I’ve slowly clued into the fact that there is a network of “World Heritage” monuments, sites, and natural parks throughout the world–places that are deemed unique enough, or endangered enough, to deserve funding by UNESCO. A cultural site can be a monument, a group of buildings, or an entire city. But to be granted a World Heritage designation, it must “represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; or bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.”
I like to think of these creations as the Best of Civilization.
Almost every country has at least one site, and sometimes many. Some places are justifiably famous, but many are mysteriously overlooked. Heritage sites are always among the most interesting destinations to visit in any country, well worth going out of your way to see. The sites range from ruins like the famous Inca Machu Picchu, to the less known ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri, India, to preserved towns like Visby, Sweden, to unspoiled wilderness areas like the Galapagos Islands. In total UNESCO lists 788 sites in 100 countries, which also include about 150 natural sites, deemed “areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance” or outstanding bio-diversity.
In my travels I’ve learned to seek them out.
For a full list, and criteria, see World Heritage List.
BULGARIA (Year added to list)
1979 Boyana Church
1979 Madara Rider
1979 Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo
1979 Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak
1983 Ancient City of Nessebar
1983 Srebarna Nature Reserve
1983 Pirin National Park
1983 Rila Monastery
1985 Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari
Old City of Lijiang, China. A trading town in the highlands of southwestern China. A World Heritage site.