A World Heritage site is a place of cultural or natural heritage "considered to be of outstanding value to humanity," according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the group that oversees the selection and preservation of these valuable places.
As of 2012, there were 962 properties on the World Heritage list: 745 of cultural significance, 188 of natural significance, and 29 of mixed value. Each year, nations that choose to participate may nominate sites to be added to the list. A committee evaluates the nominations and decides whether they should be included. Listed properties must meet at least one of 10 criteria. Examples of the criteria include that a site represent a "masterpiece of human creative genius," or that it is an area of "exceptional natural beauty." Participating nations agree to maintain and protect listed sites.
The images in the gallery show several World Heritage sites as seen from orbiting satellites. These sites represent a cross section of the types of places included on the list. To view all of the World Heritage sites and find more information and images, go to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention site.
Satellite images in the gallery are courtesy of GeoEye Foundation.
Which of the images in the gallery are examples of heritage sites of cultural importance? Why are they valuable?
Which of the images in the gallery represent heritage sites listed for their natural importance, and why are they valuable?
Do you agree that the places chosen as World Heritage sites are of "outstanding value to humanity"? Why or why not?
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry cultural heritage Noun
traditions and customs of a specific population.
learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.
cultural or family background.
the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Encyclopedic Entry: UNESCO World Heritage Site Noun
location recognized by the United Nations as important to the cultural or natural heritage of humanity.