UNESCgo: a new column touring the world’s UNESCO sites.

Wandering Aramean‘s coverage of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South India and Sri Lanka this week, the pros and cons of listing as discussed in the NYT, and his great sites tracker, left The Rapid Traveler fondly remembering his 2009 trip to those same sites and wishing he had Wandering Aramean’s programming genius. Lacking the latter, he at least has been to many sites and so is launching the UNESCgo occasional series of sites by country.

UNESCO sites are proposed by countries themselves and like everything United Nations are the source of intense politicking. The list is imperfect but useful, often calling attention to sights neglected by guidebooks. It is a moving target as new sites are added annually from the tentative list.  Not all are fun to visit for non-specialists, some just holes in the ground where significant objects were excavated. Others use the UNESCO designation to extract exorbitant ticket fees and are swamped by tourist buses (these tend to sport massive monuments with the UNESCO inscription seal.

UNESCO World Heritage Logo

China is blanketed with UNESCO bling, photo by opencontent

The current count is 936, consisting of 725 cultural, 183 natural, and 28 mixed sites, in 153 of the 188 states parties that have ratified the World Heritage Convention. Italy, Spain and China have the most, Italy leading with 47. The major competitors seem to have every statue and traffic light on the tentative list. Try collecting them at risk of sanity as new sites appear in places once thought complete.

The best resource is UNESCO’s own World Heritage Center, which continues to add enhanced features like interactive maps, detailed information, photos and videos. They also include quality reference links, which leads to the other great resource.

World Heritage Tour is a nonprofit project that creates 360-degree spherical images of many sites. These are delightful both for people that will never visit a site and for those determining if to visit. The Rapid Traveler has previously financially contributed to the project.

Tomorrow we start in South Korea, a country that rivals any for preservation of its history.

Readers, you are welcome to request country profiles, share your UNESCO experiences or send your pictures of UNESCO sites to be featured in future posts. Many The Rapid Traveler visited were pre-digital camera for him so there are many gaps to fill.

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