Information about UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Founded in 1945, UNESCO has grown from the original 37 countries to projects in more than 141 states since its establishment.

Text by Laura Button, Pictures by Rolf Hicker



Aerial picture of the historic town of Vernazza in the Cinque Terre National Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the province of La Spezia in Italy. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is dedicated to those endeavours on a global level. In 1972, the United Nations passed an international treaty for the protection of world and cultural heritage, and the idea of UNESCO World Heritage sites was born.

There are 861 properties with the UNESCO seal of approval. Nominations often come from within a previously-designated site, such as a national park, but UNESCO can encourage a government to nominate a particular site. There are ten criteria for designating a UNESCO site, and new nominees must meet at least one, proving its global significance on a natural or cultural level.

Once a site gets the stamp of approval from UNESCO, it is usually administered by the local or federal government. The site will report to UNESCO every six years, and the international organization maintains a list of world heritage sites in danger for those facing serious maintenance trouble or threats from developments. It is unfortunate to note that as many as 30 established sites are in danger of having their UNESCO seal revoked due to natural or man made threats. UNESCO will fund some projects, but financial responsibilities lie primarily with the federal governments themselves. A benefit of inscription of a site, on top of increased public awareness it brings, is the fact that financial assistance can be received from a variety of different sources internationally as well as nationally.

Picture of the harbour and museum in the old town of Lunenburg designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nova Scotia, Canada. UNESCO helps with professional and logistical training to run a world heritage site, but local people are always encouraged to get involved with preserving the natural and cultural heritage nearby. UNESCO is an international organization working at a community level where citizens can see the real benefits of having a world heritage site in their region for jobs and a boost to tourism.

The UNESCO seal of approval is recognized worldwide, and marks a site as one of particular importance. The UNESCO crest is the greatest status symbol for tourist attractions the world over.

A few of the most famous and well known UNESCO World Heritage Sites include (but are not limited to):

  • Taj Mahal, India
  • The Great Wall of China
  • Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Banks of the Seine, Paris
  • Pyramid Fields of Egypt
  • Vatican City
  • Old City of Jerusalem
  • Grand Canyon, USA
  • Stonehenge, England

Links to related pages about UNESCO World Heritage Sites