Visit the newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites on a tour of China
Every summer, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issues its World Heritage List for locations across the planet that serve as stunning examples of history, nature and culture. In an attempt to raise awareness about these hidden gems, the list encourages preservation and responsible tourism while providing an educational resource. This year, two destinations in China were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Xanadu and the Chengjiang fossil Site.
Xanadu: Where nomads met royalty
The city of Xanadu was located just north of the Great Wall of China and boasts a near-perfect feng shui design. When it was built, city planners wanted to create symmetry between the nomadic Mongolian lifestyle and the royal Han dynasty, with both an inner and outer layout where everyone could live in peace. At more than 25,000 hectares in size, the site was also the location for the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism throughout northeast Asia, serving as the gateway for religious growth in the area.
Today, only a few remnants remain, including rubble from former temples, tombs, palaces and even nomadic settlements. During a tour of China, visitors can walk around the grounds and try to imagine what the city once looked like while taking in 360-degree views of the nearby mountains and river.
Chengjiang Fossil Site: Millions of years of history
Located in the Yunnan province, the Chengjiang Fossil Site contains examples of crustaceans from the early Cambrian period, which goes back nearly 530 million years ago. Although a small site at only 512 hectares, Chengjiang's fossils are the most complete history of these marine creatures, providing stunning examples of evolution at a time when organisms were first transitioning from soft to hard tissue. Additionally, many of the fossils discovered at Chengjiang cannot be found anywhere else, making this site a truly unique destination for travelers on China tours.
There are about 200 different species in this site, all of which have been preserved almost perfectly against the rocks. Whether you're a burgeoning paleontologist or not, seeing these naturally imprinted examples of a time when most of today's animals were first evolving is quite a humbling experience.