10 Places that should be declared World Heritage Sites of Spain

Spain is the third most wealthy country in the world, after China and Italy. We currently have 48 World Heritage Sites, although the list of candidates is growing all the time. This so-called tentative list includes 13 sites. Here we bring you a selection of places that we believe should become World Heritage.

The Greco-Roman site of Ampurias

Fascinating places that should be UNESCO World Heritage Sites I
Ruins of Empúries (Tarragona).

This ancient settlement located in L’Escala (Girona) is inimitable, as it is the only site on the Iberian Peninsula where the remains of a Greek colony coexist with those of a Roman city. Ampurias is of notable importance as it is the entry point of Romanization to the Iberian Peninsula.

After being established by the Greeks in the 6th century B.C., it worked as a Roman military camp and later became the city of Emporion in the 1st century B.C. That is why the ruins we can see today at the site -from the Greek agora to the remains of Roman baths- are an extraordinary sample of classic urbanism. The settlement also has a monographic museum in which the statue of the god Asclepius is exhibited. The Greco-Roman city of Ampurias has been eligible for the UNESCO distinction since 2002.

Trujillo, Monfrague and Plasencia

Fascinating places that should be UNESCO World Heritage Sites I
Aqueduct of Plasencia (Cáceres).

The joint candidacy of Trujillo, Monfragüe and Plasencia, proposed in the tentative list of World Heritage in 2009, proposes to include a mixed natural-cultural property of exceptional value that would add to a region with great wealth of monuments such as Extremadura. The historical importance of these two cities and the abundance of the forests in the Extremadura natural park could be reassessed as part of a new project by the UNESCO committee, which rejected the nomination in 2012.

Castle of Loarre

Fascinating places that should be UNESCO World Heritage Sites I
Loarre Castle (Huesca).

The largest of the Aragonese castles, built by Sancho El Mayor (1020-1030), is one of the best examples of Romanesque art in Spain. The exceptional state of the complex, in which elements such as the Church of Santa María, the Crypt of Santa Quiteria or the Tower of the Queen stand out, has made it worthy of being declared a Historic-Artistic Monument. The distinction of World Heritage goes like a glove to Loarre, considered the oldest Romanesque fortress in Europe.

The Renaissance Cathedral of La Asunción in Jaen

Fascinating places that should be UNESCO World Heritage Sites I
Jaén Cathedral (Jaén).

The culminating work of Andrés de Vandelvira, this Renaissance jewel located in Jaén stands out for its chapter house and its sacristy, as well as for its impressive Baroque façade and its Neoclassical choir. In 2012, UNESCO was asked to extend the consideration of World Heritage to this monument, including it in the already awarded set of Úbeda and Baeza.

The Ribeira Sacra

Fascinating places that should be UNESCO World Heritage Sites I
Ribeira Sacra (Lugo).

The Ribeira Sacra is a place with a magical charm that surrounds pre-Romanesque, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque monuments such as the monastery of San Esteban de Ribas de Sil. The humidity and the luxuriance of this environment, located between Lugo and Ourense with Monforte de Lemos as its capital, provide a special atmosphere to this route of incalculable monumental value that deserves to be World Heritage.

The cañadas reales of la Mesta

Fascinating places that should be UNESCO World Heritage Sites I
Livestock trails.

The extensive number of transhumance gullies that still exist in Spain form an intricate network of roads that, in addition to their use for livestock, hold countless artistic, historical and social values for the towns where they run. These 125,000 kilometres are very well preserved and have been on the World Heritage Tentative List since 2007.

The Romanesque in the north of Castile

Fascinating places that should be UNESCO World Heritage Sites II
Monastery of San Andrés de Arroyo (Palencia)

The territory that mainly comprises the north of Palencia and the south of Cantabria is home to the largest concentration of Romanesque art in Europe. Only within a radius of 25 kilometres around Aguilar de Campoo can be found 70 buildings of great architectural and cultural value. If Unesco decided to declare the Romanesque North a World Heritage Site, the achievement would come two decades after the proposal was presented (in 1998).

The windmills

Fascinating places that should be UNESCO World Heritage Sites II
Wind mills in Consuegra (Toledo)

These devices were used by the Arabs who, although they did not invent them, did perfect them. The absence of rushing rivers made them prosper in Spain, where they have become a fundamental element in La Mancha‘s pictures of towns such as Consuegra or Campo de Criptana.

Roman roads

Fascinating places that should be UNESCO World Heritage Sites II
Roman road in Mérida (Badajoz).

Today Spain has one of the most complete networks of Roman roads in Europe. These roads served not only to facilitate the transport of the Roman legions, but also for administrative and commercial tasks, facilitating cultural and economic exchange. The remains of the Via de la Plata or the Via Augusta are living proof of the Roman past of ancient Hispania.

El Retiro and the Prado Museum

Fascinating places that should be UNESCO World Heritage Sites II
Retiro Park (Madrid).

There is a lot to be said for the site that makes up the Retiro Park and the Prado Museum in Madrid, two icons of the Spanish capital of enormous tourist and artistic value. Both the palace garden and the art gallery, one of the best in the world, are candidates for the title of World Heritage Site from 2015.

The portico of Santa Maria de Ripoll

In the Monastery of Ripoll you can find this 12th century construction, a masterpiece of Romanesque art. The portico of Santa Maria is a candidate for the World Heritage status of Spain for various reasons. It is considered the most important Romanesque sculpture in Catalonia and one of the most impressive in the world. It consists of seven arches, and each of them is full of sculptures that relate different episodes from the Bible. This is why it is popularly known as “the Bible in stone“.

It highlights the contrast between the ostentation of the portico and the austerity of the interior, but it has an explanation. At the time when the monastery was built, most of the population was rural and illiterate but knew how to recognize the icons. With this portico they sought to teach the history of the Bible to anyone who could not read or who did not understand the language.

Los Ancares – Somiedo

Los Ancares is a mountainous terrain in the Cantabrian Mountains. It is divided between different municipalities: between the autonomous communities of Galicia and Castilla y León, specifically in the provinces of Lugo (municipality of Cervantes) and León (municipalities of Candín and Vega de Espinareda, located in the region of El Bierzo) and, on the other hand, the municipality of Somiedo, located in the Principality of Asturias.

In 2006, Ancares was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Now they have become candidates for World Heritage status in Spain. What makes them special is the common characteristic of the braña, a traditional system of grazing based on transhumance, still in use today, which defines the local landscape and society, representing a living heritage that uniquely combines nature and culture. This form of grazing has been practiced since the 11th century and reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries. The braña represents a domestication of a natural environment that is difficult to manage.

La Rioja and the Rioja Alavesa, a landscape of vineyards

This candidate for the Spanish World Heritage designation refers to the area around the Rioja wine designation of origin. It is one of the best wines in the world, a position it has achieved not only because of its unquestionable quality, but also because of its exceptional history and culture. The area has 603 square kilometres that extend on both sides of the river Ebro, affecting the two sub-areas of the Denomination of Origin: Rioja and Rioja Alavesa. This is the most representative part of the wine region and the one that has developed without interruption since the beginning of the Middle Ages, with indications that this process could go back to Roman times.


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