Underrated UNESCO World Heritage Sites You Didn’t Know About
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has identified and recognised 1,073 cultural and natural sites from all around the world that showcase significant cultural, historical or scientific value. Amongst the many, I’m sure that you are familiar with popular landmarks such as The Great Wall of China, Pyramids of Giza, Grand Canyon National park and Venice, which need no introduction. Despite being under the radar, there are few World Heritage Sites that hold great importance, beauty and character. If you like to venture to lesser-known places, here are 5 worth visiting.
Rocks Island Southern Lagoon, Palau
Picture a unique sight of uninhabited mushroom-shaped limestone islands of volcanic origin, protruding out of glistening turquoise lagoons surrounded by coral reefs. The Rocks Island Southern Lagoon covers a massive area of 100,200 hectares, making it an extremely significant area in the small country of Palau that supports tourism, biodiversity, and fisheries. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is distinctively known to harbour the highest concentration of marine lakes and retains a large population of endemic species that have yet to be discovered.
Dinosaur Provincial Park, Canada
Just a two-and-a-half hour drive away from Calgary, Alberta, the Dinosaur Provincial Park offers a stunning topography of badlands and is home to the richest deposit of dinosaur bones and fossils in the world. Over 75 million years ago, 58 dinosaur species roamed that very land and their legacy continues to live to this day with the help of river sediments preserving their remains. A definite must-visit if you are into palaeontology or have an interest in the Mesozoic Era.
Historic City of Yazd, Iran
Situated in the centre of the Iranian plateau, the Historic City of Yazd is the largest inhabited adobe city in the world, and has been listed as one of the newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2017. Besides being known for its spectacular fire temples and soaring badgirs, this 5th century phenomenon features an exemplary display of a methodical qanat system, proving that modern-day alterations are not always required for desert survival.
While many tourists flock to the Blue Lagoon and Aurora Borealis when visiting Iceland, the lesser known, new island of Surtsey remains untouched and is a pristine natural laboratory for scientists. Positioned at the southern coast, Surtsey was formed due to a volcanic eruption that happened 130 metres below sea level in 1963. Since then, the island has been extremely well-protected and closed off to the public due to conservation and study purposes, which has in turn led to the discovery of the colonisation process of new land by plant and animal life.
Fujian Tulou, China
Tulou, which translates to “earthen buildings” are mud-walled homes built by the Hakkas between the 15th and 20th century for defence and social purposes. Unlike its rural surroundings which largely consists of rice, tea and tobacco fields, the Fujian Tulou was a well-elaborated structure during that time, with a distinct circular architecture. Each of this unique communal living space houses up to 800 people and functions as a village unit, instilling a sense of togetherness among residents.