A clutch of European towns that coax visitors with restorative thermal waters, a tropical garden filled with some 3,500 plant species, and a pockmarked landscape of slate quarries are among the 33 sites freshly voted onto the Unesco World Heritage List.
Unable to meet last year, the committee's most recent session considered nominations from both 2020 and 2021, delivering a bumper batch of accolades.
International travel remains confusing at best. So we’ve picked out a selection of sites to consider for a future trip, along with some details from the full list to further whet your appetite. After all, the more adventurous will be itching for new corners of the world to explore when the effects of the pandemic eventually subside. Some European sites, however, are already on offer to history-seeking Britons with a negative Covid test, or proof of full vaccination (and don't forget the hassle-free option of a weekend in Wales).
Madrid's Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro, Spain
Tree-lined and dotted with monuments, Paseo del Prado avenue began as a prototype of the Hispanic alameda in the 16th century. You can weave through history within a few hours in this area. It’s where you’ll find the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, the Reina Sofia Museum, the CaixaForum Madrid and the Royal Botanical Garden. Meanwhile, the Retiro is Madrid’s main park. There’s a lake at its centre, where you can rent a rowing boat. It may be the ideal source of respite after a day of sightseeing.
How to visit: Spain is open to Britons with a negative Covid test result or proof of full vaccination. It’s on the amber list, so unvaccinated adults would be required to quarantine on their return to England. British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet are among the airlines that offer direct flights to Madrid.
Baden Baden, Germany
Baden Baden has been named as one of the Great Spa Towns of Europe, which comprises a list of 11 spread between Germany, the UK (Bath), Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France and Italy. “They bear witness to the international European spa culture that developed from the early 18th century to the 1930s, leading to the emergence of grand international resorts,” according to Unesco. Neat streets, a belle époque casino and small selection of stylish hotels are among Baden Baden’s attractions, alongside its thermal waters. Among the baths to try are Friedrichsbad spa, which was built between 1869 and 1877 in the style of the Italian High Renaissance. Baden Baden also sits in the foothills of the Black Forest, ideal for a post-spa hike.
How to visit: The nearest airport with regular direct flights from the UK is Strasbourg, France (currently ‘amber plus’). Alternatively, direct flights are available from the UK to Stuttgart, which is around an hour and 30 minutes’ drive from Baden Baden. Germany is open to fully vaccinated Britons.
The Riviera capital’s charms have already beguiled centuries worth of sunseekers. Indeed, Unesco has singled it out as a “winter climate resort town” that attracted aristocratic families, mainly British. Unesco’s entry reads: “The diverse cultural influences of the winter residents and the desire to make the most of the climatic conditions and scenery of the place, shaped the urban planning and eclectic architectural styles of those areas, contributing to the city’s renown as a cosmopolitan winter resort.”
This style is evident in the Promenade des Anglais, for example, a five-mile curve of seafront separating sea and city. Then there’s the Old Town: Mediterranean light hits the orange, yellow and pink buildings and narrow cobbled streets draw you in with market stalls and open air cafes.
How to visit: France is currently ‘amber plus’ meaning that even fully vaccinated Britons must self-isolate if they travel from France to the UK. This could change in the coming weeks. However, you may opt to follow the Victorians and consider a winter sojourn. British Airways, Jet2, easyJet and Ryanair offer direct flights.
Padua’s 14th-century fresco cycles, Italy
This new listing includes eight building complexes within the walled city of Padua. If you’ve stood in awe at the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, then this collection of murals could be right up your street. They date from 1302 – 1397. Among them is Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel fresco cycle, thought to have marked the start of the fresco cycles of other artists. Padua is less than an hour’s drive from Venice. In fact, the fresco cycles are a reminder of when the two cities, alongside Verona, vied for regional dominance.
How to visit: Italy is on the amber list, meaning that fully vaccinated Britons and EU citizens can return from there without facing quarantine in England. However, arrivals from the UK are currently subject to a five-day quarantine in Italy, which is to be extended. When restrictions allow, British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair are among the airlines that fly direct from the UK to Venice. There’s a regular train service between Venice and Padua with a journey time of around 30 minutes.
Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil
This lush park surrounds the former residence of architect Roberto Burle Marx, in Rio de Janerio’s West Zone. It has a 3,500-plus strong collection of tropical and subtropical plant species, which Marx developed over 40 years to create a “living work of art”. It is the first tropical garden to make the world heritage list. Also on site is the Burle Marx House museum, where Marx lived for the last 20 years of his life. Another feature is the 17th-century Benedictine Chapel. The gardens will, when travel rules permit, be a discerning addition to a Rio itinerary. Of course, the excitements of Rio will one day once again seduce pandemic-weary Britons. Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana Beach and the Christ the Redeemer statue atop the peak of Corcovado will lure first-timers; those who’ve been before may be keen to dig into this newly-minted cultural highlight.
How to visit: Brazil is on the travel red list, meaning that anyone returning from there to the UK faces a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel. Meanwhile, direct flights from the UK to Brazil were suspended in December 2021. To plan for a trip in 2022, or later, British Airways and Iberia offered direct flights pre-pandemic.
The Church of Atlántida, Uruguay
This parish church some 30 miles east of Montevideo is a striking architectural work which was inaugurated in 1960. Its main interior is simple and seats just 300, although it has capacity for a congregation of 500 on special occasions. However, the undulating walls of the church – constructed from exposed and reinforced brick – set it apart. This theme continues in the accompanying, cylindrical bell tower. Atlántida itself is around an hour’s drive from the capital of Montevideo, which, when restrictions ease to enable a visit, offers up a bustling market, plenty of steak houses and old cafes and a solid clutch of museums.
How to visit: Uruguay is on the red list; those returning from there must enter a quarantine hotel in the UK. For now, only Uruguayan nationals and legal residents are allowed to enter Uruguay. When restrictions change, British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines are among the carriers that offer flights to Uruguay, albeit not direct services.
The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales, UK
Living history is on display in this eerie portion of Snowdonia – abandoned quarries that “roofed the 19th century world”. It's the fourth site in Wales to win a Unesco accolade, alongside the castles of Edward I, the Blaenavon industrial landscape and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct near Llangollen. The quarrying of slate in this area dates back beyond the 1800s: the Romans sourced it for their settlement near Caernarfon. “Edward I’s castle builders then used it to protect his iron ring of castles from Welsh invaders in the late 13th century,” wrote David Atkinson in his love letter to the region.
How to visit: Writer David Atkinson suggests two main, and accessible, points at which to delve into Welsh slate mining history: the National Slate Museum and the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway, which includes a stop at Porthmadog, a town that was transformed by opening up docks for slate export.
The full list of new additions
1. Arslantepe Mound, Turkey
2. Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex, Peru
3. Colonies of Benevolence, Belgium/Netherlands
4. Cordouan Lighthousem, France
5. Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple, Telangana, India
6. Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt, Germany
7. Padua's fourteenth-century fresco cycles, Italy
8. Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro, a landscape of Arts and Sciences, Spain
9. Quanzhou: Emporium of the World in Song-Yuan China, China
10. Roșia Montană Mining Landscape, Romania
11. Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil
12. The Great Spa Towns of Europe, Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
13. The work of engineer Eladio Dieste: Church of Atlántida, Uruguay
14. Trans-Iranian Railway, Iran
15. Ḥimā Cultural Area, Saudi Arabia
16. Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island, Japan
17. Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands, Georgia
18. Getbol, Korean Tidal Flats, South Korea
19. Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, Thailand
20. As-Salt - The Place of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality, Jordan
21. Cultural Landscape of Hawraman/Uramanat, Iran
22. Dholavira: a Harappan City, India
23. Frontiers of the Roman Empire -- The Lower German Limes, Germany/the Netherlands
24. Jomon Prehistoric Sites in Northern Japan, Japan
25. Nice, Winter Resort Town of the Riviera, France
26. Settlement and Artificial Mummification of the Chinchorro Culture in the Arica and Parinacota Region, Chile
27. ShUM Sites of Speyer, Worms and Mainz, Germany
28. Sudanese style mosques in northern Côte d'Ivoire, Côte d'Ivoire
29. The Porticoes of Bologna, Italy
30. The works of Jože Plečnik in Ljubljana -- Human Centred Urban Design, Slovenia
31. The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales, United Kingdom
32. Petroglyphs of Lake Onega and the White Sea, Russia
33. Ivindo National Park, Gabon