UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain

Las Médulas

Las Médulas is a historic gold mining site near the town of Ponferrada. It was the most important gold mine (and largest open pit gold mine) in the entire Roman Empire. Las Médulas Cultural Landscape is listed by the UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites. The spectacular landscape of Las Médulas resulted from the ruina montium (wrecking of the mountains), a Roman mining technique described by Pliny the ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Las Médulas, Spain

Monastery of La Encarnación

The Monastery of La Encarnación was founded inside the town's walls in 1478, and as a Carmelite convent it was moved to outside the town in the 16th century. The new monastery was built on land that had been acquired by the Council on what had previously been a Jewish cemetery. On 4 April 1515, the date on which the saint was baptised, the unfinished monastery was opened with four naves enclosing a central courtyard and ...
Founded: 1478 | Location: Ávila, Spain

San Andrés Church

San Andrés church was built in the quarter of Ajates (a suburb of mediaeval origin in which the main trade was masonry) in the second quarter of the 12th century. It was made in Caleno granite (very typical of the Romanesque style in the town) and is set according to liturgical criteria with an upper end with three apses that correspond to the three naves in the interior; it does not have a transept nave. The protruding ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ávila, Spain

Cave of Altamira

The Cave of Altamira is located near the historic town of Santillana del Mar. It is renowned for prehistoric parietal cave art featuring charcoal drawings and polychrome paintings of contemporary local fauna and human hands. The earliest paintings were applied during the Upper Paleolithic, around 36,000 years ago. Because of their deep galleries, isolated from external climatic influences, these caves are particularly we ...
Founded: 36,000 BCE | Location: Santillana del Mar, Spain

San Nicolás Church

San Nicolás church stands in the suburb of the same name outside the walls, a medieval quarter inhabited by Christians and dedicated to agriculture and sheep farming. It also had a large number of Mudejar residents. It was built in Caleno granite in the late-Romanesque style of Ávila between the second half of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th. The upper end and porches remain from the original construction ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ávila, Spain

Archaeological Site of Atapuerca

The Archaeological Site of Atapuerca is located near the city of Burgos. The property contains a rich fossil record of the earliest human beings in Europe, from nearly one million years ago and extending into the Common Era. It constitutes an exceptional scientific reserve that provides priceless information about the appearance and way of life of these remote human ancestors. The Sierra de Atapuerca sites provide uniqu ...
Founded: 800000 BCE | Location: Atapuerca, Spain

Tito Bustillo Cave

The Tito Bustillo Cave is a prehistoric rock shelter located in the small town of Ribadesella. The cave was inhabited by humans (cro-magnon) before the year 10,000 BC. Due to the collapse of the rock, the original entrance to the cave was sealed thousands of years ago, which made it possible for preservation of objects, tools and wall paintings that were discovered in 1968. Based on those objects found in the cave, it is ...
Founded: 33000-10000 BCE | Location: Ribadesella, Spain

Siega Verde

Siega Verde is an archaeological site in Serranillo, Villar de la Yegua. It was joined to the Côa Valley Paleolithic Art site in the World Heritage List in 2010. The site consists of a series of rock carvings, discovered in 1988 by professors Manuel Santoja, during an inventory campaign of archaeological sites in the valley of the Águeda river. Subjects include equids, aurochs, deer and goats, among the most com ...
Founded: 18000 BCE | Location: Villar de la Yegua, Spain

Cave of Chufín

The cave of Chufín is situated at the confluence of the Lamasón and Nansa rivers. Several caves are ornamented with rock art pock the steep slopes above the water. Chufín is one of the caves included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites under the entry Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain. In Chufín were found different levels of occupation, the oldest being around 20000 years old. The sm ...
Founded: 18000 BCE | Location: Rionansa, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.