UNESCO Heritages in Albania
UNESCO World Heritage Sites are places that possess outstanding universal value and are considered a unique testament to humanity's cultural and natural heritage. The UNESCO World Heritage Convention, established in 1972, aims to identify, protect and preserve these sites for future generations. Cultural heritage encompasses monuments, groups of buildings, and sites of historical, artistic, or scientific significance. Examples of cultural heritage include architectural works, monumental sculptures, inscriptions, and archaeological sites. On the other hand, natural heritage covers physical and biological formations, geological and physiographical formations, and natural sites that are important from the point of view of science, conservation, or natural beauty. This includes habitats of threatened species of animals and plants, as well as areas of unique geological formations. Albania ratified the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage on 10 July 1989. As a result, its historical sites are eligible for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
In Albania, four sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and another four on the tentative list. The first site in Albania to be added to the list was the ancient city of Butrint, inscribed at the 16th UNESCO session in 1992. The historic centre of Gjirokastër was added to the list in 2005 as Museum-City of Gjirokastra. In 2008, the historic centre of Berat was also added to the site, forming the Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastër. 2017, the Gashi River and Rrajcë regions were listed as part of the Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe, shared with 17 other countries. In 2019, the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region, a World Heritage Site in North Macedonia since 1979, was expanded to include the Albanian part of the coast.
Butrint: Vlorë (1992)
Butrint, an ancient city in modern-day Albania, is a remarkable testament to the different civilizations that once occupied it. The town first thrived as a Greek colony, known as Buthrōtum, before becoming a prosperous Roman city. It then served as the seat of a late Roman bishopric, which speaks to its religious significance. Although the town was abandoned for a while, it was eventually occupied by the Byzantines, Angevins, and Venetians, each of whom left their mark on the city uniquely. The city was finally abandoned in the late Middle Ages, leaving an impressive collection of archaeological sites that testify to its rich history. These sites include a well-preserved Greek theatre, a late-antique baptistery, a ninth-century basilica, and fortifications that date back to the Greek colony to the Middle Ages.
Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastër: Berat, Gjirokastër (2007)
Berat and Gjirokastër are two charming and historically rich towns in southern Albania. These towns are renowned for their exceptional display of Ottoman-era architecture, a rare and unique example.
Berat is situated on the banks of the Osum River and is home to a magnificent castle, a testament to the town's rich history. The castle was primarily built in the 13th century, but its origins date back to the 4th century BC. The citadel area is a sight to behold, with its towering walls and numerous Byzantine churches, primarily from the 13th century. Several mosques were built in the 15th century, which adds to the town's cultural diversity.
Gjirokastër, on the other hand, is a town steeped in history and boasting a rich cultural heritage. It features a series of two-storey houses built in the 17th century and are considered some of the best-preserved examples of Ottoman-era architecture in the Balkans. The town also has an 18th-century mosque, a bazaar, and two churches from the same period, all worth exploring.
In 2005, Gjirokastër was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its exceptional examples of Ottoman-era architecture, and Berat was later added to the list in 2008. Visiting these towns is a must for anyone who wants to experience Albania's rich cultural history and explore the unique architecture of the Ottoman period.
Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe: Kukës, Elbasan (2017)
This remarkable site is shared among 18 European countries. It has two main features: the Gashi River in Tropojë, northeastern Albania, and the ancient beech forests of Rrajcë in Perrenjas, central Albania. The forests are particularly fascinating, as they showcase the process of postglacial expansion and exhibit the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European beech in various environmental conditions. These magnificent forests are home to diverse flora and fauna, making them a unique destination for nature enthusiasts.
Notably, this site has a rich history. It was listed in 2007 and expanded significantly. In 2017, the forests in Albania were added to the list, further highlighting their ecological significance. Overall, this transnational site is a treasure trove of natural wonders and a testament to the beauty and resilience of our planet's ecosystems.
Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region: Korçë (2019)
This UNESCO World Heritage site is in North Macedonia and has been inscribed since 1979. The site is around the picturesque town of Pogradec, located on the stunning shores of Lake Ohrid. The area has a fascinating history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the 5th century BC when the Illyrians occupied the region. Throughout the years, the Romans and the Slavs also left their mark on the area, and the region served as an essential passage route, as evidenced by the remains of the Roman road Via Egnatia.
One of the site's most notable features is the paleo-Christian church of Lin, which dates back to the 5th century and is in ruins today. The church's floor mosaics are awe-inspiring and reveal the presence of Christianity in the area.
The historic centre of Pogradec is also worth exploring, as it represents an excellent example of Albanian vernacular architecture from the 19th to the 20th century. Overall, this site is a must-see for anyone interested in the rich history and culture of the region.