This past week, UNESCO updated its eclectic list of the world's most fascinating places. Countries campaign hard to get their treasured wilderness reserves, archeological ruins, and historic sites recognized by the esteemed program. After much deliberation, the organization decides each year on new sites worthy of World Heritage status to add to its list of more than a thousand places of “outstanding universal value to humanity.”
While rolling sand dunes in southeast Iran or isolated coral reefs off the coast of Sudan prove difficult to access, the list of 21 newcomers offers plenty of opportunities to plan a trip. Here are 10 favorites for travelers:
Archaeological Site of Philippi
Where: Northern Greece
Once considered a miniature version of Rome, Philippi—founded in the fourth century B.C.—hosted a theater, temple, and forum at the foot of an acropolis in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. The walled city, located on an ancient route connecting Europe and Asia, later became a center for Christianity, and remains of its basilicas still stand today.
Travel Tip: Take a taxi (about 20 minutes) or bus (30 minutes) from the seaport city of Kavala to the entrance of the archaeological site.
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier
Where: Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Japan, and Switzerland
The creative genius of French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier takes the spotlight with 17 masterpieces making the cut for the World Heritage List. Leading the Modern Movement after World War I, Le Corbusier's bold and functional buildings combined iron, concrete, and glass—and certainly did not appeal to everyone. Yet the designs, built over half a century around the world, broke conventions and paved way for a new architectural language.
Travel Tip: Head to France to find the bulk of the list, with 10 buildings, including La Villa Savoye in the Parisian suburb of Poissy, La Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, and La Cité Radieuse in Marseille.
Where: Island of Newfoundland in eastern Canada
Named for the navigational hazard it poses at the often foggy southeastern tip of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula, Mistaken Point is home to the oldest complex life-forms found anywhere on Earth. People make the pilgrimage to see the collection of fossils on a 565-million-year-old sea floor surrounded by rugged cliffs and pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
Travel Tip: Visitors must be accompanied by an official tour guide, available at the Edge of Avalon Interpretive Centre in Portugal Cove South.
Where: Northwestern Hubei province of China
Hubei Shennongjia is the only well-preserved subtropical forest ecosystem in the world's middle latitudes. In addition to some 5,000 plant species, rare animal species like the Chinese salamander, the snub-nosed monkey, clouded leopard, and the Asian black bear call Hubei Shennongjia home.
Travel Tip: The new Shennongjia Hongping Airport opened in May 2014, with connecting flights to Wuhan, Chongqing, and Shanghai.
Antigua Naval Dockyard
Where: Antigua's historic district on the extreme south of the island
The Georgian-style marina set in Antigua's deep, narrow bays came to prominence during the 18th century to protect the interests of sugarcane planters when European powers competed for control of the eastern Caribbean. Now painstakingly restored, the site served as the British Royal Navy's home until abandonment in 1889 following a decline in the island's economic and strategic importance.
Travel Tip: Don't miss the Dockyard Museum in the stone officers' residence for stories of island history and life at the forts.
Antequera Dolmens Site
Where: Málaga province in the southern Spanish autonomous community of Andalusia
Dating from the third millennium B.C., these burial mounds hiding in the Andalusian mountains have been described by UNESCO as “one of the most remarkable architectural works of European prehistory and one of the most important examples of European Megalithism.” Antequera sits centrally—between the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions, straddling Africa and Europe—contributing to a mash-up of architectural styles seen nowhere else.
Travel Tip: Take in a flamenco performance in the art form's region of origin and see the Museo Picasso Málaga—a restored 16th-century palace boasting almost 300 works in the city where artist Pablo Picasso was born.
Where: About 300 miles off the coast of Baja California, Mexico
Four submerged volcanic islands mark the site where, about 3.5 million years ago, there was an expansion of the ocean floor. The volcanic activity continues to make the reserve an important site of geological study. Nicknamed Mexico's "little Galápagos," the islands and surrounding waters provide a stopping point for seabirds and critical habitat for a range of wildlife, with an incredible abundance of manta rays, whales, dolphins, and sharks.
Travel Tip: The journey from the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula takes over 24 hours just to reach the Revillagigedo Archipelago (commonly called the Socorro Islands), but avid divers on weeklong excursions find the incredible wildlife worth the effort.
Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara
Where: State of Bihar in northeastern India
Earning the distinction of the Indian subcontinent's most ancient university, the Nalanda Mahavihara archaeological site displays top class stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings), and other important works of art. The fifth-century monastery organized the transmission of university knowledge over an uninterrupted 800 years and helped the development of Buddhism into a religion.
Travel Tip: The Indian government is already working hard to connect Buddhist sites of importance like Nalanda Mahavihara by rail, road, and air to promote religious and cultural tourism. Now tourists prefer to stay 10 miles away in Rajgir.
Gorham's Cave Complex
Where: British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar on the south coast of Spain
This striking network of sea caves on the eastern side of the Rock of Gibraltar is the last known site of Neanderthal survival. Archaeologists discovered treasures like stone tools and abstract rock engravings in Gorham's four caves, helping to understand human evolution and Neanderthal occupation over a span of more than 125,000 years.
Travel Tip: Many tourists just pass through on a cruise ship, but charming Palladian architecture, Barbary macaques, and other gems make Gibraltar a destination of its own.
Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape
Where: Along the Zuojiang River in south China's Guangxi Autonomous Region bordering Vietnam
Straddling steep limestone cliffs in a spectacular landscape formed 200 million years ago, these 38 examples of rock art offer the only trace left of the life and rituals of the Luoyue people. Some scholars believe the paintings—dating back to the fifth century B.C.—depict ceremonies of the bronze drum culture once prevalent across southern China.
Travel Tip: The rock paintings' remoteness helped their preservation, but the city of Chongzuo about an hour away provides tourists with accomodation and a good starting point for nature of the region.