What's A UNESCO World Heritage Site Anyway?

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Detail of a UNESCO protected temple at Angkor, Cambodia

Twenty-six new UNESCO World Heritage Sites were added to the list in 2012, including sites in Chad, Congo, Palau, and Palestine for the first time!

This is REALLY exciting...  if you know what a UNESCO World Heritage Site is.

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and is a branch of the United Nations (UN) that recognizes, preserves and protects sites that are an important part of the cultural heritage of the world.

An ancient palace in the UNESCO protected historical city of Gyeongju, South Korea

As of 2012 there are 962 protected sites; 745 cultural, 188 natural, and 29 mixed.

These sites — amongst other things — "represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; or exhibit important developments in architecture, technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design; or bear a unique  testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared; or are areas of exceptional natural beauty; or are outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history." (from the UNESCO World Heritage website)

As someone who has been lucky enough to visit quite a few of these sites, I can attest to the incredible importance of an organization like this to not only protect these important relics of human history, but to allow them to be safe and accessible to visitors from all over the world.

The UNESCO protected Great Wall of China in Beijing, China