19 Interesting Facts About World Heritage Sites

I have been visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites since I began traveling full time in 2007. Since then I have visited over 375 sites around the world and have photographed all of them.

There are no typical world heritage sites. They come in all shapes and sizes, from a few square meters to sites larger than most countries. Some are ancient ruins while others are living, functioning cities.

I’ve compiled 27 interesting facts about world heritage sites which I hope you find interesting, and provide some illumination into the greatest places our world has to offer!


1) There are currently 1,092 world heritage sites. They are divided between 845 cultural, 209 natural, and 38 mixed sites.

2) The country with the most world heritage sites is Italy with 54.

3) There are 32 countries with at least 10 world heritage sites, 13 countries with at least 20 sites, 8 with at least 30 sites, and 5 with 40 or more.
Continue reading “19 Interesting Facts About World Heritage Sites”

Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir

Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir

From the World Heritage inscription:

Battir is a major Palestinian cultural landscape, the adaptation of a deep valley system for agricultural purposes as a result of a good supply of water. The complex irrigation system of this water supply has led to the creation of dry walls terraces which may have been exploited since antiquity. The agricultural terraces, exploiting this irrigation system, were the basis for a strong presence of agriculture through the cultivation of olives and vegetables. The area still today has the same use.

The water distribution system used by the families of Battir is a testament to an ancient egalitarian distribution system that delivers water to the terraced agricultural land based on a simple mathematical calculation and a clear time-managed rotation scheme.

The village of Battir is not far from Jerusalem and is right on the Israel/Palestine border. In fact, there are Israeli train tracks which go right past the terraces at the bottom of the hill.

I could not find any organized tours to Battir, which was a shame. Nearby Bethlehem gets most of the attention in the region. That being said, it wasn’t that hard to get to Battir from Bethlehem. I had my tour guide in Bethlehem call a taxi for me which took me to there. It took about 15 minutes and cost about $10.

Battir is a fairly new world heritage site and as such the tourism infrastructure isn’t well developed. There are a few souvenir shops and cafes, but that’s about it.

The terraces are easily accessible if you are on the main street of the village. Expect to spend 30-60 minutes walking around the area. This site is probably going to be of interest to world heritage enthusiasts more than anyone else. Nonetheless, I think anyone visiting Jerusalem would be well off to come and visit a small Palestinian village, which Battir fits perfectly.
Continue reading “Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir”

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

Overview

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

From the World Heritage inscription:

Bethlehem lies 10 kilometers south of the city of Jerusalem, in the fertile limestone hill country of the Holy Land. Since at least the 2nd century AD people have believed that the place where the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, now stands is where Jesus was born. One particular cave, over which the first Church was built, is traditionally believed to be the Birthplace itself. In locating the Nativity, the place both marks the beginnings of Christianity and is one of the holiest spots in Christendom. The original basilica church of 339 AD (St Helena), parts of which survive below ground, was arranged so that its octagonal eastern end surrounded, and provided a view of, the cave. This church is overlaid by the present Church of the Nativity, essentially of the mid-6th century AD (Justinian), though with later alterations. It is the oldest Christian church in daily use. Since early medieval times, the Church has been increasingly incorporated into a complex of other ecclesiastical buildings, mainly monastic. As a result, today it is embedded in an extraordinary architectural ensemble, overseen by members of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Custody of the Holy Land and the Armenian Church, under the provisions of the Status Quo of the Holy Places established by the Treaty of Berlin (1878).

During various periods over the past 1700 years, Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity have been, and still are, a pilgrim destination. The eastern end of the traditional route from Jerusalem to the Church, known as the Pilgrimage route, marks the road that connects the traditional entrance of Bethlehem, near King David’s Wells with the Church of the Nativity, and extends along the Star Street through the Damascus Gate, or Qos Al-Zarara, the historical gate of the town, towards the Manger Square. The Route continues to be celebrated as the path followed by Joseph and Mary during their trip in Bethlehem during Christmas ceremonies each year and is followed ceremonially by Patriarchs of the three churches at their several Christmases, and during their official visits to Bethlehem.

The Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Palestine. It was inscribed by UNESCO in 2012 as a religious/Christian structure. However, it was also added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger in that same year due to the damage incurred at the property due to water leaks.
Continue reading “Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem”

Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev

Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Incense Route was a network of trade routes extending over two thousand kilometers to facilitate the transport of frankincense and myrrh from the Yemen and Oman in the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean.

The four Nabatean towns of Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat, and Shivta, with their associated fortresses and agricultural landscapes linking them to the Mediterranean, are situated on a segment of this route, in the Negev Desert, in southern Israel. They stretch across a hundred-kilometer section of the desert, from Moa on the Jordanian border in the east to Haluza in the northwest. Together they reflect the hugely profitable trade in Frankincense from south Arabia to the Mediterranean, which flourished from the third century BCE until the second century CE, and the way the harsh desert was colonized for agriculture through the use of highly sophisticated irrigation systems.

Ten of the sites (four towns – Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta; four fortresses – Kazra, Nekarot, Makhmal, and Grafon; and the two caravanserai of Moa and Saharonim) lie along, or near to, the main trade route from Petra, capital of the Nabatean Empire in Jordan, to the Mediterranean ports. The town of Mamshit straddles the northern parallel route. Combined, the route and the desert cities along it reflect the prosperity of the Nabatean incense trade over a seven hundred year period, from the 3rd century BCE to the 4th century CE.

Continue reading “Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev”

Caves of Maresha and Bet-Guvrin in the Judean Lowlands as a Microcosm of the Land of the Caves

Caves of Maresha and Bet-Guvrin in the Judean Lowlands as a Microcosm of the Land of the Caves

From the World Heritage inscription:

The presence in the Judean Lowlands of thick and homogeneous chalk sub-strata enabled numerous caves to be excavated and managed by Man. The property includes a complete selection of chambers and man-made subterranean networks, of different forms and for different activities. They are situated underneath the ancient twin cities of Maresha and Bet Guvrin, and in the surrounding areas, constituting a “city under a city”. They bear witness to a succession of historical periods of excavation and use, over a period of 2,000 years. Initially, the excavations were quarries, but they were later converted for various agricultural and local craft industry purposes, including oil presses, columbaria, stables, underground cisterns and channels, baths, tombs and places of worship, and hiding places during troubled times, etc. With their density, diversified activities, use over two millennia and the quality of their state of preservation, the complexes attain an Outstanding Universal Value.

Continue reading “Caves of Maresha and Bet-Guvrin in the Judean Lowlands as a Microcosm of the Land of the Caves”

The Top 10 World Heritage Sites in Greece

To many people, Greece is known mainly as a country with beautiful turquoise colored waters, vivid architecture, and delicious cuisine. While this is true, Greece is also rich with history. Greece is home to over 18 unique UNESCO sites that you can visit. Because there are quite a few, finding the right sites to visit on a short trip here can be a little difficult. To help you, this article will highlight the top UNESCO world heritage sites in Greece that anyone traveling to there should consider visiting.
Continue reading “The Top 10 World Heritage Sites in Greece”

Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves

Mount Carmel WOrld Heritage Site
Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves
Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves: My 321st UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription or the Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel:

The four Mount Carmel caves (Tabun, Jamal, el-Wad, and Skhul) and their terraces are clustered adjacent to each other along the south side of the Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara valley. The steep-sided valley opening to the coastal plain on the west side of the Carmel range provides the visual setting of a prehistoric habitat.

Located in one of the best preserved fossilized reefs of the Mediterranean region, the site contains cultural deposits representing half a million years of human evolution from the Lower Palaeolithic to the present. It is recognized as providing a definitive chronological framework at a key period of human development.

Archaeological evidence covers the appearance of modern humans, deliberate burials, early manifestations of stone architecture and the transition from hunter-gathering to agriculture. The attributes carrying Outstanding Universal Value include the four caves, terraces, un-excavated deposits and excavated artifacts and skeletal material; the Nahal Me’arot/ Wadi el-Mughara landscape providing the prehistoric setting of the caves; el-Wad Terrace excavations, and remains of stone houses and pits comprising evidence of the Natufian hamlet.

Continue reading “Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves”