Monthly Archives: August 2011

Everything You Wanted to Know About UNESCO World Heritage Sites But Never Bothered To Ask

Posted by on August 9, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage LogoAs you may have noticed, I have a slight fetish about visiting world heritage sites. To date I have visited over 150 of sites and I have made a point of featuring each one I visit as a daily photo. Some of them are incredible and some are……less than incredible.

I’ve had several people ask me what the deal was and why I bother to go out of my way to visit them. If you have traveled even a small amount there is a good chance you have already visit one or more sites without even knowing it. There is also a good chance you’ve been near one and never bothered to take the time to go and visit it.

This post is intended to be a primer for what World Heritage Sites are about, why they exist and why you should consider making them a part of your next trip.


Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco

Posted by on August 8, 2011

UNESSCO World Heritage Site #149: Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco

Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco: My 149th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco:

Tárraco (modern-day Tarragona) was a major administrative and mercantile city in Roman Spain and the center of the Imperial cult for all the Iberian provinces. It was endowed with many fine buildings, and parts of these have been revealed in a series of exceptional excavations. Although most of the remains are fragmentary, many preserved beneath more recent buildings, they present a vivid picture of the grandeur of this Roman provincial capital.

The Roman remains of Tárraco are of exceptional importance in the development of Roman urban planning and design and served as the model for provincial capitals elsewhere in the Roman world. Tárraco provides eloquent testimony to a significant stage in the history of the Mediterranean lands in antiquity.

If you drove through the city of Tarragona you might not think it was anything special, even if you saw the Roman ruins in the middle of town. However, this was one the Roman capital of the entire Iberian peninsula. Julius Caesar, Augustus, Pompey, and Hannibal all visited here. As Roman ruins go, Tarraco isn’t the greatest in the world. What is lacks in the spectacular ruins it more than makes up in history. The ruins of Tarraco are an easy one hour drive from Barcelona by car.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 17, 2017 @ 12:37 am

Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí

Posted by on August 7, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #148: Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí

Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí: My 148th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí:

The churches of the Vall de Boí are an especially pure and consistent example of Romanesque art in a virtually untouched rural setting. The group of churches is a remarkable example of an important constructional style in human history, like that of Romanesque art, to which it contributes characteristics that are appropriate to both its religious and its secular aspects. The Vall de Boí illustrates the continuous occupation of an area of land. The churches that were built in the Middle Ages at the instigation of a single family symbolize the affirmation and geographical settlement at the time historical Catalonia was created.

The Vall de Boí is screened by the high peaks of the Beciberri/Punta Alta massif, in the high Pyrenees. Its scenery is one of woodland and meadows, adjoining and surrounding the small villages. The Arab invasion of the Iberian Peninsula never penetrated the valleys, but they were exposed around the beginning of the 2nd millennium to cultural influences, brought there by merchants, by itinerant monks and by Christian pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela. In the 11th century, new cultural styles were brought into Catalonia from Italy, particularly Lombardy. This new cultural movement was late in reaching the remote Vall de Boí. The exceptional number of Romanesque churches in the valley is attributed to the fact that large quantities of silver came into the region.

The Vall de Boi isn’t hard to get to but you do have to go out of your way to get there. This site is a collection of 10 12-13th Century churches which reside in the small villages of the Vall de Boi. The churches, like many in the Catalonian region, are of a Romanesque design. In fact, I saw many churches throughout the Catalonian Pyrenees which were very similar in style and age to the churches found in the Vall de Boi. Beyond their architecture, what makes many of the churches special are the frescos which can be found inside. Most of the frescos have undergone or are undergoing renovation. If you visit the Vall de Boi, take the time to visit Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park. It is a beautiful Pyrenees park easy driving distance from the Churches.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 17, 2017 @ 12:40 am

Sunday Featured Traveler: Anil Polat, Traveling in Northern Iraq

Posted by on August 7, 2011

I am reviving a new feature this week where I feature other notable trips and travelers on Sundays. Today’s featured trip is from Anil Polat who blogs at Anil is from Turkey and has been traveling around the world for several years. I met him this year in Valencia, Spain during the European Gran Prix. I remembered reading on his blog about a trip he took to Iraq and thought it was fascinating and asked him if he’d be willing to share his story with my readers. All photos in this post are from Anil.


UNESCO World Heritage Site #147: Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley

Posted by on August 6, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #147: Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley

UNESCO World Heritage Site #147: Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley

From the World Heritage inscription:

The cultural landscape of Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley offers a microcosmic perspective of the way people have harvested the resources of the high Pyrenees over millennia. Its dramatic glacial landscapes of craggy cliffs and glaciers, with high open pastures and steep wooded valleys, covers an area of 4,247 ha, 9% of the total area of the principality. It reflects past changes in climate, economic fortune and social systems, as well as the persistence of pastoralism and a strong mountain culture, notably the survival of a communal land-ownership system dating back to the 13th century. The site features houses, notably summer settlements, terraced fields, stone tracks and evidence of iron smelting.

The Madriu Valley in Andorra is a beautiful and preserved region of one of the smallest countries in the world. Despite the size of Andorra, the Valley is large enough for a full day of hiking with the option of overnight staying in the mountains. The valley is still used for grazing by local farmers. If you do get a chance to visit Andorra take the time to go up into the valleys. The country may be small, but not so small as to preclude a wilderness experience.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Poblet Monastery

Posted by on August 5, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #146: Poblet Monastery

Poblet Monastery: My 146th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Poblet Monastery:

Santa María of Poblet presents a unique blend of architectural forms generally reserved for distinct applications. It has served as one of the largest and most complete of the Cistercian abbeys, as a massive military complex, and as a royal palace, residence, and pantheon. It is a unique artistic achievement and one of the most perfect expressions of Cistercian style in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. The abbey contains masterpieces from every period such as the great alabaster retablo by Damian Forment (1529).

Poblet presents a unique blend of architectural forms. First and foremost, it is a Cistercian abbey, one of the largest and most complete that exists. North of the church, laid out in the usual way, is a group of monastic buildings that include the great cloister with its fountain, chapter room, monk’s dormitory, parlor and its annex, closed cloister, monk’s room which is now a library, calefactory, refectory and kitchens.

The Poblet Monastery is an easy day trip from Barcelona. Total driving time is about 90 minutes depending on traffic. There are tours offered throughout the day in the monastery but they are only in Catalan and Spanish. There are small guidebooks available in English and German. The Monastery is a working monastery and you will see monks walking around the premises.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 17, 2017 @ 12:43 am

A Year Traveling With the iPad

Posted by on August 4, 2011

This is an overview of my year of traveling with an iPad. I’ve taken it overseas, used it on road trips, navigated with it on city streets and used it on the beach as well as in the mountains. I’ve probably done as much as anyone has in terms of traveling with this device since it was launched in 2010.

Over the last few months I’ve been seeing a lot of other travelers with iPads. I’ve been rather surprised at how quickly they have become popular. They seem to have overtaken netbooks with the travelers I see in hotels and hostels. My guess is that over the next 5 years tablets and the iPad in particular will become the primary computing device travelers use, at least for short term trips. They are lightweight, cheap and are capable of mobile internet in a large part of the world.

I’m well aware that this “review” is really late to the game as the iPad has been out for a while and is already on its second generation. Nonetheless, I’ve had many people ask me if they should take their iPad with them on trips of if they should buy one for an extended around the world trip.

I have owned both an original iPad as well as an iPad2. My original iPad was a 3G GSM and my iPad2 is a 3G CDMA model. The only accessory I have purchased for either model was a case: a rubber covering for the original and the smart cover for the iPad2. I have not used a keyboard with either iPad and have also been traveling with an iPhone and MacBook Pro as well.

Wadi Rum Protected Area

Posted by on August 4, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #145: Wadi Rum Protected Area

Wadi Rum Protected Area: My 145th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Wadi Rum Protected Area:

Wadi Rum Protected Area (WRPA) is located in the southern part of Jordan, east of the Rift Valley and south of the steep escarpment of the central Jordanian plateau. It comprises an area of 74,200 hectares. WRPA’s natural values include desert landforms developed within continental sandstones. These landforms have been developed under the influence of a combination of various controlling factors, such as lithology, tectonic activities (including rapid uplift, numerous faults and joints) and surface processes (including various types of weathering and erosion associated with desert climate as well as humid climates in the past), representing million years of ongoing landscape evolution.

Widespread petroglyphs, inscriptions, and archaeological remains testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment, illustrating the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban human activity in the Arabian Peninsula and the environmental history of the region.

The rock art, inscriptions and archaeological evidence in WRPA can be considered an exceptional testimony of the cultural traditions of its early inhabitants. The combination of 25,000 petroglyphs, 20,000 inscriptions, and 154 archaeological sites provides evidence to the continuity of habitation and land-use over a period of at least 12,000 years. The petroglyphs, representing human and animal figures, are engraved on boulders, stones, and cliff faces. They provide evidence of long-term patterns of pastoral, agricultural and urban human activity in the property. Engravings indicate an elaborate sense of aesthetics in a pictorial culture, and the archaeological findings span all eras from the Neolithic to the Nabataean. Thamudic, Nabataean and numerous Arabic inscriptions in four different scripts testify to the widespread literacy among its pastoral societies.

I’m so glad Wadi Rum was added to the World Heritage list. It was one of the most deserving locations that I’ve visited that was not on the list. I spent two nights in Wadi Rum in a bedouin camp and it was a great experience. Wadi Rum is famous as the location where the movie Lawrence of Arabia was shot. The stunning desert backdrop made it an obvious choice for an epic film. Oddly enough, TE Lawrence never passed through Wadi Rum during the actual Great Arab Revolt.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Jordan.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 10, 2017 @ 11:13 am