At more than 12,000 square kilometers in size, the park takes up almost a 10th of the area of Tajikistan. According to the Natural Heritage Protection Fund, it is the largest protected area in Central Asia. It includes Somoni Peak, formally known as Stalin Peak and then Communism Peak, which at nearly 7,500 meters is the highest mountain in the former USSR. Other unique features include Fedchenko Glacier, one of the largest mountain valley glaciers on earth; Sarez Lake, one of the world's highest lakes; and more than 100 endemic and endangered plants and animals, including the snow leopard.
Currently, 890 sites are on the World Heritage List, ranging from the Great Wall of China to Egypt's Pyramids of Giza to Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border. Tajikistan is the only Central Asian country not represented. Other nominees to be considered this year include the Augustowski Canal in Poland and Belarus, the Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex in Iran, and the Marshall Islands' Bikini Atoll, famous for its use as a nuclear weapons testing site in the 1940s and 1950s.
-- Richard Solash