The number of World Heritage Sites in Central America has increased to 16, following the addition of the 18th century Cathedral in the city of Leon in Nicaragua to UNESCO’s World Heritage list, in recognition of its rich cultural, historic and artistic value.
The Cathedral of Leon, or Basilica de la Asuncion, is the largest in Central America and one of the most beautiful, built in a combination of Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Construction started in 1747 and lasted more than 100 years, being consecrated by Pope Pio IX in 1860. Its interior is also the burial place for most of the country’s prestigious political, intellectual and religious figures, including the renowned poet, Ruben Dario.
The historic city of Leon was the capital of Nicaragua in colonial times, and remains one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Nicaragua. The remains of the original Spanish settlement, known as Leon Viejo (Old Leon) are also a World Heritage site.
A total of 25 sites have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, which now numbers 936 sites. At the same time, the Rio Platanos Biosphere Reserve in Honduras, one of the few remains of a tropical rainforest in Central America, has been added to the World Heritage List in Danger to help protect its abundant and diverse flora and fauna.
Other World Heritage Sites in Central America include Belize’s Barrier Reef, Cocos Island National Park in Costa Rica, the Joya de Ceren archaeological site in El Salvador, the colonial city of Antigua and Tikal in Guatemala, Copan in Honduras and the Old Quarter in Panama City.