Okavango Delta (Dale Morris)
List 03 July

The top 10 new UNESCO World Heritage sites

The UNESCO World Heritage list now features more than 1,000 sites. Ginny Nash picks this year's best new additions, and reveals what makes them so special

In June 2014, the Unesco World Heritage Committee added a new selection of cultural and natural treasures to its list of protected sites. The annual meeting – in Doha, Qatar – took the Unesco World Heritage list to a grand total of 1,007. Read on for our favourite new additions...

1. Okavango Delta – Botswana

There's nothing quite like gliding through the cool waters of Botswana's Okavango Delta, spotting hippos and elephants bask in the reed-studded depths... For most wildlife lovers it's the ultimate water safari spot, so we can't believe it didn't make the Unesco list years ago.

The Delta’s marshlands and seasonally-flooded plains are fed by rains in Angola, and – rather unusually – they don't flow out to a sea or ocean. The area is home to endangered mammals, such as white rhinos and African wild dogs, as well as a growing population of lions, leopards and buffaloes.

See it for yourself...
Despite November to April being low season in the delta, Tim Ecott describes the remarkable experiences with its lush plains and plentiful wildlife.

After more adventure? Follow in the footsteps of Dale Morris and discover the Delta’s wet and wondrous wildlife encounters on the 70km Selinda Spillway canoe trail.

2. Qhapaq Ñan Andean road system – Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru

The Qhapaq Ñan network stretches an astounding 30,000km, connecting Cusco (in modern-day Peru) with other key Inca cities. The roads were built for communication, trade and defence – and you can still tread some of the ancient routes today. The network threads through rainforest, fertile valleys and deserts on its journey from the snow-capped peaks of the 6,000m high Andes to the coast.

"The Qhapaq Nan, by its sheer scale and quality of the road, is a unique achievement of engineering skills. It demonstrates mastery in engineering technology," said a Unesco spokesperson.

See it for yourself...
It's possible to hike some stretches of the road, as Megan Son and Laurent Granier did in the film Qhapaq Ñan. New to South America? Ben Box offers advice for first-timers.

3. Silk Roads: The Routes Network of Chang’an Tianshan Corridor – China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

The Silk Road's Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor is more of a gathering of Unesco treasures than a single attraction in itself. The 5,000km section of the ancient Silk Road network between Chang'an, China, and the Zhetysu Region in Central Asia links palaces, trading settlements, cave temples and capital cities – a total of 33 different sites.

Developed between 2 BC and 1 AD, this stretch of Silk Road was pivotal to the exchange of religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, innovation, trade and the arts across Asia – right up until the 16th century.

See it for yourself...
The trans-Asia Silk Road can be tackled as part of a big trip, or divided into sections for a shorter adventure. Whatever length you choose, Wanderlust’s Silk Road travel guide will help plan your journey.

4. Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex – Vietnam

The islands on the southern shore of the Red River delta are blanketed in rich emerald vegetation, lapped by turquoise waters and dwarfed by dramatic limestone cliffs. But the most impressive sight of all is the area's archaeological treasure. The surrounding caves conceal rock art and artefacts that date back 30,000 years – priceless relics of the hunter-gatherers who once lived there.

In addition to the islands, the protected site also includes Hoa Lu (the capital of Vietnam during the 10th and 11th centuries), as well as nearby paddy field areas and sacred sites.

See it for yourself...
The Trang An complex is located in northern Vietnam in the Hoa Lu and Gia Vien districts and Nho Quan of Ninh Binh Province. Planning to venture into Vietnam’s Central Highlands? Claire Boobbyer shares her once-in-a-lifetime experience of trekking to meet the local hill tribes of De Ktu.

5. The Grand Canal – China

Constructed in 5BC, the Grand Canal is an elaborate waterway system running from Beijing city in the north to Zhejiang province in the south. In 7AD the canal was expanded and used as a means of communication, trade and transportation – indeed, most of China's vast population relied on it for rice supplies. By the 13th century, 2,000km of waterways linked five of China’s most important river basins.

Today, the Grand Canal remains a major means of inland communication and a key factor in the country’s economic prosperity and stability.

See it for yourself...

A boat cruise along one of the canal’s stretches is highly recommended. Short on time? It's even possible to get on the water in China’s headrush capital Beijing – so you can squeeze in our top-10 itinerary too...

6. Great Himalayan National Park – India

The Great Himalayan National Park is surprisingly young: it was only established in 1984, but is already a vital part of India's natural bounty. The 1,171 sq-km park, in the western Himalayas of India’s northern Himachal Pradesh, is renowned for its high peaks, alpine meadows and forests.

As well as a beautiful, wildlife-rich landscape, it's a useful one too: it provides water to millions of people and farms in nearby communities.

See it for yourself...
All visits to the Great Himalayan National Park start in the Kullu Valley region in Himachal Pradesh state – best accessible by road and air. From ancient pilgrimages and sacred sites to an incredible variety of viewpoints, communities, orchids and giant butterflies, trekking expert Robin Bousted shares the Himalayas' greatest 21 adventures.

7. Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary – Philippines

The list of endangered wildlife within this sanctuary sounds like a fairytale roll-call: there's the warty pig, the Philippine tarsier, the golden-crowned flying fox – to name but a handful.

Most of the 68 sq-km site is covered in dense pygmy forest (many of the bonsai-like trees are over 100 years old), and is home to many species that aren't found anywhere else on earth: critically-endangered trees, plants and the iconic Philippine Eagle and Philippine Cockatoo. It's hoped that the Unesco status will encourage further investment in the protection of the area.

See it for yourself...
Make your trip to the wildlife sanctuary part of a greater Philippines adventure with Mark Stratton’s suggested itinerary for exploring the 7,107 beach-fringed, tourist-free isles.

8. Tomioka Silk Mill – Japan

Adorning everything from intricate kimonos to hand-painted screens, silk is interweaved with Japanese culture and history. The Tomioka Silk Mill, in north-west Tokyo, was established in 1872, and allowed Japan to become the largest exporter of silk in the late 19th century.

Today, silk production has long-ceased, but the factory remains as a monument to silk farming (sericulture) – with old cocoons, storage for silkworm eggs, the mill, and looms for spinning raw silk.

See it for yourself...
The nearest railway station to the site is Joshu Tomioka on the Joshin Dentetsu Line. From that station, Tomioka is about a 10 minute walk. Sticking around? From Tokyo’s 13-metre tall Daibutsu Buddha to the world’s only parasitological museum, Wanderlust reveals the capital’s hidden delights.

9. Pyu Ancient Cities – Burma/Myanmar

The cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra were the hubs of the vast Pyu Kingdom; they flourished for 1,000 years, between 200BC and 900AD. Situated in the vast irrigated landscapes of the Ayeyarwady River basin’s dry zone, the area is an iconic fixture on many Burma/Myanmar itineraries. Visit today, and you'll find the crumbling remains of palace citadels, stupas and burial grounds – the remains of a mysterious, lost civilisation.

This is the country's first destination to receive a spot on the Unesco World Heritage list – surely the first of many to come.

See it for yourself...
Offering a perfect combination of welcoming locals and unique culture and landscapes, Wanderlust’s Burma/Myanmar travel guide will help plan your trip to this unspoiled gem.

10. Grotte Chauvet-Pont D’Arc – France

Incredibly, a rockfall kept this Ardeche cave a secret until 1994 – little did anyone realise that it held the oldest-known rock art in the world. The site is over 30,000 years old, and remarkably well-preserved, although it's not open to the public.

The paintings and engravings of mammoths, bison, bears, wildcats, and human footprints show a skillful use of colour, perspective and movement – so it's no surprise that the site is known as the 'prehistoric Sistine Chapel'.

See it for yourself...

The site can only be accessed by archaeologists on a strict permit. However, the Ardèche region is a delight in itself: Gavin Bell kayaks down the serpentine twists and turns of the Ardèche River and through the canyon of towering limestone cliffs where the Pont d’Arc cave is located.