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Ibiza, 20 years as a World Heritage Site

December 28 2019

This year, the city of Ibiza celebrated its 20th anniversary as a World Heritage site under the organization of UNESCO. “Eivissa” gained its World Heritage title "Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture" on December 4th in 1999. On this date, the Old Town walls of Dalt Vila dating back to the Renaissance, its underwater nature reserve Posidonia, the Phoenician settlement at Sa Caleta and the necropolis with elaborate tomb monuments called Puig des Molins were declared protected and treasured sites.

To celebrate it, Ibiza’s authorities organized a busy program of activities on the 4th of December. More details about that below! But most importantly, the celebrations attract our attention to why Ibiza is worth visiting. Here are the reasons the island is considered such a treasure by UNESCO.

The UNESCO attractions in Ibiza

1. Underwater prairies - Posidonia

This Ibiza world heritage site is visible as soon as you swim a little further offshore than usual or after diving in on a boat trip. Posidonia indicates the golden seabed just off Ibiza that’s covered in life-giving seaweed.

These underwater prairies of the islands surrounding and including Ibiza are internationally protected because the vast expanses of seaweed are rich in biodiversity. The Ses Salines Nature Reserve is famous for its blue waters and perfect for snorkeling respectfully. The sea is kept healthy and crystal clear thanks to these underwater meadows. The marine life found here is endemic to the Mediterranean sea, such that Posidonia is considered imperative for the health of the oceans.

2. Sa Caleta - Phoenician Settlement

Sa Caleta was first built in the 8th century, and you can see evidence of metal and ironwork, as well as the layout of the original houses, at this ancient site. Perhaps less famous than Sa Caleta beach but more important historically, the settlement is an extensive juxtaposition of rooms, seemingly with no order or orientation to cardinal points. Archaeologists believe the land was divided between Phoenician settlers in small parcels, who built their own independent units with only a handful of metres separating each one.

It’s believed that Sa Caleta’s natural salt marshes were the attraction for this grouping of houses, and that the deposits were exploited to become the island’s first commercial enterprise. This lasted until the settlement was likely abandoned when the settlers moved to Ibiza Bay, Puig de Vila.

3. Dalt Vila - Ibiza’s Old Town walls

Over the years, a number of different cultures have called Dalt Vila in Ibiza’s old town home. Each new group of inhabitants has superimposed elements of its culture, such that the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Muslims, and then Catalans can all be seen in the town centre. Five entrances exist to Dalt Vila. The main entrance is called Portal de Ses Taules and is decorated with two Roman statue replicas.

Whether you join a tour or just stroll up through this Ibiza world heritage site admiring The Old Town walls and building architecture, you’ll see two different Dalt Vilas in the day and at night. The contrast from the morning before the sun gets too hot, of calmer streets with some small businesses and cafés opening, is striking when compared to the town that simply comes alive at night. Bars, restaurants, and even many shops all open well into the evening.

4. Necropolis - Puig des Molins

Ibiza’s long-standing cemetery, Puig des Molins, was named after the windmills that topped the nearby hill back in the 15th century, the ruins of which remain visible. Located 500 metres from the Phoenician settlement, Puig de Vila, this Phoenician or Punic cemetery houses an estimated 4 - 5,000 underground tombs or hypogeum, 340 of which can be visited by the public.

To reach the necropolis simply set off on foot from Dalt Vila, or join one of the tours held every couple of weeks to share the cemetery’s history.

Festivities

To commemorate its 20th anniversary this month, the island opened an exhibition of historical archives detailing the declaration of Ibiza as a World Heritage site, with articles published by the local press in November and December of 1999 and the UNESCO document that certified the declaration.

A tour describing the history and rehabilitation of the old city walls and guided tours of the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Ibiza highlighted the importance of the government and local people’s participation in maintaining the city’s history. A theatre show, string quartet, and gastronomic tasting further celebrated the areas of the island that contributed to the qualification: the Old Market and the Park Square.

We look forward to many more celebrations like this as Ibiza continues to show how proud it is of this well-deserved recognition for the UNESCO attractions in Ibiza.

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