Unesco officials recently met in Baku, Azerbaijan to decide which wonders should be added to its burgeoning collection of World Heritage Sites. Twenty-nine were given the nod, including Jodrell Bank in Britain, meaning Unesco’s vast catalogue now stretches to 1,121. Some of the newcomers are unlikely to attract tourists (with respect to Poland, is anyone itching to visit the Krzemionki prehistoric striped flint mining region?) but others look compelling.
1. Hyrcanian Forests (Iran)
Iran isn’t all dusty deserts and atmospheric cities. There’s forest, too. “This ancient forest contains its full original complement of wild plants and animals, much of which has been lost from other adjoining areas,” says Unesco. “It also contains superlative natural phenomena, exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.” Iran waited 12 years for its Hyrcanian Forests to get the nod, having first submitted them in 2007.
2. Jodrell Bank (UK)
Britain’s newest World Heritage Site is not a national park or historic city, but a big dish. This huge radio telescope has played a pioneering role in the history of radio astronomy, enabling astronomers to carry out research on meteors, quasars, pulsars, and other phenomena. It became famous for its work in tracking early space probes, such as the Soviet Sputnik 1. Much of the original structure and design remains.
3. Plain of Jars (Laos)
A vast collection of stone urns, some up to 10ft in height, fill the landscapes around the Laos town of Phonsavon. The purpose of these tilted vessels is still unknown – unless you believe local legend. The first relates that the jars were fashioned from buffalo skin, sugar cane and water and built to contain whiskey in celebration of a military victory. More plausible is the second legend: that they were water containers used to capture rain in this, the driest province in Laos.
4. Prosecco (Italy)
The prosecco hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene have also become a World Heritage Site. But unlike the Champagne region, the area remains undiscovered, despite its castles and bell towers, restaurants and sunny climate.
5. Bagan (Myanmar)
The pre-eminent attraction in the country formerly known as Burma has finally made the cut. It is one of the world’s greatest archaeological wonders, a sight to rival Machu Picchu. Rising from a verdant 26 sq mile plain are hundreds of temples, beautiful, other-worldly silhouettes that were built by the kings of Bagan between 1057 and 1287.
6. Paraty and Ilha Grande (Brazil)
No one can fail to be enchanted by colonial Paraty, now cosmopolitan with an artistic vibe, and by its magnificent coastal setting amid green mountains, pristine beaches, waterfalls and islands, with colourful local boats to reach them. It’s an easy day trip from Rio. Ilha Grande, to the east of Paraty, is renowned for its beautiful beaches and hammock-filled lodges.
7. Jaipur (India)
Jaipur is India in a nutshell. Dirty, dusty, noisy and magical, with camel carts vying for road space with vast trucks, four-wheel-drive vehicles, bicycles, elephants and ambling cows. It has more palaces than any city has a right to – some small, some magnificent, some barely standing.
8. Frank Lloyd Wright architecture (United States)
America’s most famous architect has created some absolute wonders, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, with its swirling snail-shell shape, and Fallingwater, a villa poised above a waterfall in a wood in Pennsylvania. To visit them is to experience Wright’s vision of buildings based on natural shapes and local landscapes.
9. Vatnajokull National Park (Iceland)
Just look at that! Vatnajokull National Park is pure Game of Thrones, a wild and exposed land of ice and fire. In summer, visitors can clamber through tunnels to reach natural cathedrals of blue ice, bathed in surreal light.
The Daily Telegraph