Spain: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain.
Tourism in Spain exploded in the early 1960s when inexpensive air travel, package holidays, a booming economy in the northern Europe and cheap Spanish currency (then the peseta) combined to encourage the northerners to travel south.  Spain had all they wanted: sun, sand, and sangría, and it was cheap. The holidaymakers contributed job opportunities for the locals and cultural diversity. For Spaniards –still labouring under General Franco’s oppressive dictatorship—the invasion of their Mediterranean beaches by French, German, Scandinavian and especially British sun seekers was an eye-opener. Casual relationships between the sexes, and unchaperoned women in revealing two-piece swim suits (Dios mío) were enough to send some Spanish clerics and devout Catholics into apoplexy. But the tourist tide rolled on, and it brought in much needed money.

Tourists still head for the beaches, but nowadays many –especially repeat visitors– look for wider cultural experiences. Spain has done much to publicize its cultural heritage, and thanks to a much improved road and rail infrastructure (courtesy of the European Union, which Spain joined in 1986), visitors can now travel quickly and comfortably to virtually all corners of the country.

Most travelers still depend on guide books and on-line sites about Spain (simply google Spain travel guides), but an excellent source generally overlooked is UNESCO’s World Heritage sites in Spain ( Spain currently (2017) has 45 such sites accepted, and 23 under consideration (see below).

Especially interesting is the wide variety of selected sites. Selection is not based simply on historic significance, but on cultural importance in a much wider sense, e.g. national parks (Doñana), mountains Mont Perdu (in the Pyrenees), a palm grove (Elche), Antoni Gaudí’s architectural works, depleted gold mines and tailings (Las Médulas), the biodiversity of an island (Ibiza) etc.

Las Médulas. Click to enlarge.

Particularly valuable are the detailed descriptions of all the sites; their significance are seen not only in the Spanish context but also, where relevant, in relation to other cultures. To take two examples: 1. the construction of the Gothic cathedral of Burgos cathedral is related to the development of Gothic cathedrals in France;

 2. The palm grove of Elche is linked to Arabic culture and North African landscapes.

All sites on the UNESCO list are highlighted on an accompanying map, and well selected photos help strengthen the detailed descriptions.  At the end of each entry, there are links to other sites.

Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List  as of May 2017: 45.

1.    Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín:    Granada Andalusia (1984)
2.    Almadén: Heritage of Mercury: Castile-La Mancha (2012)
3.    Antequera: Dolmens:  Andalusia (2016)
4.   Aranjuez Cultural Landscape:    Community of Madrid (2001)
5.   Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida:    Extremadura (1993)
6.   Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco:     Catalonia (2000)
7.   Archaeological Site of Atapuerca  Just east of Burgos: Castilla-León (2000)
8.   Burgos Cathedral:     Castilla-León (1984)
9.   Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí: East of the N 230 road, south of the Pyrenees, Catalonia (2000)
10.   Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville: Andalusia (1987)
11.   Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain: Cantabria (1985)
12.  Cultural Landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana:     Mallorca (2011)
13.   Historic Centre of Córdoba:    Andalusia (1984)
14.   Historic City of Toledo:     Castilla-La Mancha (1986)
15.   Historic Walled Town of Cuenca:     Castilla-La Mancha (1996)
16.   La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia:      Valencia (1996)
17.   Las Médulas About 20 kilometres south west of Ponferrada:  Castilla-León (1997)
18.   Monastery and Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial:     52 kilometres (32 miles) north of Madrid (1984)
19.   Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias:     Asturias (1985)
20.   Mudejar Architecture of Aragón Especially the town of Teruel:     Aragón (1986)
21.   Old City of Salamanca:     Castilla-León (1988)
22.   Old Town of Ávila with its Extra-Muros Churches:     Castilla-León (1985)
23.   Old Town of Cáceres:     Extremadura (1986)
24.   Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct:    Castilla-León (1985)
25.   Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau:     Barcelona Catalonia (1997)
26.   Palmeral of Elche:   Community of Valencia (2000)
27.   Poblet Monastery:  Just south of the N 240 highway, between Lérida (Lleida) and Tarragona, Catalonia (1991)
28.   Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde: Straddling the Spanish-Portuguese border, northwest of Ciudad Rodrigo, Castilla-León (1998)
29.   Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza: Andalusia (2003)
30.   Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula: Several sites inland from the east coast of Spain, through the Communities of Catalonia, Valencia and Murcia(1998)
31.   Roman Walls of Lugo:  Galicia (2000)
32.   Route of Santiago de Compostela: Aragón, Navarre, la Rioja, Castile-León and Galicia (1993)
33.   Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe: Extremadura (1993)
34.   San Cristóbal de La Laguna On the island of Tenerife: Canary Islands (1999)
35.   San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries: La Rioja (1997)
36.   Santiago de Compostela (Old Town): Galicia (1985)
37.   Tower of Hercules Lighthouse to the harbour of La Coruña: Galicia (2009)
38.   University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares: About 35 kilometres east of Madrid (1998)
39.   Vizcaya Bridge Links the suburbs of Getxo and Portugalete in Bilbao (Bilbo): Basque Country/Euskadi (2006)
40.   Works of Antoni Gaudí: Barcelona and vicinity (1984)

41.   Doñana National Park South west of Seville: Andalusia (1994)
42.   Garajonay National Park On the Island of La Gomera: Canary Islands (1986)
43.   Teide National Park On the Island of Tenerife: Canary Islands (2007)

44.   Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture: Balearic Island (1999)
45.   Pyrenees – Mont Perdu: On the frontier between Spain and France (1997)

Properties submitted on the Tentative List: 29
•    Romanesque Cultural Enclave in the North of Castile-León and the South of Cantabria (1998)
•    Bulwarked Frontier Fortifications (1998)
•    The Silver Route (1998)
•    Mediterranean Wind Mills (1998)
•    Greek Archaeological ensemble in Empúries, l’Escala, Girona (2002)
•    Wine and Vineyard Cultural Itinerary through Mediterranean Towns (1998)
•    The Ribeira Sacra, Lugo and Orense (1996)
•    Cultural Itinerary of Francis Xavier (2001)
•    The Mediterranean Facet of the Pyrenees (France-Spain) (2004)
.    Talayotic Culture of Minorca (2103)
•    Mesta Livestock trails (2007)
•    Roman Ways. Itineraries of the Roman Empire (2007)
•    Ancares – Somiedo (2007)
•    Loarre Castle (2007)
•    El Ferrol of the Illustration Historical Heritage (2007)
•    Mining Historical Heritage (2007)
•    Plasencia – Monfragüe – Trujillo: (2009)
•    Jaén Cathedral (extension of the Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza) (2012)
•    Valle Salado de Añana (2012)
•     La Rioja and Rioja Alavesa Vine and Wine Cultural Landscape (2013)
•     Priorat-Montsant-Siurana paysage agricole de la montagne mediterraneenne (2014)
•     Site of the Retiro and Prado in Madrid (2015)
•     Madinat al-Zahra  Córdoba (2015)
•     Le Portail du Monastere de Ripoll (2015)
•     Turó de la Seu Vella de Lleida (2016)
•     Monastery of Santa María de la Rábida, Huelva (2016)
•     Risco Caído and the sacred mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape (2016)
•     Church of San Salvador de Valdediós  Asturias (2017)
•    The Olive Grove Landscapes of Andalusia (2017)


Image of Las Médulas:
Image of Burgos Cathedral:
Image of palm grove,Elche: CC BY-SA 3.0,