Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

A World Most Strange and Beautiful: Five Stunning New UNESCO Sites

At its session this summer in Cambodia, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre added 19 new inscriptions to its World Heritage List. Here are our five favorites that show just how strange and beautiful the world is:

BERGPARK WILHELMSHOHE
Kassel, Germany

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, Germany
(photograph by MalteRuhnke, via Wikimedia)

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, Germany has a cascade of water that rolls down a hill from a towering structure topped by a massive statue of Hercules. A complicated system of hydro-pneumatic devices powers this Grand Cascade and the other waterworks, which were all started back in 1689. 

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, Germany
(photograph by fanglan, via Flickr)

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, Germany
(photograph by 
Dirk Vorderstraße, via Flickr)

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, Germany
1900 photochrom (via Library of Congress)
 

HONGHE HANI RICE TERRACES
Honghe Prefecture, China 

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces
(photograph by 
Jialiang Gao, via Wikimedia)

Covering over 16,600 hectares in Southern Yunnan in China, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces cut over the Ailao Mountain slopes down to the Hong Kong river. There for 1,300 years, the channels of water have supported farming of red rice, involving eel, fish, buffaloes, cattle, and ducks that all move through the landscape dotted by 82 villages. 

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces
(photograph by 
Jialiang Gao, via Wikimedia)

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces
(via Wikimedia)

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces (photograph by George Lu, via Flickr)

MOUNT ETNA
Near Messina, Italy

Mount Etna
(via NASA)

Located on the eastern coast of Sicily, Mount Etna is the world’s most active stratovolcano, with activity going back 500,000 years. It is almost never not erupting, yet animals and plants still live in its ecosystems. 

Mount Etna
(via Wikimedia)

Mount Etna
House buried in lava on Mount Etna’s slopes (via Wikimedia)

Mount Etna
(via UCL Mathematical and Physical Sciences)

NAMIB SAND SEA
Coast of Namibia

Namib Sand Sea(photograph by Teo Gómez, via Wikimedia)

As the world’s only coastal desert, the Namib Sand Sea stretches over 3 million hectares in Namibia right to the ocean. Fog alters its dune fields and is the main source of water for the animals and plants that live there.

Namib Sand Sea
(via NASA)

Namib Sand Sea
(photograph by Santiago Medem, via Flickr)

Namib Sand Sea(photograph by Erwin T., via Flickr)

HILL FORTS OF RAJASTHAN
Rajastahan, India

Hill Forts of Rajasthan(via Wikimedia)

The six forts that sprawl through the state of Rajastahan in India date from the 8th to 18th centuries. Their ongoing architecture formed a complicated cluster of fortifications incorporating the surrounding hills, forests, rivers, and deserts. 

Hill Forts of Rajasthan
(via Wikimedia)

Hill Forts of Rajasthan
(via Wikimedia)

Hill Forts of Rajasthan(photograph by Adrian Sulc, via Wikimedia)

Click here to see all of the new UNESCO World Heritage sites.