Exploring Our Heritage
World Heritage Sites are landmarks designated by UNESCO to hold significant cultural value. So far, there are over 1,000 listed heritage sites and they are all part of our heritage. Today we take a look at 10 of them.
1. Ha Long Bay
Located in Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is a popular tourist attraction comprised of approximately 2,000 islets, mostly made out of limestone. Many of them are simply giant pillars which makes them completely uninhabitable which, in turn, makes Ha Long Bay a great destination for fans of natural sceneries.
The heritage site also has plenty to offer to fans of history and Vietnamese culture. Several archaeological sites are located on the premises which feature remnants of ancient Soi Nhu and Cai Beo cultures from thousands of years ago.
2. Borobudur Temple
This 9th century Buddhist temple in Indonesia is a truly magnificent sight to behold. The temple consists of platforms stacked on top of each other in decreasing size, reminiscent of a pyramid. It is well-known for its decorations which comprise over 500 statues and well over 2,600 reliefs. Although it’s over 1,000 years old, Borobudur remains the largest Buddhist temple in the world.
3. Dazu Rock Carvings
Although they are listed as a single world heritage site, the Dazu rock carvings actually consist of 75 individual sites in China that contain around 50,000 statues in total. The earliest carvings come from the 7th century. For a long time, these sites were forbidden to travelers and it wasn’t until the 1980s that foreign visitors could see them. Consequently, most of the statues remained free of vandalism over the centuries and remained preserved in excellent condition.
The Lebanese town of Baalbek is sometimes known as Heliopolis, the ancient name it had during Roman times. It is also known for still possessing some of the best-kept Roman ruins in the country, especially the Temple of Bacchus. Bacchus was one of the three Roman gods who were worshipped on this site, the other two being Venus and Jupiter.
5. Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe
Construction on this hillside park in Kassel, Germany began at the end of the 17th century so, compared to most other heritage sites, it is relatively recent. However, it immediately impresses with its grandiose Baroque architecture which combines with its hillside landscape to make it even more imposing. The Bergpark landmark is topped off with a pyramid with a statue of Hercules on top.
If you’re ever in Finland’s capital Helsinki, make sure to see the Suomenlinna, a sea fortress built over six different islands. Built in the middle of the 18th century, the original goal of this fortress was to ward off the Russian expansion. Over the centuries, it has seen plenty of combat during the Finnish and Crimean Wars.
This tiny Icelandic island is less than 60 years old, so why was it deemed a world heritage site? It’s because it was formed by an underwater volcanic eruption. It’s very rarely that we get to see an island actually being created, but we got that opportunity with Surtsey. The volcanic eruption started hundreds of feet below sea level before reaching the surface in 1963. The eruption would go on to continue for four more years before settling and leaving behind the island we have today.
Founded in the 7th century BC, the city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan is still inhabited, making it one of the oldest cities in the world that have remained active throughout their history. The city was strategically positioned on the Silk Road between the West and China, making it a melting pot of different cultures. In the 14th century, Timur made it the capital of his Timurid Empire and his mausoleum, Guri Amir, is still located there today.
9. Chan Chan
This city was once the capital of the Chimu Kingdom in modern day Peru. Chan Chan remains the largest pre-Colombian city in South America’s history. It stood out in its day thanks to its well-planned division into autonomous “citadels” – an agricultural zone, an industrial zone etc.
Founded 2,000 years ago, the Ethiopian city of Aksum is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Africa. Most of the ruins found here like stelae, obelisks, monuments and castle ruins date between the 1st and 13th centuries AD. Aksum reached its pinnacle of power when it was the capital of the Kingdom of Aksum, called “the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia”.