This year UNESCO has added 26 new properties to the World Heritage sites list, once again helping humankind decide what to preserve, should Bruce Willis be unable to save us from the next planetary disaster (read the whole thing before reviewing the places entered on 2011’s list here).
There are another 10 finalist sites that didn't make it, and will have to wait for another chance to reach the highest rank of wonderness alongside a total of 961 properties inscribed on this list so far. The first five places are considered natural sites, the following is a mix of natural and cultural heritage (Palau's Rock Islands), and the other twenty are designated cultural only.
Update: You can also review the places that achieved the UNESCO recognition in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
1- Western Ghats (India): A mountain range where, apart from the tea plantations, you can find one of the top places for biological diversity in the world. We have a full post about it here. Image by Sanish Suresh
2- Lena Pillars Nature Park (Russia): The large range of temperatures here (from -60°C to 40°C), along with the action of the elements, have sculpted these impressive giants, located in faraway Siberia. We also have visited them, here.
Image by Anton Agarkov
3- Lakes of Ounianga (Chad): Colorful water from the dry heart of Africa. You can find out more about this country's wonders here. Image by Jacques Taberlet
4- Chengjian Fossil Site, (China): More about geology and fossils in this interesting and funny site under development, created by Stefano Dominici
5- Sangha Trinational (Congo, Cameroon and Central African Republic): Three countries working together to preserve a sanctuary for elephants, gorillas and little monsters like the tigerfish. Image by Nicolas Rost
6- Rock islands Southern Lagoon (Palau): Heavenly secluded beaches, crystal-clear waters, bright skies and a large diversity of marine life. Find more beautiful images and info here. Image by Asimulator
7- Margravial Opera House, Bayreuth (Germany): A really old surviving theater in the land of Wagner.
Image by Manu
8- Pearling, testimony of an island economy (Bahrain): What is no longer testifying anything is the sculpture of the Pearl Roundabout, demolished by the government last year, after it became the symbol of the demonstrations which had begun in some Muslim countries that February. Image by Kind of Quirky
9- Major Mining Sites of Wallonia (Belgium): No need to travel to Potosi, in Bolivia, if you want to try out some mines from hell. Image by Luc Viatour
10- Rio de Janeiro, Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea (Brazil) The so-called wonderful city, beyond the cliches of fabelas and violent kids playing with real guns.
Image by Carlos Ortega
11- The Landscape of Grand Pré (Canada) was one of the first European settlements and has a picturesque system of sluices. Image by Charles Hoffman
12- Site of Xanadu (China): There's not much remaining of the mythical summer capital of Kublai Khan's (depicted in a sculpture in Mongolia), that Marco Polo visited seven centuries ago. So I was very close to putting a photo of Olivia Newton-John singing the early eighties Electric Light Orchestra theme. Image by Chinneeb
13- Historic Town of Grand-Bassam (Côte d’Ivoire): A former colonial capital city that had almost become an abandoned ghost town. Image by Kafka on the shore
14- Heritage of Mercury. Almadén and Idrija (Slovenia and Spain): The biggest and the older mines of heavy metal. Image by Daniel Tabas
15- Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin (France): Without a doubt, this is the year of the miners.
Image by Jérémy Jännick
16- Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: The Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy (Indonesia).
17- Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara caves (Israel): Sorry, they're not the most photogenic places on Earth. Image by Adib Roy
18- Rabat, modern capital and historic city: a shared heritage (Morocco)
Image by Alexandre Baron
19- Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine): At the same time it has also been placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger, as the place is suffering damages due to water leaks.
Image by Delayed Gratification
20- Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (Portugal): Defending the Kingdom from Spanish attacks, Dutch style. Image by Michael Clarke
21- Gonbad-e Qābus (Iran): The world's tallest tower a thousand years ago.
Image by Tirdâd Gorgâni
22- Jameh Mosque of Isfahan (Iran): A country where independent travelling never has been easy, Iran already has 15 properties on the list, including these ones. Image by Bram
23- Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes (Senegal)
Image by Jose A. Herran
24- Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland (Sweden): Ikea's source of inspiration.
Image by Roine Johansson
25- Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük (Turkey): This design looks so contemporary! This was a sophisticated civilization, from up to 10,000 years ago. Image by Sarah Murray
26- Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley (Malaysia): We are not going to end up with another dark picture from a cave. Let me introduce you to the oldest Malaysian, Perak Man, also around 10,000 years old. Image by Azrul Azli
Also there is available the much less exhaustive book Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World's Most Amazing Places. This high quality work from National Geographic has superlative reviews and it can be the perfect saviour when you don't know what to give as a present :)