At last count, Un­esco had crowned 1 073 sites in more than 170 coun­tries. You may have been to a World Her­itage site in the US with­out know­ing it

Sunday Tribune - - TRAVEL - AN­DREA SACHS

FOR more than 40 years, the UN Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion and its nearly 200 mem­ber states have been pre­serv­ing, pro­tect­ing and pro­mot­ing the most valu­able her­itage places in the world.

At last count, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has crowned 1073 sites in more than 170 coun­tries.

Of those, 832 are cul­tural, 206 are nat­u­ral and 35 are a mix of both cat­e­gories.

The cho­sen ones vary tremen­dously: the Whale Sanc­tu­ary of El Viz­caino in Mex­ico; the Vil­lages with For­ti­fied Churches in Tran­syl­va­nia; and the En­gels­berg Iron­works in Swe­den were all part of the class of 1993, for in­stance.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful thing – the shared her­itage of the world,” said Mechtild Rössler, the Paris-based di­rec­tor of the Divi­sion for Her­itage and the Un­esco World Her­itage Cen­tre. “We are trans­mit­ting these sites for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Italy claims the high­est num­ber of sites (53), but the US isn’t too far be­hind. And it does have two more than Ja­pan, de­spite the Land of the Ris­ing Sun’s cul­tural head start by sev­eral cen­turies.

The US sup­ported the World Her­itage Con­ven­tion in its devel­op­ment and adop­tion in 1972, and was one of 193 coun­tries to have rat­i­fied the treaty.

How­ever, the re­la­tion­ship has frayed over the years.

In 2011, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion stopped con­tribut­ing pay­ments af­ter the or­gan­i­sa­tion ad­mit­ted the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries. Then, late last year, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced that the US would with­draw from Un­esco by this De­cem­ber although, as an orig­i­nal signer (the first, in fact), the coun­try will main­tain its state party sta­tus with the con­ven­tion.

For­tu­nately, Un­esco’s obli­ga­tion to safe­guard pre­cious land­marks tran­scends pol­i­tics. Even with­out Amer­ica’s par­tic­i­pa­tion, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will con­tinue to ad­vo­cate for the pro­tec­tion of World Her­itage sites on US soil.

“There are two mis­takes one can make along the road to truth - not go­ing all the way, and not start­ing.” – BUD­DHA

Ca­hokia Mounds State His­toric Site Est 1982 | Illi­nois Why it’s Un­esco-wor­thy: The largest pre­his­toric Na­tive Amer­i­can set­tle­ment north of Mex­ico once cov­ered 1400ha. . How to reach it: The site is a few miles from Collinsville, Illi­nois. Best time to visit: Week­days in June and July. In­sider tip: For in­de­pen­dent and in­ter­ac­tive ex­plo­ration, rent an ipod Touch and time travel back to the Mis­sis­sip­pian civil­i­sa­tion.

Carls­bad Cav­erns Na­tional Park Est 1995 | New Mex­ico Why it’s Un­esco-wor­thy: More than 119 lime­stone caves be­neath the Chi­huahuan daz­zle and de­light with speleothems (for ex­am­ple, sta­lag­mites and sta­lac­tites), sculp­tural reef and rock for­ma­tions, gyp­sum chan­de­liers and ge­o­logic fea­tures partly shaped by bac­te­ria. About 400 000 Brazil­ian free-tailed bats va­ca­tion in Carls­bad Cav­ern from late May through late Oc­to­ber. How to reach it: El Paso is about 2½ hours away by car. Best time to visit: Septem­ber. In­sider tip: Park rangers lead free evening bat talks.

Chaco Cul­ture Est 1987 | New Mex­ico Why it’s Un­esco-wor­thy: The pot­pourri of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal des­ti­na­tions here – Chaco Cul­ture Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Park, Aztec Ru­ins Na­tional Mon­u­ment and five Chaco Cul­ture Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Pro­tec­tion Sites – il­lus­trates the ar­chi­tec­tural and en­gi­neer­ing smarts of the Cha­coan peo­ple, who in­hab­ited the re­gion from the mid-9th to the early 13th cen­tury. How to reach it: The clos­est ma­jor city is Farm­ing­ton, New Mex­ico, about 90 min­utes away by car. Best time to visit: Spring or au­tumn. In­sider tip: The Chaco Cul­ture park holds tele­scope-peer­ing events from April to Oc­to­ber.

Ever­glades Na­tional Park Est 1979 | Florida Why it’s Un­esco-wor­thy: The park is the largest sub­trop­i­cal wilder­ness re­serve with the most sig­nif­i­cant breed­ing ground for wad­ing birds and the big­gest con­tin­u­ous stand of saw grass prairie in North Amer­ica. How to reach it: The park has three en­trances in three cities: Homestead, Mi­ami and Ever­glades City. Best time to visit: Spring, au­tumn and win­ter. In­sider tip: Rangers lead walks from De­cem­ber to April.

Grand Canyon Na­tional Park Est 1979 | Ari­zona Why it’s Un­esco-wor­thy: Ge­o­logic lay­ers tell a tale that goes back more than 1.8 bil­lion years. How to reach it: The South Rim is about 120km from Flagstaff, Ari­zona, and 340km from the North Rim. Shut­tles run be­tween Flagstaff or Las Ve­gas and Grand Canyon Vil­lage on the South Rim, and be­tween the rims, depend­ing on the sea­son. The Grand Canyon Rail­way of­fers daily train ser­vice be­tween Wil­liams, Ari­zona, and the park. Best time to visit: Spring or

au­tumn. In­sider tip: The Desert View Watch­tower hosts cul­tural demon­stra­tions by 11 tribes on the week­ends.

Great Smoky Moun­tains Na­tional Park Est 1983 | Ten­nessee and North Carolina Why it’s Un­esco-wor­thy: The lush tem­per­ate zone is home to a wildly di­verse as­sort­ment of plants, bugs and an­i­mals. Many of the rocks were formed hun­dreds of mil­lions of years ago. How to reach it: The park strad­dles two states. Drive times from Knoxville, Ten­nessee and Asheville, North Carolina are about 45 min­utes and 70 min­utes, re­spec­tively. Best time to visit: Au­tumn or spring. In­sider tip: Help break in the new road along a 25km sec­tion of the Foothills Park­way.

Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park Est 1987 | Hawaii Why it’s Un­esco-wor­thy: The park con­tains two of the world’s most ac­tive vol­ca­noes, Mauna Loa and Ki­lauea. How to reach it: The park is about a 45-minute drive from Hilo, on the is­land of Hawaii. Best time to visit: When­ever the lava is flow­ing. In­sider tip: Rise with the sun and head to the Jag­gar Mu­seum Over­look, the lava lake’s clos­est view­ing point.

Klu­ane/wrangell-st Elias/ Glacier Bay/tat­shen­shini-alsek Est 1979, 1992, 1994 | Alaska and the Yukon Ter­ri­tory and Bri­tish Columbia, Canada Why it’s Un­esco-wor­thy: Canada (Klu­ane and Tat­shen­shini-alsek) and the US (Wrangell-st Elias and Glacier Bay Na­tional Park and Pre­serve) share the site, which is recog­nised for hav­ing the largest non­po­lar ice field and some of the long­est glaciers in the world. How to reach it: The Wrangell-st Elias Vis­i­tor Cen­tre is near Cop­per Cen­ter, about 320km east of An­chor­age. Only two roads, Nabesna and the Mc­carthy, ven­ture into the park. To ex­plore the Yaku­tat coast­line and more re­mote sec­tions of the park, hitch a ride on a bush plane or ferry. Glacier Bay sits west of Juneau – plane or boat re­quired. Best time to visit: June and July. In­sider tip: From the Ken­necott Vis­i­tor Cen­ter in Wrangell-st Elias, slip on your cram­pons and hike the 3km Root Glacier Trail, which ends with a glacier that you can walk on.

Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park Est 1978 | Wy­oming, Mon­tana and Idaho Why it’s Un­esco-wor­thy: Yel­low­stone cor­ners the mar­ket on geo­ther­mal fea­tures, with more than 10 000 ex­am­ples, plus the world’s largest con­cen­tra­tion of gey­sers (more than 500). . How to reach it: The North En­trance at Gar­diner, Mon­tana, is the only por­tal open year-round. Best time to visit: Spring In­sider tip: Take a dip in the Boil­ing River, a swim­ming hole a-swish with cold wa­ter from the Gard­ner River and hot wa­ter from a spring.


Cover photo: The Statue of Lib­erty in New York. Na­tional Park Ser­vice. CLIFF Palace, Mesa Verde’s largest cliff dwelling.

| Wash­ing­ton Post | Sonya Doc­to­rian.

VIS­I­TORS to Thomas Jef­fer­son’s Mon­ti­cello Man­sion walk past a re­flect­ing pond in the man­sion’s front yard.

| The Wash­ing­ton Post | Bon­nie Jo Mount

A bi­son heads for a meal af­ter loung­ing at the edge of Mud Cal­dron in Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park, Wy­oming. Be­cause of hy­dro­gen sul­fide, the area smells sim­i­lar to rot­ten eggs.


A Great egret stands on top of the Bob­cat Board­walk Trail in Shark Val­ley. Ever­glades Na­tional Park has mul­ti­ple vis­i­tor cen­tres, in­clud­ing the Shark Val­ley Vis­i­tor Cen­tre.

Bloomberg | Daniel Acker

THE Colorado River runs through Grand Canyon Na­tional Park in this ae­rial pho­to­graph.

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