World Heritage Sites are recognized by the UN, specifically by the UNESCO, based on the fact that these sites have some kind of cultural, historical and scientific significance and are important to the collective interests of humanity. These sites are unique in that they are geographically identifiable as a natural wonder or historically important as being the result of immense human endeavor and accomplishment.
While there are 203 natural sites, one more breathtaking than the other, all over the world, here is a small list of 10 such wonders that the UNESCO has recognized and urges countries to preserve for posterity.
With 3000 quartzite sandstone pillars and peaks, ravines, gorges and beautiful streams, lakes, pools, rivers and waterfalls, Wulingyuan served as inspiration for the Hollywood movie Avatar. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992, this once remote and inaccessible part of China’s Hunan Province, is now a tourist attraction.
Giant’s Causeway, Ireland
Ancient Volcanic eruptions have resulted in 40,000 giant polygonal basalt columns lining the northeast coast of Northern Ireland. Legend has that the causeway was built by a giant named Finn MacCool and hence the name “Giant’s Causeway”. The site was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of 21 volcanic islands of which only 5 are inhabited by people. It’s a part of Ecuador. The islands and their surrounding waters form the Galápagos Province of Ecuador, the Galápagos National Park, and the Galápagos Marine Reserve. With rich and exotic wildlife – marine, land and air – the Galápagos islands are a World Heritage site (declared in 1978) as well as a Biosphere reserve.
Pamukkale literally means “cotton castle” in Turkish. The city contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. There are 17 hot water springs and the temperature of these waters ranges from 95 °F to 212 °F. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1988.
Tasmanian Wilderness, Australia
The Tasmanian Wilderness in Tasmania, Australia was declared a World Heritage site in 1982. It is one of the last expanses of temperate wilderness in the world. It is a network of parks and reserves with deep gorges that underwent severe glaciation. Archaeologists have found human remains in limestone caves dating back more to than 20,000 years.
With more than half of the Sundarbans in India and the remaining in Bangladesh, this 10,000 square km of land and water contains the world’s largest area of mangrove forests. It is one of the most biologically productive of all natural ecosystems. It is located right at the mouth of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers between the two countries. The habitatt supports the largest population of tigers in the world.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone Park has the world’s largest concentration of geysers and contains half of all the world’s geothermal features. Most of the park lies in Wyoming, with a samll portion of is spilling into Idaho and Montana. It is home to varied wildlife like grizzly bears, wolves, bison and wapitis. Its geothermal features sustain wild ecosystems and rare and endangered species flourish. Yellowstone National Park was declared a World Heritage site in 1978.
Lake Malawi National Park
This national park is located at the southern end of the huge Lake Malawi, after which it is named. Home to hundreds of fish species, the lake has deep, clear waters and a beautiful and mountain backdrop. There are a few small islands on the lake that have animals such as baboons. An 800-year old baobab tree, supposedly a favorite of Dr. David Livingstone is also present on one of these islands. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Virgin Komi Forests
Located in the the Northern Ural Mountains of the Komi Republic, Russia, the Virgin Komi Forests cover 3.28 million hectares of tundra and mountain tundra in the Urals. It also covers one of Europe’s most extensive areas of virgin boreal forest. The kinds of trees here include conifer, aspen, spruce, fir and birch and the peat bogs, rivers and natural lakes have been monitored and studied for more than 50 years. The most prominent animals that call this place home are reindeer, sable, mink and hare. The Virgin Komi Forests were declared a World Heritage site in 1995.
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks include Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho national parks and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks. Mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves, form an imposing and beautiful landscape. Glacial activity and processes are evident throughout the site with icefields, valley glaciers, canyons and examples of erosion and deposition. The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks was declared a World Heritage site in 1984.