 15th and 19th centuries in the central and southern parts of South Korea.
The buildings were created in nature, near tranquil mountains or water sources, to emphasize peace and the appreciation of nature, mind and body. The overarching goal? To educate young people in Neo-Confucian practices.
Must-see: Sosu Seowon is one of the most popular to visit, and also the oldest: It dates back to 1542.
13. Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte
Where: The slopes of Mount Esphino, overlooking Braga in northern Portugal
Why UNESCO loves it: The second Portuguese site inscribed this year is a Baroque sanctuary that evokes Christian Jerusalem and follows the Passion of the Christ, with six chapels dedicated to this alone.
Dazzling in scope and style, the sanctuary was developed over a period of six centuries.
Must-see: The Stairway of the Senses features a brilliant array of ornamental details, including walls, steps, statues and fountains representing each human sense. UNESCO calls it “the most emblematic Baroque work within the property.”
12. Royal Building of Mafra
Where: Mafra, Portugal, less than 20 miles from Lisbon
Why UNESCO loves it: This ornate, imposing building is as aesthetically impressive as it is historically significant. It was constructed in the early 1700s by King João V to immortalize his reign, and boasts over 1,200 rooms, 4,700 doors and windows, a Franciscan monastery and the manicured Cerco garden, all done up in magnificent Baroque style.
Must-see: The building’s library wows with its collection of 36,000 volumes.
11. Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape
Where: The Canary Islands
Why UNESCO loves it: Risco Caído touts a landscape of cliffs, ravines and volcanic formations, rich in biodiversity. The mountainous area is home to a number of ruins of prehistoric settlements, proving that there was a civilization here before Spanish settlers happened upon the island in the 15th century.
Must-see: The site also encompasses two sacred temples that are worth seeing for their design and their history; UNESCO notes that they could possibly have been linked to a “Mother Earth” cult.
10. Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan
Where: The Osaka Plain in Japan
Why UNESCO loves it: The kofun of the Osaka Plain — a Japanese word for “old mounds” — served as the burial sites for the region’s elite between the 3rd and 6th centuries. These 49 kofun were selected from over 160,000 in Japan because they reflect a highly sophisticated funerary system, uniquely decorated with clay figures and containing weapons, armor or ornaments.
Must-see: The largest kofun in Japan, the Daisenryo Kofun is believed to be the burial site of Emperor Nintoku and spans 1.7 miles in circumference. It is located in the heart of Sakai, a lovely port city south of Osaka.
9. Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene
Where: Northern Italy
Why UNESCO loves it: The lush hills and vineyards of Italy's Prosecco region, one of the world's foremost sparkling-wine production areas, is acknowledged for its contributions to viticulture. The verdant landscape is notable for its farmlands, villages, forests and ciglioni, defined by UNESCO as “small plots of vines on narrow grassy terraces.”
The Prosecco region is Italy’s 55th World Heritage site, cementing its status as the leading UNESCO country (no surprise, considering its abundance of Roman Empire and Renaissance history).
Must-see: When you’re done sipping superb Prosecco, connect with history at the Conegliano Cathedral, a spiritual refuge not far from the rolling vineyards.
8. Jodrell Bank Observatory
Where: United Kingdom
Why UNESCO loves it: A rather unusual addition to the UNESCO list, Jodrell Bank is one of the world’s leading radio-astronomy observatories and the source of many scientific discoveries.
When it was founded in 1945 in rural England, the observatory was pioneering a completely new science — exploring the universe using radio waves instead of visible light. The nature of its founding and the succeeding cutting-edge research illustrate the midcentury transition from optical astronomy to radio astronomy.
Must-see: The Lovell Telescope is a giant in the science world and literally giant, spanning 250 feet in diameter. Marvel at its size via a walking tour.
7. Jaipur City
Why UNESCO loves it: The famous “pink city” and present-day capital of India’s Rajasthan state, Jaipur is believed to be one of India’s first planned cities. Established on a plain — unlike other cities located on nearby hilly terrain — Jaipur was built in an influential grid system and features an alluring mix of markets, residences and temples with uniform facades.
You might recognize the city’s pink fortifications, a major tourist lure, but UNESCO acknowledges that what's inside these rosy walls is equally important.
Must-see: Streets here intersect in large public squares called chaupurs, where you can watch the bustle of everyday Indian life in action.
6. Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace
Where: The city of Sheki in Azerbaijan
Why UNESCO loves it: Sheki was an important outpost along historic trade routes, and boasts ornate architecture reflecting the wealth amassed by the silk trade.
The historic center, the feature named by UNESCO, was rebuilt in the 18th century after destructive mudflows. The reconstruction expressed the style of the time: houses with high gabled roofs, influenced by the Safavid, Qadjar and Russian architectural traditions.
Must-see: UNESCO also specifically singles out Khan’s Palace, a circa-1762 architectural monument that’s well worth exploring.
5. Churches of the Pskov School of Architecture
Where: The banks of the Velikaya River in northwest Russia
Why UNESCO loves it: This newly inscribed site is a cluster of churches, cathedrals and buildings in the singular style of the Pskov School of Architecture. Unique elements include cubic volumes, domes, porches and belfries, immersed into the surrounding nature through impressive gardens. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Pskov was Russia’s leading architectural school.
Must-see: The Transfiguration Cathedral, part of the Mirozhsky Monastery, dates back to the 12th century and showcases stunning frescoes painted by Greek artists.
Why UNESCO loves it: Bagan is an ancient city, home to thousands of breathtaking Buddhist temples, pagodas, sculptures and frescoes in the forested plains of the Irrawaddy River valley. At the height of the Pagan Kingdom’s influence the city contained over 10,000 temples. Today it is home to about one-fifth of that number, with many of the remaining sites available for exploration (at least from the outside).
Must-do: Take a hot-air-balloon ride over the valley to observe the marvelous sea of temples.
Where: Iraq, about 60 miles south of Baghdad
Why UNESCO loves it: Babylon is now just a site of archaeological ruins, but it was once the thriving capital of the New-Babylonian Empire. It was also home to the Hanging Gardens, a series of tiered gardens that are considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Those gardens no longer remain, but there are other remnants of this Biblical empire to see, including gates, statues, a theater and temples — the rest was buried by desert sands, carried off by European colonists or decayed over time.
Must-see: Portions of the original Isthar Gate, constructed of glazed bricks in 575 BCE to honor the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, are available for history-buffs to explore.
2. Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City
Why UNESCO loves it: The Liangzhu civilization was the last Neolithic jade culture in the Yangtze River Delta of China, existing from about 3,300-2,300 BCE. The archaeological ruins reveal a society structured on rice cultivation and are a marvelous example of early urban planning, with earthen monuments, water-conservation system and differentiated burial sites that portray a stratified class system — only the wealthy were buried with coveted jade artifacts.
Must-see: The site encompasses 11 early-stage dams that provide a fascinating glimpse into rudimentary engineering.
1. Ancient Ferrous Metallurgy Sites of Burkina Faso
Where: West Africa
Why UNESCO loves it: The cultural organization inscribed 15 still-standing natural-draught furnaces, mines and other furnace structures across the country of Burkina Faso, offering important historic evidence of iron production in the country. Although this type of metallurgy is no longer in practice today, the blacksmiths of Burkina Faso still hold important roles in village societies.
Must-see: The oldest town in the UNESCO-minted collection is Douroula, where a semi-underground furnace dating back to the 8th century BCE offers the first evidence of iron production in Burkina Faso.