Before we get into the countries with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites, let's look at what is required for a site to be one. There are six criteria for cultural sites which are:
- Represents a masterpiece of human creative genius.
- Exhibits an important interchange of human values.
- Bears a unique testimony to a cultural tradition of a civilization.
- Is an outstanding example of a architectural or technological ensemble throughout history.
- Is an outstanding example of traditional human settlement or interaction with the environment.
- Is tangibly associated with traditions, ideas, beliefs, and works of universal significance.
There are four criteria for natural sites which are:
- Contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty.
- Has outstanding examples that represent the major stages of earth's history.
- Is an outstanding example of significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of land and sea communities of plants and animals.
- Contains the most important natural habitats for conservation of biological diversity.
Countries with the Most UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The top ten countries with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites all have their own unique reasons as to why they are in the top ten.
The United States has many cultural sites mostly thanks to a rich indigenous history. These sites include places such as Taos Pueblo. It also has some sites from the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the Statue of Liberty. Most notably, the United States has some of the most natural World Heritage Sites due to its vast size, varied climates, and national parks. These include sites including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks.
Russia has a number of sites due to a mixture of its rich history and large geographical size. Russia has several cultural sites dating from its past history when it was part of the Russian Empire, such as the Kremlin and Red Square. Russia, like the United States, has a great deal of natural sites due to its immense share of the global map, including the Golden Mountains of Altai.
The United Kingdom has a number of culturally important sites from its past Roman occupation and from its own past as a global spanning empire. Some of these included the Frontiers of the Roman Empire and the Tower of London.
India was home to some of the oldest civilizations on Earth, seeing the rise of many empires and dynasties, and serving as the birthplace for several major religions, including Sikhism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. India has many natural sites including the Taj Mahal and the Elephanta Caves.
Mexico was the home to two important past civilizations, the Maya and Aztecs, as well as some of the earliest sites of European colonization of the New World. Some cultural sites in Mexico are the Historic Center of Puebla and the Pre-Spanish contact city of Teotihuacan.
Germany has a number of cultural sites from its history with the Roman Empire and the later being at the center of the Holy Roman Empire and the German Empire. Some sites included the Wartburg Castle and the Cologne Cathedral.
France has a long history stretching back to the Frankish tribes during Roman times and as well as the powerful French Empire and its powerful monarchs. France has many cultural wonders such as the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Palace of Versailles.
Spain, much like Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, has a past history involving the Roman Empire and as a powerful world spanning empire of its own. Some cultural sites in Spain including the Roman Walls of Lugo and the Burgos Cathedral.
China is the birthplace of one of the oldest civilizations in the world and many different dynasties that have come and gone. China is home to many different cultural sites, including the Great Wall of China. China also has many natural sites, since like Russia and America it is a big country. One of these natural sites is the Chengjiang Fossil Site.
Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country in the world, due to its history as the birthplace of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. Some of the cultural sites in Italy include the Villa Romana del Casale and the Castel del Monte.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Housing UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Having a World Heritage Site can be a major benefit to the economy and tourism industries of the countries that have them. World Heritage Sites are usually major draws for tourists when visiting a country. This means more money that the countries are taking in from the tourist visiting and spending their money. However, there can be drawbacks, as having a great deal of UNESCO sites has the home country having to spend large sums of money in the upkeep and repairing of these sites. This can create a balance between how much money a country puts towards its historical sites, especially in hard economic times.