UNESCO World Heritage sites: The 10 most boring for visitors

Just because something's important doesn't mean it's worth going out of your way to see. This is certainly the case with World Heritage sites. There are 1092 of them, some containing several individual buildings, and while most are well worth the visit, others are a little bit… erm… niche.

Carlton Gardens, Melbourne

Lumped into the World Heritage listing alongside the admittedly more impressive Royal Exhibition Building, the Carlton Gardens might be nice for a picnic but they'd barely scrape into a list of Melbourne's top five parks and gardens. Sure, it's a strong example of Victorian landscape design and there's an important botanical collection, but you'd be bitterly disappointed if you'd flown from the other side of the world to see it. See melbourne.vic.gov.au

Shark Bay, Western Australia

Shark Bay itself is beautiful – worth visiting for the dolphins at Monkey Mia and the early European exploration heritage on Dirk Hartog Island. But the main reason it's on the World Heritage list are the stromatolites at Shark Bay. These are examples of the oldest still-living life on earth – which is genuinely astounding. But they just look like black rocks spreading out to sea. See sharkbay.org

Barbara Baths, Trier, Germany

Trier has several Roman sites that have caught UNESCO's eye, but to bother traipsing round all nine of them would take unnerving dedication. This particularly applies to the Barbara Baths, which were huge in the second century AD, but very little of them now remains. Elsewhere, they might be worth a look, but they're not even the best Roman baths in Trier – the Imperial Baths are much better preserved. See trier-info.de

The Struve Geodetic Arc, Norway to Ukraine

It doesn't get much more exciting than a chain of survey triangulations, does it? Well, what if you were told it comprises of 258 triangles and 265 geodetic vertices. No? Ah, there's no pleasing some people. The Arc was the work of Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve who, between 1818 and 1855, set about trying to measure the exact size and shape of the earth. His survey points – some of which now have obelisks and plaques on – stretched for 2820km across what's now ten countries, and led to a meridian being accurately measured for the first time.

Fagus factory, Alfeld, Germany

There are plenty of factories on the World Heritage list, many of which end up telling surprisingly interesting stories. But the Fagus factory in lower Saxony is mainly in for its architectural merits. Built between 1911 and 1913, it's seen as one of the forerunners of modern architecture. Which is kind of cool if you happen to be in the area. The problem is that it's a significant detour from any other tourist attractions… See fagus-werk.com

Tiwanaku, Bolivia

The major problem with this pre-Columbian site near Lake Titicaca is what's happened since Columbus arrived. Looting and amateurish excavations have meant many of the key buildings have been destroyed, jumbled up or taken away. The attempts at reconstruction are jarringly obvious and the on-site museum is not exactly a thriller.

Chengjiang Fossil Site, China

As a category, "places where lots of fossils have been found" make for dull World Heritage sites. Unless a museum nearby is really good, then basically you're left with staring at a landscape that has had all the interesting stuff removed by archaeologists. You're hardly going to wander around and stumble across a T-Rex skull. And Chiangjang isn't even home to exciting movie creatures – the UNESCO listing says: "Chengjiang's fossils present the most complete record of an early Cambrian marine community." Yawn.

Thimlich Ohinga, Kenya

Of the newest additions to the World Heritage list, the Thimlich Ohinga dry-walled settlement in Kenya is the hardest to get excited about. UNESCO says: "It is an exceptional example of the tradition of massive dry-stone walled enclosures, typical of the first pastoral communities in the Lake Victoria Basin, which persisted from the 16th to the mid-20th century." But it's basically just a few dry stone walls that kept animals where they were supposed to be. See museums.or.ke/thimlich-ohinga


Surtsey, Iceland

Surtsey is the very opposite of dull – it's a volcanic island that emerged from the Atlantic Ocean in 1963 after a series of eruptions. That's about as exciting as it gets. The problem is, however, that unless you're a scientist with a special permit, you're not allowed on Surtsey. The closest you'll get is a boat tour skimming past it. See visitwestmanislands.com

The Four Lifts, Belgium

Even if you're someone who can get ridiculously excited about industrial heritage sites (and your faithful correspondent has ruled out approximately 50 that others have suggested for inclusion in this list on the grounds that they sound weirdly fascinating), the Four Lifts on Belgium's Canal du Centre are pretty dull. They're basically canal locks, but hydraulically operated.

Judge for yourself - take a look at these sites in the photo gallery above.

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