Blog WHS website


As I am quickly approaching my 700th visited WHS, I become more and more convinced that reaching 800 or 900 WHS is entirely possible. As long as I stay in good health and have sufficient financial means, I can continue adding WHS to my tally at (almost) the same speed as I do now. But will that pattern be enough to finally conquer all of them? To answer that question, I analyzed the ‘missing’ lists of our 3 grand old men: Atila, Iain and Solivagant.

Wadi al-Hitan: too recent?

78 WHS have not been visited by any of these 3

It turns out there is a hard core of WHS that have not been reached (yet) by these 3 WH Travelers. This combined ‘missing’ list from early December 2018 includes 78 WHS. My hypothesis is that those who aim for the full coverage of the whole List, should look at these ‘leftovers’ first. These should become a priority when you statistically still have more time and money left than at later age. Looking at that list, I think there are 5 categories of reasons why these 78 have not been covered yet:

  1. Too recent – WHS that have been inscribed in the past few years, in areas where these WH travelers have not yet returned to. This will eventually solve itself, although you might be chasing each year’s new additions at the end. Examples are Los Alerces, Rjukan/Notodden and Wadi al-Hitan.
  2. Too expensive – both as a lump sum (Wrangel Island) or for perceived Return-on-Investment (Kuk). This seems to be not a fully rational choice however: WH Travelers all readily pay significant sums to reach Rapa Nui or Galapagos relatively early in their travel ‘careers’ – but apparently we are not prepared to do so with sites that are lesser known or where we expect a meagre reward.
  3. Too isolated – besides cost, the time it takes getting to a particular WHS is also an obstacle. From our connection Isolated WHS, the trio combined have not visited 11 out of the 20.
  4. Too dangerous - the leftover WHS in Iraq, Afghanistan and DR of Congo plus 2 isolated ones in Mali and Nigeria can currently be considered to be in this category. They are not totally out of bounds, but do you want to rough and risk it at a later age?
  5. Too little appeal - related to category 1 and 2, is a site worth the effort and money to travel back to a region that you have already been before?
Rock Islands: too isolated?

It’s not the dangerous sites

When you have let’s say 50 years to cover them all, circumstances of WHS that are at any given moment too dangerous to access will eventually change. We would not go to Syria now, but it was quite common 15 years ago and may be so again in 5 years or so (Palmyra apparently is opening again next year). Atila, Iain and Solivagant all have Syria well-covered from before the Civil War. Countries or regions rarely stay dangerous for a very long time, though the DR of Congo tries very hard!

The isolated ones are the trickiest

In the end, the most isolated WHS are the trickiest. They have multiple disadvantages: they are expensive to get to (both in time and money) and they will ‘only’ reward you with 1 new tick. We all are tempted to go for areas with clusters of WHS.

Virunga: too dangerous?

My Plan

Looking at each of the 78 individually, most of them are certainly doable. Unlike the trio, I already have visited 8 of these WHS. Some of the remaining ones should be considered as add-ons to regular trips. Like I did with the Rock Islands from Seoul. To get to Levuka from Europe, better combine it with a trip to Australia. Further on I will be aiming for 1 out of the 20 isolated WHS each year. There are some really great WHS on that shortlist such as Kamchatka and the Lakes of Ounianga to which I am looking forward to.

Els - 22 December 2018

Leave a comment


Zoë Sheng 29 December 2018

Levuka is not so much a problem of coming from Europe or Australia, you'd be best off just doing an island trip for not just WHS, but Levuka itself means a domestic flight within Fiji, a bus all around the island just to get there... Then of course going back. Think 3 days for 1 WHS that is mediocre at best.

Nice analysis though. Most people don't know where Palau is actually... Really

Nan 24 December 2018

@Els: For Iain I am not quite sure if the list is correct, as he has his own way of counting.

@Solivagant: Thanks for your thoughts. Very illuminating.

Solivagant 24 December 2018

A few comments on the “List of 78” and the subject of “Leftovers” from one “Grand Old Man” whose “unvisited stats” have been used by Els for her blog! I look at the “List of 78” and very few fit within my choice criteria – which is why of course they remain “unvisited” for me – and most will remain so.

I try always to be “Pure Economic Traveller”! My criterion for visiting WHS is ALWAYS “Value” or “anticipated return” – ie “cost” v “benefit”.
a. “Cost” is financial, “time”, “effort”, discomfort and “opportunity” (where else could I have gone?). “Danger” can be incorporated here as a potentially overwhelming “cost”!
b. “Benefit” is the personal assessment of experience and knowledge expected, excitement to be obtained and of course that “tick” - but I have no wish to visit every WHS so an individual tick by itself has relatively low value and can be overwhelmed by other matters. Many potential “benefits” have nothing whatsoever to do with WHS matters of course. Simply reaching a rarely visited place with relatively low other benefits doesn’t add much value for me – though it might for others.

This assessment needs to be done for the entire trip – so the value of a particular WHS takes its place among everything else. This tends to count against “isolated” WHS since they cannot ride on the back of a lot of other benefits. Similarly with relatively new inscriptions if I have already visited the area – Wadi al-Hitan for instance would certainly have been taken in on one of my 4 earlier trips to Egypt before it was inscribed, but, for various reasons, it never figured in them – partly of course, because the value of its “tick” wasn’t present for those trips! It doesn’t possess enough “value” to me to justify a return there given all the other trips I have made and my current views on wanting to see any further Egyptian archaeological sites. On the other hand, a WHS with a relatively low individual “Value” can get a visit if it happens to be in an area with lots of other “returns” – e.g Scandinavia. So – would I rather see Rjukan or Wadi al-Hitan? By themselves I would choose al-Hitan but, whereas I will almost certainly pay a return visit to Scandinavia soon and pick up Rjukan on the way al-Hitan will “always” remain unvisited!!!

Whether I have already seen the main aspect offered by a WHS (whether “exactly” or very similar) will of course impact the “benefit”. I note that 39 of the 78 WHS are “Natural”. I find that most natural sites require a lot of time (and cost) to visit properly and often don’t repay that in terms of yielding up the particular value for which they have been inscribed. Also there are a fair number of “near” duplicates in terms of their ecological niche, both compared with other natural WHS or with other National Parks which have not been inscribed but which offer very similar opportunities for seeing particular plants/animals/geology etc. Without grinding too small in terms of habitats I am happy that we have seen most major ecological niches and most “iconic” species elsewhere already. If you have been lucky enough to have great views of Gorilla, then the incentive to go to some other probably less accessible one with less chance is somewhat reduced! I would certainly like to have been to Wrangel Island but have already benefited from fantastic views of Polar Bear in Spitzbergen. I have just been sent a prospectus for a trip to Wrangel costing $11,000 (plus getting yourself to/from Alaska) – no way! If I really wanted to see Polar Bear again I would probably go back to Spitzbergen rather than chase the Wrangel “tick”.

I also note that 19 of the 78 are “Island sites”. These require expensive flights/ships to visit and, as we don’t dive/snorkel, many offer very little “Value” if we got there. I have seen enough tropical islands and cultures. Aldabra was an example of an Island which offered rather special terrestrial life and could also be fitted in whilst seeing some other WHS and cultural sites/new countries on the same trip – so we took it in.

On the question of “Cost” - everyone has their own view on what constitutes “expensive” – I would certainly class far more of the 78 as such than Els has! We are far from poor, but, just as one places a mental limit” on what one is prepared to pay for a restaurant meal (even though one might have the money for something far more expensive), I have a similar “limit” on what I am prepared to pay for travel per day – adjustable to take in special/unique “perceived value” but still strictly limited!

I find now that the benefits of a second etc visit to many sights (whether WHS or not) can overwhelm the anticipated benefit of a tick for an unvisited WHS. Of course, assessing “anticipated benefit” can be a problem and has to be a judgement based on experience, personal interests and investigation. Maybe I am really missing out by never making that journey to the Putorana Plateau. But I doubt it!!!

Michael Novins 22 December 2018

Els, thanks, so well presented. Many of the 78 are not very difficult — I don’t try too hard and have been to a dozen — but raise the challenges you listed. For me, I am focusing more on new countries and regions, not WHS, so I’m picking up few. I’m heading tomorrow to Las Geel in Somaliland, which isn’t even a tentative site. And next week to Omo Valley and who knows if I’ll actually visit the core zone.

Els Slots 22 December 2018

The list is linked in the text at " ‘missing’ list from early December 2018 " (we should make those links a bit bolder)

Nan 22 December 2018

Can you put the list somewhere for review? .... We can also provide the map.