The Taj Mahal became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1983

CHILEAN mummies that predate those in Egypt, the oldest observatory in the Americas, ancient cities in Asia, gold mines, remote landscapes, and an Ottoman Empire trading hub. These are just a few of the 34 sites that gained Unesco world heritage status this July.

During the Committee’s 44th session hosted in Fuzhou, China, Africa gained two site listings, Latin America saw five, Asia had 12 and Europe got 15. 2021 was a bumper year for inscriptions after the annual 2020 meeting was postponed due to the pandemic.

This year also saw a unique transnational listing for The Great Spa Towns of Europe that recognise 11 towns from Austria to the UK that began during the early 18th century.

Together these make the new most outstanding places on earth 2021.

Enjoy the list. 


Cote d’Ivoire: Sudanese style mosques
Eight small adobe Sudanese-style mosques in northern Côte d’Ivoire originated around the 14th century, in the town of Djenné, were once part of the Empire of Mali. Where hundreds existed early last century, these are among the best preserved. They present evidence of the trans-Saharan trade that facilitated the expansion of Islam and Islamic culture.

Gabon: Ivindo National Park
Situated on the equator in the north of the country, the park is a network of blackwater rivers with rapids and waterfalls – all surrounded by rainforest. Many animals that live there include endangered species such as the slender-snouted crocodiles, forest elephants, chimpanzees plus the grey parrot and grey-necked rockfowl, the mandrill sphinx, leopards, the African golden cat and three species of pangolin anteaters.


Brazil: Sítio Roberto Burle Marx
This garden created by landscape architect and artist Roberto Burle Marx is the first modern tropical garden to be inscribed on the Unesco list. Located west of Rio, it began in 1949. Today it has 3,500 cultivated species of tropical and subtropical plants. The garden-space, which includes lakes, buildings, nurseries and a museum, is considered a work or art that Burke Marx donated to the government in 1985. He died in 1994. 

Chile: Settlement and Artificial Mummification of the Chinchorro Culture in the Arica and Parinacota Region
At more than 7,000 years old, the Chinchorro mummies predate those in Egypt. The Chinchorro were marine hunter-gatherers who lived in the coastal Atacama Desert in northernmost Chile from approximately 5450 BC to 890 BCE. The Chinchorro dismembered and reassembled bodies of deceased men, women and children of the entire social spectrum to create “artificial” mummies. Three sites are recognised by Unesco: Faldeo Norte del Morro de Arica, the Colón 10 Museum, both in Arica, and Desembocadura de Camarones, further south.

Mexico: Franciscan Ensemble of the Monastery & Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Tlaxcala
This is where the early Spanish missionaries converted the indigenous population. Launched in 1524, the church in Tlaxcala, southeast of CDMX, represents part of the Spanish colonisation the Americas. It is one of five monasteries established by Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian friars, and one of three still standing. The other two are already inscribed on the Unesco list

Peru: Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex
The Chankillo Solar Observatory is the oldest in the Americas – and has been recognised by Unesco as a “masterpiece of human creative genius”. Located in the northern deserts of Peru in the Casma Valley, the site dates back to 250-200 BC. At 2,300-years-old, this prehistoric calendar used 13 towers stretched along a hill that tracked the sun to define the dates throughout the year, to within one-to-two-days accuracy.

Uruguay: The work of engineer Eladio Dieste: Church of Atlántida
The Cristo Obrero, east of Montevideo, was finished in 1960 by Eladio Dieste – Uruguay’s most famous engineer. The Catholic church’s most striking features are its exposed, reinforced brick and undulating roof. Many architectural magazines have written reams about Dieste’s use of design, space and shape. Known as a pioneer of architecture, this church is considered his greatest work. A copy was later built in Madrid. Dieste died in 2000.


China: Quanzhou: Emporium of the World in Song-Yuan
The ancient port Quanzhou, also known as Zayton, on the southeastern coast of China, was one of the busiest during the Song and Yuan periods, in the 10th to 14th centuries. It represents the significant maritime trade across Asia where silk and tea were being exported and spices brought back. The site includes religious buildings, including the 11th century AD Qingjing Mosque, one of the earliest Islamic edifices in China, Islamic tombs, and a range of buildings, stone docks, sites of ceramic and iron production, ancient bridges, pagodas, and inscriptions.

India: Dholavira: A Harappan City
Discovered in 1968, the ancient city of Dholavira of the Harappan, also known as the Indus Valley civilisation, was occupied between 3000-1500 BC. Located on the arid island of Khadir in the State of Gujarat, the archaeological site, is one of the best preserved urban settlements from the period in southeast Asia, with a fortified city, a cemetery and a sophisticated water management system. Copper, shell, stone, jewellery of semi-precious stones, terracotta, gold, ivory and other materials have been found during excavations.

India: Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple, Telangana
Located in the village of Palampet 200km/ 124miles north-east of Hyderabad, in Telangana, this temple is the work of the Kakatiya dynasty, from more than 800 years ago. The 13th century structure, which took 40 years to construct, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The walled complex built under rulers Rudradeva and Recharla Rudra features decorated beams and pillars of carved granite and dolerite with a distinctive and stepped tower, the pyramidal Vimana, made of lightweight porous bricks, so-called “floating bricks”. 

Iran: The Trans-Iranian Railway
The Trans-Iranian Railway connects the Caspian Sea in the northeast with the Persian Gulf in the southwest, crossing two mountain ranges as well as rivers, highlands, forests, plains, and four different climatic areas. Started in 1927 and completed in 1938, the 1,394km/ 866mile-long railway is notable for its scale and the engineering works that required extensive mountain cutting in some areas, the construction of 174 large bridges, 186 small bridges and 224 tunnels, including 11 spiral tunnels.

Iran: Cultural Landscape of Hawraman/Uramanat
This remote and mountainous region of Hawraman/Uramanat is home to the Kurdish-majority, which has inhabited the region since about 3,000 BC. Known for its stunning landscape, 12 villages have evolved for more than a millennia with people adapting to the harsh environment. Tiered steep-slopes, gardening on dry-stone terraces, livestock breeding, and seasonal vertical migration are among the distinctive features of the local culture and life of the semi-nomadic Hawrami people who dwell in lowlands and highlands during different seasons of each year. 

Japan: Jomon Prehistoric Sites
These 17 ancient sites found across the southern part of Hokkaido Island and northern Tohoku offer a unique insight into the hunter-fisher-gatherer societies from 13,000 BC. Their way of life has been preserved in lacquered pots, clay tablets with the impression of feet, the famous goggle eyed dogu figurines, as well as large stone circles reaching diameters of more than 50 metres. 

Japan: Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island
These subtropical rainforests which stretch across four islands in the southwest of Japan are entirely uninhabited by humans. Instead the site is home to the endangered amami rabbit and the Ryukyu long-haired rat that have no living relatives anywhere in the world.

Jordan: As-Salt – The Place of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality
The hillside city of As-Salt was an important trading hub during the Ottoman Empire. Located in the northwest of Jordan, its cultural history has given the city a unique mix of architecture – exhibiting a blend of European Art Nouveau and Neo-Colonial styles combined with local traditions. The city was also highlighted as being a “Place of tolerance and urban hospitality” where Muslims and Christians have lived peacefully together. 

Korea: Getbol, Korean Tidal Flats
These four tidal flats – Seocheon Getbol, Gochang Getbol, Shinan Getbol and Boseong-Suncheon Getbol – are located in the Yellow Sea on the southwest peninsula of Korea. They cover an area larger than the capital Seoul. Known as Getbol they are home to 118 migratory bird species, octopuses, Japanese mud crabs, fiddler Crabs, bristle worms, Stimpson’s ghost crabs, yellow sea sand snails as well as clams.

Saudi Arabia: Ḥimā Cultural Area
This is one of the largest rock art complexes in the world located in the mountainous area of southwest Saudi Arabia, on one of the Arabian Peninsula’s ancient caravan routes, Ḥimā Cultural Area. The images depict hunting, plants, flowers and lifestyles in a cultural continuity of 7,000 years. Many are preserved in pristine condition. Made by travellers and armies passing through, they reveal different language scripts including Musnad, Aramaic-Nabatean, South-Arabian, Thamudic, Greek and Arabic.

Thailand: Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex
Close to the Myanmar border the national park is located along the Tenasserim mountain range. The forest is noted for its birdlife and is also home to the critically endangered Siamese Crocodile, the endangered Asiatic wild dog, banteng cattle, the Asian elephant, yellow elongated tortoises and the endangered Asian giant tortoise. Eight cat species also roam the landscape including: the endangered tiger, fishing cat, leopard, Asian golden cat, the vulnerable clouded leopard, marbled cat, the jungle cat and the leopard cat.

Turkey: Arslantepe Mound
The 30-metre archaeological mound is located in the southeast of Turkey in the Malatya plain. Arslantepe, which means lion hill, dates back some 8,000 years – from at least the 6th millennium BC up until the late Roman period. Metal objects and weapons have been excavated at the site, among them the earliest swords so far known in the world, which suggests the beginning of organised combat.


Belgium/ Netherlands: The Colonies of Benevolence
This marks a 19th century experiment in social reform to alleviate urban poverty by establishing agricultural colonies in remote locations. The earliest colony here started more than 200 years ago in 1818 in Frederiksoord, Netherlands, which is also home to the original headquarters of the Society of Benevolence.

France: Nice, Winter Resort Town of the Riviera
The history of the tourist hotspot Nice in southern France stretches back to the middle of the 18th century when it began to attract mainly British aristocratics and upper-class families. The famous seafront walk, the Promenade des Anglais soon followed. Over the next century, many others flocked to the Mediterranean city including Russians – all came to escape their cold winters.

France: The Cordouan Lighthouse
France’s last inhabited lighthouse looks out across the Atlantic Ocean. Known as the “king of the lighthouses”, it dates back as far as the 16th century. Designed by engineer Louis de Foix and remodelled by engineer Joseph Teulère in the late 18th century, the beacon is still active. The famous lighthouse is recognised as a masterpiece of maritime signalling and illustrates the art of building lighthouses during the age of renewed navigation.

Georgia: Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands
Along 80km/ 50 miles of the eastern coast of the Black Sea, this area covers mainly wetlands and the ancient Colchic rainforests with its diverse flora and fauna and a significant number of globally threatened animals and relict species, that have survived millions of years. It is also a popular stopover for many threatened birds that migrate through the Batumi bottleneck.

Germany: Frontiers of the Roman Empire – The Lower German Limes
The Lower German Limes mark the borders of the Roman Empire. Stretching from the Lower Rhine River for approximately 400km/ 250miles from the Rhenish Massif in Germany to the North Sea coast in the Netherlands. For centuries soldiers would be stationed along the border. Archaeological remains include military bases, forts, fortlets, towers, temporary camps, roads, harbours, a fleet base, a canal, and an aqueduct, as well as civilian settlements, towns, cemeteries, sanctuaries, an amphitheatre, and a palace. Almost all are buried underground. 

Germany: Mainz, Speyer, and Worms for their role as centres of European Jewish culture in the Middle Ages
The cathedral cities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz have been recognised for their role as centres of European Jewish culture. Known as ShUM sites – the first letters of their Hebrew names (Speyer, Worms and Mainz), the cities were once referred to as “Jerusalem on the Rhine”. The sites include the Speyer Jewry-Court, with the structures of the synagogue and women’s shul (Yiddish for synagogue), the Worms Synagogue Compound, with its in situ post-war reconstruction of the 12th century synagogue and 13th century women’s shul, the community hall (Rashi House), and the monumental 12th-century mikveh. The series also includes the Old Jewish Cemetery in Worms and the Old Jewish Cemetery in Mainz.

Germany: Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt
Located in west-central Germany the Darmstadt artists’ colony on Mathildenhöhe became a centre for emerging architecture, arts and crafts in the 19th century. It was established in 1897 by Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse. The listing includes the Wedding Tower, the Exhibition Hall, the Pergola and Garden, and the 13 houses and artists’ studios. 

Italy: The Porticoes of Bologna
These porticoes are a signature of the city. Dating from the 12th century they stretch stretch for 62km/ 39miles across the city providing shelter over walkways, squares and roads.

Italy: Padua’s fourteenth-century fresco cycles
Within the walled city of Padua, eight religious and secular building complexes, have been listed by Unesco. Each has a selection of fresco wall-paintings from between 1302 and 1397 by different artists. They include Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel fresco cycle, considered to have marked the beginning of a revolutionary development in the history of mural painting – also Guariento di Arpo, Giusto de’ Menabuoi, Altichiero da Zevio, Jacopo Avanzi and Jacopo da Verona.

Netherlands: Extension of Defence Lines of Amsterdam, to be known as Dutch Water Defence Lines
First inscribed in 1996, this is an updated listing that adds the New Dutch Waterline to the existing Defence Line of Amsterdam World Heritage site. It illustrates a single military defence system, which was based on flooding fields, hydraulic installations and a series of fortifications and military posts stretching over an area of 85km/ 53 miles. 

Romania: Roșia Montană Mining Landscape
This gold mining landscape that dates back to the Roman Empire comes with tonnes of precious metals still underground. Because of this it also made the Unesco World Heritage in Danger List, which could help protect it from further mining. Located in the Metalliferous range of the Apuseni Mountains in the west of Romania, the Romans extracted some 500 tonnes of gold from the site developing highly engineered works starting in the year 106.

Russia: Petroglyphs of Lake Onega and the White Sea
This is one of the largest such sites in Europe with petroglyphs, which are rock carvings, that dates from six-to-seven-thousand-years ago. Located in the Republic of Karelia in the Russian Federation, there are 4,500 petroglyphs featuring birds, animals, half human and half animal figures as well as symbols that might represent the moon and the sun.

Slovenia: The works of Jože Plečnik in Ljubljana – Human Centred Urban Design
The work of architect Jože Plečnik carried out in the capital Ljubljana transformed the city between World War I and World War II following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His work includes squares, parks, streets, promenades, bridges, the national library, churches, markets and a funerary complex.

Spain: Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro, a landscape of Arts and Sciences
Madrid’s tree-lined Paseo del Prado avenue, was a prototype of the Hispanic alameda, in the 16th century. Now known as one of the city’s most popular walks, the avenue features fountains, notably the Fuente de Cibeles and the Fuente de Neptuno, and the Plaza de Cibeles, an iconic symbol of the city, surrounded by prestigious buildings. It also includes the 120-hectare Jardines del Buen Retiro (Garden of Pleasant Retreat), the terraced Royal Botanical Garden and the largely residential area Barrio Jerónimos with its rich variety of 19th- and 20th-century buildings. 

Wales: The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales
The site, which runs through Gwynedd, became the world leader for the production and export of slate in the 1800s. Slate has been quarried in the area for over 1,800 years and had been used to build parts of the Roman fort in Segontium in Caernarfon and Edward I’s castle in Conwy. During the industrial revolution demand surged as cities across the globle expanded – reflecting the important role this region played in ‘roofing the 19th century world’.

Great Spas of Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, UK

Eleven towns built around natural mineral springs, across seven European countries, have been combined to create one transnational Unesco listing that captures a bygone era. They bear witness to the international European spa culture that developed from the early 18th century to the 1930s, leading to the emergence of grand international resorts. The towns include Baden bei Wien in Austria; Spa in Belgium; Baden-Baden in Germany; Vichy in France; and Bath in the UK.

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