UNESCO Adds 20 New Sites to Its World Heritage List

The 2018 additions to UNESCO’s World Heritage List include an ancient city in Oman and Buddhist mountain monasteries in Korea.

UNESCO Adds 20 New Sites to Its World Heritage List

China’s Mount Fanjingshan is among the newest additions to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Courtesy of © Office of the Leading Group for World Heritage

UNESCO has added 20 new sites to its World Heritage List for 2018.

Every year, the United Nations’ cultural agency meets to decide which sites around the world will join the ranks of destinations like Yellowstone National Park and the Galápagos Islands on the highly coveted UNESCO World Heritage List, which currently lists 1,092 heritage sites worldwide. To warrant inclusion, landmarks must be deemed of “outstanding universal value” and fulfill one of 10 criteria categorizing each destination as a location of either unmatched natural beauty or environmental, cultural, or historic significance.

The 42nd World Heritage Committee session took place in Manama, Bahrain, from June 24 through July 4, 2018. During the convention, representatives from 21 countries debated and unveiled which sites would be added to UNESCO’s catalog this year. Here’s a closer look at some of the most impressive newly announced additions for 2018.

Sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries, Korea


Beopjusa Temple is one of seven Sansa Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in the Republic of Korea.

Courtesy of UNESCO © CIBM

These Buddhist mountain monasteries comprise seven temples established in the Korean Peninsula’s southern provinces from the 7th to 9th centuries. The temples showcase a spatial layout and design specific to Korea’s mountain monasteries known as the “madang,” an open courtyard surrounded by a Buddha hall, a pavilion, a lecture hall, and a dormitory. According to UNESCO, the Sansa monasteries represent a distinct Korean cultural tradition and serve as “sacred places which have survived as living centers of faith and daily religious practice to the present.” The temples join the Republic of Korea’s 12 previously included UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul and Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes.

Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, South Africa


Lomati Valley in South Africa’s Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains

Photo by © Tony Ferrar

South Africa’s Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains are what UNESCO describes as “the best-preserved volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years.” Because of its position as one of the world’s oldest landscapes, the mountain range has provided geologists with invaluable information about the early formation of Earth’s continents. The Barberton Makhonjwa mountain range is a site of immense historic and scientific value, but it’s also a magnificent destination for adventurers: The mountains’ rivers, trails, and biodiverse plant and animal ecosystems offer bounties for travelers to navigate.

Ancient City of Qalhat, Oman


Today, very little of the Ancient City of Qalhat remains, save for the Bibi Maryam Mausoleum.

Courtesy of © MHC

The Ancient City of Qalhat on Oman’s northeast coast served as a major port and trade link between Arabia, East Africa, India, China, and Southeast Asia in the 11th to the 15th centuries. In the 13th century, the walled city was partially ruled by its governer’s wife, Bibi Maryam, after whom a still-standing mausoleum (pictured above) is named. Today, UNESCO notes that what little of Qalhat remains serves as a “unique archaeological testimony” to the ancient Indian Ocean trading routes and also represents the power held by women in Arabian society during that time.

Fanjingshan, China


Mount Fanjingshan, China

Photo by Li Guiyun © School of Karst Science, Guizhou Normal University

Located in the Wuling mountain range in southwest China’s Guizhou Province, Mount Fanjingshan is home to many plant and animal species that originated between 65 million and 2 million years ago in the Tertiary period. At an altitude that ranges from 1,640 to 8,431 feet, the isolated mountain range hosts a high degree of biodiversity and endemic species. Within the subtropical forest, which is considered a Buddhist holy site, there are hiking trails and small villages for travelers to explore. Chiribiquete National Park, Colombia


Chiribiquete National Park, Colombia

Photo by © Jorge Mario Álvarez Arango

Chiribiquete National Park is the largest protected area in Colombia. At the base of the flat-topped mountains that span the region, over 5,000 paintings—some of which are thought to date back 20,000 years—decorate the ancient rocks’ walls. Indigenous communities living in areas surrounding Chiribiquete National Park consider the region to be sacred, UNESCO notes.

See below for the rest of UNESCO’s confirmed 2018 World Heritage Sites:


Aasivissuit—Nipisat, Inuit Hunting Ground between ice and sea
Saudi Arabia: Al-Ahsa Oasis, an evolving cultural landscape
Germany: Archaeological border landscape of Hedeby and the Danevirke
Spain: Caiphate city of Medina Azahara
Turkey: Göbekli Tepe
Japan: Hidden Christian sites in the Nagasaki Region
Italy: Ivrea, industrial city of the 20th century
Germany: Naumburg Cathedral
Iran: Sassanid archaeological landscape of Fars Region
Kenya: Thimlich Ohinga archaeological site
India: Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai
France: Chaine des Puys-Limagne fault tectonic arena
Canada: Pimachiowin Aki
Mexico: Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley: origin habitat of Mesoamerica
Russia: Bikin River Valley

>>Next: UNESCO Removes Belize Barrier Reef From Its Endangered List

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