Five New Wonders
Explore the most recent additions to UNESCO's amazing list of world heritage sites.
While the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World have mostly vanished, you can still visit the wonders of the present world. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been designating cultural and natural sites worth preserving since 1972 - places, in its own words, "of outstanding universal value to humanity," a high bar for sure. This year five sites have been added to this impressive list. Consider exploring these truly astonishing destinations.
1. Mt. Fuji, Japan
Mt. Fuji (at right) is not just one of Japan's most stunning mountains, but it's also an active stratovolcano - also called a composite cone - made up of layers of ash, lava and rock. Pilgrims have visited Mt. Fuji for centuries, with Buddhist and Shinto worshippers climbing to the top to peer into the volcano's crater, which is surely one of nature's most awesome sights.
2. El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Sonora, Mexico
If dormant volcanoes are more your style, consider a visit to this park, which is really two parks. The east centers on a dormant volcano surrounded by cinders and massive craters; the west is a field of shifting, active sand dunes. Explore the dune system, among the most active in North America, which includes large star-shaped dunes and gargantuan sweeping hills 600 feet high.
3. Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel, Germany
Perched on a steep hillside, this mountain park is the site of extensive gardens, Baroque architecture and impressive water displays. The water course, built in the 17th century, starts at a massive bronze statue of Hercules. Water rushes down a series of geysers, waterfalls, cascades and rapids, all powered by natural water pressure, culminating in a stunning fountain that shoots 150 feet into the air.
4. Medici Villas and Gardens, Tuscany, Italy
The Medicis' cultural influence extended to their country homes as well. These 12 villas and two "pleasure gardens" showcase architecture that integrates a rural environment. The gardens are perfect representations of the Italianate garden tradition, lush expanses of plantings and fountains.
5. Levuka Port Town, Ovalau, Fiji
The former colonial capital of Fiji, this port town blends the aesthetic of its indigenous population with the Western tradition of the Americans and Europeans who built there. Set among mango and coconut trees, the town reflects its rich history.
For more information, visit whc.unesco.org.