Ten Of The Best New UNESCO World Heritage Sites

August 10, 2016

UNESCO revealed in July, the 21 brand new sites added to its list of awesome sites around the world. From neanderthal sea caves on British soil to 99 artificial islands in the Pacific Ocean, you'll want to add them all to your travel bucket list.

With each of the the sites having to meet at least one of the ten criteria, from 'being of outstanding universal value' to 'containing superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance', being chosen is no mean feat. Plus being included in the 1052-strong list will provide a huge boost in tourism and puts pressure on local governments to protect and preserve the sites. All in all, it's a very positive step change for each of the countries listed. 

Without further ado, check out our top-ten favourite of the new UNESCO world heritage sites.

Disclaimer: this article will induce a serious case of wanderlust. 

1. Naval Dockyard, Antigua

Naval dockyard at Antigua

Surprisingly, this is the first World Heritage listed area in Antigua and Barbuda. With the help of African slaves back in the early 18th century, the Georgian style dockyard buildings were constructed by the British navy with the intention to repair ships and protect the interests of sugar cane growers when European powers were vying for control of the Eastern Caribbean. The grand dockyard sits slap-bang in the middle of a number of historic forts and hiking trails so make sure you venture up to take in the splendour of the whole area or take a tour with a guide to make the most of your visit. 

2. Lut Desert, Iran

Lut Desert, Iran

Also known as Dasht-e-Lut because of the strong winds that blow through here between June and October, a visit to this area of the Lut desert in Iran is an otherworldly experience. Spanning more than 8000 square miles, the unusual set of structures is ever changing and is situated in one of the hottest places on planet earth - even hotter than Saudi Arabia's Death Valley. Fly to Iran and discover it for yourself. 

3. Khangchendzonga National Park, India

Khangchendzonga National Park, India

Vast and totally breathtaking, India's Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve encompasses valleys, glaciers, lakes, ancient forest areas and a clump of awe-inspiring mountains, extending from cold deserts of Lhonak Valley and running along the international boundary between China and Nepal. The park has spectacular wilderness with one of the highest peaks in the world - Mt. Khangchendzonga - towering over it all. With a wide range of flora and fauna such as red pandas and snow leopards, the place is a treasure trove of natural beauty. 

4. Nan Madol Ceremonial Centre, Micronesia

Islands of Micronesia

Built from basalt and coral boulders between 1200 and 1500, the 99 artificial islets off the south-coast of Pohnpei were a ceremonial centre of the Sandeleur Dynasty - an ancient civilisation in the Pacific islands' culture. Containing the remains of stone temples, tombs, homes and palaces, Nan Madol has been nicknamed the 'Venice of the Pacific' because of its extensive system of canals. The area has also been added to UNESCO's list of endangered sites because of the increasingly silty waterways that have created unrecorded amounts of mangroves jeopardising the sturdiness of the islands' buildings, so plan a visit before the islands disappear

5. Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar

Gibraltar cave, Spain

Now the UK's Gibraltar is not only famous for cheeky monkeys and busy beaches but also for the limestone caves on the eastern side of the island that hold many ancient treasures. Situated on the Rock of Gibraltar, Gorham's Cave - named after Captain A. Gorham who discovered it in 1907 - was home to centuries of Neanderthal tribes. With evidence of this found in rock engravings, hunting tools and rudimentary ornaments, the inhabitation spans more than 125,000 years and is considered the last known site of Neanderthal survival. Take a tour of Gibraltar while there to get the most out of your trip. 

6. Dolmens of Antequera, Spain

Dolmens at Antequera, Spain

Situated just outside Antequera, you'll find three 5000 year old burial chambers representing the largest and most complete megalithic structures in Europe. Set along two mountains, the prehistoric dolmens' exact positioning had mystical importance for the tribes who built them. On the summer solstice on 21st June, the morning sun shines over the peaks of the mountains and cleverly straight along the dolmen's entrance corridor. With strong, thick walls and intact structures, UNESCO say 'they are outstanding examples of megalithic architecture.' 

7. Stecci, Medieval Tombstones, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia

Stecci Medieval tombs, Bosnia

Dating back from 1100s to 1500s, 30 areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia with medieval limestone tombstones have been included in the list due to them being a specific phenomenon only seen in the Slavic area. The tombstones, also known as Stecci, were usually organized in groups forming family graveyards. With each made as a work of art, the decorative motifs were the dying wishes of those lying beneath the ground with the intention to make an immortal memory of them.  

8. Hubei Shennongjia, China

Hubei Mountains, China

Snub nosed monkeys, clouded leopards, Asian black bears and the mysterious "Wild Man" (Chinese Yeti) call these dense, ancient forests in Shennongjia in Hubei home. As one of three centres of biodiversity in China, the site was the object of international plant collecting in the 19th and 29th centuries. Covering a mighty 803,833 acres, this epic forest zone has attracted masses of tourists, researchers and scientists for decades.

9. Sanganeb Marine Park and Dungoneb Bay, Sudan

Coral reef in Sudan

Two marine parks made the grade due to their abundance of underwater flora and fauna. With 124 colourful coral reefs 25km off the coast of Sudan, Sanganeb National Park is a magnet for divers from all over the world due to its crystal clear waters and exceptional wildlife including three species of sharks, dolphins, turtles and a rich variety of fish. The second site is Dungonab Bay which encompasses a collection of reefs, beaches, islets, mangroves and seagrass beds. The Mukkawar National Park situated on the bay is home to the dugong (manatee relatives) as well as fish, turtles, birds and sharks. 

10. Archipielago de Revillagigedo, Mexico

A manta ray in Mexico

Situated off Mexico's Pacific Coast at the southwest tip of Baja California Sur, are four remote, unusual looking volcanic islands with peaks above sea level. In remarkably large numbers, manta rays, whales, sharks, dolphins and seabirds nest in and around the pristine waters of San Benedicto, Socorro, Roca Partida and Clarion. Catch a boat to take in the amazing islands for yourself. 

What's your favourite from the list? Tweet us @Travioor or post us a comment on Travioor's Facebook page

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Jenny McFarlane Born in Belfast, Jenny’s lived in Albania and Washington DC. Now in London, she loves to plan trips away with friends and travels as often as she can. From joining a motley crew on a yacht in Croatia to walking on the wild side in Borneo, she's always up for new adventures.