Blog Connections

Centres of Plant Diversity #2

Plant WHS may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but since my blog post from a month ago Solivagant and I have deep-dived into the Centres of Plant Diversity (CPDs). We got access to the full list and mapped the WHS to CPDs, resulting in two new connections. And, as always with exercises like this, we also learned some other things about WHS and the WH process along the way.

The Books

After a short exploration of the topic on our Forum, it became clear quickly that we could not finish this without having access to at least one (and possibly all three) of the CPD books. These are generally sold new at high prices (60-100 EUR each), but cheaper copies can be bought from online second-hand bookstores. I got Volume 3 (Americas) and Solivagant acquired the whole set including the other continents. It turned out that we needed the full set, as each volume only lists the CPD in its geographical region.

If you’re into encyclopedic specialist works, you might like to have these CPD books in your collection. Each volume is a large hardcover of up to 600 pages, including maps and black-and-white photographs. However, working with them for a few weeks for our purposes, serious flaws came to light as well. Mostly because the work feels incomplete and unfinished – less than half of the CPDs have a usable description. Maybe the project by IUCN and WWF was overambitious from the start, which also could be the reason that no updates have ever been planned. Having been compiled in 1994, they are now outdated as since then many new floral inventories have been done, especially at national parks that came into existence later.

The List of CPDs

It turns out that there are not 234 CPDs, as quoted in several sources including Wikipedia, but 490. The confusion lies in the fact that out of the 490, only 234 are fully described in so-called datasheets and are displayed on the maps in the book. However, the others are identified as well with unique IDs, and each has a short introduction text; they are equally important as the others. Especially for Africa and China, the coverage by full datasheets is low.

Some of the CPDs cover a very large area, such as Central Anatolia and the California Floristic Province (see map below).

Mapping them to WHS

We started the mapping process with a spreadsheet containing all the natural WHS that are inscribed on criteria 7, 9, or 10. As criterion 8 is for geological sites we deemed it irrelevant for this cause. By region and country, we then tried to place the WHS within a CPD, a rather time-consuming task as the texts generally do not reference WHS and – as stated above – over 50% of the CPDs are hardly described or displayed on maps. For those we mostly had to rely on the CPD names plus the state/province they are in. Some WHS for this reason were impossible to map; Kaeng Krachan Forest for example is labelled as being in a CPD in its AB evaluation, but we found no sure match (it could be part of ‘EA58 Limestone flora’ but who knows?).

The mapping led us to the following main conclusions:

  1. Not all WHS with plant diversity OUV are part of a CPD - we've found another 35 that could easily be in there. We only selected the WHS inscribed on Criterion X (biodiversity) and clearly described plant value. Central Suriname Nature Reserve, Coiba NP, Guanacaste, Lopé-Okanda and Noel Kempff Mercado NP seem the most glaring omissions.
  2. IUCN puts way too much worth into the CPD listing – IUCN in its evaluations somewhat routinely refers to a site ‘being in a CPD’, without relating it to specific plant value. They‘d better reuse the criteria (such as “holds over 1,000 plant species”) instead of this outdated inventory.
  3. Criterion X is not always used where it should have been – Some sites, such as Pirin NP and the Hyrcanian Forests, that have only criterion 7 or 9, are clear examples of a CPD. While criterion X was never discussed for Pirin NP (despite the comparative analysis concluding “an extremely rich flora which cannot be matched anywhere else" [in Central and Northern Europe]), it was for the Hyrcanian Forests but IUCN requested an inventory per component of this serial site and I guess Iran/Azerbaijan refused the work and accepted inscription on criterion IX only.
  4. Unrepresented CPDs may identify Natural Gaps on the WH List - most CPDs aren’t represented by a WHS at all. Northern Canada for example has 9 CPDs, but none match a WHS with plant OUV. For example, IUCN found Gros Morne NP (photo 3) representing "about 60% of Newfoundland's flora" but it was not inscribed for its biodiversity. Especially notable is the case of Papua New Guinea, which has no less than 39 separate CPDs but no (natural) plant-related WHS at all! On its Tentative List though linger Kikori River Basin (3 CPDs), Trans-Fly Complex (1 CPD) and Upper Sepik River (3 CPD).

Additionally, we found Table 6 in this IUCN publication about possible future natural WHS based on biodiversity not too reliable. They seem to have mapped the WHS based on geographical coordinates only, which have the hoodoos of Göreme and the fossils of Miquasha being placed in a CPD while they have no plant OUV whatsoever. This is partly caused by the very large size of some CPDs: following this logic it could also be said that cities like Izmir and Los Angeles are in a CPD.  


We ended up with two connections: one with WHS with plant-related OUV that are part of a CPD, and one with WHS that have Criteria X, clear plant-diversity OUV, and are NOT in a CPD. The first has 95 connected WHS, the latter has 35 WHS. The two combined provide the best overview of WHS that derive their value from biodiversity based on plants and trees.

Some WHS are even spread across 2 CPDs, such as Manu NP, Discovery Coast, Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan and the Tropical Rainforest of Sumatra.

Several CPDs are represented by multiple WHS. The Mountains of Middle Asia (Tajik National Park, Tugay Forests, Western Tien-Shan), the Eastern slopes of Peruvian Andes (Machu Picchu, Manu NP, Rio Abiseo) and the Sonoran Desert (El Pinacate, Gulf of California, El Vizcaino) each have more than two.

If you have remarks or want more info about WHS and CPDs, please use the Forum post.

Els - 14 April 2024

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Kyle Magnuson 14 April 2024

Just for clarification and a little pride. Los Angeles has the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, together more than 600,000 Acres (and growing) of protected lands (243,000 Hectares). I know of only a few major cities around the World with that kind of protected lands in its backyard! The Santa Monica National Recreation Area is often cited as the largest urban national park in the World.

Blog Exhibitions

Unveiling the Stoclet House

Since its inscription, the Stoclet House in Brussels has been a thorn in the side of the WH community, whose members generally enjoy “the romantic idea that a “World Heritage” should be accessible to the world” (it's even #1 of our Commandments). Its closure has been compared to that of very strict nature reserves, but there at least the buffer zone often supplies similar values (though a bit more degraded) and a visitor center. No other means of interpretation are available for the Stoclet House and what you can see now is the tip of the 'Gesamtkunstwerk' iceberg. Not only can you not visit its interior, but you can also not even see its garden (explicit part of the OUV) and its ‘best’ exterior architecture; any view now is limited to the austere back façade. When you stand on the pavement in front of the building at the Tervurenlaan this is often not understood. Look at this maquette for what the building fully involves:

It's like a small palace (the French name generally used is "Palais Stoclet"), with elaborately designed gardens and terraces and all of that within a city setting.

The exhibition and 3D experience

The Museum for Art and History in Brussels has provided temporary relief from this drought by offering (until April 14) an exhibition on the works of Josef Hoffmann, who was the architect/designer of the Stoclet House. I visited it in its closing days. Special exhibitions like this would be sold out long beforehand in Amsterdam, but here, at this unassuming museum in an oversized building at the Jubelpark, there were plenty of tickets available at the counter and only a handful of visitors roaming the halls. In the first exhibition room, we get to know Hoffmann, his role in the Vienna Succession and the central position of the Gesamtkunstwerk in his work. There are many of his sketches, some furniture and sets of dinnerware, but his best works seem to have been left behind in Viennese museums. I did enjoy the maquettes of buildings he designed such as Cabaret Fledermaus

An extension of this exhibition (added only in January after another row with the Stoclet Family) is a 3D impression of the interior. It is called "Stoclet 1911 - Restitution" and is accessible on the same ticket as the Hoffmann exhibition. The video which shows the interior of the building as it was in its initial years (1911-1915) was made by the Architecture Faculty of Brussels University. It took them 2 years to complete. Based on old photos, sketches and plans and presented as a film, it lets you step into and walk around in the interior of the Stoclet House. A short extract can be seen here.

The video starts with an outside view as it was in 1911, when the facades were white and the ornaments shiny. You then enter a series of rooms. There's a remarkable indoor fountain in one of the corridors. We see the stage of the small theater that is also part of the building. Several of the spaces have black marble walls, which combined with the - I cannot say it otherwise - 'dated' red and brown furniture by Hoffmann resemble a nightclub from the 1970s. The best room seems to be the dining hall: this looks very elegant and is decorated with friezes by Gustav Klimt.

A revisit

After I had seen the exhibition, I couldn't withstand a quick revisit to the building itself. It lies only one metro stop away from the museum, going from Merode to Montgomery. There were three cars present in its parking lot, so things still seem to be going on here although the house hasn't been lived in since 2002. By slowly walking along the fence you can capture some of the Art Nouveau details.

Possible future access

The access situation has been in the News over the past weeks, as the Brussels Government has approved a ruling that any WHS in their jurisdiction has to allow visitors at least 10 days a year. But it has to be seen whether this is a real breakthrough. It has not been ratified by Parliament yet, and even if it will, there are many appeals possible and other ways to delay the execution of the decision (the house surely wouldn’t be ready to receive visitors yet). The Stoclet heirs and the Brussels government have been battling for ages, and there is a lot of bad blood on both sides. The public officials have been pointing at the financial support Brussels yearly provides for its upkeep, but the owners say they put in more of their own money.

For now, the best thing the Brussels Government can do is to keep the 3D experience of the interior on show somewhere in its museums, as it provides a long-awaited interpretation of the OUV of this Gesamtkunstwerk that cannot be admired in any other way.

Els - 7 April 2024

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Astraftis 16 April 2024

So, I went to the exhibition and there were quite some visitors, maybe because it was the weekend. I liked it, but for sure at 18€ (even when counting the rest of the museum) it was totally overpriced. And for heaven's sake, how can you think of closing such a gigantic museum at 17?!?! Anyway, showcase and panels were nice, and the maquette great pieces to understand Hoffmann's works.

Then I also took the opportunity of a sunny evening to go to the house itself, and maybe because of the virtual visit to the interiors, I was still rather impressed. And yes, there was a car parked also this time, so something is stirring!

Astraftis 8 April 2024

Heading straight to the exposition (and the palais itself) this weekend! Thanks for pointing it out, you are always at the forefront! :-)

Jay T 7 April 2024

This sounds like a great exhibition, and I can only hope they do choose to keep some of it on display for posterity, especially if the legal fight over access to Stoclet continues to drag on.

Blog Travel in general

Trip Budgeting

Since I ‘retired’ I have become more focused on budgeting my trips correctly, as the main difference between working a monthly waged job and living off a lumpsum is that your money doesn't get replenished as easily. I can only spend it once. On a macro level, I have implemented a few financial rules such as a yearly travel budget and an average budget per WHS (650 EUR). But also for each trip I manage my finances carefully without pushing myself into a frugal mode.

I just came back from a 5.5-week trip that took me to the US, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. This was complex enough to provide feedback on my trip budgeting routine due to the different currencies, variable costs of living and the Argentine inflation situation.

Setting the Trip Budget

This trip would – if all went well – bring me to 13 new WHS. So at 13x 650 EUR, a maximum budget of 8,450 EUR was appropriate.  Corrected with the real costs in these countries and the costs of international flights, I set a range of 7,800 – 8,200 EUR. In the end I spent 8,173 EUR.

Detailing the Trip Budget

For each trip, I use the same spreadsheet to create a detailed trip budget. It has the following categories:

  • Hotels: I always book my hotels about a month beforehand, but in such a way that the dates are changeable. So the hotel budget is already quite clear before I leave.
  • Food: I know from experience that in most countries I can do 20 EUR a day if the hotel provides breakfast. Very cheap countries may require only 15 EUR, more expensive ones 25 EUR. As this trip was mostly in Argentina and Chile, I chose the ‘average’ option of 20 EUR a day.
  • Transportation: I covered 28,442 km overall on this trip, so I knew it would be costly. It’s a combination of international flights (in this case, Amsterdam-Miami, San Juan-Montevideo and Santiago-Amsterdam) and domestic flights, bus tickets and car hire expenses.
  • Tours and entrance fees: I look up all entrance fees beforehand of the sites I plan to visit, plus allocate 100-150 EUR for a private day tour and 50 EUR for a shared one (if I don’t know the exact costs already).
  • Other: this is a tricky category, as it always seems low but it can add up. The main expenses here are SIM cards and credit card fees.

Tracking the Trip Budget

I do note down every day what I spend, and allocate these costs to one of the categories mentioned above in the spreadsheet. It looks like this:

Lessons Learned

Although I stayed within the overall budget for this trip, I’ve done better.

  • For Hotels, I managed to stay 300 EUR below my budget. Often in Argentina and Chile, I paid less than was indicated when I booked initially – thanks to the devaluation of both pesos. I also got a 10% discount in Buenos Aires if I paid in cash USD. Furthermore, I often rechecked whether the same hotel offered cheaper rates closer to the arrival date. This way I managed to shave off a bit too, in Argentina and Chile. Overall, I spent ca. 52 EUR a day on hotels which is quite good I think considering the expensive countries that were also in this itinerary.
  • For Food, I almost matched my budget but it was hard. Fortunately, except for Argentina, these aren’t countries known for their great cuisine so I did not miss out on much when I took a ‘budget food day’ (usually at McDonalds or an empanada place).
  • Transportation was the real killer on this trip, I spent 600 EUR more than I had planned and this category covered 58% of all trip costs. I knew the big numbers of the flights beforehand but hadn’t counted for the taxi costs which added up in the Caribbean (where public transport to an airport seems non-existent) and that I needed to switch to car rental instead of buses to cover Northern Argentinian Patagonia. Also, the price of fuel for a rental car is high in Chile.
  • For Other, I needed 3 different SIM plans (US, Jamaica, South America), and even switched to a fourth for Chile only. The Airalo e-SIMs provided the best value for money.

A general money headache for this trip was getting hold of US dollars. They are very expensive to buy in NL (effectively over 1 EUR per 1 USD). What I did in the end was bring some dollars that I had left from earlier trips and get more from ATMs in Miami and Puerto Rico. There I paid about 0.95 EUR to the dollar. If I were to do it again, I would bring less USD (only needed to pay 2 hotels) and more EUR to change into the local currencies (notably the Argentine peso, Photo 3 shows 200 EUR worth of pesos in Feb 2024).

On the positive side (and not reflected in the trip total), I ‘earned’ 800 EUR in KLM vouchers when my initial flight to Miami was cancelled and replaced by one that arrived 5 hours later. I already used it to buy tickets for a trip to India later this year.

Do you have special Travel Budgeting ‘hacks’?

Els - 31 March 2024

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Patrik 17 April 2024

I am in a similar situation as you, as I quit my job 7 years ago to travel, using my savings. Initially I did part of my travels with my car until it broke down near Naples and I sold it. It was unpractical anyway as it had to be taken off the road when I travelled outside Europe for longer time to avoid paying road tax and insurance.

My starting point is that 'time' is an almost unlimited resource, where 'money' is limited. I have set a daily budget of €50, and I also use a standard spreadsheet, though it is yearly with separate tabs for each trip. I log every expense in the sheet but do not have specific categories, except for accomodation. The sheet then also becomes a kind of log, showing which museums I visited and which daytrips I made.

During the trip, I measure if I am 'above' or 'below' budget, without worrying too much about it, the point is just to be aware. I have been consistently below budget these years though it seems I will need an inflation correction this year.

I travel with a focus on WHS, but visiting WHS is not my main purpose. So I do not have a budget per WHS and also skip (natural) sites that I consider too expensive. I have skipped Serengeti for example when I was in Tanzania and have not felt any regrets (something I was worried about when deciding). I instead went to a nature reserve that was on the t-list and had a wonderful experience.

I often make longer trips (4 - 8 months) and fly very little during them. Also, I barely use taxis and shuttles as I dislike them, and generally do not take tours as I find them limiting instead of adding to the experience. To get to places I take public transport and also find hitchhiking enjoyable and fun, to my surprise. And sometimes I walk somewhere with my backpack for a day or so, very relaxing and enjoyable.

My daily accomodation budget is around €20 and depending on the country, this will often mean I stay in airbnb's, and very occasionally in dorms. I like apartments or shared apartments where I can use a kitchen to cook veggies and have nice bread for breakfast, something I miss when eating out for longer periods of time. I thought I will do camping as well but have never gotten to it.

I stopped buying local sim cards (my phone is not able to use e-sim) as the prepaid packages seem to focus lately on selling huge amounts of data for limited periods of time, and it adds up when one just needs 0.5 GB for a month. So I just use wifi when available.

I try to pay directly as often as I can with my NFC chip on my phone, which has a free virtual debitcard which does not add bank fees to the conversion rate, so this is the cheapest way to pay when available, it saves about 1.4% compared to other debit cards or atm cash . It's not a lot, but it adds up.

The other thing is that I often look for cheap flights or train/bus tickets, and based on this see if I can build an interesting itinerary out of it. For example last year my 4 months summer trip started with buying a €22 DB train ticket to Austria 6 months ahead and from there I started booking next steps, towards the Balkans. I often book up to 3 months ahead and then do the rest while traveling. During the trip it will somehow become clear when it has been long enough, and then I will start to see how to get back, usually by booking a cheap plane ticket from somewhere which will then be my destination. It's like a game.

By the way, in my spreadsheet the currency is € for every post. As one of my purposes is to track expenses, I need one currency to be able to compare on a daily basis. I use a conversion cell, so if I spent 10.000 COP in cash, I write for example 10000*q1, which then calculates the amount in € and shows €2.50. And when I pay by card, I write down the actual amount in €. I noticed you seem to do this differently.

Chris W. 31 March 2024

One thing I do heavily is the points&miles game. Now I must say, espcially the miles part, was easier as pre-covid. This way often one can travel around cheaper. But, I do see these as additional trips and not budgetted for the current trip. I would however, if it makes sense, hop hotels on a three night stay (that is 3 hotels instead of just one). Or fly with stopovers just to get more miles.

I do not really use public transport (except for example high speed trains in China). It’s often slower and the faster way make sense so I can work in the morning or evening. Not retired yet.

Els Slots 31 March 2024

Fortunately that wasn't needed on this trip, Michael! But indeed, usually, I put things like visas or vaccinations also in the Other category.

Michael Ayers 31 March 2024

Don't forget to include a line item in the "other" category for "repetitive testing for newly emergent viruses by pcr/antigen." Last time, that added up to $US 2,800 for me... ;-}

Blog TWHS Visits

San Pedro de Atacama

The Tentative Site description for San Pedro de Atacama tries to paint a picture of the history of the region from 10,000 BC til the 18th century AD. The focus of a future WHS may however lay in its Pre-Columbian sites, maybe even narrowed down to the Pre-Incan sites, as the Incan site of Catarpe is already part of the Qhapaq Nan WHS. The people who lived in this high desert region settled down to breed llamas and cultivate maize. They were also part of a wider trade route.

The main archaeological site of the area is Tulor, known in Spanish as Aldea de Tulor (meaning: Village of Tulor). I went there on a bicycle, which is easy to rent in the center of San Pedro. It’s a ride of 11km and the terrain is mostly flat, however at a temperature of 32 degrees Celsius and scorching sun it is exhausting. I stopped twice along the way (at a bus stop and a truck weighing station) to get some shade and drink water. When I finally arrived at the archaeological site, I found a cute bike parking but the entrance to the site was closed. Fortunately, a woman came out and told me they were having a lunch break so I needn’t wait long.

The entrance fee is 5.000 pesos and can be paid by card. From the reception area, it then is another 600-meter walk in the heat through the sand to reach the remains. I can fully understand why the ancient Atacameños abandoned this site! When they settled it, there was water from the San Pedro River. Now there is none and the sand dunes have encroached. The people lived in circular mud huts that were connected via small passageways (photo 1). It’s a small site but it's a wonder that it has been preserved at all given its age and setting. The World Monuments Fund has put money into it twice, but the site was afterward vandalized in 2010 (of which I saw no trace anymore in 2024). All archeological sites and nature reserves in the San Pedro de Atacama region are now managed by the indigenous communities.

Another interesting site is the Pukará de Quitor (photo 2). Now this is a very ‘late’ fortress, established around 1300 which is some 1,000 years after Tulor was abandoned. It saw the Incas arriving around 1450 and the Spaniards conquering it in 1540. It lies a 3km walk from the center of San Pedro, following the dry river bed of the San Pedro River. The entrance fee here is 5,750 pesos (6 EUR), rather steep given the fact that you may not enter the archeological site itself and have to haul yourself up on foot to viewpoints on the hill next to it.

What this site offers though is a few good information panels that split the Atacameño history into 4 phases: (1) the hunter-gatherers, (2) the period of settlement as exemplified by Tulor, (3) a stage from 400-1000 CE where the area was in the sphere of influence of Tiwanaku but which has not resulted in visible remains, and (4) a period of intensified exploitation of the lands. The Pukará de Quitor was used in stage 4 as an administrative center and as a retreat in case of attacks. Again, this is a small site with groups of stone buildings built against a volcanic rock. Both Tulor and Quitor in my opinion have regional value only (hence my ‘thumbs down’ rating). They provide a reasonably interesting view into how people lived outside of the big Pre-Columbian empires, but there will be many of those in the Americas and the Atacameños didn’t leave any traces as remarkable as the Chinchorros did for example with their mummification techniques.

The town of San Pedro de Atacama itself is "tourist central", and it is remarkable how many foreign tourists manage to reach it. Even in mid-March, the daily temperatures rose to 32 degrees Celsius and the sun is unforgiving. From here it is easy to access the natural wonders in its hinterland with a rental car or by day tour. We entered the Atacama Desert on our Missing List, and seeing the geothermal field of El Tatio (photo 3) in the early morning or the Valle de Luna shaped by sandy salt is indeed magic and worth a journey.

Els - 24 March 2024

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Blog Connections

Centres of Plant Diversity

In its evaluations, IUCN over the past years has shown a tendency to refer to a site’s inscription on another list or similar accolade to substantiate its importance. As they say in their 2023 update to the WHC:  “systems such as WWF’s Global 200 Priority Ecoregions, Conservation International’s Biodiversity Hotspots and High Biodiversity Wilderness Areas, Birdlife International’s Endemic Bird Areas, and IUCN/WWF Centres of Plant Diversity, provide useful Guidance”. For floral sites, the go-to-list is ‘Centre of Plant Diversity’. As plants are underrepresented anyway among the connections, I created a new one around these Centres.

What are Centres of Plant Diversity?

Centres of Plant Diversity (CPD) are regions of the world that hold a significant number of plant species and/or have a high number of endemic species. The criteria used are: “Most mainland sites have in excess of 1000 vascular plant species, of which at least 10% are endemic, including some that are termed ‘strict endemics’- those endemic to the site. Island sites typically have fewer species, but a higher percentage of these are endemic.” (source)

They were defined in collaboration between the WWF and IUCN and published in a three-volume publication (1994-1997). They are not being further updated. I’ve found it impossible to find a full list of them, but apparently, there are 234 (there may be global and regional ones, it’s unclear). No form of special protection or management seems to be attached to the label.

Connected Sites

I found the following connected sites by doing searches on the UNESCO WH website, the UNEP-WCMC datasheets and in the evaluation files of sites we have put in the category ‘Wildlife habitat – Flora’.

  • Agastyamalai and Nilgiri Hills (these may be 2 separate CPD’s): Western Ghats
  • Afroalpine: Simien Mountains, Bale Mountains
  • Altoandina: Los Alerces, Los Glaciares (photo 3).
  • Blue and John Crow Mountains (name unsure): Blue and John Crow Mountains
  • Cape Floral: Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (photo 1)
  • Chiribiquete-Araracuara-Cahuinari Region: Chiribiquete
  • Drakensberg: Maloti-Drakensberg Park
  • Kinabalu (name unsure): Kinabalu Park
  • La Réunion: Pitons of Reunion (photo 2)
  • NZSAI and Macquarie Island: New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands, Macquarie Island
  • Primorye: Central Sikhote-Alin
  • Shennongjia: Hubei Shennongjia
  • Socotra: Socotra Archipelago
  • Valley of Flowers: Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers NP

Central Amazon Conservation Complex, Manu National Park, Mount Kenya, Lagoons of New Caledonia, and the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan are also part of a CPD, but it is unknown which one.

Do you know more about Centres of Plant Diversity? Or have you come across additional WHS that can be added to this connection?

Els - 17 March 2024

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J. Stevens 25 March 2024

I had already written down Kaeng Krachan Forest as a Centre of Plant Diversity, when I read the files on that WHS.

Blog TWHS Visits

Fell and Pali Aike Caves

As (T)WHS Travellers, we are blessed that we ‘have to’ visit several sites spread across the Argentinian and Chilean parts of Patagonia. In 11 days, I travelled the area from North to South, covering Los Alerces, Cueva de las Manos, Los Glaciares, and Torres del Paine. Along the way, the landscape changes from forests to glaciers to barren steppe. I finally ended up at Pali Aike NP, the southernmost of the Patagonian (T)WHS. Here windy and cold weather is said to be the norm, but I was lucky to get there on a slightly sunny day, with 11 degrees Celsius and no strong winds.

Pali Aike NP protects the Fell and Pali Aike Caves (the name of the TWHS), and a much larger volcanic landscape. The park lies some 190km from Punta Arenas right at the border with Argentina. I rented a car for the day, as I thought that it would be hard to find a tour going there (seeing the penguin colonies is a much more popular day tour choice). The drive there is easy, just the straight quiet roads that are common in Patagonia. And to top it off, of course, 28km of gravel road to get to the park entrance. This was easily doable in my small rental car. Along the way, there are mostly sheep farms. I had a funny encounter just before arriving at the park gate: a herdsman on horseback was driving all his sheep onward, crossing the road. They ran in multiple single files. I waited for a while to let them pass, as I did not want to hit one and they did not seem to be able to stop. The ranger at the park later told me that this guy manages 8,000 sheep.

The Fell and Pali Aike Caves tentative site is a cultural proposal, focusing on Paleoindian history. What are now known as the earliest hunter-gatherers that have ever lived in this region have left traces such as tools, cremated skeletons and bones of hunted animals. The latter include species now extinct, or that became extinct in the Americas such as the horse before being reintroduced. The age of the findings goes back to almost 11,000 years ago and this is another site that is considered by some as undermining the Clovis First theory. Although the site roughly dates from the same era as Clovis, it challenges the theory anyway because human migration from New Mexico to Southern Patagonia could not have occurred so fast and findings such as the fishtail arrow points show independent development.  

Pali Aike National Park is well-organized from a visitor's perspective. At the entrance, you pay your fee (5,500 pesos / 5 EUR) and you get an explanation from the ranger and a brochure about what you can do and see in the park. There are a few exhibits of findings as well. To the general visitor, the volcanic features may be the most interesting, and most trails focus on those as well. Be aware that you still need to drive deeper into the park after the entrance gate, about 20km in total (this is especially important as you have to keep an eye on your fuel levels, as gas stations are few and far between). I started with a look at the salty Laguna Ana, where I met some guanacos who weren’t too skittish.

The best area however is the one you reach turning right after the gate. Here the steppe starts to mix with dark volcanic rocks. You can walk into a crater, but I went straight for the Pali Aike Cave. This is also part of a collapsed crater and the rocks are fully overgrown with lichen and moss; they look very weird (see Photo 3). A half-hour trail awaits with some information panels about the life of the Aonikenk, the indigenous population of Patagonia. The Cave itself is what you would expect from any old cave where important archeological findings have been made – there’s nothing special to see!

From what I was able to find online, the other of the two caves (Fell Cave) can only be visited with special authorization. It is not displayed on the park map and seems to lie on private land. Still, Pali Aike NP is a fine place to visit also for its natural features.

Els - 10 March 2024

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Els Slots 10 March 2024

Fortunately for you, Liam, the Worker Assembly Halls will be a serial transnational nomination with plenty of locations in Europe. So no problem missing the one in Buenos Aires.

Pali Aike of course is more grave: it's a unique representation of the region.

Liam 10 March 2024

I think I've passed by here by less than 40km. So, selfishly, I hope it doesn't get inscribed!

I'm still reeling from this week's reviews of the CGT headquarters in Buenos Aires revealing that I probably walked right past it (or, at most, one block away) in 2012.

Blog WHS Visits

WHS #894: Los Alerces National Park

It’s hard to get all that you want from Patagonia. There was too much demand for bus tickets so I couldn’t go all the way from North to South by public transport. There also was too little demand for a ‘Safari Lacustre’ so I could not get on a boat tour inside the Los Alerces National Park to see the Alerces in a forest setting (they seem to run only on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday but the schedule is highly variable). And then on January 25, a devastating bushfire broke out affecting 6,924 of the 188,379 ha of the park. Only a few days before my visit in late February, it was all under control. I did not see any smoke, firemen or scorched ground – the fires were much further north than the area usually accessed by tourists,

I brought a rental car from Bariloche airport to cover Los Alerces, which at least provided me with additional flexibility. Arriving from Esquel at the central park gate around 9am, I stopped to pay my entrance fee, but I did not need to pay anything. Maybe they temporarily suspended it because of the fires?

Driving in this area takes longer than you think. You may not drive faster than 40km/h and the final 20 of the 32 km from Villa Lahautan to Lago Verde, where the main activities are, is unpaved. So by car, I was maybe only half an hour faster than the 2.5 hours given as an indication for the bus ride by previous reviewers. The unpaved road is wide and fairly level, so it’s perfectly doable with a standard car. Another aspect of note for self-drivers: there is a parking fee collected at both the Pasarela (1,000 Arg pesos per hour, about 1 USD) and Rio Arrayanes (4,000 pesos, waived if you spend more than 10,000 pesos at the attached restaurant).

I was in the park between 9 am and 4 pm and covered the following areas. All these short hikes that I mentioned are well-signposted and easy to do:

  • Villa Futulaufquen: had a look at the Visitor Center there, but it was closed. Walked the rock art trail nearby. The rock paintings are barely distinguishable abstract figures. I did however enjoy the Mirador which lies just above and provides views over Lago Futulaufquen. Not for the last time the area made me think of the Canadian Rockies.
  • Mirador Lago Verde: Drove up to the start of the trail to the Mirador Lago Verde, which offered fine views of that lake.
  • Pasarela: Drove back down for a few km to the Pasarela Rio Arrayanes, a footbridge (photo 1) with good river views. Did the walk to the Alerce Solitario from here (photo 2). Not a photogenic tree! Ate the lunch I brought with me at the dock of Puerto Chucao. Some 200m further along the trail, there’s a very fine viewpoint from a beach across Lake Menendez to the Torrecillas Glacier (see large site photo and photo 3 below).
  • Rio Arrayanes: Drove another km down and parked close to the river at a large lot. Here is the start of the trail to Viejo Lahuan. It’s a cool forest trail to end up at yet another uncooperative Alerce tree (they grow towards the riverside and 'turn their back' to the forest side where the trail is). On the way back I met an elder Argentinian couple waiting for me – they did not dare to continue on the trail as it was blocked by a whole family of cows including two babies and what the Argentinians thought was one bull (I was less sure of that). In the end, making loud noises drove them away.

After that last experience, I was sure: there can’t be that many cows in a core zone of a natural WHS! I had a good look at the official map again and it turns out that only the areas on the ‘other’ side of the Arrayanes river are included. IUCN triumphantly concluded that “the entire legally declared National Park is uninhabited and roadless” (so there’s a No Road Access connection). On the ground, the park does not visually distinguish between the two areas (also not on the provided tourist map) and the park entrance gate has a large UNESCO logo but isn’t even in the buffer zone. Essentially you need to cross the ‘Pasarela’ on foot to enter the core zone (the trail to the Alerce Solitario is the easiest choice).

Els - 3 March 2024

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Jay T 3 March 2024

Well if it reminds you of the Canadian Rockies, then I must go there some day!

Blog Connections

WHS in TCC Territories

One of the oldest travel communities with an online presence is the Travelers Century Club (TCC). They started as a social club in 1954 for those who had visited 100 countries. They now have more than 1,500 worldwide members (2021). The club is private (no free sharing of information online) and a yearly membership costs 75/85 USD (depending on whether you’re a US resident or not) plus a 100 USD initiation fee.

The TCC never did appeal to me much, as their website seems to come straight from the 1990s, they display more of an appetite for social events than travelling and you can even ’get’ ('buy' of course!) a pin to display your status. But they must be admired for their stamina and consistency in maintaining the TCC List of Countries and Territories. At least there’s a committee that makes the decisions and they follow a certain logic in updating their list.

More than Dependent Territories

Currently, the list consists of 330 places. There’s a neat Excel spreadsheet available that divides those into UN countries and other territories. My main interest for this blog post and the new connection lies with the latter.

We have struggled with the definition of our Dependent Territories connection, as it excludes for example overseas provinces. TCC uses a much wider definition for their Territories. They use both political criteria (a place has to be de facto independent for several years for example) and geographical criteria (such as being situated at least 200 miles from the closest continental portion of its administrating country). The rules are here.

From the TCC spreadsheet, I’ve taken the ones filled with ‘Territory’ or ‘Disputed’ in the 'Status' column that hold at least 1 WHS. Additionally to our Dependent Territories they also have Galapagos, Hawaii, Phoenix Islands, Lord Howe Island, Ogasawara, Ryukyu Islands, Tasmania, Alaska, Martinique, Azores, Canary Islands, Fernando de Noronha, Madeira, Balearic Islands, Corsica, Greek Aegean Islands, Ionian Islands, Northern Ireland, Sardinia, Scotland, Sicily, Srpska, Turkey in Europe, Wales, French Antarctica, Zanzibar, Egypt in Asia, Reunion (photo 2), Socotra, Lesser Sunda Islands, Russia in Asia, Sabah, Sarawak, Sikkim, Sumatra, Papua, and Tibet as separate Territories.


I added them all to a new Connection: Located in a TCC Territory. It lists all WHS that are located in a TCC ‘Territory’ which isn’t a country. I may have overlooked one or two, so let me know when you find a mistake.

Almost all WHS were easy to match to a TCC territory, but I had to think a bit about the following ones:

  • Gough Island (see photo 3, taken by Solivagant) – this is not a separate territory but a dependency of Tristan da Cunha. 
  • NZL Sub-Antarctic Islands – I think this is seen as part of New Zealand as there is no other option, but according to Wiki “Although considered integral parts of New Zealand, [these island groups] are not part of any administrative region or district, but are instead each designated as an Area Outside Territorial Authority” 
  • Macquarie Island on the contrary is named under the separate "Australian Antarctic Territory (Davis, Heard, Macquarie, Mawson)". Here they lump together the WHS of the Heard & McDonald Islands and Macquarie Island, which are over 5,000 km apart. Also, Macquarie is politically a part of Tasmania and not of the Australian Antarctic Division as the others are.

Overall I feel the TCC list overvalues islands, and not only difficult-to-access, remote islands but also easy ones that lie right off the coast of their mainlands such as several Greek islands. You can earn 31 'TCC ticks' in the Caribbean, and 40 in the Pacific Ocean, but only 14 in South America.

Member Statistics

Of course, I couldn’t add this connection without adding a statistics page to see which community members are particularly strong on visiting WHS in TCC Territories. You can now find the results via the Community Statistics / Most Intrepid page.

My initial observations from these:

  • The people with the most WHS visited overall also have the most visited in TCC Territories. Only 2 do slightly better at this than in the regular rankings: Harry Mitisidis (from position 18 -> 5)  and Roger Ourset (15 -> 6).
  • WHS Community Members with very high TCC scores (I used Nomadmania as a source for these data) such as Don Parrish (330/330), Harry Mitsidis (325), Sacha Grabow (308) and Shihe Huang (306) do not score extraordinarily well on the WHS in the TCC Territories. Don misses out on all WHS on the Canary Islands and the Azores for example, while Harry has work to do in Indonesia (I used their Missing Map on as a source for this).

I would love to hear from a TCC member who also ‘does’ WHS, whether visiting WHS is a ‘thing’ in that community and what counts as a meaningful visit to a TCC Territory.

Els - 25 February 2024

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Roger Ourset 26 February 2024

Dear Els,
Thanks much for your kind appreciation! You too are doing an incredible work for the site which is helping us much in our search for visiting more WHS!
I agree with you about the TCC inclination to give preference to island : an example I faced recently when I visited the federal republic of St Kitts and Nevis : for the TCC this very small country (one among the smallest in the Caribbean) is counting for 2 territories!
I am not following you about the fact TCC Members are not great travelers : in our Francophone Chapter it is always very difficult to gather all the members as many are just travelling when a meeting is organized! it will be my case when I miss a Brussels dinner soon as I'm currently in Pakistan, doing rather the same trip you made some months ago!
We are also sharing information about difficult or less know territories as I owe to the Chairman o my Chapter the idea and the advices to visit Somalia as I did before heading to Pakistan!
I'm also keen to visit many territories as I'm a vexillologist and like to take pictures of flags of subnational entities!
Best regards,

Els Slots 25 February 2024

You really stand out on the combination of WHS and TCC, Roger! Good to hear from you.

Roger Ourset 25 February 2024

I'm a member of the TCC since few years and have visited 225 territories according to its list.
There are regional chapters, mostly in the USA as the TCC has long been a mostly US associate, but more Chapters have been created, especially in Europe and meetings are regularly set up; on my side I'm a member of the Francophone Chapter which is open to TCC members from France, Monaco, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland and to whom is comfortable with a French speaking group and we have isolated members from Africa and other areas far away from Western Europe.
The TCC doesn't stress on WHS but I met some members who are eager to visit them, like me!
Roger Ourset

Eric Lurio 25 February 2024

I used to be a member and have been to well over 100 of their listed entities.

The problem was that, they weren't very friendly and didn't have any events I could get to.

Blog TWHS Visits

The Underwater City of Port Royal

We saw confirmation in December 2023 that Jamaica planned to submit The Underwater City of Port Royal as its 2025 nomination; whether they did so in time I could not verify. It will be their fourth attempt to get this site inscribed. It was rejected in 1988 (only the terrestrial area, deemed of national importance only), deferred in 2019 (more focus on the 17th century needed and worries about a cruise ship pier) and had an incomplete dossier last year. In 2019 ICOMOS did find some potential OUV though (“a possibly unrivalled illustration of an English colonial town in the 17th century”) and Jamaica may now have taken the right path of approach that will lead to an inscription. It will consist of a terrestrial and a marine part (comprising an underwater archaeological site). My review will only cover the terrestrial part, which I visited earlier this week.

Port Royal, a small fishing town at the end of a tombolo known as Palisadoes, is easily reached by bus from Downtown Kingston. The ride on bus 98 takes 45 minutes and costs 70 JD (0,40 EUR). This bus also stops at the airport, so you could theoretically combine a trip to Port Royal with your departure or arrival. Be aware though that it is a very hot area and you won’t want to carry any luggage. It’s a relaxed place to roam around for a bit, a random guy yelling out to me in the street “Hey! Do you wanna buy a crab?” exemplifies the laid-back atmosphere.

The main touristic focus of Port Royal nowadays is Fort Charles (photo 2). It has been restored in 2021 and is fully equipped to receive visitors. The entrance fee for foreigners is 15 USD and includes a well-conducted guided tour of the grounds. This fort was one of a row of five that protected the harbour of Kingston – the other four disappeared underwater during the deadly earthquake and tsunami of 1692 that gave Port Royal the nickname of ‘Sunken City’. It shares the tip of the peninsula with the coast guard and we heard them conducting shooting practice during the tour.

What we now see at Fort Charles mostly is its 19th-century incarnation, but built on the 17th-century vestiges that were designed in the shape of a ship. The fort was reused after the city fell into ruins, but it had to change its outlook as it was no longer surrounded by water. It got an impressive new long-distance canon at the Victoria and Albert Battery.

The terrestrial part of the nomination also probably includes a significant part of Port Royal town. This can be explored on foot via a short self-guided walking trail provided by the tourism board. All stops have information boards. Two areas of major importance in the 17th-century narrative are now surreal ‘sights’: there’s a paved parking lot that was built on top of Chocolata Hole (where the ships were cleaned) and a football field (photo 1) that covers the remains of Lime Street, the pre-1692 commercial center which was partly submerged. The terrestrial remains have been excavated but were covered up again for their preservation.

The only visible remains from the 17th century are “believed” to be parts of the walls of the former women’s gaol (photo 3) – a building that survived “14 hurricanes, 6 earthquakes and 2 disastrous fires” since 1710. Another notable historic building in town is the Naval Hospital – it was built in the 19th century from prefabricated cast iron parts shipped from England. It looks impressive but cannot be entered, a sign says they are working on its restoration.

So overall, the site is something like the Pile Dwellings meets Valongo Warf. On the positive side, by upgrading Fort Charles this has become the visitor center for the potential WHS and it saves a visit from being a total disappointment. Its chances for inscription should mostly rely on the underwater archaeological remains. Besides found objects such as tobacco pipes, Chinese porcelain, drinking glasses and pewter (tin) spoons, the main features are five houses that were part of Lime Street whose construction details have been preserved underwater.

Els - 18 February 2024

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Kyle Magnuson 18 February 2024

There seems to be more confirmation via Twitter that it was submitted by the end of January.

The updated name should be "Archaeological Landscape of 17th Century Port Royal"

Blog WHS website

More Stats!

This is a follow-up to last week’s blog post, and to an earlier one: several people have reached out to me saying that they want more statistics! I did have quite a number of these queries already available in raw format, and they were easy to transform into public pages that are dynamically updated. So that’s what I did in the past week.

Most potential I think lies in the data centered around Community Members and around Countries. As a start, I have focused on the Community data. I will look into the possibilities regarding Countries after my upcoming 6-week trip to the Americas.


Of course, it would be technically possible to combine the data of every community member (1563 with at least 1 WHS visited) with every category/connection/year/country, etc, but that would not lead to particularly interesting pages to look at. And running all those queries would be too hard on the database as well.

So I started working with the following preconditions:

  • Use the Hall of Fame approach: the travel goal should be relatively hard to achieve.
  • The lists should show a diversity of angles so that people can excel in their niche and the members with the highest overall scores do not always end up first.

The first batch

The following pages are now live and accessible via this link (also in the Navigation Bar via Community/Communitystats). They are dynamically updated once a day – which means that when you ‘tick’ your final Italian WHS your name will automatically appear in the list after 24 hours.

Countries complete

This is similar to what I presented in last week’s blog post. It only lists those members who have fully completed the country’s WHS. There’s one page with the Top 5-countries and one page with other difficult-to-complete countries.

Years complete

This lists the community members who have completed one of the first 10 years of the WH list. This is very difficult to achieve, I think it will be interesting to see whether more people can complete one or more of the early years in the future.

Civilizations complete

The focus here lies on ‘civilizations’ (or similar) that were spread across multiple countries and have a significant amount of connected sites. Members that are strong in a particular region can stand out in one of these categories.

Most intrepid travellers

This page groups queries where particular travel stamina is shown, such as visits to WHS in the most different countries, WHS in danger and WHS on Uninhabited Islands.

Best by Continent

The page shows the members who scored the highest on WHS in a particular 'continent'. The UNESCO WH definition, called 'Region' is used which splits the world into 5 continents.

Best positioned for the next WHC

This is a query that I often use myself, and I think it is of interest to those who proactively visit TWHS that are close to an inscription. Based on our prognosis of which sites will be nominated in the coming 3 years, the page shows how high your potential score will be based on your TWHS ‘ticks’.

Are there additional statistics you’d like to see that are related to the achievements of community members?

Els - 11 February 2024

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jonathanfr 12 February 2024

I am in favor of having statistics according to categories ( Indeed, this would allow the community to know who are the best “specialists” in visiting caves, memory sites, volcanoes, etc.

It would also be interesting to have statistics according to certain connections of the following groups of connections: Timeline, Visiting conditions, WHS on Other Lists, World Heritage Process.

Christravelblog 12 February 2024

Nice stats! Seems I have to work on visiting more to get into one of the lists lol.

Can SARICA 11 February 2024

I just checked that there are only 20 countries that have 10 or more WHS and not listed in the stats. That would be great to have the stats for them as well. In addition, why do we only show “nearly there” for difficult countries? We may show them for all countries that have stats and we may increase the number to 2 missing instead of 1 missing site.

Rep. Of Korea
South Africa

Jay T 11 February 2024

These are great stats -- thanks for compiling these!

Can SARICA 11 February 2024

Maybe all countries with >=10 WHS can be added under a separate heading.

Wojciech Fedoruk 11 February 2024

Very nice batch of stats! Is it possible to add one more in 'most interpid travellers' section? I mean most 'difficult' sites visited which would group travellers who visited the most WHS from, say, 200 (or bottom 20%) least visited WHS of this site.

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