UNESCO Sites in the Mediterranean
No question that the UNESCO World Heritage List is long on Mediterranean sites, given that the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires all had their day on the shores of this beautiful sea. Check out a sampling of special sites in Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, and Turkey.
New: Discover the UNESCO sites of the Mediterranean with our interactive map!
Surprising on the inside
The Painted Churches in the Troodos Region on Cyprus comprise one of the best collections of Byzantine era churches, monasteries, and painting. Wooden churches with steeply pitched roofs or more sophisticated monasteries all boast masterful, colorful frescoes and mesmerizing icons. The World Heritage List includes ten such churches, representing a brilliant survey of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art in Cyprus. The ornate interiors are in startling contrast to the mountainous countryside in which you’ll find them.
A nature reserve of outstanding beauty stretches around a bay in Corsica. The French Gulf of Porto: Calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve is UNESCO listed for geologic and environmental reasons. Travel translation: breathtaking views of unforgettable places many of which you can reach only by boat or assiduous hiking. Plunging pink granite cliffs, fantastically sculpted rocks, sea vies of liquid emerald and turquoise water, or a view of a little town from the Genoese fort above, are all yours to enjoy when you come to Corsica.
Medieval trumps classic!
Not all the UNESCO sites in Greece have to do with mythology and the classic age. The Medieval City of Rhodes was built up and fortified for two centuries in the Middle Ages by the The Order of St John of Jerusalem, a period which left an unsurpassed endowment of Gothic architecture in the Upper Town. The Lower Town shows the effect of subsequent Ottoman and Italian rulers, so that you’ll find Gothic and Venetian buildings alongside Ottoman mosques and hamams, or traditional white washed Greek homes – a lovely place for the inquisitive to stroll.
A world unto itself
A veritable Palace of the Enlightenment, the 18th-Century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli, and the San Leucio Complex in Italy is a fantastic, enormous complex. Charles III of Naples built it to rival Versailles and Royal Palace in Madrid, and he may have succeeded. Where else will you find a palace, formal gardens, statuary and fountains, parks, natural woodland and yes, a silk factory, thatre, university, and library, all in one location? UNESCO notes that the man-made elements integrate with, rather than overwhelm, the natural setting; as a visitor you are certain to be pleasantly overwhelmed by the scope and beauty of this royal mini-city.
It was long ago indeed that humans first thought Malta was an excellent place to call home. The Megalithic Temples of Malta date back 5,000 years and are clear evidence of established communities. Seven different prehistoric religious sites on the islands of Malta and Gozo have been placed on the World Heritage List. The Ġgantija site on Gozo has the oldest freestanding temples in the world; Hagar Qin, on Malta, is decorated with obsidian goddesses and animals; the Ta'Hagrat and Skorba sites are lessons in the development of temple-building in Malta.
An all around winner
Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture shows by its UNESCO listing that this island in Spain has a variety of precious attributes. When Phoenicians and Carthaginians plied the Mediterranean, Ibiza was clearly an important place, as evidenced by the archeological sites showing how developed the island was then. Later, Charles V fortified the city; the result influenced the design of many fortification in the New World. The natural world in Ibiza is also spectacular, with many endemic Mediterranean species and a clear interplay between marine and coastal ecosystems, to the delight of scientists and visitors alike.
The Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia in central Turkey is a fantastic place in every sense of the word. Although the earliest remains of human habitation date from the 4th century, it is the Byzantine era dwellings and villages – some entirely underground – that will take your breath away. Cappadocia is in a very strategic location so the people who lived there built entire cities deep into sandstone landscape to escape invasion and looting from raiding parties.