Where past and present converge, part 3 | Round trip

The UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the greater Caribbean are of special cultural and historical importance to us all. Shelly-Ann Inniss guides us through five more sites for your sights, in part three of our series

  • Central Suriname Nature Reserve. Photo by Cameris/Shutterstock.com
  • La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site, Puerto Rico. Photo by Eddtoro/Shutterstock.com
  • Pitons Management Area, St Lucia. Photo by Adventures_of_rico/Shutterstock.com
  • University City of Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Jimmy Villalta/VWpics/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. Photo by John Michaels/Alamy Stock Photo

Discover five more of the Caribbean’s World Heritage Sites

This is the third in our series of travel features showcasing these special places. Click here to read our first five, and here for our second five sites.

Central Suriname Nature Reserve, Suriname

Year of inscription: 2000

The Raleighvallen, Eilerts de Haan and Tafelberg Nature Reserves were combined to create this striking site. It protects the upper watershed of the Coppename River, and encompasses a broad range of topography, ecosystems, and habitats. Near certain rivers and creeks, hidden below montane and lowland forests, you’ll find pre-Columbian cultural artefacts and petroglyphs. According to UNESCO, the 1,592,000-hectare site is of “notable conservation value due to its large scale and pristine state as an uninhabited and nonhunted region.” Other remarkable features include tepuis and brown granite inselbergs (such as Voltzberg) and the Wilhelmina Mountain Range in the south, ending at Juliana Top — Suriname’s highest elevation at 4,035 feet.

La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site, Puerto Rico

Year of inscription: 1983 

Constructed between the 16th and 20th centuries, you’ll find Italian Renaissance, Baroque, and French architecture in these fortifications. La Fortaleza — translated “The Fortress” and built to defend San Juan’s harbour — may be the oldest mansion of its kind in the Americas, and now serves as the Governor of Puerto Rico’s official residence. The City Wall and three forts — San Felipe del Morro (“El Morro”), San Cristóbal, and San Juan de la Cruz (“El Cañuelo”) — comprise the San Juan National Historic Site. El Morro (pictured) remains a popular landmark, with its museum and barracks, lookouts, cannon, dungeons, guard towers, vaults, and ramps. Underground tunnels connect it to Fort San Cristóbal nearby.

Pitons Management Area, St Lucia

Year of inscription: 2004

Rising dramatically from the sea on the southwest coast — and towering above an accessible caldera known as the Qualibou Depression — the forest-clad Pitons (Gros Piton and Petit Piton) are visible from anywhere on St Lucia. Coral reefs cover some 60% of the seabed offshore. The Pitons Management Area is within the Soufriere Volcanic Centre, known for volcanic features like hot springs, explosion craters, pumice and ash deposits, lava flows, and sulphurous fumaroles. What’s more, the legacy of the area’s First Peoples remains through petroglyphs and diverse artefacts.

University City of Caracas, Venezuela

Year of inscription: 2000

The University City of Caracas, which includes the Botanical Garden, was designed by architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva and a distinguished group of avant-garde artists between 1940 and 1960. Located in the city centre, it’s the main campus of the Central University of Venezuela and has an open and dynamic arrangement cohesively integrating buildings, art, and nature, demonstrating the technological development and masterpieces of its time — including the Aula Magna auditorium with the “Clouds” of Alexander Calder, the Olympic Stadium, and the Covered Plaza.

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, Belize

Year of inscription: 1996

According to Charles Darwin, this is “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies”. Not only is it the largest reef complex in the Northern Hemisphere, but the second largest reef system in the world, and home to endemic and endangered species. This interconnected system comprises seven marine protected areas along the length of the barrier reef, the shelf lagoon, and offshore atolls. The incredibly diverse and resilient ecosystem (which includes the main reef and coastal habitats) is able to regenerate itself alongside conservation efforts, helping protect it from climate change impacts like coral bleaching, catastrophic and frequent hurricanes, and rising sea levels.

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