Spain is a country of numerous worldwide recognizable landmarks that attract huge number of tourists. Moreover, it is a country of 47 places of high importance protected by UNESCO. Therefore, it is the 3rd country by number of UNESCO sites in the world! No doubt all the sites from the list are worth visiting, but here are the top 10 of the most attractive and remarkable UNESCO sites in Spain.
Santiago De Compostela
The capital of the Galicia region is known as a final stop of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Pilgrims from all around the world go for a walk that ends in a city which is a symbol of Spain Christians’ fight over Islam. Whether you find yourself on the square while the pilgrims enter the city or you’re one of them, it is quite an emotional experience that ends with a mass in the Santiago Cathedral. Once destroyed by the Muslim, the city was completely renowed with Gothic and Baroque architecture, today protected by UNESCO.
Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville
Heart of Seville reflects the Spain’s unique history with Islam in this area. The magnificent Cathedral was once a mosque, now considered the largest Gothic structure in Europe. Along with Alcazar Palace built by the Moorish rulers, Cathedral is a testimony of colliding cultures – the Almohad dynasty with its Caliphate and the later Renaissance, followed after the Reconquista. In the end, the last of these three UNESCO sites in Seville includes Casa Lonja with its Archivo de Indias repository consisting of important documents illustrating the history of colonizing America and the Philippines.
Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín
Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzin of Granada are another remarkable reminders of Moorish Spain situated on two hills, separated by the river Darro. Alhambra is a complex consisting of a palace and fortress, originally the remains of the Roman period, but renowned in the period of the Emirate of Granada. Generalife was a summer palace of the Emirate rulers, today you can see its stunning gardens. On the other hand, Albayzin is a residential district reflecting original Moorish architectural style and urban plan. The UNESCO sites were inscribed in 1984, with Albayzin 10 years later.
Teide National Park
National park Teide is situated on the island of Tenerife, being a home to not only the highest mountain in Spain, but also a volcano – Teide. With its height of 7500 m it is considered the third largest volcano in the world and the National park seems to be among the top visited in Europe and the world. Therefore, taking into account all the superlatives, this site is of global importance and a true Spanish treasure. The uniqueness of this area is best shown in the fact that it became a scientific landmark used for studies due to its huge similarity with the planet Mars.
Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida
Merida is a city built on top of once an ancient Roman colony of Augusta Emerita, founded in 25 BC as the capital of Lusitania. The city contains one of the largest archaeological sites in Spain preserving the evidence of the Roman civilization. Among the well-preserved remains are various public and private buildings and constructions such as the Roman theater and amphitheater, Roman circus, Bridge over Guadiana, Los Milagros Aqueduct, Arch of Trajan, Temple of Diana and more.
Palau de la Música Catalana
The most popular contributor to the recognizable Catalan Modernism is Gaudi, but one of the UNESCO protected sites and a landmark of Barcelona was actually designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner. It is a highly prestigious concert hall built from 1905 to 1908 for the choral society Orfeo Catala. The hall has a rich annual program with top class performances. If visiting Barcelona, this sight is inevitable and attending some of its concerts is a unique cultural experience.
Serra de Tramuntana
Serra de Tramuntana is a mountain range in the north-western part of Mallorca, but the reason why it is protected is an outstanding symbiosis of people and nature. Besides that, the area is also of high cultural and historical importance. Serra de Tramuntana is a Mediterranean oasis with plenty of vineyards, olive trees, oranges etc. Hikers from all over the world adore this place, but it requires a certain level of physical fitness. Discover its lovely villages and the highest peak, Puig Major.
Doñana National Park
National park Donana is a natural reserve in Andalusia, between the provinces of Huelva, Cadiz and Seville. Its high importance lies in its unique biodiversity. Donana is one of the most important wetlands in Europe and home to a large number of animal species of which there are several threatened bird species. While in Donana National Park, enjoying nature is inevitable, but visit some of the villages around such as El Rocio, check out the marvelous beaches and moving dunes. In the end, don’t forget to take a boat ride.
Cave of Altamira
Altamira Cave is unique for its prehistoric cave art everybody heard of. It is actually a cave system of 18 decorated caves presenting ancient art developing across Europe. Since these galleries are deep inside, hidden from the sun and other external influences, the art is well preserved. Still, visiting Altamira Cave is not that easy, the access is limited to 5 people, every Friday between 10:30 and 11:30 and they are chosen randomly on the spot, between everyone who applied for a visit that day. The lucky 5 then enters the cave following strictly prescribed rules and time frames.
Caliphate City of Medina Azahara
Medina Azahara is literally translated from Arabic as ‘the shining city’, which surely was while being a part of the Cordoba Caliphate as a capital of the once Muslim Spain. Today, the place is an archaeological site and a great historical record of the former Western Islamic civilization. The legend has it that Medina Azahara was built as a tribute for Azahara, Caliph’s favorite wife. Since recently you can visit a museum on the location that takes you through the history of the site. Visiting Medina Azahara is the easiest by booking a guided tour.