Threatened Wonders

Incredible UNESCO Sites in Danger of Disappearing (Photos)

Of the 981 properties on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, 44 are categorized as in danger for reasons ranging from political instability to tourism. See some of the at-risk sites.

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Why it’s special: This is the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere. Visit for the coral-made islands, more than 500 species of fish, and the "Great Blue Hole," a famed diving spot that's nearly 1,000 feet deep.


Why it’s in danger: In addition to development in the area, extensive mangrove cutting has removed food sources and shelter for marine life. 

The Old City of Jerusalem

Why it’s special: The city's home to more than 200 historic monuments, including the intricately decorated, gold-capped Dome of the Rock; the Jewish Quarter's Wailing Wall, which dates back to the 19th century B.C.; and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the home of Christ’s tomb. 


Why it’s in danger: The political strife and religious violence are just part of the problem. Urbanization and the crowds of tourists also pose a threat.

The Ancient City of Bosra, Syria

Why it’s special: Once an important stopping point along the caravan route to Mecca, the city retains a noteworthy second-century Roman theatre and some of the oldest surviving mosques in Islamic history.


Why it’s in danger: UNESCO added Bosra to the list in June due to increased military conflict.

The Ancient City of Damascus, Syria

Why it’s special: Damascus—one of the oldest cities in the Middle East, dating back to the third-century B.C.—contains more than one hundred monuments from various time periods, including the eighth-century Great Mosque of the Umayyads.


Why it’s in danger: It was also added to the list in June due to increased military conflicts.

Everglades National Park

Why it’s special: This 1.5 million-acre park in Florida has about 14,000 small mangrove-shaded isles, 8,000 of which were manmade more than 500 years ago.


Why it’s in danger: In 1992, Hurricane Andrew damaged the park, but ongoing agricultural and urban development are causing water flow deterioration, damage to marine habitats, and a decline in aquatic animal populations.

Historical Monuments of Mtskheta, Georgia

Why it’s special: The former capital of Georgia, referred to as the spiritual heart of the country, has three picturesque, clifftop medieval churches.


Why it’s in danger: Lack of preservation: unaddressed deterioration of the architecture and artwork landed this site on the at-risk list.

Medieval Monuments in Kosovo

Why it’s special: The four domed churches (also called Patriarchate of Peć Monastery) combine Byzantine and Romanesque architecture with frescos that date back to the thirteenth-century.


Why it’s in danger: Political instability and a lack of legal protection and conservation are threats.

Timbuktu, Mali

Why it’s special: This city at the gateway of the Sahara was an intellectual powerhouse in the 15th and 16th centuries: Koranic Sakore University and the three great mosques (Djingareyber, Sankore, and Sidi Yahia) served as the hub of Islamic studies.


Why it’s in danger: Urbanization and lack of maintenance threaten the preservation of the structures.


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