The United Nations’ Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) this week released its list of new World Heritage sites for 2022 and 2023—places that are recognized for their cultural, historical, natural, and scientific significance in the world. In the past, sites as renowned as the Taj Mahal, the Acropolis of Athens, Yellowstone National Park, Machu Picchu, and Serengeti National Park, to name a few, have been added to this elite list. All told, there are now 1,172 sites—42 of which were just named this week and last—that make up the list of global UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Among the newly inscribed group are an archaeological cemetery site in South Korea, a roadside inn in Iran, and a famed hop-growing region in Czechia.
To be considered for UNESCO status, nominated sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of the 10 selection criteria, which range from representing “a masterpiece of human creative genius” to being “directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.”
Here are the new additions to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2023.
Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker
Those who are fascinated by the night sky may want to consider a visit to the Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker, Netherlands, located in the northern part of the country. Built between 1774 and 1781, this site houses a mechanical scale model of the solar system (at least, as it was known at that time) that’s built into the ceiling. Though it only includes six planets (Earth, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), as well as the sun and moon, it played an important role in our understanding of the cosmos today—it was one of the earliest predecessors to the projection planetariums of the 20th and 21st centuries. The planetarium is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, year-round. From April 1 through October 31, it is also open on Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Deer Stone Monuments of Mongolia
These four-meter-tall stones, decorated with engravings of stags, poke out of the ground of Khangai Ridge, part of a mountain range in central Mongolia (10 miles west of Murun town in the Khovsgol province). They date from roughly 1,200 to 600 B.C.E. It’s believed that Eurasian Bronze Age nomads used these markers for ceremonial and funerary practices (the area also includes large burial mounds called khirgisüürs and sacrificial altars).
National Archaeological Park Tak’alik Ab’aj
Situated on the Pacific coast of Guatemala (about four hours west of Guatemala City by car) this 1,700-plus-year-old archaeological site played a primary role in the emergence of Early Mayan culture. It was an important connection point in a long-distance trade route that connected what is now Mexico and El Salvador. According to UNESCO, “Ideas and customs were shared extensively along this route. . . . Today, Indigenous groups of different affiliations still consider the site a sacred place and visit it to perform rituals.” The site is open to visitors—the entrance fee is 50 Guatemalan quetzales (roughly $6.35).
Memorial sites of the Rwandan Genocide
Four sites important to the story and remembrance of the Rwandan Genocide, where an estimated 1 million people were killed across Rwanda between April and July 1994, also received protected status. Those sites include two places that were the scene of massacres: a Catholic church in Myamata and a technical school in Murambi. The other two locations are hills: the hill of Gisozi in Kigali, where more than 250,000 victims were buried (it’s also the site of the Kigali Genocide Memorial, a popular museum in the capital city), and the hill of Bisesero in the Western Providence, where a memorial was built to remember those “who resisted their perpetrators for over two months before being exterminated,” according to UNESCO.
Andrefana Dry Forests
Occasionally, UNESCO will choose to alter the boundaries of existing sites to encompass other areas of significance, which was the case with the Andrefana Dry Forests. Found in multiple spots along the western coast of Madagascar, the Dry Forests are an extension of the Tsingy de Bemaraha World Heritage site consisting of tall, thin, needle-like rock formations found only in Madagascar. The new component covers areas of “extreme importance for conservation as they cover a spectacular array of endemic and threatened biodiversity, including baobabs (a type of deciduous tree native to Madagascar), as well as unique evolutionary lineages such as the Mesitornithiformes, an order of birds which is 54 million years old,” according to UNESCO.
The complete 2023 list of UNESCO’s newly designated World Heritage sites
- Koh Ker Archaeological Site in Cambodia
- Santiniketan, West Bengal, India
- Old Tea Forests of the Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er, China
- Mongolia’s Deer Stone Monuments
- Korea’s Gaya Tumuli burial mounds
- Türkiye’s archaeological site of Gordion
- The Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor of the Silk Road
- Iran’s Persian Caravanserai
- Ancient Jericho/Tell es-Sultan
- “Köç Yolu” Transhumance Route in Azerbaijan
- India’s Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysalas
- Indonesia’s Cosmological Axis of Yogyakarta
- The Cold Winter Deserts of Turan in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan
- Uruq Bani Ma’arid in Saudi Arabia
- Tugay forests of the Tigrovaya Balka Nature Reserve in Tajikistan
- Türkiye’s Wooden Hypostyle Mosques of Medieval Anatolia
- Ethiopia’s Gedeo Cultural Landscape
- Djerba in Tunisia
- Bale Mountains National Park in Ethiopia
- The Forest Massif of Odzala-Kokoua in Congo
- Volcanoes and forests of Mount Pelée and pitons of Martinique
- Rwanda’s memorial sites of the 1994 Genocide, including Nyamata, Murambi, Gisozi, and Bisesero
- Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park
- Germany’s Jewish medieval historic center of Erfurt
- Architecture of the town of Kaunas, Lithuania
- Old town of Kuldīga, Latvia
- Prehistoric Sites of Talayotic Menorca
- The Czech town of Žatec and its tradition of Saaz hops
- Viking-age ring fortresses in Denmark
- The Maison Carrée of Nîmes, France
- Russia’s Astronomical Observatories of Kazan Federal University
- Belgium and France’s funerary and memory sites along the First World War Western Front
- Historic Center of Guimarães and Couros Zone in Portugal
- Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker, Netherlands
- The Evaporitic Karst and Caves of Northern Apennines in Italy
- Greece’s Zagori Cultural Landscape
- Canada’s Tr’ondëk-Klondike region
- Canada’s island of Anticosti
- Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, found along the central tributaries of the Ohio River in the U.S.