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.

Preconditions

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 (https://www.worldheritagesite.org/list/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.

List:
Austria
Belgium
Bulgaria
Croatia
Czechia
Denmark
Greece
Indonesia
Israel
Japan
Mexico
Netherlands
Peru
Poland
Portugal
Rep. Of Korea
South Africa
Sweden
Switzerland
Turkiye


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.


Blog WH Travellers

Completing Countries

The reviews this week featured the beginning of a series of updates on the Ethiopian WHS by Wojciech Fedoruk. After finishing a comprehensive trip covering 8 WHS in 15 days, in addition to an earlier trip where he visited 3, he is now the first on this website to have ‘completed’ Ethiopia. The photo below shows what he found at the Lower Valley of the Awash.

Completing Countries can be a satisfying subgoal in the WHS quest, and it doesn’t necessarily belong only to those with high total scores. In this post, I will present a closer look at this based on the ‘ticks’ logged by our community members.

Looking at the countries with at least 10 WHS, I was able to draw the following conclusions:

The easiest countries to complete

The easiest ones are the relatively small European countries where all WHS lie within their European territory:

  • Austria: 65 persons
  • Belgium: 61
  • Croatia: 58
  • Switzerland: 56
  • Bulgaria: 56
  • Israel: 47
  • Czechia: 37
  • Sweden: 35
  • Poland: 31
  • Germany: 30

Netherlands by contrast has only 14 people who have completed it, due to the presence of Willemstad on Curacao on their List.

Of the countries with the highest number of WHS, Italy has been completed by 11 members, China by 4 and Spain by 5.

First and only ones to complete

Some countries have only been completed by one person:

Countries that have not been completed yet

Countries with large territories AND/OR multiple overseas sites prove to be the hardest to complete. So the following countries have not been completed by anyone:

  • France (see map above, has 5 overseas territories on its list, spread across the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific and the sub-Antarctic)
  • India (it takes a lot of stamina; the Himalayan sites prove to be the most difficult)
  • UK (Thomas and Luis Filipe are on 32/33, both miss Henderson Island)
  • Russia (Ivan and Martina are best on 28/31, missing out on the expensive Wrangel Island, the remote Uvs Nuur and the recently added Kazan Observatories)
  • Australia (highest scorers are on 18/20, missing out on the sub-Antarctic sites of Macquarie and Heard & McDonald)

The very difficult other ones

Among the countries with 5 or more WHS (and less than 10), the following stand out for their complexity. No one has completed them:

And probably the most difficult of them all to finish: the Democratic Republic of Congo. The highest-scoring community members have only visited 2 out of the country’s 5 WHS.

Countries that are nowadays impossible to fully cover such as Syria and Mali have been completed by multiple people during the pre-war periods.

Do you aim to Complete Countries on your WHS travels?

Els - 4 February 2024

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Comments

Els Slots 15 February 2024

Well done, Kurt! You have deserved your spot in the Hall of Fame


Kurt Lauer 12 February 2024

Just finished a trip to India, and was able to complete all the sites (actually visited a few on two previous visits). I even revised the trip while there to make sure I visited the two new sites that were put on the list while I was there.

I also visited a few TWHS in India, as well as most of the newly TWHS in Bangladesh. Some of these have no reviews, so I'll write something up when I return home next week. Currently in Saudi Arabia - short stop over, but enough time to go to the WHS near Riyadh tomorrow.


Jay T 5 February 2024

I missed all the commentary yesterday, but I do have goals to complete some countries, particularly the USA and Canada. Someday I hope to finally get to Papahānaumokuākea.

In the meantime, I have a side goal like Svein to complete years, though I don't have any years as close to completion as he does. 1978 remains the one I'm most focused on finishing first, although I missed my opportunity to get out to Nahanni last summer thanks to wildfires and a move.


Michael Ayers 4 February 2024

In 2006/8 I had completed South Africa and Argentina. But since my history of tracking and visiting T-list sites is very deficient compared to most of you, that's no longer the case, as both countries have added three sites, unvisited by me, since then. For that reason, I haven't really put much thought into completing countries recently. My only significant completed country at the moment is Sri Lanka, which is fairly easy to do...


Can Sarica 4 February 2024

Completing the USA, Canada, and Mexico is a remarkable accomplishment by Zoe, deserving a standing ovation. Living in Toronto for four years, I consistently grapple with the decision: "Is it worth spending $1000 on flights, car rental, and a ten-hour drive for just one WHS visit?" Despite my best efforts, I've explored 26 out of 85 WHS in these countries in four years, anticipating that the remaining 59 may take another five years or more to complete.


Clyde 4 February 2024

If possible I aim to complete a whole country, or at least thoroughly cover a whole region if possible to the focus on a different region on a revisit. New inscriptions make such completions temporary, ex. in my case South Korea and Turkey.


Meltwaterfalls 4 February 2024

Dating back to my earliest travels I have attempted to try to complete a country but have quickly discovered it is a bit of a Sisyphean task (though a rather enjoyable one).

I set out with plans to cover all of Tunisia and South Korea when I visited them but realised that having an extra day in some city or other was probably of more interest to me than seeing some bird habitats out of season, especially as I don't have a particular interest in birds anyway. So I left them off with the idea that I have a suitable reason to come back in the future, in both cases extra sites were added after I visited so even if I had dragged myself to some wetlands I still wouldn't have them completed today, a useful reminder that my aim here is primarliy to travel to enjoy myself and have new experiences.

I think I have "completed" Belgium, Czech Republic and "mainland" Netherlands, Britain, at least 3 times each before another site has been added to draw me back to increasingly obscure and dare I say underwhelming world heritage site.

I'm never going to be in the upper reaches of site visits in comparison to others here and to be honest that has never really been my objective.

So having a little reason to go back and explore a new corner of a country I enjoy being in isn't the worst way to spend my leisure time, even if the destination may not be particularly interesting.


Els Slots 4 February 2024

Good perspective, Svein! The late, great Iain Jackson still is the only person to have 1978 (the first year!) complete.


Svein Elias 4 February 2024

Completing countries will always be temporary so I tend to look at completing years. Thats more final, but I haven't finished one yet.
My best year is 1984 with 22 sites and I have managed 16 which is 73% and my worst is 2016 with 5 of 21, only 24%.
I guess there are lots of people doing better!


Liam 4 February 2024

Surely lots of people have completed Holy See, Luxembourg, Cyprus & Malta? These are left as the only countries I have completed - though once I could have added Syria, Jordan, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to that list (damn you Struve!)


Nan 4 February 2024

When going to a country I normally aim for completion if possible.

Key bit working against completion are new inscriptions. With tentative sites it's very hard to tell if they make the cut and are worth the effort. Or what precisely will be inscribed. Worse yet are not yet nominated ones.

Being complete for Germany requires nearly annual travel as we keep adding at best mediocre and mostly unheard of sites.

Re France, even if you were to dish out the money for the remote islands, they keep adding more, so it's pointless imho.


Els Slots 4 February 2024

It would be nice to have this as a feature on the country pages and countries overview list. But the query is a bit difficult, let me try to make it work.


Els Slots 4 February 2024

Iran 4
Japan 1
Peru 3
Turkey 11
Greece 10


Els Slots 4 February 2024

Another reason Germany has so many (in addition to many members living there or close) is that it has no hard-to-reach WHS. And there are no overseas territories.


Els Slots 4 February 2024

It's 16 for South Korea, Kyle.
And let me have a look how many have both Korea's ....> it's 4!


Wojciech Fedoruk 4 February 2024

Interesting data. High count of Germany indicates that there are many completionists here. What about other countries with multiple WHS, such as Japan, Iran or Peru?


Kyle Magnuson 4 February 2024

Just out of curiosity how much people have completed Korea?


Blog Connections

Gorilla (T)WHS

We’ve had the connection Gorilla habitat for a long time, but my recent visit to those at Bai Hokou (C.A.R.) got me thinking we’re missing something there. A fair number of WHS are inhabited by gorillas, but at only a limited amount of places you can actually as a tourist go and see them. They need to have ‘habituated’ groups, which are (extended) families trained to tolerate human presence. The habituation is a very time-consuming process, taking up to 10 years. And when the dominant silverback that you had singled out for this purpose suddenly dies, it all was for nothing as his family group will disintegrate. The habituated gorillas live wild but their location is tracked daily by staff. They also often are the subject of scientific studies.

Gorillas come in 4 ‘types’: they’re split into two main species, Eastern Gorilla and Western Gorilla, and each of those is made up of two subspecies. I’ve tried to make an inventory of at which WHS and TWHS you can visit them:

Eastern Gorilla

Eastern Gorillas live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The species is subdivided into mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas.

Mountain Gorillas

This subspecies has the lowest number of remaining individuals (ca. 1,000) but they are well in the public eye, not critically endangered anymore and are relatively easy to visit. Photo 1 shows a mountain gorilla silverback at Virunga.

  • Bwindi (Uganda) is probably the main location, with 9 habituated families and a cost of 700 USD per visit.
  • Virunga (DRC) has 10 of them, but the park is unfortunately closed at the moment and often right in the zone of conflict.
  • The nearby TWHS of Mgahinga (Uganda) has 1 habituated group. 

Volcanoes NP (Rwanda) has 12 habituated families (and the most expensive ones at 1500 USD a visit), but it’s not on Rwanda’s T List.

Eastern Lowland Gorillas

The main location here is Kahuzi-Biega (DRC). Unlike other WHS in the DRC, this park is almost always accessible as it lies near the Rwanda border. About 250 individuals live in the park. Reports vary between 2 and 5 considering the number of habituated groups. A trek to see them costs 400 USD.

Virunga has eastern lowland gorillas as well, but only 7 individuals are said to remain and they are not habituated.

Western Gorilla

Western Gorillas are much more numerous than their eastern counterparts. Especially after the incredible story broke a few years ago “that around 125,000 previously unreported gorillas had been found living in the swamp forests of Lake Tele Community Reserve”. However, there are few locations where they are habituated to human visitors. They are still critically endangered, mainly due to their susceptibility to disease (ebola) and lack of overall protection. The species is subdivided into Western Lowland Gorillas and Cross River Gorillas.

Western Lowland Gorillas

  • A prime location is Sangha Trinational: Dzangha Ndoki (C.A.R.) has one habituated group left and is working on a second, while Nouabele Ndoki (Congo) has four. In both parks, gorillas are sometimes also seen visiting the bai's (forest clearings).
  • Odzala WHS (Congo) has two groups habituated for tourists (and one for scientists).
  • Loango TWHS (Gabon) has one habituated group.
  • Moukalaba-Doudou TWHS (also Gabon) does as well.

There seem to be no habituated groups among the gorillas at Dja Faunal Reserve (Cameroon) and Ivindo (Gabon), although the latter’s Langoue Baï is regularly frequented by wild gorillas and they can be observed from a viewing platform. Lopé-Okanda (Gabon) has had a habituation program but it seems to have been stopped according to some sources while other tour operators still offer it.

Photo 3 shows a young female western lowland gorilla in the Bai Hokou area of Dzangha Ndoki.

Cross River Gorillas

This subspecies is limited to a very small area, the Cameroon-Nigeria border region at the headwaters of the Cross River. There are no WHS in this area. The transboundary TWHS Cross River (CRIKOT) covers the gorillas, but there are no habituated groups.

Does it harm or benefit the Gorillas?

The researcher that I spoke to at Bai Hokou (part of Sangha Trinational) regarded the gorilla habituation program there as a positive thing: it raises awareness for the conservation of gorillas (as visitors will talk about it when they're home), it provides funds for conservation and research, and jobs for the local community. The programs also may deter poachers. The main cons are that it may stress out the gorillas (especially at the beginning of their habituation they flee from humans) and that humans can transfer diseases to them. However, there seems to be no widespread opposition to the practice and the income from the often expensive trekking permits for a high percentage goes back to conservation (numbers around 75% have been stated).

Did you see wild gorillas in other places? Have you ever had a chance encounter with a wild gorilla outside of a habituated group?

Els - 28 January 2024

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Blog WHS Visits

WHS #886: Sangha!

These natural clearings filled with wildlife from the Congo Basin are the holy grail among mammal watchers. For me, Dzanga Ndoki (the Central African Republic part of this transnational site) was to be a splurge visit in March 2020 – but it became my Covid travel disaster. After the park reopened, I still wanted to go but the prices rose beyond belief. Fortunately, I found a group tour operator wanting to do it for much less by entering overland from Cameroon.

This site also had been unreviewed so far on this website. Sangha Trinational WHS consists of 3 parks, of which the one in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) surprisingly is the best equipped to receive visitors. Lobéké in Cameroon is rundown, while Nouabalé-Ndoki in Congo is temporarily closed and rumours have it that they want to turn it into a luxury destination. I wrote a Getting There topic on the Forum to elaborate on the practicalities of visiting the park in the C.A.R. This review further deals with what you can expect there.

Our first day was spent at Dzanga Bai, the most famous forest clearing, known as ‘the Serengeti of the Forest’. It’s already a fine place to get to, starting with a drive through the forest of about 45 minutes and then an easy hike of the same duration. The latter includes a foot crossing of some flooded areas, where the water reaches just below the knee. Especially on the way back the cool water provided a welcome respite from the heat.

After walking through the forest for a while, you suddenly begin to see the sky again: that’s where the Dzanga Bai starts. A comfortable viewing platform (shaded, with chairs, and we brought drinks and lunch) provides the classic overview of this forest clearing. The Bai is the size of several football fields. There were already some 80 forest elephants present when we arrived and also a small group of forest buffalo. Other forest animals come here too, but they are shy and seem to get bullied by the elephants. They also chased the buffaloes away after a while.

What follows is hours of silent observation of the coming and going of the elephants. They take mud baths, socialize and some rowdy young guys have a few trunk fights. In this season (January) there were also many babies and large bulls present. We lasted 4 hours and it was almost a meditative experience.

During the second day in the park, we drove even further inside on a dirt road surrounded by very high trees. It ends at Bai Hokou, another ‘bai’ that is visited by forest animals but not in the same numbers as Dzanga Bai. Here lies the ranger and research station for the park’s western lowland gorillas. Until last year they had 3 habituated gorilla groups here, but within a month two of the silverbacks died (of natural causes). So we went to visit the remaining family of Makumba, a 40-year-old male with two wives and four kids. Before the visit, we had to do a rapid Covid test at the park office to prevent we would transmit the disease to the animals.

After having done mountain gorilla treks in Bwindi and Virunga before, I was curious to see how the lowland gorillas would differ. The flat terrain surely makes the hike easier, but it’s a humid area and you only walk on animal trails so there are a lot of roots and branches along the way. I was in the second ‘batch’ of visitors of my tour group (any group larger than four would have a hard time getting a view), so the trackers already found the gorillas and we reached them after two hours of hiking. They continued to walk away from us at first and were constantly turning their backs to us - we had to follow them crawling through the bushes. Based on this experience I’d say the mountain gorillas are harder to reach but easier to see once you have arrived. The allowed one hour at the gorillas of Bai Hokou was hard work, but finally, two of them settled down to eat and we could get good pictures from about 3m away. Their looks are slightly different from the mountain gorilla, with a streak of red-brownish hair on their forehead and altogether a different facial build. As they live in smaller family groups, you also see fewer individuals during your visit.

Sangha truly stands out because of:

  • How ‘wild’ it is - it's almost untouched by human interference, where national parks in Southern Africa and Eastern Africa often are 'engineered' nowadays, with species being reintroduced, their numbers regulated, fences built, waterholes dug out, hardly a lion to be seen without a collar. Especially Dzanga Bai is just what it has always been, with only a viewing platform for scientists and tourists to observe. We also saw a wild, unhabituated gorilla cross the road on the way to Bai Hokou.
  • The opportunity to see the forest mammal species of the Congo Basin. They all (elephants, buffaloes, gorillas) are a bit smaller in size than similar species elsewhere. They are well adapted to living in the dense forest and the narrow spaces that come with it. Even the humans are smaller here! The areas around the park are inhabited by the Ba’ka people, and they also are employed as gorilla trackers. Just following them through the bush you come to admire their agility and with their small stature they avoid getting all the branches in their faces as clumsier and taller tourists get.

It sure was worth the 4-year wait and the 3 full days of travel to get to Dzanga Ndoki. The visit made my appetite for other WHS in the Congo Basin like Odzala and Ivindo grow even stronger.

Els - 21 January 2024

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Carlo Sarion 21 January 2024

Thanks Els for giving us an account of the Sangha Trinational WHS, and a glimpse of this part of the Congo Basin. Surely this will motivate others to explore the area, although I do hope that it remains almost untouched by human interference.


Kyle Magnuson 21 January 2024

This really looks like a special experience. Congrats on making it happen!


Blog Connections

Foreigner Pricing Analysis

The topic of foreigner pricing (“WHS where differential pricing is practiced between local and foreign visitors”, a.k.a. dual pricing) has already been discussed a few times on this website. But with 117 entries in the connection (and I am sure there are many more), it seems to be a common and accepted practice globally. So in this post, I’d like to draw a few conclusions from the data we have gathered. It also gives an insight into the pricing of WHS overall, as we managed to collect exact and fairly recent entry fees of almost 10% of all WHS.

Wealthy countries practicing foreigner pricing

Despite the practice being discriminatory and thus morally wrong, in the earlier discussions some people gave understanding to the poorest countries for introducing higher prices for foreigners (or maybe discounts for locals). Cambodia and Angkor is the classical example here. But are there also wealthier countries that do it? I used the UN’s country classification, which ranks countries from High Income to Low Income, with Upper Middle Income and Lower Middle Income in between, to verify this. 

It turned out that, sporadically, a few High Income countries use it: on the list are examples from Chile (for Easter Island), Netherlands (or actually Curacao, which is self-governing but still considered High Income), and Seychelles.

More routine use of this pricing strategy is seen among the following Upper Middle Income countries: Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Namibia, and Thailand. Peru, Russia and South Africa seem to do it incidentally.

The rest, 66%, stems from Lower Middle Income and Low Income countries.

The ones splitting the world into 3 groups

Some countries go even further than distinguishing between locals and foreigners, by introducing a tier in the middle for “Neighbours” or considering them as local. India sometimes extends the domestic rates to include people from the SAARC and BIMSTEC countries (including Upper Middle Income Thailand), and at other locations (such as the Taj Mahal) it has engineered a price in the middle for them. Honduras does so for Central Americans, while El Salvadoreans see their neighbours as equals and ask them for the domestic fee.

Are foreigners being exploited?

Are the foreigners paying a fair price for the WHS, or are they the golden geese of the tourism industry? To test this, I’ve taken a benchmark of 10 USD, which seemed fair to me for sites of average quality that take 1 to 2 hours to visit*. From the 117 WHS in scope, we see that 12 ask for slightly more (11-15 USD) and 27 ask for significantly more than 10 USD, as shown in the graphic below:

Now I can understand a fee of 20-50 USD for a top WHS (Angkor, Machu Picchu) that also requires at least a full day to explore. Imagine what a ticket to a concert or a sports match costs (for reference, a Center Court seat at Wimbledon costs the equivalent of 115 USD on day one and 350 USD at the finals). But 25 USD for Prambanan or Anuradhapura, or 33 USD for Vallée de Mai? Or 100 USD for Lalibela?

Among all the arguments pro and con foreigner pricing, I think asking for exorbitant fees will always bite countries in the tail as people just choose to go somewhere else (it’s as much a disqualifier as having complex visa procedures).

* Another benchmark that I often use during my travels is the cost of a meal in a decent restaurant. As an entrance fee to a WHS, I usually find 50% of the cost of a meal as reasonable, and a tip to a guide for example 100% (depending on what he/she did of course).

The biggest differences

Leaving apart the 13 sites where the locals enter for free and the foreigners have to pay, it is not uncommon to see foreigners being asked to pay 15-20 times more than local visitors. The biggest differences are in Pakistan, where the province of Sindh has the policy of pricing a foreigner ticket for its WHS of Makli and Moenjodaro 60 times higher than a domestic ticket (other Pakistani provinces aren’t that extreme). Sri Lanka also uses the multiplier of 60, for Sigiriya for example.

Do you have additional examples of foreigner pricing to add to this Connection?

Els - 14 January 2024

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Comments

Can SARICA 15 January 2024

The new Hagia Sophia ticket fee, 25 euro, is valid for both local and foreign tourists. If you are a Muslim, you can enter downstairs to pray for free. To visit upstairs, everyone should pay 25 euro.

Foreign ticketing policy is valid for all WHSs in Turkey. Locals buy a year-long Museum Card for just 2 USD and can enter any WHS plus hundreds of other museums for an unlimited time in a year. Foreigners mostly need to pay 5-30 USD ticket price for WHSs. Museum card that is valid for only Istanbul museums for 5 days is 75 USD.


Kyle Magnuson 15 January 2024

Hagia Sophia will now be 25 Euros for foreign tourists.

https://greekcitytimes.com/2024/01/15/hagia-sophia-imposes-entrance-fee-for-foreign-tourists/


Shandos 14 January 2024

In addition to the above comments regarding Europe... I first visited Europe when I was 21, on a tight budget. It was very frustrating that I had to pay full price to many sites, missing out on the youth prices only available to EU citizens - who hadn't had to pay thousands of dollars on flights just to get there!

Generally I don't mind paying extra as a foreigner, though of course there are some sites that take this a little far, such as you've already pointed out in Sri Lanka.


Assif 14 January 2024

It is similar in state run sites in Italy. Children until 18 are free, regardless of their nationality, but seniors from the EU enjoy a discount whereas foreigners have to pay the full fee.


Liam 14 January 2024

I partially noted this in Greece last year. Entry to government-run sites is free to EU citizens under the age of 25, whereas non-EU citizens over the age of 5 have to pay. It was a bit of a surprise as the last time I'd visited Greece a) I didn't have kids, and b) I was an EU citizen...

Not sure if this happens elsewhere in Europe - it certainly doesn't in Cyprus.


Blog WH Travellers

The Quest for 1,100 visited WHS - Year 2

2023 was my second year of full-time travel (read here about Day 0 and Year 1). It felt like a routine already, as I found the right balance between being home and away and I can now budget (travel) expenses like no other!

There were memorable trips to Madagascar, Pakistan and Zimbabwe (photo 3 shows a "bender" at Mana Pools NP), and I finally got to see what New York is in reality. You can find my updated Trip Planner here, including the actual ‘results’ of 2023. With an added total of 63 (44 new + 19 from the WHC), I am still right on track to reach 1,100 visited WHS before 2028.

Things I learned about WH Travel this year:

The best ones for the quest are the “free” ones

The ones that help the most to stay on track are the ones gained from a WHC session. In 2023 we had a double session with a lot of new inscriptions, of which I already visited 19. These made my total go up significantly without additional cost and compensated for the more expensive trips I did this year.

Going the extra mile

Some of my best memories this year resulted from paying extra or allocating more time than strictly necessary to get a ‘good’ visit to a WHS. I am thinking of the 6 days in Mana Pools NP, or the forest walk in Ambohimanga, or spending a full day in Huai Kha Khaeng (photo 2).

I am missing Europe

One of the best things about the WH journey overall is covering all WHS in Europe. I now hardly have any left in Europe (6 to be precise, not counting those in Russia, Turkey and Israel), and I really miss going out for a couple of days to some provincial town in Italy or Spain for a worthy and well-managed WHS, accompanied by a stay in an atmospheric town with simple but great food.

Starting to see the End

Somewhere during this year, for the first time in my travel life, I could see the contours of the to-do list to finish it all. 

Regarding visiting different countries (I am now at 129 UN), there is only a handful left that I have not been to that really interest me. Among those are Yemen (waiting for it to fully reopen) and Papua New Guinea (needs a costly non-WHS trip). On the other hand, I have written off 19 countries that I have no interest in visiting at all:  Antigua and Barbuda, Togo, Guinea, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Bahamas, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Grenada, Liberia, Maldives, Moldova, Nauru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Tuvalu.

Do I really need to go to Sarazm?

I am starting to see the end of the WH List as well. I have mapped out how to reach 1,000 visited WHS, with a splurge at the end. But after that? Will I push on to 1,100? Or will I put the required time and money towards revisiting sites like the Pantanal? Many of the remaining ones hold little interest to me – I considered Tajikistan for a trip in 2024 for example, but only 1 of its 3 WHS appeals to me (Tajik NP).

Also, after reaching 1,000 it will be harder to remain at the speed of about 50 new ones each year. It requires a few clusters of 10+ new WHS in one trip, and that's hard to achieve when countries like Israel/Palestine, Lebanon/Syria, Iran and Russia are more or less off the table for now.

Also have a look at Zoë's updated profile, which deals with "Seeing the End" as well. What have you learned from your travels in 2023?

Els - 7 January 2024

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Comments

Priyaranjan Mohapatra 9 January 2024

Amazing score Els :) Keep inspiring and guiding us.
I really admire the helpful, detailed reviews and experiences the travelers share.
Thanks All.


Jay T 7 January 2024

Glad you had such a memorable year of travel in 2023, and I hope you find some amazing adventures in 2024 as you continue your quest!


Nan 7 January 2024

I think Sarazm isn't quite as bad as you make it out to be. Landscape is nice and loads of WHS are in the area; Samarkand always worth a revisit.


Blog WHS website

2023 - A Year in Review(s)

It’s the final day of the year – time to squeeze in another yearly overview of the reviews submitted to this website. 2023 was the year of a double WHC which gave most of us large numbers of bonus ‘ticks’.

Community Travel

Zoë (finally) has taken the top spot and crossed the mark of 1,000 visited WHS as the first on this website. Slowly we see that the people who still travel a lot are taking over the high rankings from the names we have become so familiar with over the past 10-20 years. The Top 10 was entered by Roman, climbing from position 16 to 9. Overall there was a strong rise in totals, aided by the high number of new WHS that were added during this year's double WHC session.

Memorable Reviews

We saw 510 new reviews published, 60 more than last year. 85 different people wrote them. I (Els) wrote the most (71!), followed by Clyde (42), Zoë (33) and Timonator (27).

We saw the first reviews for Dholavira (Randi & Philipp), Rachid Karami International Fair (Christravelblog), Lorentz NP and Ogasawara (both by Zoë). Plus all the new additions from the 2022/2023 session were covered, except for these four: Gedeo, Bale Mountains, Kazan Observatories and Odzala-Kokoua.

Some sites that hadn't been reviewed for a long time got a much-needed update, including Mana Pools and Tsingy de Bemaraha (both by me), and the cultural aspect of ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape (by Tamas). Bernard reported on an in-depth visit to Sawahlunto.

Timonator entertained us with lots of thorough reviews of South American WHS, ranging from covering all of the Chiquitos Missions to climbing the new observation tower at Nasca. Remote Canada got a boost with updated reviews by several people of Nahanni, Sgang Gwaay and Gwaii Haanas NP.

In Europe, Ian crossed 44 lanes of traffic in Paris, Hubert 'completed' Vauban and Adrian couldn't get enough of the Beech Forests.

There are still enough Tentative Sites to review: 772 of them still don't have one. In this category, we saw good coverage of the Transatlantic Cable Station (both the Irish (Els, Solivagant) and Canadian (Argo) sides), the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (Carlo), Peruacu (Patrik), Antananarivo (Els), Nakhinchevan (Clyde) and Hegmataneh (Solivagant) being added for example.

Awards

We have two awards this year to hand out to the "best" reviews: the already well-known Tsunami Award for Travel Misadventure and the new WH Explorer Award. The Explorer Award recognizes reviews of (parts) of WHS, where a new access route has been explored successfully. We want to read reviews that show determination and reflect on both the choices made during preparation and the journey itself.

I let the members of our WhatsApp group choose the winner in each category from a shortlist. 

The Tsunami Award candidates were Tsunami himself with his cave story of Evaporite Karst ("After almost 3 hours in the cave I was so glad that this tour was finally over."), Frédéric M who tried to come to terms with the remote islands of Ujung Kulon, Squiffy who visited Delphi in the mid-day heat, and "stubborn" Stanislaw who entered snow-covered Deosai NP and found it a good idea to return on foot (30km). The winner is: Tsunami!

For the WH Explorer Award, we considered Zoë as she was the first to cover Lorentz NP and found Lake Hamena as the best possibility for a 'tick'  from Wamena. There was also Jarek, who managed to do a land visit to Bacalar Chico NP (Belize Barrier Reef) - it 'just' needed a bike. The winner here however is Timonator with his review of Rio Abiseo. He was the first to explore this rarely visited WHS from the north, called the 21-hour bus ride to reach the general area "really comfy" and braved a lazy and drunken guide to reach his goal.

Are there any memorable reviews from 2023 that you’d like to put into the spotlight again?

Els - 31 December 2023

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Comments

MoPython 31 December 2023

Thanks for the insights and all your work Els!
"En guete Rutsch" (that's swiss-german) to the whole community.


Zoë Sheng 31 December 2023

Happy New Year and wishing everyone a successful 2024 (including plenty of WH travels :))


Carlo Sarion 31 December 2023

Love to be part of and contribute to the community! Happy New Year and I hope everyone gets to tick more WHS in 2024!


Blog Countries

Top Tips for Pakistan

I had been looking forward to my trip to Pakistan, one of the few countries that were still on my “must-see” list, and the reality surely met my high expectations. People are friendly (they give you a bit more space than their Indian neighbours), the food is very good (if you like meat) and the country looks quite cheerful thanks to the colourful decorations of vehicles and even food stalls. Pakistan has become more accessible since it eased its visa requirements a few years ago to a fairly simple e-visa, and the region has seen less violence since 2021 although there is plenty of internal conflict left. Herewith are some tips for travelling to Pakistan as a WH Traveller.

1. Take in many of its TWHS

Pakistan only has 6 WHS to date. All are fully deserving and are rated between 3 and 4 stars by our community. But India, with whom it shared most of its history except for the past 75 years, has managed to get to 42 WHS! So Pakistan which is about a quarter of its size could easily aim for 10-12 as there is plenty of potential still lingering on its Tentative List.

As a consequence, any Pakistan itinerary for WH travellers should contain a high number of TWHS. I went to 9 of its Tentative Sites and found them all worth visiting. Among those, the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore (photo 1) and the monuments of Uch Sharif are outstanding – and as Solivagant already wrote: “The Badshahi has only to push against an open door if it wished to go for inscription”. This could be as an extension to Lahore Fort, but I would gladly see it as a stand-alone WHS as in some ways it is "better" than the Fort.

2. Visit its Sufi shrines

What Pakistan adds to the general heritage of the Indian subcontinent is the veneration of shrines associated with Sufi men who came to spread Islam. This can be experienced at the tomb TWHS of Multan and also is covered by the WHS of Makli, although the active religious life at the latter is not as prominent. A visit to Pakistan is not complete without a visit to a Sufi dhamal session, a combination of whirling dance and meditation. We visited two, one in Sehwan Sarif and one in Lahore. The first one was the most memorable to me as it was held in the very fine setting of the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Shrine at Sehwan Sarif, and especially the trance-state the women got in was frightening! The one in Lahore was a rowdy affair, more of a boys’ night out.

3. It needs a Visit Pakistan campaign

There have been successful Visit Rwanda and Visit Saudi media campaigns (among others), and Pakistan is in dire need of such global rebranding as well. Under Imran Khan as a Prime Minister (2018-2022) tourism was promoted as a way to earn hard currencies. When we encountered electric carts to shuttle around tourists at Rohtas Fort and Makli, we were told that this was "thanks to Imran Khan". Since he has been removed from office, the question is whether the subject of tourism will be left to the individual provinces again. We noticed vast differences in the handling of tourists between the provinces of Sindh and Punjab for example - a 'foreigner' ticket for a WHS costs 3,000 rs in Sindh (that's about 2 meals plus drinks in a nice restaurant), while it is a more reasonable 500 rs in Punjab. Sindh also still sends police convoys out with tourists who visit remote sites such as Moenjadaro. 

The boost in investments should also benefit the conservation of the sites, although overall I think it has improved over the past 10 years compared to the situation in 2013 as described by Solivagant. Lahore Fort and Rohtas Fort (photo 2, this is the interior of the Haveli Maan Singh) still have a long way to go to get rid of all the graffiti and introduce more oversight.

4. Be prepared for "A country cleaned by men"

Pakistan has been described in books as “A Hard Country” and a “Tinderbox”, but one of my tripmates came up with “A country cleaned by men”. It nicely captures Pakistan's two least appealing facts, (1) that women have no place in public life in Pakistan and (2) that the country isn’t very clean. Plastic rubbish is found everywhere, they're lightyears away from a ban on disposable plastics and don't seem to care. Except for the better ones in the big cities, hotel rooms or bathrooms are never really clean – surely a brush has gone quickly through them and the sheets have been washed, but don't look into corners or touch too much. One statistic about the position of women in Pakistan tells a whole story: only 54% of Pakistani women are literate, while that's 70% in India.

5. Reconnect with the Mughals

Although the Mughal Empire connection already has 10 entries, more examples of their architectural skills can be found in Pakistan. Especially in and around Lahore there are unmissable sights from that period, such as the previously mentioned Badshahi Mosque and Jahangir's Tomb, which of course cannot "win" a comparison with the Taj Mahal but still is a wonderful artistic masterpiece.

Els - 24 December 2023

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Blog TWHS Visits

Uch Sharif

The Monuments of Uch Sharif are on Pakistan’s Tentative List under the cumbersome name of ‘Tomb of Bibi Jawindi, Baha'al-Halim and Ustead and the Tomb and Mosque of Jalaluddin Bukhari’. They comprise a cluster of three stand-alone monumental tombs and a mosque-mausoleum in the town of Uch Sharif. They’re probably the most colourful sights you will encounter in Pakistan, and posting a photo of its iconic Bibi Jawindi tomb anywhere on social media will attract countless ‘likes’ from those who have never seen it.

Uch Sharif is considered the cradle of the ‘shrine worship culture’ that is still very present in today’s Pakistan. In the later Middle Ages, religious missionaries and scholars came from as far as Bukhara to Uch Sharif to convert local tribes to Islam. When they died, a tradition was started of veneration of their tombs and local people wanted to be buried close to them.

The four buildings of this ensemble stand together on a low hill adjacent to a river, which caused them severe flood damage in 1817. The compound has kept its original desert-like conditions and is mostly covered with small cemented graves.

The visit starts at the mosque, which already is a sight to behold. The ‘flat’ blue-tiled façade resembles those common in Uzbekistan, while the interior reminds of the Wooden Mosques of Anatolia, with painted wooden pillars ‘holding’ the roof. At the back is the entrance to the tomb of the 13th-century Sufi saint Jalaluddin Bukhari; he was one of the Char Yaar (Four Friends) which also included the pioneering saints in Multan and Sehwan Sarif. It’s surrounded by many smaller tombs of his family members and followers. People still come here to pray.

In the courtyard, there’s a dovecote, which holds the hundreds of rock pigeons that you see swarming around the tombs. This tradition of keeping and releasing pigeons you will also find at other Sufi shrines in Pakistan, although its origins are unclear. Our quite simplistic tour guide came up with “because the people like it” for an answer, but there must be a more historical meaning here. It may be traced back to a Mughal obsession with pigeon keeping, or to a similar tradition as seen at Sufi shrines in Bangladesh where they are said to descend from a single pair given to a Sufi (as described here in one of the comments). 

Three separate octagonal tombs with bright blue and white mosaic tiles can be found in the upper area. In fact, despite the pretty pictures, these are half-empty eggshells – with a good side and a ‘bad’ side to look at after flooding seriously damaged them. The one for Bibi Jawindi (15th century) is the best preserved. Bibi Jawindi was the great-granddaughter of a famous Sufi saint. The other two tombs belong to Ustad Nuria (the architect of her tomb) and Baha'al-Halim (the earliest at the site, the saint revered by Bibi’s family).

After extensive restorations in recent years funded by the WMF, the US Ambassadors Fund and the World Bank, this site looks fully ready to be nominated for WH status. The wheels of bureaucracy in Pakistan run slow however (they’re still trying to push through Banbhore after 3 incomplete dossiers) and it seems - as on other topics - Pakistan is only holding itself back here, so who knows when it is finally going to happen? More strict Sunni Muslims have an aversion to this kind of ‘populist’ reverence of Sufi tombs, but it hasn’t prevented these (and the ones in Multan) from being placed on the Tentative List.

Els - 17 December 2023

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