Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour

UNESCO World Heritage Site #126: Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour
Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour: My 126th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour:

The Historic Area of Willemstad is an example of a colonial trading and administrative settlement. It was established by the Dutch on the island of Curaçao, situated in the southern Caribbean, near the tip of South America. Starting with the construction of Fort Amsterdam in 1634 on the eastern bank of Sint Anna Bay, the town developed continuously over the following centuries.

The modern town, the capital of the island nation of Curaçao, consists of several distinct historic districts, reflecting different eras of colonial town planning and development. Punda, the oldest part of the city, was built in the 17th century on the eastern side of Sint Anna Bay, adjacent to Fort Amsterdam and is the only part of the city that had a defense system consisting of walls and ramparts. The other three historic urban districts (Pietermaai, Otrobanda and Scharloo) date from the 18th century. Water Fort and Rif Fort, also included in the inscribed property, were built in the late 1820s as part of a more extensive series of fortifications. In the midst of the historic area is a natural deep-water harbor. The entire property encompasses 86 ha and is surrounded by an 87 ha buffer zone.

The architecture of Willemstad has been influenced not only by Dutch colonial concepts but also by the tropical climate and architectural styles from towns throughout the Caribbean region, with which the settlement engaged in trade. Early residences constructed in Punda followed Dutch urban design. In the 18th century, local materials and craftsmanship as well as new architectural elements, such as galleries, began to appear. As the city expanded beyond Punda, the architectural style of the residences evolved. For example, the development of Otrobanda was not restricted by ramparts and houses were built on spacious lots and resembled plantation houses surrounded by galleries. Moreover, the social and cultural differences from Afro-American, Iberian, and Caribbean inhabitants have contributed to enriching the building traditions as well as the city’s cultural life. The result is a European architectural style with regional adaptations in a rich array of Caribbean colors. The colorful buildings of Willemstad are a local tradition dating from 1817 when the previous style of white lime finish on a building exterior was prohibited, apparently to protect eyesight from the glare. Predominant colors are red, blue, yellow ochre and various shades of green.

Curacao is unique among the former Dutch colonies in the Caribbean. It has a very European flavor compared to nearby islands such as Aruba and Bonaire. Even today you will see more European tourists on Curacao and you will be more likely to find Dutch actively spoken than on the nearby islands.


Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour

The Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Curacao. Willemstad is also the capital city of Curacao. It is an island located on the southern portion of the Caribbean region, which is a constituent of The Netherlands. In fact, it was the former capital of the Netherland Antilles until the latter was dissolved in 2010.

With an estimated population of 150,000, Willemstad is a historic center that is divided into four quarters. Willemstad is also where you will find the Curacao synagogue, which is the oldest one to still exist until today in America. The city center and historic area earned the nod from UNESCO as a cultural heritage site because of its unique architecture and harbor entry that played a historical role. It was inscribed into the list in 1997.

About The Historic Area of Willemstad

The Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour is a collection of properties that form a world heritage site in Curacao. According to UNESCO, this city (especially the historic area) is the best surviving example of European colonial history in the Caribbean region. The Dutch town planning and architectural traditions are still preserved until today. In fact, colonial influences are well mingled with the local traditions.

The historic area of Willemstad was established by colonial Netherlands. The colonizers used the natural harbours of Curacao to establish trading routes between Caribbean and the Americas. It was only a matter of town until the colonizers decided to establish settlement in Willemstad. In fact, various communities were established during this time. Therefore, this historic city illustrates the organic growth of multi-cultural communities in 3 centuries. Prior to this, Willemstad is already considered historically significant as it morphs 4 distinctive quarters into one city: Punda, Pietermaai, Otrobanda, and Scharloo. Each of these districts is divided by the open waters of the natural harbor. In addition, each district has its own urban layout. The only thing that makes each of these districts similar is the tropicalized version of Dutch architectural styles.

Even though it was in the 17th century when the Dutch established the Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour as a trading post, the original urban structure remains as it is today. Among the first few buildings that were constructed by the time of the initial Dutch invasion featured the traditional Dutch brick style. Eventually, it evolved into the Curacao Baroque architecture style wherein the curved gable is a distinctive element (for example, the famous Penha Building).

Preserving Willemstad

The Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour has gone a long way since it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. It also took a long way and several centuries in order to shape the cultural landscape that helped earn it that recognition.

The historic core of Willemstad, however, suffered major setback during the revolt of May 1969. Several parts of the city were destroyed and that included some of the key historic areas. Destruction took over the city as the revolting masses set the city on fire. In addition to the destruction that happened, some of the heritage sites were also left in neglect for the next two decades after the said revolt. Hence, a new ordinance was established in 1988 to restore and protect the historic areas that later merited it the UNESCO award.

How to Get Here

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Curacao

If you want to visit the Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, you can take a flight via the Hato International Airport in Curacao. It is located on the north side of the island and is a bit close to the city of Willemstad. This airport services majority of the international and regional flights in Curacao.

You can also travel to Willemstad via cruise. Most of the cruise ships that dock in Curacao arrive at either the Curacao Mega Pier and Curacao Cruise Terminal.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in The Netherlands.

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

Last updated: Aug 1, 2017 @ 10:07 pm

UNESCO World Heritage SIte #125: Cape Floral Region Protected Areas

UNESCO World Heritage SIte #125: Cape Floral Region Protected Areas
UNESCO World Heritage SIte #125: Cape Floral Region Protected Areas

From the World Heritage inscription:

A serial site – in Cape Province, South Africa – made up of eight protected areas, covering 553,000 ha, the Cape Floral Region is one of the richest areas for plants in the world. It represents less than 0.5% of the area of Africa but is home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora. The site displays outstanding ecological and biological processes associated with the Fynbos vegetation, which is unique to the Cape Floral Region. The outstanding diversity, density and endemism of the flora are among the highest worldwide. Unique plant reproductive strategies, adaptive to fire, patterns of seed dispersal by insects, as well as patterns of endemism and adaptive radiation found in the flora, are of outstanding value to science.

The Cape Point of South Africa could be a World Heritage Site just for its beautiful views alone. The amount of flora diversity which this tiny region has makes it one of the most important biological places on Earth.


Cape Floral Region Protected Areas

The Cape Floral Region Protected Areas is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Africa. This UNESCO site covers a total of 78,555 kilometers in land area. It also encompasses a wide range of landscape and geographical features within the region such as the Boland Mountain Complex, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Table Mountain National Park, Cederberg, Winterhoek, and Swartberg, among others. This property was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in South Africa in 2004.

Aside from being a world heritage property, the Cape Floral Region is the only floristic region in the Cape Floristic Kingdom of South Africa. Meanwhile, it is also the only floristic province in the region, which is why it is also known as the Cape Floristic Province.

About Cape Floral Region Protected Areas

Cape Floral Region Protected Areas

The Cape Floral Region Protected Areas is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa. This site itself comprises of 8 areas that are found in the Cape Peninsula to the Eastern Cape. Hence, this property covers a wide range of landscapes and natural features including ocean scenery, mountains and vegetative areas that are home to rich and unique biodiversity.

When UNESCO declared this site as a world heritage property, it cited the fact that the region held “outstanding universal significance” for being the one of the “richest plant areas” the world has known. It is not just the rich biodiversity of plant species that makes it notable and of universal significance. The density and endemism of these plant species are very notable, and among the highest in the world. In fact, it has made the list of the 18 biodiversity hot spots in the world.

Another natural significance of the Cape Floristic Region is that they provide a glimpse into the biological and ecological processes that were associated with how this site came to be. For instance, the survival of these plant species provide researchers with a glimpse into their unique reproductive strategies, as well as ability to adapt to fire, patterns of seed dispersal, and patterns of endemism. All of these factors combine to provide value into the study of plant species and their evolution.

Interesting Facts

Cape Floral Region Protected Areas

To deepen your appreciation for the UNESCO property, which is Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, here are a few facts you need to know:

  • The Cape Floral Region Protected Areas is home to one of the richest collection of plants in the world. This region makes up less than 1% of the African continent and yet it is responsible for more than 20% of its floral species.
  • The Table Mountain National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa. It is comprised within this UNESCO World Heritage property.
  • Aside from the large collection of flora species within this region, the density per flora species is also one of the highest in the world. The level of endemism is also notable at nearly 32%.
  • In addition to the rich flora species, the Cape Flora Region Protected Areas also have a diverse range of animal species. Some of the most notable species that live here include the Table Mountain Ghost Frog and Geometric Tortoise.
  • While the entire region is under protection from the UNESCO’s world heritage status, there are certain areas that are open for the public to explore. In fact, walking among the natural vegetation is allowed even within the protected zone. Tourists can also explore the slopes and summit of Table Mountain.
  • The population growth in South Africa, particularly in the Western Cape, continues to threaten the preservation of these species. CapeNature is working with UNESCO to ensure the protection of this hotspot and world heritage site.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Rideau Canal

UNESCO World Heritage Site #124: Rideau Canal
Rideau Canal: My 124th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Rideau Canal:

The Rideau Canal, a monumental early 19th-century construction covering 202 km of the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers from Ottawa south to Kingston Harbour on Lake Ontario, was built primarily for strategic military purposes at a time when Great Britain and the United States vied for control of the region. The site, one of the first canals to be designed specifically for steam-powered vessels, also features an ensemble of fortifications. It is the best-preserved example of a slackwater canal in North America, demonstrating the use of this European technology on a large scale. It is the only canal dating from the great North American canal-building era of the early 19th century to remain operational along its original line with most of its structures intact.

The Rideau Canal is actually an enormous structure which goes from the Rideau River to Lake Ontario, however, the most famous part lies just below Parliament Hill in Ottawa. It is easy to see and explore if you are visiting Ottawa, but it can also be seen in many other places in Ontario as well. In the winter the frozen canal is plowed to create the world’s largest ice rink.


Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal in North America since it was opened in 1832. It is also known as Rideau Waterway and connects the city of Ottawa (also Canada’s capital city) to Lake Ontario and Saint Lawrence River. The entire length of the canal system measures 202 kilometers. This is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada and is currently managed by Park Canada. The canal was designed by Architect John By.

In addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rideau Canal is also a National Historic Site in Canada (since 1925).

About the Rideau Canal

The name Rideau is a French word that means ‘curtain’. This term refers to how the twin falls at the Rideau River looks like as it joins Ottawa River. It was Samuel de Chaplain who coined this name after seeing the twin falls as he travelled the Ottawa River in early 17th century. In the late 17th century, the name Riviere de Rideau (or Rideau River) made its first appearance on the maps.

Rideau Canal

The Rideau anal encompasses two rivers – Rideau and Cataraqui – along with a few lakes in the area. It was after the War of 1812 ended when the plan to build a navigable waterway was conceived. According to the plan, the waterway was supposed to provide a secure supply route from Montreal to Kingston while avoiding the St. Lawrence River route. Traveling the Rideau Canal and many of the buildings and stoneworks that it passes by is like a journey back in time. Many of the surrounding structures (like the canal itself) were built during the 19th century.

The construction of this canal was part of the military effort to prevent the United States from invading the Upper Canada, which is a British colony at that time. The Rideau Canal was one of the canals and forts that were built by the British during that time. All of the canals traverse the Ottawa River. However, the Rideau Canal is the only one of these structures that were built during the War of 1812 that continues to be used until today. Aside from protecting against potential invaders, the canal also served an important military role as it provided a secure supply and communication route for the military.

In addition to its military purpose, the Rideau Canal also served a commercial purpose. Due to the series of rapids in the St. Lawrence River, this was an easier to navigate route and quickly became the main commercial artery from Montreal and connected it to the Great Lakes in Canada.

The canal system is locked from mid-October and opened again come mid-May. Aside from the Rideau Canal being named as a UNESCO site and National Historic Site of Canada, the Rideau River is also one of the Canadian Heritage Rivers. It was recognized as such in the year 2000.

Interesting Facts

Rideau Canal

Below are a few interesting facts that are linked to the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canada:

  • The canal is featured in two postage stamps made by Canada Post: 45-cent stamps in 1998 and $2.50 international stamp in 2014.
  • The outstanding historical and recreational values at the Rideau Waterway also earned it the recognition as a Canadian Heritage River in 2000.
  • Of the 202 kilometers that the waterway traverses, 19 kilometers of this route is man-made.
  • Today, only leisure boats and tours make use of the Rideau Canal. Most of these boat tours take off from Kingston, Ottawa, Merrickville and Chaffeys Lock.
  • The Rideau Canal utilizes a lock system that is still in use until today. There are 49 locks in total.
  • In addition to the locks, there are four blockhouses that are still in use today. These blockhouses served as the residence of the lockmasters that operated the locks on the canal.

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

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

Last updated: Jul 10, 2017 @ 1:40 am

My multilingual summer in Barcelona

This guest post is written by Benny Lewis who blogs at FluentInThreeMonths.com where he encourages and helps people learn to speak foreign languages. I met Benny earlier this year in Bangkok and again in Las Vegas for BlogWorld Expo, where we took a side trip to visit the Hoover Dam. Benny currently speaks English, Esperanto, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, Gaelic, Hungarian and is now is the Philippines to learn Tagalog.

“So, how long have you been speaking Catalan?”

“Actually, this is my first ever conversation in the language…”

It was Susanna, a potential landlady, who had asked me the question. Since the initial Hola, com estàs? the conversation had continued, albeit slowly, just in Catalan. She didn’t realize until this last question that it really was the first time I had ever used the language.

She had already shown me around the beautiful two-bedroom house near downtown Barcelona, but we stopped here in the garden.

“Què?? Parles molt bé el catalá!


This impressed reaction was something I would see many more times in future when trying to speak a language for the first time. Despite doing poorly in languages in school and only speaking English when I was 21, soon into my travels I had figured out the secret: speak it from day one, no matter what. Study quickly and use the little you know quicker.

Continue reading “My multilingual summer in Barcelona”

2010: My Year in Travel

Visiting Spain was one of my highlights of the year
Visiting Spain was one of my highlights of the year
2010 is a year I am looking forward to putting behind me. The passing of my father was the single biggest event of the last year, which left a scar on everything. It will be difficult for 2011 to be worse.

It was also a year in which I traveled both the more and less than I did in any of the previous four years. Here is a quick summary of the places I visited in 2010:

  • Fiji
  • Australia
  • Thailand
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Canadian Atlantic Provinces
  • South Africa
  • Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City
  • Aruba
  • Bonaire
  • Curacao
  • Las Vegas
  • Honolulu

Continue reading “2010: My Year in Travel”