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20 most recent Community Reviews


Singapore Botanic Gardens

Jay T USA - 26-02-2017

I had less than 24 hours in Singapore when I visited in September 2012, but there was no way I was going to miss the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Accordingly, early in the morning the day after I arrived, I woke up and took a short subway ride to the gardens. The morning was humid, and a light mist rose from the trees as I entered the gardens. Fellow early risers were practicing tai chi on one of the vast lawns. I wandered around the grounds, admiring the trees and lakes, until the jewel of the site, the National Orchid Garden, opened. The orchids were exquisite, the blooms open in a profusion of red, orange, pink, and purple petals. The orchid garden requires a small entry fee, but it was well worth the expense. Singapore Botanic Gardens was inscribed on the World Heritage Site list as a tropical botanic garden that has proven vital for research and plant conservation -- particularly in supporting the cultivation of rubber on the Malay peninsula. The gardens are also Singapore's first World Heritage Site, and I think they are a beautiful addition to the list.

Logistics: The Singapore Botanic Gardens are easy to reach via subway (Botanic Gardens MRT station on Circle or Downtown lines), bus, or private transportation.


White City of Tel-Aviv

Pavel Matejicek Czechia - 26-02-2017

I spent a week in Tel Aviv in February 2017. It was my first visit of Israel and I enjoyed my stay in Tel Aviv a lot! I must say: I would not have a temptation to leave the city and go to a tourist trap of Jerusalem even after one week at one place.

My impression was that Tel Aviv is a blend of Berlin with a mediterranean spirit.

That is true that the condition of some houses is poor (however, it has been improved a lot) and their appearance have been changed, but what I found unique in Tel Aviv is that there is a huge ensamble of such houses. In Czechia, we have only limited number of buildings in the international style and only few billionars would afford to have a house in Bauhaus style...

Highly recommended!


Bahá’i Holy Places

Pavel Matejicek Czechia - 26-02-2017

I visited the gardens and shrine in Haifa and I agree with the reviews below: There is a great view over the Haifa bay and the place itself looks spectacular, but I cannot see any OUV there.

In summary: it is a tourist trap, I can see reason of inscription only to attract the tourist for visiting of Haifa, that is perfectly located but do not offer anything that can be called as a world class site.


Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, the northern part of Okinawa Island and Iriomote Island (T)

Pavel Matejicek Czechia - 26-02-2017

I visited Okinawa island in March last year. According the locals, March-April would be the best time to visit and explore the island in order to avoid winter cold, summer hot&humidity, monzoon of May, and typhoons of fall.

The Yanbaru forest is located in the norden part of the island, and Nago is the best place to stay&go further to north. This part of the island is quite remote, and due to the infrequent public transport - which I used to visit Hiji falls protected area, renting a car would be better and more efficient alternative.

It was a bit rainy day, however for visiting of subtropical rain forest it was an appropriate choice...

I like very much such areas, and I can compare my experience to Laurisilva of Madeira, or in a certain extent also to beech forests of Slovakia (both are WHS). So, I enjoyed my visit a lot, but I have to admit that no everyone would enjoy seemingly boring densely forested areas with a minimum of viewpoints or spectacular flora and fauna.

In the summary, I strongly support the inscription to protect the forested area inhabited by numerous endemic species that might be endangered mainly by military preasures in the area.


Sites funéraires et mémoriels de la Première Guerre mondiale (Front Ouest) (T)

Thibault Magnien France - 22-02-2017

The sites related to WW1 are of great universal significance. The conflict had a huge impact not only for the people who were involved in it but also for all mankind. It took human people from the era of artisanal and local war to industrial and global war. The site also embodies the need, following the conflict, to honour and remember, on a large scale, those who fought and suffered. For the first time, anonymous fighters were honoured as much as famous heroes.

I have visited sites in Verdun, Somme, Chemin des Dames, Westhoek and other parts of Belgium. To me, the most striking testimony of the conflict is around Verdun. The whole landscape around the city has been modified by the conflict, from fully destroyed villages to forts, from forests in which traces of bombs are still visible to cemeteries.


Les Plages du Débarquement, Normandie, 1944 (T)

Thibault Magnien France - 22-02-2017

The events related to Normandy 44, the operation Overlord and the WW2 in general, are of primary universal significance. These events shaped today’s world. The proposed sites in Normandy provide a clear testimony in the sense that they are well preserved and that the events and facts associated are clearly stated and explained.

In my opinion, this site deserves to be part of the WH list for its universal significance and as a testimony of one of the worst period in history. However, the idea of a transnational site, gathering several symbols of WW2, should be privileged. First, it would carry the idea of gathering people and nations. Second, it would provide a better, wider and clearer testimony of this period and the events that occurred over a decade. Finally, it would show the global nature of the conflict.

In order to retain the most complete testimony, such a site should include, among the symbols and in addition to Normandy, memory sites of Bastogne, Pearl Harbour, Okinawa or Kanchanaburi as well as other sites in North Africa, Asia and Europe.


Cathédrale de Saint-Denis (T)

Thibault Magnien France - 21-02-2017

The basilica of Saint Denis, in the immediate suburbs of Paris, is a masterpiece of religious architecture and has been an artistic achievement and model throughout the centuries. The place has been the resting place of numerous French monarchs, as exemplified by its numerous sculpted tombs.


Sites mégalithiques de Carnac (T)

Thibault Magnien France - 21-02-2017

To me, Carnac is the most important “missing WHS” for France. The site bears a unique testimony of the Neolithic period and possesses a tremendous variety of remains. It is definitely a must-see. The different museums in the area allow to better understand the site.


Metz Royale et Impériale, enjeux de pouvoir, confrontations stylistiques et identité urbaine (T)

Thibault Magnien France - 21-02-2017

As many cities in France, Metz takes its origin in the Pre-Roman and Roman time, has been growing as major medieval centre and retains today a variety of great monuments from the different periods, including a splendorous cathedral. However, what makes Metz unique is its position, on the border between Germany and France. The city has been disputed during centuries between the two nations. The result is a unique combination of French and German culture. One of the golden period of Metz was during the German annexion of the end of the 19th century. From this imperial time, the city retains several buildings including the Imperial Station Palace, the Opera house and the temple.


Centre ancien de Sarlat (T)

Thibault Magnien France - 21-02-2017

I visited Sarlat in summer 2013, as part of my trip on the way to Santiago in France. The city is closed to Perigueux and not far from the Vezere valley.

Sarlat is recognised as one of the best examples of a medieval town in Europe. It retains a lot of monuments from the Middle Age and Renaissance periods. The city is a regional and national hub for cultural tourism. It is also a capital city for gastronomy.


Old City of Jerusalem

Jay T USA - 19-02-2017

O Jerusalem -- a city revered and fought over through the centuries by armies from three faiths, and which struggles today to find peace and stability amongst its diverse residents. This is a holy city, a city of pilgrimage, and it was one I had longed to visit since I was young. I finally had my opportunity in February 2015, and it was all I hoped it would be. As I think back on it now, I remember Jerusalem in a series of vignettes. An Orthodox Jew with a long grey beard praying as he walked down a narrow staircase in the Old City. Two older Arab men playing chess in front of the Dome of the Rock, ignoring background vocal protests. Crowds of pilgrims lined up inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a building maintained by several denominations. Israeli soldiers carrying supplies out through the Zion Gate. The views of the old city from the Mount of Olives after a storm. The quiet, reflective sites of the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb, the latter frequented by Protestants. The lively underground markets in the well-preserved Roman Cardo. The well-secured and sobering Wailing Wall. There is so much to see in Jerusalem, and I wish I'd had more than two days, but I am glad for the time I had, and would love to return.

Logistics: The Old City of Jerusalem is easy to walk around; however, there are security checkpoints, and some sites may temporarily close depending on current events.


Úbeda and Baeza

hubert Austria - 19-02-2017

The Andalusian twin towns of Úbeda and Baeza in the province of Jaén are considered the best examples of Renaissance style in Spain. However, these two small towns cannot compete with the major centres of Renaissance in Italy, and I would not rank them among the best Spanish WHS, but nevertheless we enjoyed our visit. In both towns, the inscribed area is rather small, just a historic square and a few cobblestone streets. There are no outstanding buildings, the charm is more in the harmony of the architectural ensemble. And that it is calm and sleepy, there are not many tourists, a pleasant change to other sites in Andalusia like Granada or Cordoba.

Coming from Granada by rental car, we first made a detour to the Jaén Cathedral, a possible extension that was withdrawn in 2014 after an unfavourable evaluation by ICOMOS. Well, it's a huge cathedral, quite nice, but it would not add much to the already inscribed parts.

In Úbeda, the inscribed area is a bit off the modern town centre, it consists essentially of the builings and monuments around the Vázquez Molina Square: Basilica Santa María, Sacra Capilla El Salvador del Mundo, Vázquez de Molina Palace (the town hall), the Palace of the Déan Ortega (today a Parador), the Pósito (former granary, currently the police station). Both churches can be visited with an audioguide, the town hall is accessible during office hours and the Parador has a nice courtyard where we took a coffee break.

Baeza is only a eight kilometres west of Úbeda, the main sights are the cathedral (visit with audioguide) and the Square of Saint Mary with a nice fountain of the same name. Several of the other palaces are used by the Universidad Internacional de Andalucía and you can take a look inside to see the entrance halls and courtyards. Most remarkable is the Palacio de Jabalquinto with an impressive façade (photo) and a richly decorated Baroque staircase (accessible from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 2 pm).

It is hard to say which of the two cities I would prefer, probably Baeza, mainly because we stayed the night in Baeza and at our stroll through the sparsely lit old streets, we felt like taken back in ancient times.

If you plan your visit, you should note that the churches have the typical opening hours in Andalusia with a long siesta break in the afternoon starting at 2 pm. This is true for most sights in Spain and especially in Andalucia, and should be considered if you have a tight schedule. The best is to adapt yourself to the rhythm and also take a siesta. On our round trip we often use these hours to move from one place to another, the main destinations in Andalusia are in a distance that can be covered in less than three hours by car.


Granada

hubert Austria - 19-02-2017

The view to the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas provides an impression of the size of the palace complex, the massive walls and towers appear austere and powerful, nothing indicates that the interior houses a gem of Moorish architecture. And even when you stand in front of the entrance gate of the Nasrid Palaces - the heart of the Alhambra - you see only an inconspicuous façade. In contrast to European palaces, a sumptuous exterior is not characteristic for Moorish architecture. But that changes fundamentally as soon as you enter the interior: abundant wall decorations, inner courtyards with fountains and water basins, coloured tiles everywhere, elegant columns, filigree stucco decorations. Unfortunately, large parts of the Nasrid Palaces were destroyed after the Reconquista, e.g. to build the Palace of Charles V.

We visited the Alhambra in September 2016 and I agree with other reviewers that booking in advance is highly recommended. You can print your pre-booked tickets at one of the ticket machines without queuing. In summer, you have to choose between morning and afternoon visit and you have to select a time slot for the Nasrid Palaces. However, it is hardly possible to avoid the crowds, there are tourists all year round, probably less in the winter, but this is not the best time for a visit, at least for the Generalife garden, beside the Nasrid Palaces the second highlight at the Alhambra.

Alhambra and Generalife are well described elsewhere, so just a few remarks on the Albayzín, the oldest quarter in Granada. The above mentioned Mirador de San Nicolas is a must (the photo shows the view to a part of the Nasrid Palaces). I recommend a visit in the evening at sunset, and though you have to share the beautiful view with hundreds of tourists, it is an unforgettable experience. I liked the narrow streets and white-painted houses of the Albayzín. One gets lost inevitably, but that does not matter, sooner or later you will find the way downhill to the Carrera del Darro or the Plaza Nueva. There are several buildings that can be visited, the tourist information offers a combined ticket and a map with the locations. We visited three sites: the Banuelo (larger and more interesting than the baths of the Alhambra) and two palaces, the Casas del Chapiz with a beautiful garden and nice views to the Alhambra and the Palacio de Dar al-Horra. Unusual for Andalusia, these sites are opened all day without a siesta break.

For the evening, I recommend the restaurants and bars at the Plaza Aliatar or Plaza Larga, which are also popular with locals, or along the Carrera del Darro. Our favourite tapas bar was La Gran Taberna at Plaza Nueva, a traditional tapas bar open until late at night and perfect for a last drink.


Belem

Klaus Freisinger Austria - 16-02-2017

Lisbon is a great city with many attractions, but for me, the clear highlight was the Monastery of Belém, properly called the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. This huge building is the classic example of the Manueline style that is so widespread in Portugal and features a huge number of fascinating architectural elements of all kinds. It can take quite a while to visit all parts of the complex (and to find your way through the masses of visitors), including the fantastic cloister and courtyard, and the church with its tombs of many Portuguese royals, as well as of Vasco da Gama and the country's national poet Camoes. A part of the complex is occupied by the Portuguese Naval Museum, which has some pretty good exhibitions and is definitely worth a visit (including the very nice cafeteria at the end). The second part of the WHS, the tower of Belém, is just a short walk away and is probably the most famous landmark of Lisbon. Formerly used as a lighthouse, defensive tower (there used to be a second tower on the opposite shore so that hostile ships could be caught in the crossfire), and prison, it can be reached today via a small wooden walkway and is a nice addition to the monastery as they represent the highlights of Renaissance architecture in Lisbon. The best views of both the monastery and the tower can be enjoyed from the top of the nearby Monument to the Discoveries. Belém is some distance outside the city centre and is quite a long and crowded tram ride away, so the entire visit can easily fill a whole day.


Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis

Jay T USA - 12-02-2017

One year ago on a snowy night I watched the 1986 movie "The Mission", which covers historical events that affected the Jesuit Missions of the Guaranís in much warmer South America. The film highlights the love of music the Jesuits and Guaraní shared; at many of the missions the Jesuits taught the Guaraní people European choral music, as well as how to make instruments. The film also highlights the fallout from the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, in which the Jesuit missions faced the ceding of territory from the Spanish empire, which ostensibly outlawed slavery of the Guaraní, to the Portuguese empire, which allowed it. It was with this context in mind that I visited the San Ignacio Miní mission near Posadas, Argentina, in March 2016. The Baroque ruins are in spectacular shape, and show how impressive the main church must have been when fully intact. Around the periphery of the site were the remains of long barrack-style buildings, storehouses, and workshops. The Guaraní here were not directly affected by the Treaty of Madrid, since they were in Argentine territory, but I feel for the Guaraní who had to fight for their security at the missions in Brazil.

Logistics: The Jesuit Missions of the Guaranís can be reached by bus or private transportation in Argentina or Brazil. I took a day tour with a company from Puerto Iguazú to visit San Ignacio Miní.


Shaubak Castle (Montreal) (T)

Wojciech Fedoruk Poland - 12-02-2017

If you have some free time after visiting Petra, going to Shaubak castle may be a good idea. The castle is located about 30 km from Petra and is easily reachable by car in 30 minutes. Shaubak Castle is one of the best preserved crusader castle in the Middle East and, as many other crusader fortresses, has a picturesque location on top of the mountain. The external wall is well preserved and even inside there is a lot to see. The ticket is 2JD, free with Jordan Pass.

Although I am not sure whether the castle has any chances to become a WHS, judging from other reviews of Israeli crusader fortresses, it is much more worth visiting. On the other hand, it is a pity that the best example of fortresses from that period – Nimrod Castle in Golan Heights, due to political situation is not even on T-list.


Edinburgh

Tom Livesey United Kingdom - 10-02-2017

Despite being a Brit this was my first time visiting Scotland when I travelled with friends in December 2016.

After checking in to our accommodation in the heart of Old Town we first visited the cathedral, named after St Giles. It is smaller than I expected from such an important city, but that probably stems from the fact it was built in an area that was already bustling, in the heart of Auld Reekie (as it was nicknamed for its smell). We stopped off beside a statue of Adam Smith, the father of modern economics and a face you can see on the £20 note (although ironically not on the Scottish version).

Highlights of my time in Edinburgh included a whisky museum, hiking up for the view from Arthur's Seat and enjoying some of the historic pubs in Edinburgh's New Town.


Gorham's Cave Complex

Tom Livesey United Kingdom - 10-02-2017

I travelled to the UK's newest WHS at Gibraltar in October 2016, particularly enjoying walking across the airport's runway after having landed on it 30 minutes before! I have for some time wanted to visit one of those few former outposts of empire that remain under the sovereignty of the UK, so was glad when this site was inscribed to have a good reason for travelling to one.

Unfortunately my experience of Gorham's Cave Complex was a fairly tangential. The visitors' centre is not yet open and I was unable to secure either a museum-facilitated tour or a boat ride to peer in from the sea. Given these constraints the best I could do was to walk down the Mediterranean Steps and have a look inside Goat’s Hair Twin Caves.

Nevertheless, the experience of reaching the summit of the Rock and beginning the descent of the Mediterranean Steps was one of the most memorable I have experienced in my 4 years of seeking out World Heritage Sites. With a pair of macaques eyeing us suspiciously and the wind blowing at several dozen knots the steep windy path down the edge of the Rock was both mysterious and daunting.

The twin caves felt very much like 'cave-man caves' - by which I mean I could have imagined Neanderthals living inside them as they in fact did. It was a shame I wasn't able to see the main complex, but I'll be glad to return to this British Overseas Territory when it becomes more accessible.


Laurisilva of Madeira

Tom Livesey United Kingdom - 10-02-2017

Madeira was my first stop on a December 2016 tour of Portugal and Spain. One experiences this WHS by hiking the ‘levada trails’, which are walking routes that follow man-made irrigation channels known as levadas. The levadas generally flow horizontally along the contours of the hills, with occasional descents down the slopes.

The most striking things about driving up from our hotel by the coast up to the laurisilva forests in Madeira’s uplands were the changes in weather and vegetation. The temperature dropped by about 10 degrees and the types of plants we saw changed as we ascended. It was as if it was still summer down at sea level but further up – as the temperature fell – the leaves had turned brown and autumn was well and truly underway.

I had only one full day on the island so was only able to hike two trails: Levada 25 Fontes and Levada do Risco - both shrouded in fog. If we had wanted to go walking in cold, foggy conditions we could have stayed in England!

These two routes, which start off as one but then fork off individually, led to waterfalls and give a good flavour of the sprawling forests of Madeira. We spent several hours walking along the trials before heading back via road on the north coast to our hotel in Funchal.

The levada trails are very pleasant and it is quite unique to experience the placid irrigation channels alongside the path interspersed with roaring waterfalls from the natural rivers.


Alcala de Henares

Tom Livesey United Kingdom - 10-02-2017

My December 2016 day in Alcalá de Henares was not the most exciting one I've ever had, though I enjoyed spotting the storks that live all over the city's tall buildings.

Although this is still an active university city there wasn’t a lot to do on an overcast weekday in December. I took a look around the archaeological museum and the main university building, but that was pretty much it.

The city does have one of the better UNESCO logos I have seen, carved in along with its name in large stone blocks in the centre of a roundabout just outside the city walls.

Best WHS logos so far: Alcalá, St Lucia (large wooden carving across a valley from Gros Piton) and Cornish Mining Landscape (depicted in flowers in the town of Hayle).


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