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Newest Wonders of the World

By Deb Hopewell
7/10/2013 10:12:45 AM

These fascinating man-made and natural wonders are the latest to make it onto UNESCO's World Heritage List.

Hundreds of years ago, a tribe of Berbers put down stakes at the edge of the Sahara, catering to the desert caravans. The streets in Agadez's old city center still look much like they did in the 15th century-and recently earned UNESCO's stamp of approval.

Each summer, UNESCO convenes to announce new picks for the World Heritage List, chosen for their cultural, historical, and environmental importance, from vast sand dunes and mountains towering 22,000 feet high to magnificent palaces. Agadez in present-day Niger was recognized for its earthen architecture, becoming one of the 19 new inscriptions that bring the total to 981 sites in 160 countries (Fiji and Qatar debuted this year).

While the Medici villas in Tuscany and Mount Fuji in Japan-also new members of the club-will continue to draw hordes of tourists, no doubt there are other travelers who'll welcome the challenge of visiting the off-the-beaten-track destinations singled out by UNESCO.

Check out this year's new crop of wonders and see which ones speak to you. Tajikistan, anyone?

Courtesy of UNESCO/Manuel Ribeiro

University of Coimbra-Alta and Sofia, Portugal

If you thought your professors were tough, consider that this university, founded in 1290, once had its own court of law and, naturally, its own prison for students and scholars (under the library). One of the oldest continuously operating universities in the world, the institution grew and evolved for more than 700 years within the old town. It now includes the 12th-century Cathedral of Santa Cruz, the Royal Palace of Alcáçova, and several 16th-century colleges.

Courtesy of UNESCO/Hani Terraces Administration of Honghe Prefecture

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Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China

For the past 1,300 years, the Hani people in southern Yunnan have used a sophisticated system of channels to funnel water from the top of the Ailao Mountains to the terraces below. These 41,000 acres of terraces also form a unique integrated farming system-using buffalo, cattle, ducks, fish, and eel to support the production of red rice, the staple crop. The Hani still live in thatched houses between the mountaintops and terraces, much like they have for a millennium, worshipping mountains, rivers, forests, fire, and other natural forces.

Courtesy of UNESCO/Chris Samson

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, Canada

Beginning in 1550 and continuing for more than 50 years, 600 Basque mariners and 15 whaling ships from southern France and northern Spain would make a summer voyage to remote Red Bay, on the far-eastern shores of Newfoundland. Today, three whaling galleons, four smaller chalupas, and plenty of whale bones lie at the bottom of a watery archaeological site-and visitors can observe the rendering ovens, cooperages, and living quarters that make it one of the best-preserved examples of the European whaling tradition.

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