The new Unesco sites that has social media buzzing the most
From Yosemite to Rio to Verona, these kinds of stalwart Unesco sites will always be creeping up on many a bucket list, fuelled by the perfect photo ops on Instagram.
And now there are even more culturally, naturally and scientifically important sites added onto the ever-expanding network to choose from - 29 were added earlier this year from countries like Portugal, Azerbaijan, Czechia and South Korea.
In South Africa, we are lucky to host 10 stunning World Heritage Sites for the value that they hold for the planet - Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains was the latest to be inscribed last year - but which ones are standing out?
According to Instagram, here are SA's sites ranked according to the number of times the hashtag is used:
1. uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, KwaZulu-Natal (132 347)
Unesco inscription: "The site has exceptional natural beauty in its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, and golden sandstone ramparts as well as visually spectacular sculptured arches, caves, cliffs, pillars and rock pools."
2. Robben Island, Western Cape (59 153)
Unesco inscription: "Its buildings, particularly those of the late 20th century such as the maximum-security prison for political prisoners, witness the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression and racism."
3. ‡Khomani Cultural Landscape, Northern Cape (28 418)
Unesco inscription: "The large expanse of sand contains evidence of human occupation from the Stone Age to the present and is associated with the culture of the formerly nomadic ?Khomani San people and the strategies that allowed them to adapt to harsh desert conditions."
4. Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng (17 256)
Unesco inscription: "Fossils found there have enabled the identification of several specimens of early hominids, more particularly of Paranthropus, dating back between 4.5 million and 2.5 million years, as well as evidence of the domestication of fire 1.8 million to 1 million years ago."
5. iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal (9 679)
Unesco inscription: "The interplay of the park's environmental heterogeneity with major floods and coastal storms and a transitional geographic location between subtropical and tropical Africa has resulted in exceptional species diversity and ongoing speciation."
6. Cape Floral Kingdom, Western Cape (4 706)
Unesco inscription: "It is one of the world’s great centres of terrestrial biodiversity... These elements add a significant number of endemic species associated with the fynbos vegetation, a fine-leaved sclerophyllic shrubland adapted to both a Mediterranean climate and periodic fires, which is unique to the Cape Floral Region."
7. Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, Northern Cape (3 438)
Unesco inscription: "This site sustains the semi-nomadic pastoral livelihood of the Nama people, reflecting seasonal patterns that may have persisted for as much as two millennia in southern Africa."
8. Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Limpopo (3 418)
Unesco inscription: "What survives [in Mapungubwe] are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them, as well as two earlier capital sites, the whole presenting an unrivalled picture of the development of social and political structures over some 400 years."
9. Vredefort Dome, Free State (1 946)
Unesco inscription: "Vredefort Dome bears witness to the world’s greatest known single energy release event, which had devastating global effects including, according to some scientists, major evolutionary changes."
10. Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, Mpumalanga (41)
Unesco inscription: "The property represents the best-preserved succession of volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years and forms a diverse repository of information on surface conditions, meteorite impacts, volcanism, continent-building processes and the environment of early life."
And how about the new sites from across the world?
The Latin American Travel Company decided to see which ones are coming out on top of the Instagram game, fuelling interest through beautiful photos on potential travellers' feeds.
1. Jaipur City, India (661 876)
Known as 'The Pink City', Jaipur's unique confluence of Hindi, Mughal and Western cultures and traditions influenced a unique city layout and architecture.
2. The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, US (524 931)
Made up of eight buildings across the US, architect Frank Loyd revolutionised his industry in the first half of the 20th century, introducing open-plan styles to modern-day buildings.
3. Bagan, Myanmar (455 115)
The ancient capital is a pivotal hallmark for Buddhist devotion, a landscape filled with monasteries, temples and sacred sites visited on pilgrimages.
4. Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace, Azerbaijan (169 611)
Sheki was a city rich from the trade of silkworm breeding, and the merchant houses and other architectural marvels are reminders of this wealth.
5. Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland (73 989)
This is a landscape where fire and ice meet head-on - ten active volcanoes are in a constant fight with glaciers, changing the landscape as their conflict escalates.
QUICK GUIDE TO ICELAND: Land of vikings, active volcanoes and geothermal pools
6. Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria, Spain (15 502)
The island was home to a pre-Hispanic culture that evolved in isolation up until the 15th century, and their temples and ancient complexes are what's left of their legacy.
7. Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi, Canada (7 210)
The Milk River Valley on the border between Canada and the US is home to religious drawings on sandstone pillars made by indigenous ancestors of the Blackfoot people.
8. Royal Building of Mafra, Portugal (6 786)
Commissioned by King João V, Mafra is made up of palaces, a royal chapel, a convent and a stunning library.
9. Seowon, Korean Neo-Confucian Academies, South Korea (5 382)
These learning institutions were built to be in harmony with their surroundings - near mountains and rivers - and took Chinese teachings and adapted it to Korean life.
10. Babylon, Iraq (5 357)
Near Baghdad, the famous biblical city is a remnant of one of the most influential empires of ancient history and once was home to the almost-mythical Hanging Gardens.