9 UNESCO Sites to See Before They Disappear

Thanks to Condé nast for this advice.  Images: Getty

After the earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal’s UNESCO heritage sites are at risk. But those aren’t the only world heritage spots that could soon disappear. Some sites, like the Everglades, have been a concern for years, while others have only recently become troubled. Find out which ones you might be running out of time to visit.

1. Nepal


Why they’re special: Several of Nepal’s four heritage sites have spiritual significance, especially Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.

Why they’re in danger: Following the devastating earthquake in April, Nepal’s UNESCO sites are being added to the organization’s list of sites in danger. In fact, the UN asked Nepal not to reopen their monuments to tourists so soon after the earthquake, citing concerns about aftershocks (there was one on June 13) and a need for repairs. But Nepalese tourism secretary Suresh Man Shrestha was undaunted, saying that the country needed tourists to start returning.

2. Bamiyan Valley, Aghanistan


Why it’s special: The Bamiyan Valley played an important role in early Buddhism, especially its pair of enormous Buddha statues that were carved directly into the sides of the mountains.

Why it’s in danger: Many endangered UNESCO sites—including Afghanistan’s two listed sites, the Bamiyan Valley (pictured) and the remains of the city of Jam—are affected because of conflict in the area. In 2001, the invading Taliban famously destroyed the Buddha statues that had been in the Bamiyan Valley since the sixth century AD, although a new 3-D light art project may help visitors see what they once looked like.

3. The Everglades, Florida

Florida Everglades

Why it’s special: The Everglades is home to the western hemisphere’s largest mangrove ecosystem and to many rare and nearly-extinct birds.

Why it’s in danger: Natural disasters like hurricanes and man-made problems like pollution and the introduction of foreign animal species are threatening the already-precarious ecosystem and killing some of the rare animals and plants that make the Everglades so unique.

4. Old City of Jerusalem


Why it’s special: Jerusalem is sacred to three of the world’s major religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and has historic sites connected to all of them.

Why it’s in danger: Ongoing conflict in the region, plus a growing swell in the number of residents and tourists, has made the old walled city—location of the Dome of the Rock and Church of the Holy Sepulchre—even more precarious.

5. Medieval monuments of Kosovo, Serbia


Why they’re special: The Byzantine and Romanesque churches and monasteries are stunning examples of Balkan art from the 13th–17th centuries.

Why they’re in danger: After the war between former Yugoslavian states in the late ’90s, many of these sites faced structural damage. Even though the region has calmed down considerably, the buildings are still fragile and need more work.

6. Liverpool, England

Liver Building

Why it’s special: More than just The Beatles’s hometown, Liverpool was an important port city that helped Britain grow into an empire during the 18th and 19th century.

Why it’s in danger: The port area, like many neighborhoods, is subject to population growth and gentrification. Developers want to put up more new buildings, but UNESCO regulations require that nothing be taller than the existing structures, including St. George’s Hall, a Neoclassical building famous for its stone lions, and the Pier Head complex, which houses the Museum of Liverpool.

7. Potosi, Bolivia


Why it’s special: Potosi was once believed to be the largest silver mine in the world. Its history is a mix of Spanish colonial influence and a rich native Indian culture.

Why it’s in danger: The very silver mining industry that made Potosi famous may also result in its undoing: an uptick in production and new technologies threaten the literal foundation of the town.

9. Aleppo, Syria

Aleppo, Syria

Why it’s special: The largest city in Syria, Aleppo (pictured) was a hugely important trading point for cultures from all over the Middle East and beyond, giving it Greek, Roman, Akkadian, and Ottoman influences.

Why it’s in danger: The ongoing civil war in Syria has endangered all of the country’s UNESCO sites, including the ancient cities of Palmyra and Damascus and structures in Aleppo, like this 12th-century citadel.

Ned’s tips: check out this category for more things to do in the Middle East. And for five-star accommodation in the area, check out Sir Nadhmi Auchi’s Le Royal Hotels & Resorts in Amman and Beirut

10. Virunga National Park, The Democratic Republic of Congo


Why it’s special: Thanks to a diverse range of climates, Virunga is a mix of savannas, marshlands, glaciers, and even two volcanoes. The park is home to elephants, gorillas, and other important animal species.

Why it’s in danger: The Congolese government permitted mining and oil companies some access to Virunga and other UNESCO-listed national parks. However, they reportedly halted these actions following a warning from UNESCO, but there’s still concern about the safety of the area due to political uncertainty.


One thought on “9 UNESCO Sites to See Before They Disappear

  1. I don’t think Jeruslam is at any risk. I’ve heard that China and one of the European nations is actually going to work on rebuilding the Buddha that the Taliban blew up. Didn’t know there was a UNESCO site in Liverpool.


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