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UNESCO's World Heritage mission is to ensure the protection of countries’ natural and cultural heritage, and to encourage international cooperation in the conservation of our world's cultural and natural heritage. The natural World Heritage Sites include sites of outstanding natural beauty or with exceptional value to science or conservation. UNESCO has been identifying and listing World Heritage Sites for more than thirty years. The "List", to help preserve places of world importance in cultural and natural history, includes 27 in the United Kingdom - everything from castles and factories to prehistoric landscapes.


The Convention, ratified by UNESCO in 1972, is the most important tool that protects cultural and natural sites that are considered "of exceptional universal value". Sites are only put on the list if they fulfil all the criteria of being "unique", "authentic" (only applies to cultural sites) or "of integrity" (for natural sites) and if a convincing "conservation plan" is submitted.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations established on 16 November 1945. Its stated purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN Charter.

UNESCO has 193 Member States and six Associate Members. The organization is based in Paris, with over 50 field offices and many specialized institutes and centres throughout the world. Most of the field offices are "cluster" offices covering three or more countries; there are also national and regional offices.

UNESCO pursues its objectives through five major programmes: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information. Projects sponsored by UNESCO include literacy, technical, and teacher-training programmes; international science programmes; the promotion of independent media and freedom of the press; regional and cultural history projects, the promotion of cultural diversity; international cooperation agreements to secure the world cultural and natural heritage (World Heritage Sites) and to preserve human rights; and attempts to bridge the worldwide digital divide.

In an area as rich, diverse and stunningly beautiful as Europe – not to mention historic – it’s no surprise to find it boasts many sites that are listed on Unesco. It even boasts an entire region that is listed – the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch.

The Dolomites bring Italy’s total of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to 44, but only one other – the Aeolian Islands -- is designated as a Natural Site.

As one of the most ancient and beautiful regions in Europe, the Atlantic Coast has more than its fair share of sites that have been recognised as worthy of Unesco status. From ancient monuments to castles to entire regions, the region has many areas that wear the Unesco badge with pride.

Belgium joined UNESCO on November 29, 1946. Thirteen Belgian sites are inscribed on the World Heritage List. UNESCO has appointed six monuments in Holland to be on the World Heritage List. These buildings and areas are of outstanding value and are unique in the world and certainly worth a visit!

The Pyrenees boasts a rich art and cultural heritage named World Heritage sites by UNESCO. Cities, monumental ensembles and unique buildings make up one of the world’s greatest cultural and natural heritages.

On 1 January 2009, Rauma (population 39,000), situated on Finland’s southwest coast, became a town of two UNESCO World Heritage sites. In Europe and elsewhere in the world, there are only a handful of comparable (cultural) towns.

Black Sea

The fascinating countries of the Black Sea region straddle the transition between Europe and Asia.

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European Islands

Come along on our overview of the islands of no fewer than 18 European countries.

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The Carpathian Mountains form the largest mountain range in Europe.

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