World Heritage Sites
The UNESCO World Heritage List includes more than a thousand properties of outstanding universal value. They are all part of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre is responsible for the World Heritage List. The first inscription was in 1978. Since then UNESCO has developed the criteria and added an average of 20-30 sites each year.
In 2021 it includes 1,154 sites in 167 “States Parties” (countries). A site is categorised as cultural heritage (897 sites), natural (218) or a mix of the two (39 sites).
On this page you will get to learn more about the heritage sites and where they are. Moreover, Sandalsand’s large collection comes on display. The reader will get a four-way path into this collection. First, on a map. Second, in a table. Third, in a video.
Fourth and last, but not least, there are links to articles on Sandalsand which describe each visited site.
About the World Heritage Sites
Properties on the World Heritage List, must (a) be of outstanding universal value and (b) meet at least one of the ten selection criteria. There are six for cultural sites and four for natural sites.
(i) to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
(ii) to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
(iii) to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared;
(iv) to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
(v) to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
(vi) to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);
(vii) to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
(viii) to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
(ix) to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
(x) to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Some sites have been removed from the list. There have been controversies between the WHC and a country relating to the future development of the site (like a particular bridge in Germany). Other removals have been obvious because the criteria are no longer met (such as the extinction of a particular bird in Oman).
UNESCO’s sign is found on many World Heritage Sites. The one pictured here is from Bryggen, in Bergen, Norway.
With these cases in mind, one should note that the WHC operates a list of 52 properties in danger (2021). An inscription on the World Heritage List is generally regarded as an honorary tribute. It will also boost both commercial and preservation activities in or at the site.
Step one is to raise an awareness worldwide to the importance of preserving these sites for future generations. The next step is to do something about it, in other words to set up a conservation plan for the site. The final step is to live by it. These are very demanding tasks for all parties, and there are undoubtedly both economic and culture factors at play here.
Relative distribution of sites
When we look at the full site map, we immediately notice the prevalence of sites in Europe. Nonetheless, almost the entire world is covered. That is actually no little achievement for the world community.
The following illustrations follow the WHC categorisation of world regions and show the relative distribution of sites between them. All WHC sites are the basis of this statistics.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Asia and the Pacific
Europe and North America
Sites on a map
Drag and zoom on the map below to find sites visited by Sandalsand in more detail. Click on a marker to reveal the name and open the article about it. You will find the same links further down this page. Find all WHC sites on another Sandalsand map.
Sites in a table
Here are the same sites in a table but with less information compared to the map markers above. Show more rows at a time, sort the table as you like, or search for a specific term. Click on a link to open that particular post.
Sites in 61 countries
It could be that “heritage tourism” is spreading along with the eco-tourism trend. Sandalsand has only in later years become conscious of it.
It was never my idea to become a collector of heritage sites, but I have nonetheless been to a large number. In recent years I have become more intent to visit a “world heritage” when I travel in a country or region. I suppose that may be one of the purposes of such an official list in the first place.
In any case, I am not satisfied that I visited the pleasant town of Weimar in Germany without exploring the examples of Bauhaus architecture. Likewise, I went to the town of Pécs in Hungary without a look at the Early Christian Necropolis. (To my possible excuse: Neither of them was on the List at the time of my visit.)
Sandalsand’s list is a representative summary of UNESCO’s. It covers the world and the majority are in Europe. Also, it features sites in both (all) categories: 166 cultural, 12 natural, and 4 combined sites.
Read about each site in separate articles. They include:
- The official and my personal descriptions of the site
- A link to the official UNESCO web page
- My photographs or video
- A link to the article(s) describing the context of my visit(s)
The articles offer short introductions to fabulous destinations around the world. Enjoy!
Here they are, all World Heritage Sites visited by Sandalsand. You will find the most recent publications first, although the actual visit may date to a visit prior to the place becoming a World Heritage. In any case, and in my view, they are all lovely destinations.
World Heritage #1230 – Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain
Come to the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain to pray like they have been doing in Central Asia for centuries. The UNESCO World Heritage List includes...
World Heritage #0543 – Itchan Kala
Let us us all go back to the old caravan routes of the Silk Roads, and to Itchan Kala in the oasis of Khiva. The UNESCO World Heritage List includes...
World Heritage #0602 – Bukhara
The madrassas and mosques in the Historic Centre of Bukhara are impressive. They provide a sense of what the days of the Silk Road were like. The...
World Heritage #0885 – Shakhrisyabz
The Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz is the birthplace of the Great Tamerlane, the king and conqueror of a vast empire in Central Asia in the 14th...
World Heritage #0603 – Samarkand
Samarkand was at the centre of the famous Silk Road. It passed through present-day Uzbekistan and was of vital importance to the trade between east...
World Heritage #0822 – Tallinn
It is quite remarkable how they have been able to secure the layout of the wonderful Medieval townscape, in Tallinn, Estonia's capital. The UNESCO...
World Heritage #0852 – Riga
Riga is a very popular destination due to the spas, but Latvia's capital is rich with cultural sites of a different nature as well. The UNESCO World...
World Heritage #0541 – Vilnius Historic Centre
The Lithuanian capital of Vilnius has managed to keep an extraordinary combination of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and classical architecture. The...
World Heritage #0030 – Warsaw
The historic centre of Warsaw, the Polish capital suffered immensely during the Second World War, but managed to rebuild and grow. The UNESCO World...
World Heritage #1588 – Bagan
Bagan has been renowned for ages. Marco Polo called it “A gilded city, alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sound of monks’ robes”. Today...
World Heritage #1046 – Alto Douro Wine Region
On either side of the Douro river, and in the side valleys they have been constructing terraces for centuries. The UNESCO World Heritage List...
World Heritage #0755 – Oporto
Would you like some Port? In the cellars of Porto (or Oporto) you may taste whichever Port wine you'd like. The UNESCO World Heritage List includes...
World Heritage #0505 – Monastery of Alcobaça
The Monastery of Alcobaça is one more of Portugal's fine examples of beautiful architecture and fine masonry. The UNESCO World Heritage List...
World Heritage #0361 – Historic Centre of Évora
The historic centre of Évora, a lazy little town in the interior of Portugal hides a proud history. It is a pleasant place. The UNESCO World...
World Heritage #0264 – Monastery of Batalha
As soon as you enter the halls and cloisters of the monastery of Batalha you will discover a world of tranquillity and the crafts of great masons. ...
World Heritage #1387 – University of Coimbra
The university of Coimbra, a town in central Portugal has deep roots and a splendid view of the river below. The UNESCO World Heritage List includes...
World Heritage #0723 – Sintra
The natural landscape in Sintra to the west of Lisbon is fine, but the palaces set this area aside as unique. The UNESCO World Heritage List...
World Heritage #0263 – Hieronymites and Tower of Belém
The monastery of the Hieronymites and the tower of Belém in Lisbon bear witness to Portugal's heroic history. The UNESCO World Heritage List...
World Heritage #0093 – The Last Supper
The world's second most famous painting, The Last Supper, was made by a universal genius. This gem hides inside a convent in Milan. The UNESCO World...
World Heritage #0730 – Crespi d’Adda
There are not many factory towns on the UNESCO list, and Crespi d'Adda in northern Italy is a fascinating one. The UNESCO World Heritage List...
World Heritage #0696 – Kronborg Castle
Enjoy the view from Kronborg Castle across the strait of Oresund, just like the imaginary Hamlet a few hundred years ago. The UNESCO World Heritage...
World Heritage #0058 – Urnes Stave Church
The Urnes stave church is one of several stave churches of Norway. We find them in the most remote locations of the country, and they are splendid...
World Heritage #0522 – Úbeda and Baeza
The two towns of Úbeda and Baeza were defining centres in the birth of the Spanish renaissance in the 16th century. The UNESCO World Heritage List...
World Heritage #0314 – Granada
The Moors left their marks on southern Spain. Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín in Granada is both mythical and real. The UNESCO World Heritage List...
It is not down in any map; true places never are. (Herman Melville)