Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Røros Mining Town and the Circumference, Norway

Røros Mining Town and the Circumference is linked to the copper mines, established in the 17th century and exploited for 333 years until 1977. The site comprises the Town and its industrial-rural cultural landscapes; Femundshytta, a smelter with its associated area; and the Winter Transport Route. Completely rebuilt after its destruction by Swedish troops in 1679, Røros contains about 2000 wooden one- and two-storey houses and a smelting house. Many of these buildings have preserved their blackened wooden façades, giving the town a medieval appearance. Surrounded by a buffer zone, coincident with the area of privileges (the Circumference) granted to the mining enterprise by the Danish-Norwegian Crown (1646), the property illustrates the establishment and flourishing of a lasting culture based on copper mining in a remote region with a harsh climate.

Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California, Mexico

The site comprises 244 islands, islets and coastal areas that are located in the Gulf of California in north-eastern Mexico. The Sea of Cortez and its islands have been called a natural laboratory for the investigation of speciation. Moreover, almost all major oceanographic processes occurring in the planet’s oceans are present in the property, giving it extraordinary importance for study. The site is one of striking natural beauty in a dramatic setting formed by rugged islands with high cliffs and sandy beaches, which contrast with the brilliant reflection from the desert and the surrounding turquoise waters. It is home to 695 vascular plant species, more than in any marine and insular property on the World Heritage List. Equally exceptional is the number of fish species: 891, 90 of them endemic. The site, moreover, contains 39% of the world’s total number of species of marine mammals and a third of the world’s marine cetacean species.

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

The 56,259 ha biosphere lies within rugged forested mountains about 100 km northwest of Mexico City. Every autumn, millions, perhaps a billion, butterflies from wide areas of North America return to the site and cluster on small areas of the forest reserve, colouring its trees orange and literally bending their branches under their collective weight. In the spring, these butterflies begin an 8 month migration that takes them all the way to Eastern Canada and back, during which time four successive generations are born and die. How they find their way back to their overwintering site remains a mystery.

Protective town of San Miguel and the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco, Mexico

The fortified town, first established in the 16th century to protect the Royal Route inland, reached its apogee in the 18th century when many of its outstanding religious and civic buildings were built in the style of the Mexican Baroque. Some of these buildings are masterpieces of the style that evolved in the transition from Baroque to neoclassical. Situated 14 km from the town, the Jesuit sanctuary, also dating from the 18th century, is one of the finest examples of Baroque art and architecture in the New Spain. It consists of a large church, and several smaller chapels, all decorated with oil paintings by Rodriguez Juárez and mural paintings by Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre. Because of its location, San Miguel de Allende acted as a melting pot where Spaniards, Creoles and Amerindians exchanged cultural influences while the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco constitutes an exceptional example of the exchange between European and Latin American cultures. Its architecture and interior decoration testify to the influence of Saint Ignacio de Loyola’s doctrine.

Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, India

Nestled high in West Himalaya, India’s Valley of Flowers National Park is renowned for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and outstanding natural beauty. This richly diverse area is also home to rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep. The gentle landscape of the Valley of Flowers National Park complements the rugged mountain wilderness of Nanda Devi National Park. Together they encompass a unique transition zone between the mountain ranges of the Zanskar and Great Himalaya, praised by mountaineers and botanists for over a century and in Hindu mythology for much longer.

Season's greetings, Israel

Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, Canada

Red Bay, established by Basque mariners in the 16th century at the north-eastern tip of Canada on the shore of the Strait of Belle Isle is an archaeological site that provides the earliest, most complete and best preserved testimony of the European whaling tradition. Gran Baya, as it was called by those who founded the station in 1530s, was used as a base for coastal hunting, butchering, rendering of whale fat by heading to produce oil and storage. It became a major source of whale oil which was shipped to Europe where it was used for lighting. The site, which was used in the summer months, includes remains of rendering ovens, cooperages, wharves, temporary living quarters and a cemetery, together with underwater remains of vessels and whale bone deposits. The station was used for some 70 years, before the local whale population was depleted.

Monday, 28 December 2015

City of Quito, Ecuador

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m. Despite the 1917 earthquake, the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía, with their rich interiors, are pure examples of the 'Baroque school of Quito', which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.

El Salvador

El Salvador is a tiny Central American nation known for its Pacific Ocean beaches, surfing and mountainous landscape. Its Ruta de Las Flores is a winding journey past flowering coffee farms, rainforest zip-line sites and towns like Juayúa, with its weekend food festival, and Ataco, home to vivid murals. The capital, San Salvador, with a dramatic backdrop of volcanoes, has vibrant nightlife and arts scenes.