From Bagan to Jaipur: Here are the New UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Update your bucket list.

Everybody has their own list of places in the world they’d like to see at least once in their lives. But if you’re looking for the ultimate travel bucket list, UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites is a good place to start. Since 1976, the UN body has inscribed numerous natural and cultural wonders on the list based on a set of criteria, marking them as treasures that should be celebrated and preserved by all of humanity. Twenty-nine new UNESCO World Heritage Sites were named during the body’s latest meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan last week. 

Some of the most popular World Heritage Sites include Machu Picchu in Peru, the Galapagos Islands, Grand Canyon National Park in the United States, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Prague in the Czech Republic and the Taj Mahal in India.

The Philippines has six such World Heritage Sites—the country’s Baroque churches (which includes San Agustin Church, Paoay Church, Santa Maria Church and Miag-ao Church); Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park; the Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras; the historic city of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, the Subterranean River National Park in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental.

In case you’re looking for inspiration for your next travel adventure, here are the 29 new UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

(Note: All the descriptions are lifted from the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites website).

Cultural Properties

1. Ancient ferrous metallurgy sites of Burkina Faso

Photo by DSCPM/MCAT.

Burkina Faso

The property includes about fifteen standing, natural-draught furnaces well as several other furnace structures, mines and traces of dwellings, which are evidence of iron production in the African country of Burkina Faso.

2. Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City

Photo by Ditto .


Estimated to be over three thousand years old, the ruins reveal an early regional state with a unified belief system based on rice cultivation. UNESCO also notes they are an example of early urban civilization expressed in earthen monuments and urban planning.

3. Babylon

Photo by Qahtan Al-Abeed.
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Yes, there are ruins of the city that was the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire between 626 and 539 BCE. “Its remains, outer and inner-city walls, gates, palaces and temples, are a unique testimony to one of the most influential empires of the ancient world,” according to UNESCO. 

4. Bagan

Photo by Department of Archaeology and National Museum.


A favorite of many travelers, Bagan finally gets its place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site this year. According to UNESCO, the site’s eight components include temples, stupas, monasteries and places of pilgrimage, as well as archaeological remains, frescoes and sculptures. “The property bears spectacular testimony to the peak of Bagan civilization (11th–13th centuries CE), when the site was the capital of a regional empire,” UNESCO said.

5. Budj Bim Cultural Landscape

Photo by Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation.


Encompassing the Budj Bim Volcano and Tae Rak (Lake Condah), this site composed of wetland swamps, rocky ridges and large marshes has enabled the Aboriginal nation of Gunditjmara to develop one of the largest and oldest aquaculture networks in the world. The channels, dams and weirs here have been used to contain floodwaters and create basins to trap, store and harvest kooyang eel, which has provided the people there with an economic and social base for six millennia.

6. Churches of the Pskov School of Architecture

Photo by State budgetary institution of culture “Research and Development Centre for Conservation and Use of Historical and Cultural Monuments of the Pskov Region.


This World Heritage Site includes churches, cathedrals, monasteries, fortification towers and administrative buildings located in the historic city of Pskov, on the banks of the Velikaya River in northwestern Russia. UNESCO notes that characteristics of the buildings, produced by the Pskov School of Architecture, include cubic volumes, domes, porches and belfries, with the oldest elements dating back to the 12th century.


7. Dilmun Burial Mounds

Photo by Think Heritage.


Built between 2050 and 1750 BCE, the Dilmun Burial Mounds span over 21 archaeological sites in Bahrain. According to UNESCO, the burial mounds are evidence of the Early Dilmun civilization, around the 2nd millennium BCE, during which Bahrain became a trade hub, whose prosperity enabled the inhabitants to develop an elaborate burial tradition applicable to the entire population.

8. Erzgebirge/Krušnoho?í Mining Region

Photo by Jan Albrecht.

Czechia and Germany 

The region of Erzgebirge/Krušnoho?í (Ore Mountains), which straddle the two countries, became the most important source of silver ore in Europe from 1460 to 1560 and was the trigger for technological innovations.

9. Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace

Photo by Azerberpa.


Located at the foot of the Greater Caucasus Mountains in Azerbaijan, the historic city center of Sheki is was rebuilt after the destruction of an earlier town by mudflows in the 18th century. The city's architecture is influenced by Safavid, Qadjar and Russian building traditions. 

10. Jaipur City, Rajasthan

Photo by DRONAH.


Unlike other cities in the region located in hilly terrain, Jaipur was established on the plain and built according to a grid plan interpreted in the light of Vedic architecture. Founded in 1727, the city's urban planning shows an exchange of ideas from ancient Hindu and modern Mughal as well as Western cultures. UNESCO says the city was designed to be a commercial capital and has maintained its local commercial, artisanal and cooperative traditions to this day.

11. Jodrell Bank Observatory

Photo by Anthony Holloway.

United Kingdom

One of the world's leading radio astronomy observatories, Jodrell Bank first opened in 1945 and housed research on cosmic rays detected by radar echoes. The observatory, which is still in operation, has had substantial scientific impact in fields such as the study of meteors and the moon, the discovery of quasars, quantum optics, and the tracking of spacecraft. 

12. Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region

Photo by K. P?czalski/ Historical and Archaeological Museum in Ostrowiec ?wi?tokrzyski Permanent URL: .


An ensemble of four mining sites, dating from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age (about 3900 to 1600 BCE), Krzemionki is dedicated to the extraction and processing of striped flint, which was mainly used for axe-making. With its underground mining structures, flint workshops and some 4,000 shafts and pits, the site features one of the most comprehensive prehistoric underground flint extraction and processing systems identified to date. 

13. Landscape for Breeding and Training of Ceremonial Carriage Horses at Kladruby nad Labem

Photo by National Stud Farm at Kladruby nad Labem, s.p.o..

Czech Republic

Situated in the St?ední Polabí area of the Elbe plain, this new UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Europe’s leading horse-breeding institutions, developed at a time when horses played vital roles in transport, agriculture, military support and aristocratic representation.

14. Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene


Located in northeastern Italy, the site includes part of the vinegrowing landscape of the Prosecco wine production area. Since the 17th century, the use of ciglioni, or small plots of vines on narrow grassy terraces, has created a particular chequerboard landscape consisting of rows of vines parallel and vertical to the slopes. In the 19th century, the bellussera technique of training the vines contributed to the aesthetic characteristics of the landscape.


15. Megalithic Jar Sites in Xiengkhuang – Plain of Jars

Photo by Department of Heritage.


The Plain of Jars, located on a plateau in central Laos, gets its name from more than 2,100 tubular-shaped megalithic stone jars used for funerary practices in the Iron Age. This serial site of 15 components contains large carved stone jars, stone discs, secondary burials, tombstones, quarries and funerary objects dating from 500 BCE to 500 CE.

16. Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan

Photo by Sakai City Government.


Located on a plateau in Osaka, the site includes 49 kofun or old mounds in Japanese shaped like keyholes, scallops, squares or circles. These tombs were for members of the elite, containing a range of funerary objects such as weapons, armor and ornaments. The kofun have been selected from a total of 160,000 in Japan and form the richest material representation of the Kofun period, from the 3rd to the 6th century CE. They also demonstrate the differences in social classes of that period and reflect a highly sophisticated funerary system.

17. Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto

Photo by Office of Cultural Affairs, Historical Remains and Museum.


This World Heritage Site was developed by the Netherlands’ colonial government from the late 19th to the beginning of the 20th century for the extraction, processing and transport of high-quality coal in an inaccessible region of Sumatra. The Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage was built as an integrated system that enabled the efficient deep-bore extraction, processing, transport and shipment of coal.


18. Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape

Photo by Nacho Gonzalez.


Located in a vast mountainous area in the center of Gran Canaria in the canary Islands, Risco Caído comprises cliffs, ravines and volcanic formations in a landscape of rich biodiversity. The landscape includes a large number of troglodyte settlements —habitats, granaries and cisterns— whose age is proof of the presence of a pre-Hispanic culture on the island.

19. Royal Building of Mafra– Palace, Basilica, Convent, CercoGarden and Hunting Park (Tapada)

Photo by DGPC.


Located 30 kilometers northwest of Lisbon, the site was conceived by King João V in 1711 as a tangible representation of his conception of the monarchy and the State. This imposing quadrangular building houses the king’s and queen's palaces, the royal chapel, shaped like a Roman baroque basilica, a Franciscan monastery and a library containing 36,000 volumes.

20. Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga

Photo by João Paulo Sotto Mayor.


A cultural landscape located on the slopes of Mount Espinho, the site overlooks the city of Braga in the north of Portugal and evokes Christian Jerusalem, recreating a sacred mount crowned with a church. The sanctuary was developed over a period of more than 600 years, primarily in a Baroque style, and illustrates a European tradition of creating Sacri Monti (sacred mountains) promoted by the Catholic Church. The celebrated Stairway of the Five Senses, with its walls, steps, fountains, statues and other ornamental elements, is the most emblematic Baroque work within the property.


21. Seowon, Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

Photo by Council for Promotion of the Inscription of Confucian Academies on the World Heritage List.

South Korea 

This site comprises nine seowon, which represents a type of Neo-Confucian academy of the Joseon dynasty (15th to 19th centuries CE). Learning, veneration of scholars and interaction with the environment were the essential functions of the seowons, expressed in their design. The pavilion-style buildings were intended to facilitate connections to the landscape. The seowons illustrate an historical process in which Neo-Confucianism from China was adapted to Korean conditions.

22. The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright

Photo by Unity Temple Restoration Foundation.


This new UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of eight buildings in the US designed by the architect during the first half of the 20th century, including the Fallingwater (Mill Run, Pennsylvania), the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House (Madison, Wisconsin) and the Guggenheim Museum (New York). The 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. 

23. Water Management System of Augsburg

Photo by Planinghaus architekten.


The water management system of the city of Augsburg has evolved in successive phases from the 14th century to the present day. It includes a network of canals, water towers dating from the 15th to 17th centuries, which housed pumping machinery, a water-cooled butchers’ hall, a system of three monumental fountains and hydroelectric power stations, which continue to provide sustainable energy today. The technological innovations generated by this water management system have helped establish Augsburg as a pioneer in hydraulic engineering.


24. Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi

Photo by Alberta Parks.


The Milk River Valley dominates the topography of this cultural landscape, which is characterized by a concentration of pillars or hoodoos—columns of rock sculpted by erosion into spectacular shapes. The Blackfoot (Siksikáíítsitapi) people left engravings and paintings on the sandstone walls of the Milk River Valley, bearing testimony to messages from Sacred Beings. The archaeological remains date from 1800 BCE to the beginning of the post-contact period.

Natural Properties 

25. French Austral Lands and Seas

Photo by Nelly Gravier.


This “oasis” in the middle of the Southern Ocean covers an area of more than 67 million hectares and supports one of the highest concentrations of birds and marine mammals in the world. In particular, it has the largest population of King Penguins and Yellow-nosed albatrosses in the world.

26. Hyrcanian Forests

Photo by Fariba Babaei.


Hyrcanian forests form a unique forested massif that stretches 850 kilometers along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. The history of these broad-leaved forests dates back 25 to 50 million years, when they covered most of this Northern Temperate region. To date, 180 species of birds typical of broad-leaved temperate forests and 58 mammal species have been recorded, including the iconic Persian Leopard.

27. Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf of China 

Photo by Yancheng Broadcasting Television.


The site features an intertidal mudflat system considered to be the largest in the world. These mudflats, as well as marshes and shoals, are exceptionally productive and serve as growth areas for many species of fish and crustaceans. Large gatherings of birds, including some of the world's most endangered species, depend on the coastline as a stopover to moult, rest, winter or nest.

28. Vatnajökull National Park - dynamic nature of fire and ice

Photo by Thorvardur Arnason.


This iconic volcanic region covers an area of over 1,400,000 ha, nearly 14% of Iceland's territory. It numbers ten central volcanoes, eight of which are subglacial. Volcanic areas are home to endemic groundwater fauna that has survived the Ice Age.

Mixed property

29. Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity

Photo by IPHAN.


Located between the Serra da Bocaina mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean, this cultural landscape includes the historic center of Paraty, one of Brazil's best-preserved coastal towns, as well as four protected natural areas of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s five key biodiversity hotspots. Paraty is home to an impressive diversity of species, some of which are threatened, such as the jaguar, the white-lipped peccary and several primate species, including the woolly spider monkey. The historic centre of Paraty has retained its 18th century plan and much of its colonial architecture dating from the 18th and early 19th centuries.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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