Blog Countries

Best Countries

While travelling in Mexico and reading other people’s reviews of Turkey, I was thinking that these 2 countries must be among the best WHS travel has to offer. But what about China? It has a huge list already, with many very fine sites. For an answer, I decided to query the data that we have gathered from the ratings of WHS by community members. Which countries are overall best for WHS?

Top Lists

I did a few selections that seemed appropriate to answer the question. You can do your own by looking at the Country Ranking page.

Overall the best countries, with an average score of 4 or higher, are:

  1. Zambia - 4.8
  2. Afghanistan - 4.7
  3. DRC/Holy See - 4.6
  4. Palau/Chad - 4.5
  5. Haiti - 4.4
  6. New Zealand - 4.3
  7. Yemen/Sudan - 4.2
  8. Guatemala/Honduras/Namibia - 4.1
  9. Ireland/Libya/Solomon Islands/Tanzania - 4.0

Looking only at the countries with 5 WHS or more, the ranking is:

  1. DRC - 4.6
  2. Libya/Tanzania - 4.0
  3. Egypt/Zimbabwe - 3.9
  4. Algeria/Argentina/Syria/Turkey/Uzbekistan - 3.8
  5. Australia/Peru/USA - 3.7

And among the large countries, with 20 WHS or more:

  1. Australia/USA - 3.7
  2. Canada/China/Russia - 3.6
  3. India/Mexico - 3.5
  4. Brazil/Italy/Japan - 3.4

Turkey is ominously missing from the last selection as it has ‘only’ 19 WHS so far. But with a Tentative List of 54 it’s just a matter of time it will storm this top list as well.

Some conclusions

What can be learned from this?

  • The higher the number of WHS a country has, the higher the chance becomes there is a “miss” (a WHS with a rating below 3 stars) among them. The USA has only 3 of those, whereas China for example has 10.
  • Another effect that comes into play is that natural sites on average are ranked higher than cultural sites: 3.72 versus 3.25. So countries with a lot of natural WHS (USA, Australia) come out higher than a country like Italy which mostly relies on cultural sites.

Community bias

Finally, the community ratings should be looked at critically. Do they rate the worthiness of a site being a WHS, or the visitor experience? The latter seems to be the most common practice. Especially very old sites such as hominid fossils or neolithic remains do not score well.

Also, we see that ratings vary wildly per person. Mexico’s Hospicio Cabanas is ranked between 1 and 4 stars for example. It may be that the lower rating reflects a view from the outside only, while the higher ones also take the murals in the interior into account. From the reviews, it can be gathered that the site has improved its visitor experience over the years as well.

And some WHS are visited more often than others, so these will have more outliers in their ratings. For the individual site score, this effect is already taken care of by using a toned-down Wilson score

Els - 23 January 2022

Leave a comment


Dariusz 31 January 2022

Another approach one can take to determine the best country, using the community's ratings, is summing the ratings of all the sites of the country. I've done some calculations and results are as follows:
1. China (score: 191)
2. Italy (177)
3. France (144,1)
4. Spain (143,9)
5. India (133)
6. Germany (123)
7. Mexico (117)
8. Russia (95,79)
9. United Kingdom (95,77)
10. United States (81)
11. Iran (79)
12. Japan (78)
13. Brazil (73)
14. Australia (70)
15. Turkey (69)

A few notes:
- for transnational sites I divided the rating by the number of countries that share the site (for example: France and Spain got both half the rating of Mont Perdu; beech forests' rating got divided by 18 countries so virtually no avail for any country to have it on their list),
- for sites with no rating I assumed the rating of 3,00; thanks to that France (Austral Sea Lands) got ahead of Spain and Australia (Heard and McDonald) got ahead of Turkey.

Nan 26 January 2022

>> Turkey T-list is lots of garbage.

Plenty of diamonds in the garbage. As stated, they seem to apply no prefiltering and no delisting, but that doesn't make great sites less great.

>> It would be interesting to do a spatial analysis, to see the relationship on scores. Though it would need a fair bit of extra work.

I get what your saying: confirmation bias. The rating is higher, because of the effort spent of getting there. May be a factor, but to me a lesser one. Pristine natural sites seem to be more appreciated. And those tend to be more remote. Where us humans settle, we break things. :(

>>top 10 there is probably only 1 Rome

I think with the more visited sites, you get more moronic votes. Sorry to say: There is no reasonable argument for anything less than 4.5 stars for Rome and even that would be off the mark.

@Paul, seriously. What more do you expect a world class site to be than Pantheon, Colosseum, Forum, Holy Sea? ...

But someone rating Rome at 1*either clicked erroneously or should not be allowed to vote in the first place. And you find these outliers for many sites with many ratings.

Lubos 25 January 2022

vvv Disregarding the dwarf countries Belgium should be actually on the top of the list: 1 site per 2000 km²!

Lubos 25 January 2022

Best countries from Czech perspective:
1. Czechia - 1 site per 4.900 km²
2. Italy - 1 site per 5.200 km²
3. Germany - 1 site per 7.000 km²

Zoƫ Sheng 24 January 2022

The density of Italy vs the other countries is astonishing though. China is still good to do with fast trains and flight connections but the US and Australia are spread out.

Turkey T-list is lots of garbage.

Ian Cade 24 January 2022

Looking at the "Wilson Score" ranking a big contributing factor seems to be how remote they are (especially in regards to this communities travel routes) looking at the top 10 there is probably only 1 Rome (perhaps 2 sites Tikal?) that wouldn't require some sort of special trip or diversion to see.
This is certainly not to say they are not worthy, just that maybe we are more likely to be generous with our scores because of the extra effort we have put into getting to them

It would be interesting to do a spatial analysis, to see the relationship on scores. Though it would need a fair bit of extra work.

These 3 are geographically remote:
-Rapa Nui
-Galapagos Islands
-Volcanoes of Kamchatka

These probably don't require special arrangements but are the focus of specific focused trip and/ or remote from other sites in the country
-Machu Picchu
-Victoria Falls
-Tikal National Park (perhaps could be in the latter category as it can be tied to a trip to the Yucatan)

The only site that is in a dense cluster of WHS:

Clyde 23 January 2022

I would add Iran as well.

Nan 23 January 2022

>> Or look at Poland: ex concentration camp has a higher rating than centuries old polis (Cracow) central to the development of the nation?

I think there is a clear reason why. Cracow is nice, but not unique if we compare across borders (Vilnius, Praha, ...).

Auschwitz is dark and terrible (so terrible indeed, that I found rating it hard), but most certainly a very unique place in human history.

Best WHS in Poland is Wieliczka as it's both stunning and unique.

Nan 23 January 2022

* The longer/more extensive the list, the more "niche" the nominations tend to be. Most countries would start with the best and then add lesser components later.

* Natural sites are inherently a shorter / more picky list, too. There are less, so the quality is higher.

* While I agree that the Turkish tentative list has very strong contenders (see upcoming reviews), the size is bloated and the list should be pruned, but isnt. What I guessed:

a) little/no oversight is done centrally, but each region can put forward new tentative sites.

b) several sites advertise as being inscribed on the tentative list (e.g. Laodikya)

c) no QA is done before "inscribing" on the tentative list. Plenty of sites have a stub/draft nomination and not even the main site is properly described.

d) they simply decide not to clean up their list. The Marwin seems to have been replaced in the meantime by a new tentative site, but they still keep it around.

* Community rating are just that. We never really said, what should be measured and how to anchor a rating. Main issue I would take is not getting enough ratings for some remote corners, less so how we rate (as the bias should be global).

a) There are well documented outliers that I wanted to prune in the past. E.g. a Polish community member rating all sites in Poland 5*. Or 0.5* for Dubrovnik...

b) Personally, a 5* site should be both significant as well as great visitor experience.

Lubos 23 January 2022

Yes, the beauty is in the eye of a beholder but the aesthetics which perhaps influence the community rating most is never the only and often not the main reason for the enlisting yet many reviews here focus (understandably) in that direction.
Afghanistan and Libya have a sights with pretty highs scores and something tells me everyone visiting those should add extra star just for making it there and out (and perhaps thats the case).
Or look at Poland: ex concentration camp has a higher rating than centuries old polis (Cracow) central to the development of the nation?
I think itsnt just the list of sights which is inevitably going to expand but also there is a space for the growth of the visitors understanding.