Plan your next vacation around a UNESCO World Heritage Site, by Travel Writers

By Victor Block

Even if you’ve explored Everglades National Park in Florida and spotted crocodiles, manatees and other wildlife or visited Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where important chapters in the birth of the United States were written, did you know that they are among the 24 places across the country honored as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization?

UNESCO designates natural destinations and cultural attractions that are “of outstanding universal value” and meet one or more of 10 criteria. These include exhibiting “outstanding natural beauty”, providing habitats for endangered species and being associated with events of “universal significance”.

Among the various locations on the list are the Serengeti region in East Africa, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the pyramids of Egypt, and grand castles and cathedrals throughout Europe.

UNESCO sites in the United States are just as varied. They range from alluring parks to an ancient pueblo, from architectural treasures to cultural icons. You might like to use them as a wish list of places to visit in the future.

It is no surprise that the Everglades National Park is included in the UNESCO list. It is the largest tropical wetlands and wild forests in the country, the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, and the most important breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America. It is also home to 36 threatened or protected species.

The setting is very different at the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which straddles the Rocky Mountains along the Canada-US border. It is a region of high snow-capped mountains, high altitude lakes and rushing glacier-fed rivers, where cedar hemlock forests and alpine tundra provide habitats for over 300 species of animals. The park is a symbol of goodwill between Canada and the United States.

Bats are the primary residents of another site, which UNESCO recognizes for both its beauty and ongoing geological activity that scientists can study. The Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico include a hundred limestone caves that form an otherworldly subterranean labyrinth. A massive chamber, nearly 4,000 feet long, is called the Great Hall. Other cave names include Kings Palace, Papoose Room and Hall of the White Giant. The hundreds of thousands of bats that live in caves emerge at sunset to look for their evening meal.

Several very different architectural treasures share the space on the UNESCO list. New Mexico also lays claim to the Taos Pueblo, a multi-story reddish-brown adobe structure believed to have been built between 1000 and 1450 by Tiwa Native Americans. Tribal people still live in the area, some in the simple pueblo where walls have been built several feet thick for defensive purposes. The impressive North Side Building, the largest multi-story pueblo structure still in existence, is one of the most photographed and painted buildings in North America.

The atmosphere is very different in Virginia, where the house and the “Academic Village” designed by Thomas Jefferson are among his many achievements. It says a lot about the man who penned the Declaration of Independence, served as the third President of the United States, and was acclaimed as a statesman, diplomat, and Founding Father and in other leadership roles. public service.

He was also a talented architect. The design features of his Monticello Plantation House and the complex that became the heart of the University of Virginia testify to his success in fusing the traditions of European architecture with the principles of the self-government experiment that represented America.

Jefferson’s academic core continues to serve as the historic and ceremonial center of his beloved university. It is based on his vision of a holistic learning environment that extends beyond classrooms to an open lawn lined with trees and surrounded by interconnected buildings. UNESCO explains that these two achievements are tangible proof of the “ideas and ideals of Thomas Jefferson”.

A much smaller but no less significant architectural treasure greets those who visit Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Completed in 1753 to house the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly, it is where the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Second Continental Congress met, and the Constitutional Convention met after the American Revolution. It is fitting that at another convention held in the building in 1915, the official announcement was made of the formation of the League to enforce the peace. This later led to the creation of the League of Nations and eventually the United Nations.

In contrast, some UNESCO World Heritage Sites are nothing more than mounds of earth, but what they may lack in architectural splendor they make up for in terms of human history. The Poverty Point State Historic Site in Louisiana contains ridges and mounds of earth surrounding a central plaza. They were made by natives between 1700 and 1100 BC.

According to archaeologists, the site could have served as a settlement, a trading center and/or a place of religious ceremony. UNESCO notes that the earthworks at Poverty Point “bear exceptional testimony to a vanished cultural tradition, the Poverty Point culture”. Earthen construction “has not been surpassed for at least 2,000 years”.

From dirt mounds and a college lawn to an ancient pueblo and more modern buildings that played a starring role in the birth of the United States, UNESCO sites across the country have varied and highly intriguing histories. to tell.


To see the full list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including those in the United States:

Visitors enter Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo courtesy of Crackerclips/

.  Thomas Jefferson's Virginia home, Monticello, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Photo courtesy of Marcnorman/

. Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia home, Monticello, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo courtesy of Marcnorman/

    New Mexico's Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Photo courtesy of Nena Giannakidou/

New Mexico’s Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo courtesy of Nena Giannakidou/

Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read articles by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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