New UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list

Experience some of the world’s most significant cultural practices before they are gone forever.

4 min

Author: Marie

A trip to UNESCO destinations around the world can be incredible, but how about a vacation where you can experience the heart and soul of a destination through its intangible cultural heritage?

By “intangible cultural heritage” we mean experiences and not just a building or monument. These can be skills or culinary practices that are an integral part of a nation’s cultural and historical identity. In addition to a list of significant landmarks known as World Heritage Sites, UNESCO created the Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2008 in order to help preserve and raise awareness of certain traditions.

Many of the items found on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list are in danger of disappearing, which makes it even more important to identify and search for them. Let’s take a look at some of the latest additions to the list, from dining experiences to old local handicrafts. All of these could add a whole new level of excitement to your next trip.

Familiarize yourself with the hawker food culture in Singapore

While Singapore is known for its clean streets and space age architecture, the city is also home to some of the best street foods in Asia. Hawker centers (or street vendors) are all over town and allow locals and visitors to dine together.

Singapore is home to over 100 hawker centers, including the world famous Maxwell Road, which has numerous stalls for delicious Asian dishes. The centers are an integral part of the area’s urban culture and provide space for people to eat, socialize, and enjoy entertainment such as chess games and live music.

Maxwell Food CenterSingapore LaksaKueh, a popular dessertChar Su, Asian grilled pork

Discover the art of mechanical watchmaking in Switzerland

Fans of chic watches will know that Switzerland has a reputation for making wonderful watches. Historically, entire families have learned this skill at one point and passed it on to their children and grandchildren. Some of the best watchmakers in the world can be found in this tiny European country, especially in the Jura Arc: a breathtaking region in the Alps between Basel and Geneva. The skills used in watchmaking and the manufacture of other tiny mechanical objects, be it music boxes or sculptures, are another new entry on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. Visit the Jura Arch to see the artisans at work, or head to a watch shop in any Swiss city to admire exquisitely crafted timepieces.

Buy exquisite glass beads in Italy

Italy’s Murano Islands in Venice have long been known for their beautiful glass beads. Unsurprisingly, the country’s tradition of making glass beads combines a host of other experiences of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage from Italy. The manufacture of glass beads is an ancient practice in Italy that has been passed down for generations. Once upon a time, they were even used as a form of currency! While Murano is the best place to see and buy these beautiful multicolored pearls, glass factories and craft shops can also be found throughout the Veneto region.

See old restored wooden structures in Japan

Osaka Castle

As a wooded country, it’s no surprise that so many of Japan’s spectacular buildings are made of wood. A new list for 2020 on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage was the traditional processing of the land and the careful preservation of its wooden architecture. You can use some of these skills in locations across the country, including the 1200-year-old Horyu-ji Temple (itself a UNESCO tourist destination) outside Osaka and the Tsuen Teahouse in Kyoto.

Enjoy a therapeutic sauna lesson in Finland

Photo by Julius Jansson on Unsplash

Many countries in Europe are known for their sauna culture. Nonetheless, it is Finland’s historical links to practice that ultimately gave it UNESCO status. According to UNESCO, there are more than three million saunas in the country, where many families pass their sauna practices and routines on over several generations. While many locals have their own private saunas, Finnish cities have plenty of well-kept public saunas that are easily accessible to visitors. Embrace the peaceful and relaxing experience by booking a session while on vacation in this beautiful Nordic nation.

Venture to Colombia to admire handicrafts made from mopa-mopa

Video Credit: UNESCO

Colombia is not only home to one of our top UNESCO World Heritage Sites for 2019, but it is also home to one of the new objects from the list of intangible cultural heritage. The recognized practice takes place in the green departments of Putumayo and Narino, where small groups of artisans harvest, process and manufacture mopa-mopa resin into beautiful works of art. The Mopa-Mopa is melted down before it is colored and stretched to create wonderful decorations. The endangered cultural practice is one of the few remaining Aboriginal handicrafts still seen in Colombia, and a wonderful testimonial when you embark on an adventure in the Amazon.

Watch a Budima dance performance in rural Zambia

Video Credit: UNESCO

If you are new to safari, Zambia is a wonderful destination for that! In addition, it is one of the newest UNESCO travel destinations to be added to the list of intangible cultural heritage thanks to the Budima dance. This type of dancing is especially popular among the little people who live along the Zambezi. Usually performed on special occasions – weddings, funerals, or harvest festivals – this is an energetic dance where women wear brightly colored beaded costumes and men carry spears.

Do you want to add culturally significant activities to your next trip? Talk to our UNESCO specialists about the best ways to experience and preserve some of these wonderful heritage experiences.

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