Unesco reveals 42 new outstanding world heritage sites for 2023
Chalkmarks: Sarande, Albania, September 2023

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 22nd September 2023

YOU look different! Yep. We’re on holiday. Hello travellers, how are you doing? It’s good to have you here and it’s good to be here. We are soooo excited. It might be autumn at home but we have a spring in our step today. We’re in what’s tipped to be the new summer capital of 2024: the Albanian Riveria, renamed the “Maldives of Europe” on TikTok. The app is transforming travel. (The Roman Empire too which Albania was part of!) And while TikTok might not give us the true picture, its influence is impossible to ignore, especially for Tirana which has never seen so many tourists. The news pages might not like it but the travel pages are lapping it up. It’s still summer in Sarande (above) with temperatures hitting 30C. Wish you were here! For now, here’s what made the travel headlines. 

Go places… be the bridge!

Enjoy the list: Old Tea Forests created 1,400 years ago in China, a section of the ancient Silk Roads, and Latvia’s well-persevered Old Town Kuldīga are just a few of the 42 sites – 33 cultural and nine natural – that gained Unesco world heritage status this week. Following its meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, there are now 1,199 world heritage sites. Ethopia’s Bale Mountains National Park, with its volcanic peaks and valleys, which were recognised as a “mosaic of extraordinary beauty”. Quebec’s Anticosti island also made the list for having the “best preserved palaeontological record of the first mass extinction of animal life”. And, the Congo’s Forest Massif of Odzala-Kokoua is hailed as “one of the most important strongholds for forest elephants in Central Africa”. Here’s the full list. We’re still making our way through the last one though – Here!

Stop and think: World War One memorial grounds that remember fallen soldiers were given world heritage status by Unesco on Wednesday. After more than a decade of campaigning by Belgium and France, 139 sites where hundreds of thousands lost their lives have been protected. It includes the Menin Gate war memorial in Ypres, Belgium, which is dedicated to the 54,000 missing servicemen – British and Commonwealth soldiers whose bodies were never found, and whose names remain unknown. The Times has the story.

Stone deaf: Last week Chalkmarks reported how Venice risks being delisted by Unesco – and it looks like that’s just a start. This week Unesco is threatening to remove Stonehenge’s world heritage status unless the UK government halts plans to build a tunnel around the world famous monument in Wiltshire. The A303 already runs very close to the ancient site and the government claims a £1.7 billion tunnel will relieve congestion. The Unesco committee says no! It says “the proposed A303 improvement scheme should not proceed” as it “would have significant and inappropriate adverse impacts on the physical and visual integrity of the property”. The BBC has the drama. If removed it will be the fourth Unesco landmark in the world to be delisted and the second in the UK after Liverpool lost its status in 2021. In other news: it’s the autumn equinox tomorrow so expect druids and pagans celebrating the equal length of day and night – marking the end of summer (boo) the start of autumn (hoo)!

Direction of travel: It’s up, and up again. Holiday giant Tui reported that despite the UK air traffic control meltdown, strikes, and devastating wildfires this year, bookings are still booming. Summer trips are up 5 per cent on last year it said – that’s 13.7 million travellers who booked just with Tui. Its winter bookings are already up 15 per cent on 2022. Boss Sebastian Ebel said: “Had it not been for the various events during the last few months which were outside of our control, not least the wildfires on Rhodes, we would have performed ahead of expectations.” Reuters has the details.

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

On the horizon: Wifi in the middle of the ocean can be hit and miss but soon passengers sailing the seven seas on Cunard and P&O Cruises will be able to connect to Elon Musk’s huge network of 4,500 satellites. Created to help those off-grid, Starlink’s high-speed internet will be available in May for cruisers to plug into from the comfort of their cabins – and if they’re lucky they might see them too as they fly very close to the Earth. The Liverpool Echo has the story. 

Off piste: I’ve died and reached the kingdom of heaven. No, I haven’t. I’ve just been on the piste in the French Alps. One minute I was standing up, the next I was on my back looking up at domes of soft, white powder. It was mid-morning in Les Contamines-Montjoie at the foot of Mont Blanc and this was my first skiing lesson. This is a great place to learn for nervous nellies like me.  Some would rather it was kept hush hush unlike nearby skiing mecca Chamonix – one of the most famous for advanced skiers. Just across the Swiss border – an hour from Geneva airport – Les Contamines is billed as a Scandinavian-style resort, which means they also offer Nordic sports such as ski jumping, snowshoe walking, biathlon, ice climbing and telemark skiing. There’s ice-skating, snowboarding and Arctic dog sledging to boot. Here’s one of Europe’s best kept skiing secrets.

Sweet dream: For chocaholics, the Swiss city of Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva, is the perfect place to get your fix. We found some of the best chocolate shops in the world there including La Chocolatiere which hand makes sweet treats to traditional recipes. You don’t have to imagine, here is our piece in the Daily Star.  

This time last year: Back by Royal appointment: Palaces reopen and rail strikes return We were in Bruges for the weekend… but in the UK rail strikes were back… Wales was thinking about introducing a tourism levy to charge overnight visitors a ‘small contribution’ to help pay for the upkeep of beaches, parks and paths … Athens was named the cheapest city break in Europe by Post Office Travel Money… Lisbon took second place… Stockholm, Sweden, and Paris, France were the most expensive… The price of taking the Tube to Heathrow rose to £12.80 from £10.80… While the Royal Family remained in private mourning followed the Queen’s death, the royal palaces and residences reopened.

In case you don’t follow us on social media you really should. Here we are, here too and over here. Say hola muchacha! 

Chocolate in the post!

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