Germany’s Bayreuth Opera House isn’t precisely a household name, but you’ll be inquiry more about it and for good reason. This opulent 18th-century theater has been singled out by UNESCO — and will host events celebrating the 200th birthday of inventor Richard Wagner in 2013. Every summer, UNESCO names new enlightening and natural wonders to its World Heritage List for their wonderful universal value.
Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, Palau
This eye-catching lagoon counts 445 unoccupied limestones, volcanic-origin islands, some in the shape of mushrooms, over 247,000 acres. It represents the world’s maximum compilation of marine lakes and also boasts a reef system with more than 385 species of coral.
Lena Pillars Nature Park, Russia
The giant stone colonnades of Lena Pillars Nature Park line the banks of the Lena River in the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia. Isolated from each other, the pillars soar to heights of 100 meters or more than 328 feet, and are also rich in Cambrian fossils.
Bali Province’s Subak System, Indonesia
Bali won points with UNESCO this year not for its beaches but for its inland farming regions, specifically five rice terraces and connected water temples that make up a water management and irrigation system of subaks (canals).
Margravial Opera House, Bayreuth, Germany
A fantastic model of German Baroque, the 500-seat Margravial Opera House was commissioned by Margravine Wilhelmine in the mid-1700s. Designed by architect Giuseppe Galli Bibiena, complete with paintings and intricate carvings.
Landscape of Grand Pré, Canada
The archaeological remains in this bucolic setting testify to hardy European farmers who used dykes and the aboiteau wooden sluice system, a labor-intensive method that prevented saltwater tides from flooding the Pré marshland of Nova Scotia.
Rio de Janeiro’s Carioca Landscapes
The most famous of the wonders chosen by UNESCO in 2012, the Carioca Landscapes is crowned by the 1930s Art Deco statue of Christ atop Corcovado.
Sangha Trinational, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo
These untouched wilds of tropical Africa stretch through adjacent national parks in three different countries — Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and the Congo — in the northwestern Congo River Basin.
Site of Xanadu, China
Xanadu was a real place north of China’s Great Wall, first described to westerners by Italian explorer Marco Polo. As the capital of Kublai Khan’s empire, Xanadu was designed to combine the Mongolian nomadic, warrior culture with the sophistication of the native Han Chinese and was planned using feng shui principles in 1256.
Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy, Bahrain
The Persian Gulf nations now bring to mind skyscrapers and air-conditioned shopping malls, but long before oil was discovered, pearl diving was the region’s main source of wealth.
Lakes of Ounianga, Chad
Saline and freshwater lakes are scattered within this portion of the Sahara desert to dramatic effect. There are four lakes in Ounianga Kebir, the largest being Yoan at roughly 885 acres and a depth of more than 88 feet.