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While browsing through travel brochures, you may have wondered "what is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?"
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is actually a site that holds a list of outstanding cultural or natural universal value such as, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It could be a monument, building, mountain, forest, lake, desert, complex or city.
So how is a site selected?
Only countries that have signed the World Heritage Convention, pledging to protect their natural & cultural heritage can submit nominations for properties on their territory to be considered for inclusion in on the list.
A nominated property is independently evaluated by several Advisory Boards. Once a site has been nominated & evaluated, the intergovernmental committee makes the final decision. One per year, the Committee meets to decide which sites will be inscribed on the World Heritage list.
The program aims to catalogue & preserve sites of outstanding importance, either cultural or natural, to the common heritage of humankind.
There are currently 890 World Heritage Sites in 148 countries. These include 689 cultural, 176 natural and 25 mixed properties. Each year millions of people travel the world to visit UNESCO sites. It is estimated that 2 to 3 million visitors go to see the Taj Mahal annually. The famous Gothic Cathedral in Cologne, Germany has an estimated 6 million visitors per year. In Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia by Antonio Gaudi is the most visited site in the city. Italy has more sites than any other country, a 44.
There are 20 UNESCO sites in the U.S. You may have visited one already, not realizing it was a UNESCO site such as the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Redwood, Yellowstone or Olympic National Parks.