Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Greater Mekong Subregion


Temple Zone of Sambor Prei Kuk, Archaeological Site of Ancient Ishanapura – World Cultural Heritage Site since 2017

The archaeological site of Sambor Prei Kuk, “the temple in the richness of the forest” in the Khmer language, has been identified as Ishanapura, the capital of the Chenla Empire that flourished in the late 6th and early 7th centuries AD. The property comprises more than a hundred temples, ten of which are octagonal, unique specimens of their genre in South-East Asia. Decorated sandstone elements in the site are characteristic of the pre-Angkor decorative idiom, known as the Sambor Prei Kuk Style. Some of these elements, including lintels, pediments and colonnades, are true masterpieces. The art and architecture developed here became models for other parts of the region and lay the ground for the unique Khmer style of the Angkor period.

Image result for Temple Zone of Sambor Prei Kuk, Archaeological Site of Ancient Ishanapura

Temple of Preah Vihear  – World Cultural Heritage Site since 2008

Situated on the edge of a plateau that dominates the plain of Cambodia, the Temple of Preah Vihear is dedicated to Shiva. The Temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800 metre long axis and dates back to the first half of the 11th century AD. Nevertheless, its complex history can be traced to the 9th century, when the hermitage was founded. This site is particularly well preserved, mainly due to its remote location. The site is exceptional for the quality of its architecture, which is adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, as well as for the exceptional quality of its carved stone ornamentation.

Image result for Temple of Preah Vihear

Angkor – World Cultural Heritage Site since 1992

Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.

Image result for angkor wat


CHINA (Yunnan & Guangxi)

Old Town of Lijiang – World Cultural Heritage Site since 1997 (Yunnan)

Yunnan’s first UNESCO rated area is the Old Town of Lijiang. The town has a history tracing back more than 1,000 years and was once a confluence for trade along the Old Tea Horse Road. The Dayan Old town is famous for its orderly system of waterways with bridges and the timber and mud brick housing style which is being kept alive by its inhabitants, the Naxi people. Lijiang’s culture combines traditional Naxi culture and elements learned from Ming dynasty Han Chinese traders who settled in the region centuries ago.

Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas – Natural World Heritage Site since 2003 (Yunnan)

The Three Parallel Rivers in Yunnan’s northwest lies within the drainage basins of the upper reaches of the Yangtze (Jinsha), Lancang (Mekong) and Nujiang (Salween) rivers, in the Yunnanese section of the Hengduan Mountains. While Lijiang’s Old Town was rated for its cultural heritge, the three rivers are Yunnan’s first natural World Heritage Site even though its demographic composition also is very interesting: it contains most of the twenty-five minorities found in Yunnan Province including the Derung, the fewest of all of China’s minority groups. Some of the other minorities found in this region are the Tibetan, the Nu, Lisu, Bai, Pumi and Naxi people. Many of these minorities still wear traditional costumes as their normal daily clothes.

South China Karst & Stone Forest – Natural World Heritage Site since 2007 (Yunnan / Guangxi)

Four years later, the UNESCO added the South China Karst landscape onto its list of Natural World Heritages. While the karst landscape of over 176,000 hectares forms a cluster of several sites spread over the provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan and Chongqing, the Stone Forest (Chinese: 石林 / Shilin) as the geologically oldest part is “considered superlative natural phenomena and a world reference”.

Chengjiang Fossil Site / Maotianshan – Natural World Heritage Site since 2012 (Yunnan)

The Chengjiang Fossil Site at Maotianshan Hill (some 80 km southeast of Kunming City) is known for the well-preserved fossilized organisms and traces. The most famous group of organisms is referred to Chengjiang biota for the multiple scattered fossil sites in Chengjiang. The age of the site is estimated about 515 million years  – a period towards the end of the early Cambrian epoch. Not an archaeologist? Me neither – check out close Fuxian Lake, one of China’s deepest lakes with crystal clear water, sunshine and beaches!


Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces / Yuanyang – Cultural World Heritage Site since 2013 (Yunnan)

The newest and most spectacular World Heritage Site of Yunnan: The Yuanyang Rice Terraces. It is well known for its amazing rice terraces. It now forms the 45th World Heritage Site in China. Yuanyang County lies at an altitude ranging from 140 meters along the Red River up to nearly 3000 meters above sea level in the Ailao mountains – temperatures vary respectively. Visitors are fascinated especially by the sunrises and sunsets during winter months: from about November to February the rice fields are filled with water and resemble millions of natural mirrors surrounded by high mountains.

Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape – Cultural World Heritage Site since 2016 (Guangxi)

Located on the steep cliffs in the border regions of southwest China, these 38 sites of rock art illustrate the life and rituals of the Luoyue people. They date from the period around the 5th century BCE to the 2nd century CE. In a surrounding landscape of karst, rivers and plateaux, they depict ceremonies that have been interpreted as portraying the bronze drum culture once prevalent across southern China. This cultural landscape is the only remains of this culture today.


Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape – Cultural World Heritage Site since 2001

The Champasak cultural landscape, including the Vat Phou Temple complex, is a remarkably well-preserved planned landscape more than 1,000 years old. It was shaped to express the Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity, using an axis from mountain top to river bank to lay out a geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extending over some 10 km. Two planned cities on the banks of the Mekong River are also part of the site, as well as Phou Kao mountain. The whole represents a development ranging from the 5th to 15th centuries, mainly associated with the Khmer Empire.

Image result for vat phou

Town of Luang Prabang – Cultural World Heritage Site since 2016

Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.

Image result for luang prabang

Megalithic Jar Sites in Xiengkhuang – Plain of Jars – Cultural World Heritage Site since 2019

The Plain of Jars, located on a plateau in central Laos, gets its name from more than 2,100 tubular-shaped megalithic stone jars used for funerary practices in the Iron Age. This serial site of 15 components contains large carved stone jars, stone discs, secondary burials, tombstones, quarries and funerary objects dating from 500 BCE to 500 CE. The jars and associated elements are the most prominent evidence of the Iron Age civilization that made and used them until it disappeared, around 500 CE.

Image result for plain of jars


Pyu Ancient Cities – Cultural World Heritage Site since 2014

Pyu Ancient Cities includes the remains of three brick, walled and moated cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra located in vast irrigated landscapes in the dry zone of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River basin. They reflect the Pyu Kingdoms that flourished for over 1,000 years between 200 BC and AD 900. The three cities are partly excavated archaeological sites. Remains include excavated palace citadels, burial grounds and manufacture sites, as well as monumental brick Buddhist stupas, partly standing walls and water management features – some still in use – that underpinned the organized intensive agriculture.

Image result for Pyu Ancient Cities

Bagan – Cultural World Heritage Site since 2019

Lying on a bend of the Ayeyarwady River in the central plain of Myanmar, Bagan is a sacred landscape, featuring an exceptional range of Buddhist art and architecture. The site’s eight components include numerous temples, stupas, monasteries and places of pilgrimage, as well as archaeological remains, frescoes and sculptures. The property bears spectacular testimony to the peak of Bagan civilization (11th–13th centuries CE), when the site was the capital of a regional empire. This ensemble of monumental architecture reflects the strength of religious devotion of an early Buddhist empire.

Image result for bagan


Ban Chiang Archaeological Site

The Ban Chiang Archaeological Site is a large, prehistoric earthen mound located in an agricultural area in the Ban Chiang Sub-district, Nong Han District of Udon Thani Province in northeast Thailand, within the watershed of the Mekong River. It is an oval-shaped mound formed by human habitation 500 meters x 1,350 meters and 8 meters high. The site was first discovered in 1966. It has since been extensively excavated and its remains studied by Thai and international scholars. Since 1966 the dating of the site has been adjusted and refined over time in line with advances in the understanding and techniques of radiometric dating. This research has revealed that the site dates from 1,495 BC .and contains early evidence for settled agrarian occupation in Southeast Asia, along with evidence of wet rice agriculture, associated technological complex of domesticated farm animals, ceramic manufacture, and bronze tool-making technology. The total area of the property is 67.36 ha of which approximately 0.09% has been excavated (as of 2012)

Copyright: © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

Historic City of Ayutthaya

Founded c. 1350, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. It was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Its remains, characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendour.

Viet Nam

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin, includes some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Because of their precipitous nature, most of the islands are uninhabited and unaffected by a human presence. The site’s outstanding scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2003, covered 85,754 hectares. With this extension, the site covers a total surface area of 123,326 hectares (a 46 % increase) and shares a boundary with the Hin Namno Nature Reserve in the Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos. The Park’s landscape is formed by limestone plateaux and tropical forests. It features great geological diversity and offers spectacular phenomena, including a large number of caves and underground rivers. The site harbours a high level of biodiversity and many endemic species. The extension ensures a more coherent ecosystem while providing additional protection to the catchment areas that are of vital importance for the integrity of limestone landscapes.

© Evergreen

Source: UNESCO

Share It:

Other News


Four Ways to Accelerate Tourism Recovery in Asia

Countries in Asia and the Pacific need to work together to bring in more visitors...
Read More
Facebook link thumbnail image template

Pakse to Build Walking Streets, Night Markets to Attract Visitors

The city of Pakse will construct new walking streets and night markets in the town...
Read More