More than 1000 places are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of their exceptional historic, cultural, natural or scientific importance. Many of these sites are well-known tourist attractions, such as the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and the Vatican.
Others, including the 20 on our list, are not very well known at all but this doesn’t make them any less fascinating. Call it an alternate bucket list.
1. Ennedi Massif Natural and Cultural Landscape, Chad
2. Rani-Ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat, India
There are over 500 principal sculptures and countless minor ones, mostly dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu.
3. Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, Curacao
4. Mistaken Point, Newfoundland and Labrador
5. Struve Geodetic Arc, Northern Europe
Struve’s research helped scientists to work out the exact size and shape of our planet.
6. Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley), Egypt
7. Stone Spheres of the Diquis, Costa Rica
It’s still a complete mystery why and how they made these spheres but Bribri legend has it that the stones were actually cannonballs shot by the God of Thunder to drive away the Gods of Wind and Hurricanes.
8. Shahr-i-Sokhta, Iran
Among the artifacts found here are the oldest known dice, backgammon, artificial eyeball and animation in the form of a drawing on an earthen goblet, which moves as you spin the goblet around.
9. Joya de Ceren Archaeological Site, El Salvador
Since no bodies have been uncovered yet, it seems that the villagers had managed to flee in time.
10. Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles
11. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico
Among these were David Alfaro Siqueiros whose mural “El pueblo a la universidad, la universidad al pueblo” graces the Rectorate Tower, and Juan O’Gorman who used millions of stones from all over Mexico to create the four huge mosaics in the Central Library.
12. Surtsey, Iceland
Right from the start it was protected, with only a handful of scientists allowed to set foot here, so through the years researchers have been able to watch how life arrives and develops on a new island.
13. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Illinois
14. Nemrut Dag, Turkey
15. Archaeological Site of Atapuerca, Spain
16. Lamu Old Town, Kenya
17. Nan Madol, Federated States of Micronesia
In its day Nan Madol was the Venice of the Pacific, constructed on a series of artificial islets during the reign of the Saudeleur Dynasty, which ruled on the island of Pohnpei between about 1100 and 1623 CE.