10 places in Spain that should be World Heritage Sites

Spain is the third most wealthy country in the world, after China and Italy. Spain currently has 50 World Heritage Sites, although the list of candidates keeps growing everyday. And this is a selection of the places that should become World Heritage in our opinion.

The Greco-Roman site of Ampurias


Ampurias. | Shutterstock

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.

Trujillo, Monfragüe and Plasencia

Aqueduct of Plasencia, Cáceres.

Aqueduct of Plasencia, Cáceres. | Shutterstock

The joint candidacy of Trujillo, Monfragüe and Plasencia, proposed in the tentative list of World Heritage in 2009, proposed 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.

Castillo de Loarre

Castillo de Loarre, Huesca.

Castillo de Loarre, Huesca. | Shutterstock

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 iglesia of Santa María, the crypt of Santa Quiteria or Torre de la Reina 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 Catedral de La Asunción

Catedral de La Asunción, Jaén.

Catedral de La Asunción, Jaén. | Shutterstock

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

Sil Canyon, Ribeira Sacra.

Sil Canyon, Ribeira Sacra. | Shutterstock

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

Transhumance, a type of pastoralism.

Transhumance, a type of pastoralism. | Shutterstock

The extensive number of transhumance roads 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 north of Castilla

Monasterio de Santa María la Real, Aguilar de Campoo.

Monasterio de Santa María la Real, Aguilar de Campoo. | Shutterstock

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. The proposal to declare the Romanesque north a World Heritage Site was presented in 1998.

The windmills

Windmills in Consuegra, Toledo.

Windmills in Consuegra, Toledo. | Shutterstock

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

Vía Augusta, Cabanes.

Vía Augusta, Cabanes. | Shutterstock

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 Vía de la Plata or Vía Augusta are living proof of the Roman past of ancient Hispania.

Retiro and Museo del Prado

Parque de El Retiro, Madrid.

Parque de El Retiro, Madrid. | Shutterstock

There is a lot to be said for the site that makes up Parque de El Retiro and Museo del Prado 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, were candidates for the title of World Heritage Site from 2015.

The portico of Santa María de Ripoll

Portico of the Santa María de Ripoll monastery.

Portico of the Santa María de Ripoll monastery. | Shutterstock

In the monastery of Ripoll you can find this 12th century construction, a masterpiece of Romanesque art. The portico of Santa María is a candidate for the World Heritage status of Spain for various reasons. It is considered the most important Romanesque sculpture in Cataluña 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.

Ancares – Somiedo

Los Ancares.

Los Ancares. | Shutterstock

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

A vineyard in Logroño.

A vineyard in Logroño. | Shutterstock

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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