With travel restricted, sometimes the best way to explore is through the pages of a book! There are a lot of exciting places that you can explore without leaving the comfort of your home. Around the world, there are a seemingly endless number of locations valued for their beautiful landscapes, cultural traditions and rich history. Some of these places are recognized for their natural and cultural value, and are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This organization is a world-wide group that is devoted to promoting [cultural diversity, safeguarding natural resources, and protecting culturally meaningful sites around the globe.
Did you know there are over 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world? That means a lot of beautiful and richly diverse places to explore — and some of those places are closer than you might think! To see the entire list of natural and cultural World Heritage Sites check out World Heritage Sites: A Complete Guide to 1,031 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
If you are reading this from mid-Missouri the nearest UNESCO World Heritage site is Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois. Cahokia Mounds qualifies as a World Heritage Site because it is the largest pre-Columbian archeological site north of Mexico and it is an unparalleled example of a cultural, religious and economic center during the prehistoric Mississippian period. To virtually explore the site, check out the video on their website. You can also learn more about the site by checking out “Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi” by Timothy Pauketat, an archaeologist who has spent many years working at the site. The title is available in book form or downloadable audio book.
Another World Heritage Site that is relatively close to Mid-Missouri is Mammoth Cave National Park. This park is considered a World Heritage Site because it is the largest network of natural caves and underground passages in the world! According to UNESCO there are over 285 miles of surveyed passageways within the park boundaries. In addition to its sweeping scale, it is also significant because of the variety of flora and fauna it supports. In fact, there are over 130 species that call Mammoth Cave home. If you want to learn more about this natural wonder, check out “The World’s Greatest Geological Wonders” by Michael Wysession. This book and DVD combo examines a variety of sites around the world and also includes other UNESCO world heritage sites like Mount Fuji, the Galápagos Islands, the Himalayas, and more.
Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point is the third closest World Heritage Site to mid-Missouri. This particular site is a World Heritage site because it is considered a unique achievement in earthen construction. This site is one of the largest and most remarkable examples in North America and consists of five mounds separated by six concentric semi-elliptical ridges. In addition to its size and complexity, the Monumental Earthworks are also unique because they represent the 0cultural tradition of the Lower Mississippi Valley from the Late Archaic period 3,700 – 3,100BP (years before present-day). To learn more about this fascinating site, check out “Poverty Point: revealing the forgotten city” by Jenny Ellerbe.
If you are interested in virtually exploring more UNESCO World Heritage Sites in North America, check these other sites in central and eastern United States listed below!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville
“Jefferson and Monticello: the Biography of a Builder” by Jack McLaughlin.
The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright
“Frank Lloyd Wright: American Master” by Alan Weintraub
“Frank Lloyd Wright: A Visual Encyclopedia” by Iain Thomson
Statue of Liberty
“The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story” by Edward Berenson.
“Liberty’s Torch: the Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty” by Elizabeth Mitchell.
Everglades National Park