7 Endangered UNESCO World Heritage Sites You Need to Visit Now
Established in 1946, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a group promoting international peace and collaboration and placing a strong emphasis on the recognition and preservation of sites with great historical value. In 1972, the organization adopted an international treaty concerning the protection of these World Heritage Sites, with 1,007 historical sites having been named to the list as of 2014.
The List of World Heritage in Danger was designed by UNESCO as a means of informing the international community “of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action.” Threatening conditions include “armed conflict and war, earthquakes and other natural disasters, pollution, poaching, uncontrolled urbanization,” among others.
As of 2014, 46 properties have been named to this list, all of which are worth visiting. We’ve compiled a list of seven can’t-miss World Heritage sites around the world that are at risk. Because these locations are of considerable value and are uniquely vulnerable to adverse conditions, we encourage all potential visitors to be respectful of their surroundings.
1. Everglades National Park, United States
The Florida Everglades are host to a finely balanced ecosystem supporting thousands of unique species of flora and fauna. Due to increased development of the land, beginning with colonial settlers and continuing into the early 20th century, that ecosystem has been greatly compromised. The Everglades received U.S. National Park status in 1947 in order to protect what remains of this valuable landscape, and UNESCO designated the World Heritage Site as being under threat in 2010.
2. Liverpool, England
The port city of Liverpool was one of the world’s major trading centers in the 18th and 19th centuries, playing a pivotal role in the development of the British Empire. As hometown of The Beatles, one of the most famous bands of all time, Liverpool’s commercial and cultural value are undeniable. Liverpool suffered from serious bombing damage during World War II. Due to ongoing economic turmoil and sharp declines in the traditional manufacturing industry, Liverpool was placed at risk by UNESCO in 2012.
3. Coro and Its Port, Venezuela
Coro and its port, established as a World Heritage Site in 1993, offers visitors a unique perspective on the fusion of local traditions and Spanish Mudéjar and Dutch architectural techniques. Coro was established in 1527 and is home to a rich collection of religious and civil buildings that continue to be in use to this day. UNESCO placed the site at risk in 2005 due to serious rain and flooding damage that occurred in the year prior.
4. Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, Peru
Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimu Kingdom, which reached its height in the 15th century. The city, located in what was once a fertile river valley, was “the largest earthen architecture city in pre-Columbian America,” according to UNESCO. Today, the remains are of remarkable cultural importance, with the city’s layout offering valuable insight into politics and society of the time. UNESCO placed the site on its “Under Threat” list in 1986 due to the lack of conservatory regulations in place to protect the city’s earthen architecture, and because of the site’s vulnerability to the environmental effects of El Niño.
5. Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, Belize
Coastal Belize offers visitors a beautiful cultural and environmental landscape, and the region is home to the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere. According to UNESCO, “The Reef illustrates a classic example of reefs through fringing, barrier and atoll reef types.” Because of its environmental value and because it is home to thousands of unique and threatened species, UNESCO designated the reef as a World Heritage Site in 1996. The site has been considered at risk since 2009 due to its delicate ecosystem being threatened by pollution and general environmental vulnerability.
6. Tropical Rainforest of Sumatra, Indonesia
Covering nearly 10,000 square miles, the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra is home to a staggering ecosystem of unmatched biodiversity, including many endangered species. According to UNESCO: “There are an estimated 10,000 species of plants, including 17 endemic genera. Animal diversity in TRHS is also impressive, with 201 mammal species and some 580 species of birds.” The rainforest’s ecosystem is considered at risk due to pervasive development efforts, as well as illegal logging and hunting activity.
7. Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, Honduras
Situated in northeastern Honduras, the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve consists of a lush tropical rainforest with a unique and diverse range of plants and animals. The area’s mountainous landscape is home to more than 2,000 indigenous people, adding to the area’s cultural significance. According to UNESCO, “the site of Ciudad Blanca (White City) within the protected area constitutes one of the most important archaeological sites of Mayan civilization. … The reserve also contains the site where Christopher Columbus first landed in the Americas in 1492. There are some 200 sites of archaeological importance.” Because of its fragile ecosystem, the site was established as at risk in 2011.