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Our Top 10 UNESCO World Heritage in Mexico

29 Jul, 2022

Here's a list of 10 UNESCO World Heritage in Mexico you need to know! Mexico's heritage involves cultural and natural environments. According to UNESCO, Mexico has 35 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List. As one of the 7 Wonders of the New World, Chichen Itza is on the top of our list. Keep reading and learn more about Mexico's uniqueness!

1. Chichen-Itza

Chichen Itza World Heritage Mexico
Chichen Itza, Mexico's World Heritage and one of the 7 Wonders of the World

This sacred site was one of the greatest Mayan centres of the Yucatán peninsula. Throughout its nearly 1,000-year history, different peoples have left their mark on the city. The Maya and Toltec vision of the world and the universe is revealed in their stone monuments and artistic works. The fusion of Mayan construction techniques with new elements from central Mexico makes Chichen-Itza one of the most important examples of the Mayan-Toltec civilization in Yucatán. Several buildings have survived, such as the Warriors’ Temple, El Castillo and the circular observatory known as El Caracol.

2. Historic Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco

Mexico City and Xochimilco, World Heritage Sites
Mexico City and Xochimilco, World Heritage Sites

Built, in the 16th century by the Spanish on the ruins of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, Mexico City has five Aztec temples, the largest cathedral on the continent, and some fine 19th and 20th-century public buildings such as the Palacio de las Bellas Artes. Xochimilco is home to chinampas, known as “floating gardens,” the Aztecs’ ingenious form of wetland agriculture.

3. Agave Landscape

Agave Landscape in Tequila, Jalisco
Agave Landscape in Tequila, Jalisco.

Mexico’s main Tequila producing region Jalisco is home to a breathtaking landscape of blue agave fields. The 34,658 ha site, between the foothills of the Tequila Volcano and the deep valley of the Rio Grande River, is part of an expansive landscape of blue agave, shaped by the culture of the plant used since the 16th century to produce tequila spirit and for at least 2,000 years to make fermented drinks and cloth. Within the landscape are working distilleries reflecting the growth in the international consumption of tequila in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the agave culture is seen as part of national identity. The area encloses a living, working landscape of blue agave fields and the urban settlements of Tequila, Arenal, and Amatitan with large distilleries where the agave ‘pineapple' is fermented and distilled. The property is also a testimony to the Teuchitlan cultures which shaped the Tequila area from AD 200-900, notably through the creation of terraces for agriculture, housing, temples, ceremonial mounds and ball courts.

4. Oaxaca and Monte Alban archaeological site

Oaxaca and Monte Alban Archaeological Site
Oaxaca and Monte Alban Archaeological Site

Inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of peoples – Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs – the terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain and are the symbols of a sacred topography. The nearby city of Oaxaca, which is built on a grid pattern, is a good example of Spanish colonial town planning. The solidity and volume of the city's buildings show that they were adapted to the earthquake-prone region in which these architectural gems were constructed.

5. El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve

El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biospheree
El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere.

The 714,566-hectare site comprises two distinct parts: the dormant volcanic Pinacate Shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east, and, in the west, the Gran Altar Desert with its ever-changing and varied sand dunes that can reach a height of 200 metres. This landscape of dramatic contrast notably features linear, star and dome dunes as well as several arid granite massifs, some as high as 650 metres. The dunes emerge like islands from the sea of sand and harbour distinct and highly diverse plant and wildlife communities, including endemic freshwater fish species and the endemic Sonoran Pronghorn, which is only to be found in northwestern Sonora and in southwestern Arizona (USA). Ten enormous, deep and almost perfectly circular craters, believed to have been formed by a combination of eruptions and collapses, also contribute to the dramatic beauty of the site whose exceptional combination of features is of great scientific interest. The site is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

6. Franciscan Missions In Querétaro

Franciscan Missions in Queretaro
Franciscan Missions in Queretaro

The five Franciscan missions of Sierra Gorda were built during the last phase of the conversion to Christianity of the interior of Mexico in the mid-18th century and became an important reference for the continuation of the evangelization of California, Arizona and Texas. The richly decorated church façades are of special interest as they represent an example of the joint creative efforts of the missionaries and the Indios. The rural settlements that grew around the missions have retained their vernacular character.

7. Sian Ka’an Biosphere

Siak Ka'an Biosphere
Sian Ka'an Biosphere

In the language of the Mayan peoples who once inhabited this region, Sian Ka'an means "Origin of the Sky". Located on the east coast of the Yucatán peninsula, this biosphere reserve contains tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, as well as a large marine section intersected by a barrier reef. It provides a habitat for a remarkably rich flora and a fauna comprising more than 300 species of birds, as well as a large number of the region's characteristic terrestrial vertebrates, which cohabit in the diverse environment formed by its complex hydrological system.

8. Historic Town of Guanajuato

Guanajuato Historic Town
Historic Town of Guanajuato

Founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century, Guanajuato became the world's leading silver-extraction centre in the 18th century. This past can be seen in its 'subterranean streets and the 'Boca del Inferno', a mineshaft that plunges a breathtaking 600 m. The town's fine Baroque and neoclassical buildings, resulting from the prosperity of the mines, have influenced buildings throughout central Mexico. The churches of La Compañía and La Valenciana are considered to be among the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in Central and South America. Guanajuato also witnessed events which changed the history of the country.

9. Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacan

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.

10. Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino

Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino in Baja California
Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino in Baja California

Located in the central part of the peninsula of Baja California, the sanctuary contains some exceptionally interesting ecosystems. The coastal lagoons of Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio are important reproduction and wintering sites for the grey whale, harbor seal, California sea lion, northern elephant-seal, and blue whale. The lagoons are also home to four species of endangered marine turtle.

Source: UNESCO, Mexico

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