Kinderdijk: Holland’s Most Beautiful Windmills!

A couple years ago while driving from Amsterdam to Luxembourg I did what I always do when driving long distances: figured out detours to stretch my legs. I collect UNESCO world heritage sites and noticed one that would be right on my way, a little East of Rotterdam, and soon I was driving along a small road to Kinderdijk, my chosen detour of the day.






Kinderdijk Windmills were built in the 18th century to pump water out of the polder, when Holland was in the process of reclaiming land for farming. Now a more modern system has replaced the windmills in daily use, but they can be still used as a backup. 19 beautiful old windmills adorn the sides of canals, and I really enjoyed taking a short walk among them. There is also a free museum which gave insight into the engineering of the windmills, and a cafe where I got a cup of tea before continuing on my drive.






Kinderdijk is one of Holland’s two famous areas where you can view old windmills. The other one is Zaanse Schans, close to Amsterdam. Both are worth the drive if you enjoy these testaments to the history of Netherlands.

24 new World Heritage Sites – and the list gets longer!

Collecting world heritage sites is both fun and tricky, because you’ll never be finished. This is because UNESCO keeps on inscribing new properties to the list every year, and in this year’s meeting in Bonn, there were altogether 24 new sites added. Here they are:

8 new easily accessible sites to Europe…

Norway: Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site

Rjukan, Norway
In Southern Norway, 150km West of Oslo, a nitrogen manufacturing complex was built in the early 20th century. The complex needed power, so two large hydroelectric power plants were also built: Svelgfoss, Europe’s largest at the time, and Vemork, world’s larges at the time. Nearby villages of Rjukan and Notodden were built to house the workers of the complex, and the whole area ended up on the world heritage list because of it being a good example of a new global industry in the early 20th century. [Photo: Nigel Swales]

Denmark: Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement

Old well in front of Brothers Congregation Church
Christiansfeld made the list, because it’s a prime example of what a town will look like if it’s been planned by the Church. The central square is designed around the church, houses are homogenous and unadorned, and there are large communal houses for the congregation’s widows and unmarried men and women. [Photo:  Martin Nikolaj Christensen]

Denmark: The par force hunting landscape in North Zealand

Par force hunting, which means hunting deer on horseback with the help of hounds, was a popular hunting style in 16th century Danish court. Store Dyrehave and Gribskov forests as well as Jægersborg Hegn hunting park were reserved for the activity in North Zealand, and several grand hunting lodges were built in the area, including Eremitagen in the photo. For more info on this site, check out the blogs Nordic Food & Living and Stories from Copenhagen. [Photo: Guillaume Baviere]

Germany: Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus

Speicherstadt in the port of Hamburg is the largest warehouse district in the world where the buildings stand on timber-pile foundations. It was built around the turn of the century a little over hundred years ago to serve Hamburg port activities, and nowadays its red brick buildings house several museums and boutiques. Nearby Kontorhaus district has six large office complexes that were built in the 20s and 30s for port-related businesses, and the most famous of these is the modernist Chilehaus office. To read more on this site, check out the blogs Time Travel Turtle and Landlopers. [Photo: Bert Kaufmann]

France: Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars

Champagne Cellars at Mercier
Monks began to produce champagne in the 17th century, but its production reached industrial scale only in the 19th century. This new world heritage site includes several historic vineyards as well as Avenue de Champagne in the city if Épernay, where many famous old champagne houses have their cellars. As a world heritage site, the area bears testimony to the development of a very specialized artisan activity that has become an agro-industrial enterprise.

France: Climats, terroirs of Burgundy

Opera de Dijon in Rain
The area South of the city of Dijon is the home to Burgundy’s vineyards and their traditional divions into larger terroirs and smaller climats. This division is based on thinking by 14th century Cistercian monks who noticed that different vineyards gave different yields and varieties of grapes depending on the micro climate, soil and other natural variables. When the vineyards were transferred more and more from the Church and Crown to Dijon’s bourgeoisie in the 18th century, an official climatsystem was drawn up to value the lands. The world heritage list includes both the vineyards as well as the old town of Dijon where the system was born.

United Kingdom: The Forth Bridge

Forth Bridge Blues
The railway bridge over River Forth is the world’s longest multispan cantilever bridge. It was opened to traffic in 1890 and is still in use. It was added to the World Heritage list because of its importance in bridge design and construction during the period when railways came to dominate long-distance land travel. The Forth Bridge is featured in the blogs Adventures around Scotland and Funky Ellas Travel. [Photo: Chris Combe]

Italy: Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale

Italy-2125 - Cathedral of Palermo
When Normans conquered Sicily in 1061, the result was a melting pot of Norman, Arabic and Byzantine culture that left its mark on the capital of Palermo for decades. During the Norman kingdom of Sicily (1130-1194), two places, three churches, a cathedral and a bridge were built in Palermo, along with cathedral churches in the nearby cities of Cefalú and Monreale, that featured the new architectural and decorative styles influenced by the Islamic Arabs, Orthodox Byzantine and Catholic Norman people living peacefully in the cities. Read about Palermo in A Blonde around the World and Monreale in A Taste of Travel. [Photo: Dennis Jarvis]

4 sites in the Americas, including a reason to travel to Texas…

Jamaica: Blue and John Crow Mountains

Blue Mountains - John Crow National Park
The only new site inscribed for its natural heritage is the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park in Jamaica, thanks to its rich collection of moss. The area is also a cultural heritage site, because it served as the hiding place for the indigenous Tainos fleeing slavery. Later, Maroons, former enslaved people of African heritage, established a network of trails and hiding places in the area. Kirsten Nature & Travel has written about this place, as has Island Runaways. [Photo: VANKUSO]

Mexico: Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System

Arcos de Zempoala
A 16th century Franciscan priest Padre Tembleque lead the building of an aqueduct to the area so that local Indian communities would have access to clean water. This aqueduct has the highest single-level arcade ever built in an aqueduct, and it’s an example of a blend of Roman hydraulics and traditional Mesoamerican construction techniques: the bricks are adobe. [Photo: Federico]

Uruguay: Fray Bentos Industrial Landscape

Serie - Ruinas y recuerdos del frigorífico Anglo IV
A factory was built in the city of Fray Bentos in 1859, which was meant to process cattle raised in the nearby prairie for shipping and sale in Europe. In addition to the processing plant, the factory had packing and dispatching, an early example of the entire process of meat production on a global scale. [Photo: Federico Moreira]

USA: San Antonio Missions

Mission San Jose
In the 18th century, Franciscan monks built five missions along San Antonio River, to help the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize and defend the northern frontier of New Spain. The architecture of the missions is a mix of Spanish and Coahuilteca decorative styles. Blogging Babies and the Bayou writes about Mission Concepción, and Hipstercrite recommends checking all of the missions out via a hike & bike trail. [Photo: Bill Staney]

7 new wonders in the Middle-East…

…including two in Iran and one in Saudi Arabia. Especially getting to the latter might be hard!

Iran: Susa

According to Persian lore, Susa was the world’s first city – and this might actually be true: it existed already 6000 years ago. During the years, it has been a part of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian cultures, before Alexander the Great came around and conquered it. Finally Susa was destroyed by the Mongolians in 13th century. [Photo: ninara]

Iran: Cultural Landscape of Maymand

Bringing In the Flock, Firuzabad, Iran
Maymand is a self-contained semi-arid area South of Iran’s central mountains. Locals herd their flock in the mountains in Spring and Autumn living in temporary settlements. In Summer they farm their pastures, and in Winter they retreat into cave dwellings on the bottom of the valley. This cultural landscape made it to the world heritage list, because it’s an example of a lifestyle that was much more common back in the day. Goats on the Road have been there, and the Larmours have roadtripped the area with kids. [Photo: Julia Maudlin]

Israel: Necropolis of Bet She’arim

Beth She'arim
When Romans destroyed the temple of Jerusalem during the first Jewish-Roman war in the year 70, the Jewish administration moved to Bet She’arim. In the year 135, Romans also barred Jews from burying their dead in Mount of Olives, and that’s when Jews founded instead a necropolis in Bet She’arim. The place made it on the world heritage list thanks to its extensive collection of Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew inscriptions and artworks. Sandra Bornstein and Stop Having a Boring Life have written about their visits. [Photo: Alex Brey]

Jordan: Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas)

Jesus Christ baptism site (2007-05-811)
The baptism site of Al-Maghtas is a site of Christian pilgrimage, because it’s here that John the Baptist was believed to baptize Jesus of Nazareth. It is inscribed on the world heritage list because of its many Roman and Byzantine churches, chapels and monasteries, as well as caves that were inhabited by hermits and pools in which baptisms were celebrated. Stop Having a Boring Life has also visited this site. [Photo: VascoPlanet]

Saudi Arabia: Rock Art in the Hail Region

Jubbah, Hail excursion
The ancestors of present-day Arabs left their mark on the hills of Jubbah and Shuwaymis in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia. The oldest petroglyphs in the area are over 10 000 years old, and they bear representations of both animals and humans. The site used to be on the shore of a lake, but during the millenias, the lake has dried up and now the site is in the middle of a desert. Widen Your Horizons has more photos from the area. [Photo: Samira]

Turkey: Ephesus

Library of Celsus
Ephesus used to hold one of the seven wonders of the world: the Temple of Artemis, built in the 5th century B.C. Around the same time started the building of the city of Ephesus, which became one of the most important in Ancient Greece. Later, it was part of the Roman Empire, with many more important buildings built, and the city became one of most populous in Rome. The city is also a pilgrimage site for Christians, because it is believed that Virgin Mary lived here. Finally the city fell in ruin because its harbor slowly silted up. Have Blog Will Travel and Alex in Wanderland have both written about their trips to the current archaeological site. [Photo: Laszlo Ilyes]

Turkey: Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape

Hevsel Garden, Diyarbakir
The city of Diyarbakır is in South-East Turkey and mostly inhabited by Kurds. Since the Greek times, it has been a major cultural and economic center. Amida Mound in the middle of the city as well as its walls are part of the world heritage site, as are the nearby Hevsel Gardens that connect the city to the river Tigris. Nomadic Samuel has been there, as has Katinka Abroad, who writes about traveling there as a solo female traveler. [Photo: Julia Buzaud]

5 sites old and new in Far East…

China: Tusi Sites

Hailongtun Castle Zunyi Guizhou China David McBride Photography-0083
From 13th to 20th century, the mountain regions of South-West China were ruled by Tusi chiefs, whom Chinese central government had appointed to govern the local tribal people. Tusis were chosen from among the tribes, which allowed them to keep their own traditions and culture but still feel a part of unified China. Three sites relating to the Tusi system have been inscribed on the world heritage list: Laosicheng and Tangya temples and buildings as well as Hailongtun Fortress, the best preserved medieval fortress in China, of which Lao Ren Cha writes about in her blog.  [Photo: David McBride]

Japan: Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution

軍艦島(端島) Gunkanjima - Battleship Island(Hashima Island)
This is the most controversial of all the new world heritage sites, as it protects industrial sites from the Meiji period (1868-1912), and many of those sites used Korean and later Chinese forced labor from 1910s onward. The reason for inscribing these 23 sites to the world heritage list is because they are an examples of how a non-Western country has used Western technology to its advantage to industrialize in a matter of decades. The sites are ports, shipbuilding sites, coal mines, iron forges, old headquarters of industrial companies, and also Gunkanjima, the abandoned city built on top of the Hashima coal mine, which featured in the James Bond film Skyfall. You can read more about visiting Gunkanjima on Anxious Adventurers. [Photo: waka]

South Korea: Baekje Historic Areas

Busosanseong 021
Around 2000 years ago, Korea was divided into three ancient kingdoms: Baekje, Silla and Gaya. This world heritage site site protects Baekje sites from its latter times in 475-660: fortresses, temples, administrative buildings, royal tombs… The kingdom of Baekje was in its golden age at that time, a melting pot of cultures thanks to its good relations to the other Korean kingdoms as well as China and Japan: for example Buddhism spread to Japan largely through Baekje. The kingdom was destroyed in 660 when Silla and China together conquered it. One Weird Globe writes about visiting Gongsanseong fortress, and Goodman Gossip shares her experience visiting Sabi, the former capital of the kingdom. [Photo: travel oriented]

Mongolia: Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and its surrounding sacred landscape

Burkhan Khaldun mount
Burkhan Khaldun is situated around 100 kilometers north-west of Ulan Bator, and it’s a sacred mountain to Mongolians. According to the legend, Genghis Khan was born and died on the mountain, which might be a deliberate story spread by Genghis Khan, because it was his idea to unite Mongolians by promoting the worshiping of mountains. Shamanic rock cairns called “ovoo”s spot the mountain. For more photos, check out Don Croner’s blog. [Photo: Ganzorig Gavaa]

Singapore: Botanical Gardens

Rain tree (yellow variety) and bandstand
Singapore Botanical Gardens was founded by Brits in 1859, and it has since then been an important center for South-West Asia’s botanical research. The gardens were inscribed on the world heritage list because of old buildings and historic plantings that tell the story of the garden evolving from a British tropical colonial garden to a world-class scientific institution. Travel Yourself Today has information on the gardens, Follow My Wanders talks about dining there. [Kuva: Jnzl’s Public Domain Photos]

And what’s the status of my collection now?

With a bunch of new places added to the list, my collection of world heritage sites grew with three new sites. Here they are:

  • I visited Champagne twice while living in Luxembourg. Once I went to Reims for a weekend to tour the cathedral – also an UNESCO site – and the smaller champagne houses in the area. The other time I visited Avenue de Champagne and the big famous houses as a day trip, and I remember especially well Mercier’s world’s largest champagne barrel and Castellane, the most popular champagne house in France, which is little known abroad, because almost all of its production goes to domestic markets.
World's Largest Champagne Barrel, Mercier
World’s largest champagne barrel, which was made fo the 1889 Paris world fair. It was the fair’s second-most popular sight. The most popular was a certain tower…

Mercier champagne

Castellane Tower

  • I visited Dijon in March this year. I didn’t have time to stop by the vineyards of Burgundy, but since I spent several hours touring the historic old town as well as tasted local wines, I count this at least as a partial visit. The city’s very beautiful and well worth a longer trip thanks to its rich history.

Dijon in Rain

  • I visited Palermo back in 2005 (or was it 2004?), so my memories are a bit shaky. I remember sitting on the steps of a cathedral, waiting for the siesta to end and for my boat to Naples to leave. Although I must have visited several churches and the palace, I don’t remember making a note of their Arab-Norman architecture, so even though technically-speaking this is mark on my list, I think this place demands a new visit from me.

After this, my total comes up to 105 visited world heritage sites! Only 926 more to go…

Have you been to any of these new world heritage sites? Which one would you like to visit the most?