What is a World Heritage Site and Where are They on Tenerife?

Wed, June 6th, 2012 - By Linda

The accolade World Heritage Site is something you may have heard often, but perhaps taken for granted. It’s decided by The United Nations arm known as UNESCO, whose proper title is United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The purpose of creating World Heritage Sites is to conserve and protect places of important cultural value to the world, both natural and man-made, whether threats to their existence are environmental or come from man, including their legal protection in times of war.

Teide National Park

UNESCO had already been called upon to help rescue important historic temples in Egypt, and to protect Venice in Italy from sinking further into its lagoon, when the idea to create a permanent body for such work was ratified in 1972.

By the second session in 1978 just twelve sites had been nominated and awarded World Heritage status, since then the World Heritage Committee has met annually to consider the year’s applications for inclusion on the list. Today there are 936 such sites throughout the world. 725 are cultural, 183 are natural and 28 are of mixed value.

La Laguna cathedral

For the award to be made, a site must be nominated by the country in which it’s situated, and be scrutinized several times before even being presented to UNESCO for consideration. Even then it isn’t automatic that a nominated site is approved.

That the Canary Islands boast no less than three of these sites speaks volumes for their heritage, both natural and cultural. Tenerife, an island of only around 785 sq miles, is home to two sites, one natural, one man-made. The third is the Garajonay National Park on neighbouring island of La Gomera.

Teide National Park

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the Teide National Park is one of those sites. Its surreal landscapes, sculpted by volcanic eruptions which began beneath the ocean’s surface millions of years ago, and crowned by Spain’s highest mountain, El Teide are truly breathtaking. The ten criteria for selecting a site are too long to repeat here, but this one probably sums up why Teide National Park was chosen in 2007: “…..is an outstanding example representing major stages of Earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.”  A visit to the Park certainly gives you that eerie feeling of having travelled back in time.

La Laguna

The other site might surprise you, if only because it appears on far less postcards than does Mount Teide. The original capital and university city of San Cristóbal of La Laguna in fact was nominated in 1999, eight years before the National Park. The accolade allowed the city to undertake a huge restoration project, which is still ongoing, restoring the beautiful Spanish colonial style buildings, and preserving the remnants of history for future generations. An excursion to La Laguna, which was founded in 1496 by conquistador Alonso Fernández de Lugo, whose body rests in the town’s cathedral, will take you back to an entirely different phase of history.

Whether you prefer to connect with nature or with history, or with both, on your holiday excursions, it’s reassuring to know that they are being protected and saved for future generations to enjoy too.

Posted : Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 at 10:57 am
Category : about tenerife
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