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China’s Old Tea Forests, Gaya Tumuli Burial Mounds Among Newest UNESCO Heritage Sites

The new additions reflect the most valuable sites of our planet’s heritage.

Holly Large - Editorial Assistant

Holly Large

Holly Large - Editorial Assistant

Holly Large

Editorial Assistant

Holly is a graduate medical biochemist with an enthusiasm for making science interesting, fun and accessible.

Editorial Assistant

A series of large green burial mounds, with a misty landscape in the background.

The ancient burial mounds of the Gaya Confederacy have been added to UNESCO's list.

Image credit: Seo Heun Kang © World Heritage Nomination Office for the Gaya Tumuli

UNESCO has added over 40 new World Heritage Sites to its list of protected areas and buildings, ranging from the natural wonders of forests and mountains to the culturally significant monuments and memorials of human history.

After deliberations at the 45th World Heritage Committee in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia, the list contains nearly 1,200 sites considered to be of “outstanding universal value”, with natural, cultural, or a mix of both sites featured. 


The number may still grow, with talks not set to finish until September 25 – but until then, discover below some of the most recent amazing and intriguing additions to the record of our planet’s heritage.

Gaya tumuli

Pictured above, the Gaya Tumuli are burial mounds built by the Gaya, an ancient confederacy in the south of the Korean Peninsula. The confederacy existed from the 1st to 6th century and, through changes in their distribution and goods found within, the mounds are thought to provide clues about Gaya society.

Evaporitic karst and caves of Northern Apennines

Person stood in a large, rocky cave.
A small person or a big cave?
Image credit: © Vena del Gesso Park

Located in the Northern Apennines of Italy, this rock region represents one of the most well-preserved and studied examples of the evaporitic karst phenomena, where gypsum rock has dissolved to form an extensive and unique terrain. 

This includes over 900 densely packed caves, some of which are thought to be the deepest known gypsum caves in the world.

Old tea forests of the Jingmai Mountain

Village surrounded by tea groves on a mountain.
The cultural traditions of this region have the tea groves at their core.
Image credit: © Xie Jun

One of the cultural additions to the list, the villages surrounded by the old tea groves of Jingmai Mountain in China reflect over a thousand years of tradition. Tea lies at the heart of this – the unique climate lends itself to tea cultivation, maintained by the Indigenous communities.

According to UNESCO, ceremonies and festivities in the region also center around tea, with the belief that spirits live among the groves.

Eisinga Planetarium

Gold colored model of the solar system on a blue wooden ceiling.
Brb just gonna install one of these in my ceiling.
Image credit: © Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium

In the Dutch city of Franeker sits a rather unsuspecting-looking building, containing the oldest working orrery in the world. A real-time, mechanical scale model of the Solar System (or at least what we thought it looked like at the time), the Eisinga Planetarium was built by wool manufacturer Eise Eisinga between 1774 and 1781.

It takes up the entire ceiling of what used to be Eisinga’s bedroom – a much cozier way to sleep under the stars.

Cold winter deserts of Turan

A colorful bird standing in grassland.
This little resident of the Turan deserts is a great bustard (yes, you read that right).
Image credit: © Askar Isabekov

Spanning 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) across Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, the ecosystem of the cold winter deserts of Turan is a biologist’s dream – if it weren’t for the long, dry summers and sharply cold winters. 

In spite of the extreme climate, a wealth of diverse flora and fauna live in the arid landscape, including threatened species such as the saiga antelope and goitered gazelle.

Other sites on the list include the mysterious deer stone monuments of Mongolia, the ancient town of Si Thep in Thailand, and Martinique’s imposing active volcano, Mount Pelée.

Which of the new additions would you most like to see?


natureNaturenatureplanet earth
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  • forest,

  • planet earth,

  • caves,

  • desert,

  • tea,

  • burial mound,

  • unesco world heritage site,

  • orrery