updated 8/2/2010 5:45:39 PM ET 2010-08-02T21:45:39

A unique set of landscapes from around the globe — from Siberia to the South Pacific islands — have been added to the List of Natural World Heritage sites by UNESCO, it was announced Monday.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

The World Heritage Committee, an independent inter-governmental body that designates important cultural and natural sites around the world has been meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, since July 25. The WHC was considering the addition of 32 new sites, six of which are natural landscapes.

Following the recommendations of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the landscapes of France's La Reunion Island, Russia's Siberian Putorana Plateau and the Phoenix Islands Protected Areas of Kiribati, an island nation made up of 32 coral atolls, have been added to the list.

Two other natural sites were expanded upon IUCN’s advice: Monte San Giorgio, from Switzerland to Italy, and Pirin National Park in Bulgaria.

Last week, the WHC announced that the Rainforests of Atsinanana and Florida's Everglades National Park were being added to another list – the World Heritage Sites in Danger. This "danger list" focuses international attention and sometimes funding on particularly vulnerable areas. Also last week, the group removed the Galapagos Islands from the danger list, against the recommendations of conservation groups.

France's Reunion Island contains the most significant remaining natural habitats, including a rare forest type, for the conservation of terrestrial biodiversity in the Mascarene Island Archipelago, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar. Towering volcanoes, including steep rock walls and natural amphitheatres, as well as deep forested gorges and escarpments form dramatic scenery of striking beauty.

"La Reunion contains an impressive mosaic of dramatic landscapes and very valuable ecosystems and also serves as a last refuge for the many threatened and endangered species on the entire Mascarene Archipelago," said Tim Badman, Head of IUCN's World Heritage Programme. "Controlling alien invasive species will be an ongoing challenge in the management of this property."

Russia's Siberian Putorana Plateau represents one of the only centers of plant species richness in the Arctic. The striking natural beauty of Putorana Plateau includes more than 25,000 fjord-like lakes, dozens of deep canyons, rivers and creeks, and thousands of waterfalls.

"The combination of extraordinary landscape diversity, remoteness and naturalness makes the Putorana Plateau one of the truly wild places remaining in the Arctic at a time of increasing pressure on this fascinating region," Badman said. "World Heritage status not only provides a strong and permanent conservation framework but there's a great opportunity to better understand the impacts of climate change in large undisturbed arctic ecosystems."

Kiribati's Phoenix Islands Protected Area is one of the largest marine environments in the world that has remained intact thanks to its remoteness.

"The Phoenix Island's exceptionally healthy species of fish, turtles and its bleaching-resistant corals deserve the highest degree of protection," said Tilman Jaeger, IUCN World Heritage Project Management Officer.

Monte San Giorgio holds the single best known fossil record of marine life in the Triassic period (245 million to 230 million years ago) and conceals important remains of life on land as well. This World Heritage site area was expanded from current Swiss areas to land in Italy.

Bulgaria's Pirin National Park has many important endemic and relict species. Conservationists hope that its new World Heritage listing will help balance tourism in the area with conservation of the diverse and important mountain landscape.

Other new additions to the World Heritage Site list include the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii (the first U.S. site to be added to the list in 15 years), and the Mount Danxia area of China, which hosts many unusual rock formations.

© 2012 OurAmazingPlanet. All rights reserved. More from OurAmazingPlanet.

Photos: UNESCO World Heritage sites

loading photos...
  1. Mount Danxia, China

    A picturesque valley is seen through the rock formations at Mount Danxia outside the city of Shaoguan, located in the Guangdong province in southern China. Mount Danxia is famed for its rugged red landscapes that emerged from river silt deposits. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Kure Atoll, Hawaii

    Aerial image of Kure Atoll, the last emergent land feature in the Hawaiian Archipelago. (RJ Shallenberger / USFWS via Sea) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Reunion island, Indian Ocean

    Piton de la Fournaise -- or Peak of the Furnace -- is seen in the Reunion island, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean. (Lionel Cironneau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Yangdong village, South Korea

    Visitors walk around Yangdong village in Gyeongju, southeast of Seoul, South Korea. Yangdong and another South Korean village, Hahoe, were added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in recognition of their Confucian cultural characteristics. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Prehistoric caves of Yagul and Mitla, mexico

    The prehistoric caves of Yagul and Mitla in the central valley of Oaxaca. The cultural landscape of the caves demonstrates the link between man and nature that gave origin to the domestication of plants in North America, thus allowing the rise of Mesoamerican civilizations. (INAH via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Pheonix Island, Kiribati

    Spectacular table corals that take decades to form are found throughout the shallow waters of the Phoenix Islands, Kiribati. (David Obura / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Longmen Grottoes, China

    Tourists view Buddhist sculptures at Longmen Grottoes in the outskirts of Luoyang of Henan Province, China. UNESCO lists the site as a world heritage center featuring Buddhist images, shrines and relics. (China Photos / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Al-Hijr, Saudi Arabia

    A section of the archaeological site of Al-Hijr, in northern Saudi Arabia, was added on to UNESCO's World Heritage List on July 6, 2008. Al-Hijr, also known as Madain Salehthe, is the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans south of Petra in Jordan, and is the first World Heritage site in Saudi Arabia. (Hassan Ammar / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pontcysyllte Canal, United Kingdom

    Situated in northeastern Wales, the Pontcysyllte Canal is 18 kilometers in length and is a feat of civil engineering of the Industrial Revolution, completed in the early 19th century. Covering a difficult geographical setting, the building of the canal required substantial, bold civil engineering solutions. The aqueduct is a pioneering masterpiece of engineering and monumental metal architecture, conceived by the celebrated civil engineer Thomas Telford. The use of both cast and wrought iron in the aqueduct enabled the construction of arches that were light and strong. (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Iguazu Falls, Brazil & Argentina

    The “Garganta del Diablo” (Devil’s Throat) falls at Iguazu National Park in the Argentinian province of Misiones. Depending on the water level of the Iguazu River, the park has between 160 and 260 waterfalls, and more than 2,000 varieties of plants and 400 species of birds. The Iguazu National Park was added to the World Heritage List in 1984. (Christian Rizzi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Bayon Temple, Cambodia

    The Bayon Temple, near Siem Reap, Cambodia, is famous for its multitude of giant stone faces. There are more than 1,000 temples in the Angkor area, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields to the magnificent Angkor Wat, said to be the world's largest single religious monument. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together they comprise the most significant site of Khmer architecture. Nearly 1 million people visit each year. (Voishmel / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Stonehenge, Amesbury, United Kingdom

    Mysterious Stonehenge is a megalithic rock monument of 150 enormous stones set in a circle. The ancient monument is believed to have been constructed in 3000 B.C. The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986. (Matt Cardy / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Bafang Pavilion, China

    A tourist walks in the Bafang Pavilion at the Summer Palace, a famous classic imperial garden in Beijing, China. The Summer Palace, built in 1750, was destroyed in 1860 and rebuilt in 1886. It was added to the World Heritage List in 1998. (China Photos / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Statue of Liberty, United States

    The Statue of Liberty is seen at sunset in New York. “Lady Liberty” was a gift from France, and stands at the entrance to New York Harbor. The Statue of Liberty was added to the World Heritage List in 1984. (Seth Wenig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos National Park

    “Solitario George” (Lonely George), the last living giant tortoise of this species, is cared for at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador. He is estimated to be between 60 and 90 years old. The Galapagos Islands were originally added to the World Heritage List in 1978, and were upgraded to The List in Danger in 2007. (Rodrigo Buendia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Kinderdijk's Mill Area, Netherlands

    People skate on frozen canals in Kinderdijk's Mill Area, a UNESCO World Heritage site, near Rotterdam, Netherlands. Kinderdijk has the largest collection of historical windmills in the Netherlands, and is a top tourist sight in southern Holland. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

    A view of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, an ecotourism destination in Patagonia, Argentina, was declared a Natural World Heritage Site in 1981. The glacier, in the province of Santa Cruz, is one of the most significant natural attractions of Argentina. (Daniel Garcia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Old Havana, Cuba

    Cubans ride in an old car on Havana's coastal "Malecon" in Cuba. UNESCO chose Old Havana and its fortifications as a World Heritage List site in 1982. While Havana has seen sprawl and is home to more than 2 million people, its old center retains an interesting mix of baroque and neoclassical monuments, and a homogeneous ensemble of private houses with arcades, balconies, wrought-iron gates and internal courtyards, the World Heritage Web site claims. (Javier Galeano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Shrine of the Bab, Israel

    Terraced gardens surround the golden-domed Shrine of the Bab of the Bahai faith in the northern Israeli city of Haifa. The world spiritual center of the Bahai faith, whose devotees number less than 6 million worldwide, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2008. (David Silverman / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. St. Peters Square, Vatican City

    A unique collection of artistic and architectural masterpieces lie within the small state of Vatican City, the World Heritage Site says. Vatican City was added to the group's list in 1984. Heritage List in 1984. (Giulio Napolitano / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

    A colorful underwater scene at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The thriving ecosystem includes the world’s biggest collection of coral reefs, including 400 types of coral and 1,500 fish species. The Great Barrier Reef was added to the World Heritage List in 1981. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Petra, Jordan

    Camels rest in front of the main monument in Jordan's ancient city of Petra, the "Khazneh" or Treasury, that was carved out of sandstone to serve as a tomb for a Nabatean king. The city, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia, according to the World Heritage Web site. Petra was added to the World Heritage List in 1985. (Thomas Coex / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Yellowstone National Park

    A herd of elk graze in the meadows of Yellowstone National Park. In the background stand Mount Holmes, left, and Mount Dome. Yellowstone contains half of the world's known geothermal features, with more than 10,000 examples, the World Heritage Web site says. Yellowstone was added to the World Heritage List in 1978. (Kevork Djansezian / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Sydney Opera House, Australia

    The Australian landmark "is a great architectural work of the 20th century that brings together multiple strands of creativity and innovation in both architectural form and structural design," according to the World Heritage Web site. The Opera House joined the World Heritage List in 2007. (Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Drakensbreg Mountains, South Africa

    Rock paintings made by the San people are seen in the Drakensbreg Mountains in eastern South Africa. The San people lived in the Drakensberg area for thousands of years before being exterminated in clashes with the Zulus and white settlers. They left behind an extraordinary collection of rock paintings in the Drakensberg Mountains, earning the UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2000. (Alexander Joe / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Shibam, Yemen

    This is a general view of the historical walled city of Shibam in eastern Yemen's Hadramaut province. Shibam, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982, is known for its highrise mud-brick buildings, and is nicknamed of "the Manhattan of the desert." (Khaled Fazaa / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Venice, Italy

    Gondolas line the bank near Venice's Grand Canal with the San Giorgio Maggiore church in the background. "The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world's greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others," the World Heritage Web site says of the city. Venice and its lagoon joined the World Heritage List in 1987. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Easter Island, Chile

    Huge, abandoned stone statues, known as "moals" in the Rapa Nui language, sit on the hillside of the Rano Raraku volcano on Easter Island, about 3,700 kilometers off the Chilean coast. The island in the Polynesian archipielago has many archeological sites. Rapa Nui National Park has been on UNESCO's World Heritage Site list since 1995. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Great Wall, China

    Visitors make their way along the Great Wall of China at Simatai, northeast of Beijing. This Ming-dynasty Wall was built as one of four major strategic strongholds for defensive purposes from tribes invading from the north. The Great Wall stretches approximately 4,000 miles and is one of the largest construction projects ever completed. It was added to the World Heritage List in 1987. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Hampi, India

    A temple is seen in Hampi, near the southern Indian city of Hospet, north of Bangalore. Hampi is located within the ruins of the city of Vijayanagar, the former capital of the Vijayangar empire. The village of Hampi and its monuments were inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. (Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Potala Palace, Tibet

    A Tibetan pilgrim spins prayer wheels as she offers prayers while encircling the grounds of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Since UNESCO named the Potala Palace a World Heritage site in 1994, Chinese authorities claim it belongs to the people of the world, and no longer to the Dalai Lama. Even if the exiled Dalai Lama were permitted to return to Tibet, it is highly unlikely he would be allowed to live in the 1,300-year-old palace. (Goh Chai Hin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Machu Picchu, Peru

    The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is located near the Peruvian city of Cusco. Machu Picchu is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and was added to the World Heritage List in 1983. (Eitan Abramovich / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Mount Koya, Japan

    The Buddhist pagoda called Konpon Daito at Mount Koya, in Wakayama province, Japan, represents the central point of a mandala covering all of Japan, according to Shingon Buddhist doctrine. Mount Koya, located east of Osaka, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. It was first settled in 819 by the Buddhist monk Kukai, founder of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. (Everett Kennedy Brown / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Bodhnath stupa, Nepal

    Tibetan women walk around the Bodhnath stupa, one of the largest stupas in the world, in Kathmandu, Nepal. The cultural heritage of the Kathmandu Valley is illustrated by seven groups of monuments and buildings which display the full range of historic and artistic achievements for which the Kathmandu Valley is world famous, the World Heritage Web site reports. Kathmandu Valley was added to the World Heritage List in 1979. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Taj Mahal, India

    A bird flies over the 17th century Mughal-built Taj Mahal mausoleum in Agra, India. The Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The architectural marvel was also named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

    UNESCO World Heritage

    The New Seven Wonders (Tauseef Mustafa / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments