Travel By Numbers: World Heritage sites
As the longest aqueduct in Britain joins Unesco's premier league of global attractions, Ben Ross assesses the dimensions of the list's other highlights
Saturday 11 July 2009
The year Unesco (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) was founded. As the world rebuilt after the war, tourism was hardly top of the agenda. But in 1972, Unesco ratified a World Heritage convention designed to help preserve places of cultural or national importance "to the common heritage of humanity", which was the beginnings of a premier league of great cultural attractions. The rhetoric is pompous – members belong to "an international community of appreciation and concern for universally significant properties that embody a world of outstanding examples of cultural diversity and natural wealth" – but since its introduction, tour operators and travel writers alike have used the idea of Unesco World Heritage status as shorthand for some of the most rewarding places to visit on the surface of the planet. whc.unesco.org
Minutes to enjoy within the Independent's latest travel film, Traveller's Tales: Best of Peru, the climax of which is shot in Machu Picchu ( independent.co.uk/peru ). The stunning citadel lies among the peaks of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, itself full of stunning archaeological remains. Journey Latin America offers a two-week Peaks of Peru escorted tour, including visits to Machu Picchu and Cusco (both of which are World Heritage sites) and Lima (the centre of which is another World Heritage site), among other Peruvian highlights. Prices from £2,648, including flights from Heathrow, all local transport and B&B accommodation. journeylatinamerica.co.uk
The number of lanes on the Waldschloesschen Bridge being constructed in Dresden in Germany's Elbe Valley. Its impact on the landscape means the valley was deleted from the World Heritage List in June, only the second time this has happened. (Oman's Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was the first to be removed in 2007, after the Omani government reduced it in size in order to prospect for oil.) Controversy aside, Dresden is still an impressive city-break destination, with beautiful 18th-century Baroque palaces and gardens. Dertours offers a two-night visit from £399 per person (based on two sharing), including bed and breakfast in a three-star hotel and flights from Heathrow via Frankfurt, but not including transfers. dertour.co.uk
Approximate area, in square kilometres, of both Wales (which has three Unesco sites) and Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia – which is a World Heritage site in its entirety. It's one of 17 in Australia, a list that includes Fraser Island (the world's largest sand island), the aboriginal site of Uluru, Queensland's Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Opera House. You can pay architectural homage to Kakadu's natural predators at the Holiday Inn in Jabiru, built in the shape of a saltwater croc. A double costs from A$199 (£97), including breakfast. ichotelsgroup.com
The extent, in miles, of the Great Wall of China, which was constructed between the fifth century BC and the 16th century to protect the northern border of the Chinese empire. The Wall exists in several sections rather than as one continuous barricade and is not – despite popular myth – visible from the moon. Happily, neither fact stopped Unesco from listing it as a World Heritage Site in 1987. Exodus runs an 11-day Walking the Great Wall of China escorted tour, with some availability on departures in September and October this year. The price of £1,499 per person includes flights with Air China from Heathrow, accommodation and most food. exodus.co .uk
The year Georges Eugène Haussmann, the man hired by Napoleon III to modernise Paris, was born. His new boulevards (designed to hinder the construction of revolutionary barricades) destroyed much of the medieval city, but now remain as testaments to a gracious era of civil planning. World Heritage status was given to the banks of the Seine as a way of marking "the evolution of Paris and its history". £59 is all you need to see the city for yourself with a Eurostar return ticket from London. eurostar.com
The angle to vertical of the leaning tower of Pisa, the campanile that, as part of the city's historic Piazza del Duomo, gained World Heritage status in 1987. Italy has more entries on the list than any other country; its 41 other cultural sites would make for a particularly grand Grand Tour, including the historic centres of Rome, Naples, Florence and Siena, and Venice and its Lagoon. The country also boasts two natural sites: the Aeolian Islands were granted World Heritage status in a millennial burst of 61 new entries back in 2000, while the Dolomites mountain range in northern Italy joined last month. The Italian holiday specialist, Citalia, offers a range of city breaks and escorted tours. citalia.com
The approximate number of limestone formations protruding above the surface of Ha Long Bay in north-west Vietnam. They vary in size from house-sized chunks of rock to larger inhabited islands. The area's biodiversity and stunning beauty are among the reasons why the bay was given World Heritage status in 1994. Kuoni offers a nine-day Vietnamese Discovery escorted tour, including a visit to Ha Long Bay, as well as the cities of Hue and Hoi An, both of which are also World Heritage sites. The cost is £1,675 per person ( two sharing), including flights from Heathrow via Bangkok, most meals and four-star accommodation. kuoni.co.uk
The number of sites on the "World Heritage in Danger" list, which includes Jerusalem, all the national parks within war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Galapagos Islands. According to Unesco, Galapagos (the first site to join the World Heritage list in 1978) is threatened by invasive species, growing tourism and immigration. Isolated from major landmasses, almost all the native flora and fauna in Galapagos are unique; Charles Darwin's visit in 1835 inspired his theory of evolution. The UK-based Galapagos Conservation Trust is involved with fundraising efforts and also offers advice on how to visit responsibly. savegalapagos.org
The year the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh gained World Heritage status, for what Unesco described as "the remarkable juxtaposition of two clearly articulated urban planning phenomena". The organic hotch-potch of buildings of the Royal Mile certainly contrasts with the regimented elegance of the Georgian New Town, but for a 21st-century take on life in the city, try the stylish new Missoni Hotel on the Royal Mile, which opened on 8 June. Doubles from £210 including breakfast. hotelmissoni.com
The number of people per day allowed to visit the Statue of Liberty's crown, which last weekend opened for the first time since the terror attacks of 11 September 2001. The statue itself – donated to the US by France in 1886 – is a World Heritage site. The $3 (£2) tickets for the crown can be reserved up to a year in advance, along with the $12 (£8) ferry ticket to Liberty island. The National Park Service notes that "the climb to the crown is a strenuous journey that encompasses 354 steps in a cramped enclosed area with high temperatures". You have been warned. statuecruises.com
Cost, in pounds, of a return train ticket – if you book in advance – from London Paddington to Bath Spa rail station, which serves a Unesco World Heritage site: Bath city centre. Unesco says "Bath's grandiose neo-classical Palladian crescents, terraces, and squares spread out over the surrounding hills and set in its green valley are a demonstration par excellence of the integration of architecture, urban design, and landscape setting, and the deliberate creation of a beautiful city." firstgreatwestern.co.uk
The number of new sites placed on the World Heritage List at the end of June, bringing the total to 890 (689 of them cultural, 176 natural, and 25 mixed) in 148 countries. From a British perspective, the most important new arrival was the Pontcysyllte aqueduct in Wrexham, north-east Wales. Designed by engineer Thomas Telford, it was completed in 1805 and carries the canal a distance of 1,007ft over the River Dee at a height of 126ft – the longest, highest aqueduct in Britain. Hire a narrowboat to assess its dimensions for yourself: three nights cost from £1,055 for a four-berth boat, see canalholidays.com
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