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 Heritage Sites

Currently there are 851 sites worldwide recognized by UNESCO for their unique cultural, natural and historic heritage. There are 17 sites in the Caribbean:

Cuba - Cuba has the lion's share of UNESCO heritage sites with eight cultural and historic sites including: the colonial cities of Havana and Trinidad, as well as the Vinales Valley which has an outstanding landscape of karst or eroded limestone mountains, called mogotes. Traditional methods of agriculture, notably tobacco growing, have survived unchanged for centuries.

Dominican Republic - The colonial town of Santo Domingo, founded by Christopher Columbus in 1498, was laid out on a grid pattern. This became the model for planning subsequent new world cities, like Havana and San Juan.

Haiti - The National History Park comprising the ruins of The Citadel, San Souci and Ramiers are monuments to independence, which was declared in 1803.

Dominica - On this rugged and mountainous island, The Morne Trois Pitons National Park was established in 1975. It's name means "Mountain of the three peaks".

St Lucia - The Pitons. These dual volcanic cones are located on the southwestern coast of the island. The highest, Gros Piton looms over the town of Soufriere, and it's black sand beach.

San Juan, Puerto Rico - The enormous fortifications at La Forteleza and El Morro are part of the US National Historic site in Old San Juan.

Curacao - Founded in 1634, the city of Willemstad is the most historic in the Netherland Antilles. It features superb Dutch architecture situated along a deep water bay.

St. Kitts - The Brimstone Hill Fortress, called "The Gibraltar of the West Indies", stands high on a promontory overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

Bermuda - The Town of St George, founded in 1612, is an outstanding example of the earliest English urban settlement in the New World.

Belize - The longest barrier reef in the Americas

Santo Domingo After the arrival of Christopher Columbus on the island of Hispaniola in 1492, Santo Domingo became the site of the first cathedral, hospital, customs house and university in the Americas. This colonial town was laid out on the grid pattern that became the model for almost all town planners in the New World.

The first impression of the Spanish colonizers was favourable: the nature was luxuriant; the aborigines were friendly, and it seemed that the ground was rich in gold. Using what was left of the Santa María, Columbus built the fort of the Nativity (Navidad) on the northern coast of the island not far away from a peak that he called Christi Mount, leaving 39 men there under the protection of the village head.

When Columbus returned to Hispaniola a year later, the fort had been destroyed, his men were dead, and the aborigines had become mistrustful. He founded a new colony further to the east, which he called Isabella, and left it under the control of Bartholomew. However, the first revolts were very soon to begin.

In 1496, Bartholomew abandoned Isabella in order to move on the southern coast of the island, where he established the settlement of Nueva Isabella, now Santo Domingo, on the left bank of the Ozama River. Because of the insurrections that continued to upset the island, Columbus was replaced as Viceroy and Governor of the colony by Nicolás de Ovando. In 1502 a typhoon destroyed the city and the fleet that was preparing to return to Castile. Ovando decided that the city should be completely rebuilt on its present site on the Ozama.

The Castle of San Pedro de la Roca and its associated defensive works are of exceptional value because they constitute the largest and most comprehensive example of the principles of Renaissance military engineering adapted to the requirements of European colonial powers in the Caribbean.

Its exceptional location and its adaptation to the topography puts the castle into a widely recognized group of three such fortresses designed by the famous father and son military architects, Bautista and Juan Bautista Antonelli, the others being the Castle of the Three Kings in Havana (Cuba) and San Sebastian Castle in San Juan (Puerto Rico). The authenticity of the castle is high because it underwent little change from the late 19th century, when it went out of use, until the 1960s, when restoration work began.
With the growth of shipping in the Caribbean and the policy of Philip II of fortifying the Spanish colonies there after losing naval supremacy in 1588, a ravelin and battery were installed between 1590 and 1610 on the south-western beach of the promontory. This fortification was built to protect the entrance to the town of Santiago de Cuba.

under Dutch Administration* The Historic Area of Willemstad is a European colonial ensemble in the Caribbean of outstanding value and integrity, which illustrates the organic growth of a multicultural community over three centuries and preserves to a high degree significant elements of the many strands that came together to create it.

The urban structure and architecture of this area are both authentic examples of colonial town planning and architecture of the period of Dutch expansion. Its cultural and historical significance stems not only from its town planning and architectural qualities as a historic port town, but is also manifest beyond the local level.

Willemstad stands out for the diversity in the historical morphology of its four historic districts (Punda, Otrobanda, Pietermaai and Scharloo), separated by the open waters of a natural harbour. Each district has its own distinct urban morphology resulting from successive planning concepts, but they share a unique 'tropicalized' historical architecture of Dutch origin.

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