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10 of Asia’s Hidden UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Updated on September 25, 2012
Altai Mountains in Russia
Altai Mountains in Russia | Source
Ifugao Rice Terraces, Philippines
Ifugao Rice Terraces, Philippines | Source

Asia, the largest of all the seven continents in the world in terms of land size and population, has a mind-boggling number of historic and natural wonders.

Some of these sites have been honored and inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, with so many more in the pipeline awaiting inscription.

To date, there are about 150 Asian natural and historic places classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The most popular of these sites, of course, are the Great Wall of China that was once thought to be visible from the moon; Taj Mahal of India that is a magnificent symbol of love of a grief-stricken emperor for his dead wife; Angkor of Cambodia, the site of hundreds of ancient temples; Ayutthaya of Thailand, a former Thai capital that fell to invaders.

Still, there are more sites in the UNESCO World Heritage List found in Asia that await discovery.

These sites are less travelled than their popular counterparts but are nonetheless impressive, breath-taking, and historic.

A visit to these places would leave memories that would last a lifetime.

1. Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro in Pakistan

In Sind, Pakistan, the ruins of 240-hectare ancient acropolis made entirely of unbaked brick can be found somewhere in the Indus valley.

Called the city of Moenjodaro, this 3rd-millennium-BC acropolis is elevated, fortified, and shelters several architecture. It has ramparts and a lower town.

It serves as a living proof of an early and strict system of urban planning that was once used in Pakistan.

2. Ifugao Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Arguably the finest and most impressive among the many rice terraces found in the world is in the Cordillera highlands of the northern Philippines.

Called the Ifugao Rice Terraces, it was built for over 2,000 years by local Ifugaos who used their hands and stones to transform the height and size of large mountains into expansive and towering rice terraces.

The local people’s historic labor practices passed on from one generation to another and allowed them to create a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its outstanding cultural beauty, harmony with nature, and exceptional land use.

3. Golden Mountains of Altai in Russia

The sprawling 1.6-million-hectare protected area in the Altai Mountains in western Siberia has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site not only for its striking beauty but also for the important role it plays in the Siberian bio-geographic region.

The Altai Mountains is the source of Siberia’s two powerful rivers – Ob and Irtysh.

It is a refuge for the endangered animals like the snow leopard.

Altai Mountains also possesses a full range of altitudinal vegetation in Siberia – alpine vegetation, subalpine vegetation, mixed forest, forest-steppe, and steppe.

4. Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes in Korea

The Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes in South Korea is a testament to the early processes of the planet earth.

Its 18,800-hectare area covers three beautiful sites: Geomunoreum, Seongsan Ilchulbong, and Mount Halla.

Geomunoreum has an excellent tube system found nowhere else in the world.

Seongsan Ilchulbong is like a fortress and springs out of the ocean.

Mount Halla is the highest mountain in Korea that has a lake-filled crater, waterfalls, and amazing rock formations.

5. Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Route in the Kii Mountain Range of Japan

The lush Kii Mountain range that transcends Mie, Nara and Wakayama Prefectures in Japan, has been regarded as a sacred mountain by the Japanese people for the past 1,200 years.

In the mountains, people hike and pass through rivers, streams, and waterfalls to express devotion and seek for graces in Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

The sites are old, established as early as the 9th century. They cover Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, and Koyasan, and measure about 495 hectares.

6. Lumbini, the Birthplace of Buddha, in Nepal

The birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, known across the world as the Lord Buddha, can be found in the Rupandehi Zone in western Terai, in Nepal.

Lord Buddha was born in 623 B.C.

Since then, his birthplace in the gardens of Lumbini has become an important Buddhist pilgrimage site where certain archaeological pieces of evidence of his birth in the place are the major features.

7. Lushan National Park in China

In Jiujiang city, Jiangxi province in China lays the Lushan National Park, an important spiritual retreat throughout the long civilization of China.

This place has an arrestingly scenic landscape of Mount Lushan and its rich vegetation.

This aesthetic beauty is the backdrop of countless artistic and philosophical output of the Chinese people, who go to Mount Lushan’s Buddhist and Taoist temples and Confucian landmarks to teach and learn.

8. Mountain Railways in India

The Mountain Railways of India is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List for the engineering wonders it represents at the time it was constructed in the mid-19th century and for the great beauty of the mountainous terrain where it plies.

There are actually three railways included in the Mountain Railways of India: the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway that is widely considered the finest example of passenger railway; Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which scales from 326 meters up to 2,203 meters and which represents breakthrough technology of its time; and the Kalka Shimla Railway, which reaches up to the highlands of Shimla.

Amazingly, all three railways are still operational.

9. Socotra Archipelago in Yemen

In the northwest corners of the Indian Ocean lays four islands and two islets that have a global importance in biodiversity.

Called the Socotra Archipelago, the islands have endemic plant species, reptile species, and land snail species.

About 37% of its plants, 90% of its reptiles, and 95% of its land snails are found nowhere else in the whole world.

Measuring 250 kilometers long, Socotra also houses substantial amount of sea birds, corals, fishes, crabs, lobsters, and shrimps that are all important from the standpoint of biodiversity.

10. Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra in Indonesia

In the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is the 2.5-million-hectare Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, home to a large number of flora and fauna as well as the proof of evolution in the Indonesian island.

It actually has three national parks: Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park.

These parks are the habitat of 10,000 species of plants, 200 species of mammals, and 580 species of birds. Many of these species are endemic to the island.

They are also home to the endemic Sumatran orangutan.

Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Mountain Railways in India

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    • aktarshila profile image


      5 years ago from Asia

      Where is Sundarban ? are you unlike Bangladesh ? here is a few example:

    • BkCreative profile image


      7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I've had the pleasure of visiting beautiful Jeju Island when I lived in Seoul, S. Korea, and yes it is spectacular. Thank you for a magnificent hub. Rated way up!


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