5 New UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Add to Your 2019 Bucket List

5 New UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Add to Your 2019 Bucket List

Each July, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets to consider new sites to add to its list of the world’s most awe-inspiring places. The sites are carefully vetted based on a strict set of criteria determining their cultural or natural significance and “outstanding universal value” to humanity. Some have been on the UNESCO Tentative List for years, awaiting their turn to shine.

In 2018, the committee added 19 new sites and significantly expanded an older one. Five of these sites are found in MIR’s destinations.

Learn more about the 19 new UNESCO World Heritage Sites inscribed in 2018.


2018 New UNESCO Sites

The 5th century Sassanid structure, in Iran, is part of the the Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region – recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo: Michel Behar

Sarvestan’s 5th century Sassanid structure, in Iran, is part of the the Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region – recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Photo credit: Michel Behar

Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region (Iran)

Eight archaeological sites in Iran’s southeast Fars Province were inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List, honoring the remnants of the powerful Sassanian Empire, which covered the region from 224 to 658. This was the last Persian Empire before the advent of Islam, and was a leading world power in its time. The Sassanian sites are found in Firuzabad, Bishapur, and Sarvestan, providing insight into an extraordinary empire and its legacy.

Travel Suggestions

Travelers can discover the fascinating remnants of the Sassanian Empire in Iran’s Fars Province on MIR’s Ancient Persia — Modern Iran small group tour

You can also add a visit to Firuzabad, Bishapur, or Sarvestan to either of our private independent travel itineraries, Essential Iran or Essential Iran Enhanced, or design a hand-crafted custom private journey to Iran customized to your interests, pace, and dates.


The endangered Amur Siberian Tigers

The Bikin River Valley provides habitat for a number of endangered animal species, most notably the Amur Tiger

Bikin River Valley (Russia)

Sandwiched between China and the Sea of Japan, Russia’s Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik, or nature reserve, was formed in 1935, in recognition of the area’s unique ecosystem. Endangered species such as the Amur Tiger and the furry goat-like goral are protected here. So many rare and endemic species make their homes here that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

In 2018, UNESCO extended the site by more than two million acres to include the Bikin River Valley, encompassing the northern hemisphere’s largest remaining old-growth forest, as well as habitat for 10% of the world’s Amur Tiger population.

Experience the bold landscapes and wildlife of the Bikin River Valley on a custom private journey to the Russian Far East, handcrafted to fit your interests, pace, and dates. 

You can also add a visit to the Bikin River Valley as a pre- or post-tour on MIR’s Remote Russia: Yakutia & Kamchatka small group tour.


Gobekli Tepe (Turkey)

Located in the southeastern Anatolia region of Turkey, Gobekli Tepe (meaning “belly hill” in Turkish) is believed to be the oldest human-made sacred place ever discovered. About 11,000 years ago, prehistoric masons using stone tools carved dozens of seven-ton pillars and set them in huge, sometimes overlapping, rings. After creating the giant constructs, the builders then buried them.

No evidence of habitation at this site has been found, so archaeologists believe that it was a place of worship, and perhaps also used for funerary rituals. Some of the pillars are carved with images of predatory creatures, such as scorpions, foxes, snakes, and vultures.

You can admire the ancient ruins of Gobekli Tepe on a custom private journey to Turkey, hand-crafted to fit your interests, pace, and dates.


Fanjingshan (China)

Fanjingshan, or Mt. Fanjing, is the highest peak in China’s Wuling Mountain Range. A protected nature reserve since 1978, Fanjingshan’s isolated subtropical alpine habitat has been home to a diverse range of plants and animals for millions of years. Its primeval beech forest shelters many endemic species, including the Guizhou snub-nosed monkey, earning the mountain its designation in 1986 as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The mountain has been a sacred Buddhist site since the 16th century. Even today, pilgrims still climb more than 8,000 stone steps to the mountain’s summit, stopping at shrines along the way.

Fall in love with fabulous Fanjingshan on a custom private journey to China, handcrafted to fit your interests, pace and dates.


Beopju Temple in Boeun County, North Chungcheong. One of the seven sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries, in South Korea and recently named a UNESCO site. Photo: Plaza of South Korea

The central plaza of the Beopjusa Temple in South Korea contains the Hall of Eight Pictures and a resplendent 100-ft-high gold-plated statue of the Maitreya Buddha
Photo credit: Plaza of South Korea

Sansa Buddhist Mountain Monasteries (South Korea)

Seven sansa, Buddhist mountain monasteries, were inscribed onto the World Heritage List this year, each of them at least 1,000 years old. The sacred monasteries are found in seven different locations around South Korea, and follow the Jogye sect of Korean Buddhism. The sansa share similar Korean architectural characteristics, such as open courtyards (madang) flanked by four structures.

See the stunning Sansa Buddhist Mountain Monasteries on a custom private journey to South Korea, handcrafted to fit your interests, pace and dates.


See UNESCO World Heritage Sites with MIR
The Palace of Ardashir (Atashkadeh) is one of the components of the Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region UNESCO Site. Photo: Martin Klimenta

Overlooking the landscape of Firuzabad in Iran’s UNESCO-listed Fars region
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

MIR is celebrating over 30 years of remarkable journeys to destinations at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Clients rave about our on-the-ground support and stellar Tour Managers, and our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

More than 30 years of travel expertise means that the specialists at MIR know how to get there, what to do while you’re there, and how to enhance your trip in each of our destinations.

Wondering which destination or itinerary is right for you? In addition to browsing the pages of our free catalog, you can narrow down your choices online using our Trip Finder and Destination Map. Or chat with our Private Journeys department to have a trip handcrafted to your interests, pace and budget.

Contact MIR today at info@mircorp.com or 1-800-424-7289.


(Top photo: Beopjusa Temple is one of the seven Buddhist sansa in South Korea that were recently named a UNESCO site. Photo credit: Plaza of South Korea.)

PUBLISHED: October 8, 2018

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