5 stunning new UNESCO World Heritage Sites

This week marks the second and final week of deliberations for the 37th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. So far, the committee has added 19 new locations to its list of World Heritage Sites.

Held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from June 16 to 27, the commission has selected a list of new inscriptions that span the globe, ranging from the Namib Sand Sea in Namibia to historic monuments in Kaesong, North Korea.

"These valuable cultural relics are the pride of our nation, and they are precious cultural relics that show the long history of our nation," Kim Jin Sok, a researcher at Kaesong City Management Office for Preserving National Heritage, told The Associated Press.

With these valuable cultural relics in mind, we have selected five stunning locations from the 14 manmade sites and five natural landmarks that have recently been added to the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.

1. Tajik National Park (Mountains of the Pamirs), Tajikistan

The summer is short on the  3800-meter Alichur Plateau. Some snow, only a few hundred meters higher, never melts.

The summer is short on the 3800-meter Alichur Plateau. Some snow, only a few hundred meters higher, never melts. (UNESCO/David Trilling)

The Tajik National Park spans more than 6 million acres of sparsely inhabited mountains in eastern Tajikistan. The park is situated in the middle of the “Pamir Knot,” a meeting point of the highest mountain ranges on the Eurasian continent.

Reason to go: The park is home to many endangered species of birds and mammals, including Marco Polo Argali sheep, snow leopards and the Siberian ibex. The site offers a unique chance to study a location barely touched by man.

2. Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China

(Hani Terraces Administration of Honghe Prefecture/Li Kun)

This site in Southern Yunnan is a testament to human ingenuity. Over the past 1,300 years, the Hani people have developed a complex irrigation system, which is made up of channels that cascade down from forested mountains through shallow rice terraces to the banks of the Hong River. The system continues to support the production of the area’s primary crop, red rice.

Reason to go: See the traditional thatched “mushroom” houses of the villages watch how the locals work in harmony with their environment.

3. Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany, Italy

(Adriano Bartolozzi)

Built between the 15th and 17th centuries, these 12 villas belonged to the Medici family, the Florentine household famous for fostering the arts and influencing the Italian Renaissance. The villas display an innovative connection between form and function, a marriage between the natural and built environment that would grow to typify Italian architecture.

Reason to go:  The Medici villas are the first example of the connection between habitat, gardens, and the environment and a model for royal gardens throughout history.

4. University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia, Portugal

University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia

University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia (University of Coimbra)

Coimbra brings a more archaic meaning to the word “college town.” Situated on a hill overlooking the city, the University of Coimbra evolved over more than seven centuries within the ancient city. The site is a stunning example of how tradition and urban innovation can work together to influence the shape of a city.

Reason to go: Established in 1290, it's one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world.

5. El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Mexico


This site comprises two distinct parts: volcano and desert. The dormant Pinacate Shield to the east is made of hardened black and red lava flows. To the west there is the Gran Altar Desert with sand dunes that can reach a height of over 600 feet.

Reason to go: Check out some of  the stunning volcanic craters, including El Elegante crater which alone measures about 4,593 feet wide.