Monday, 28 March 2011

Traveling to Portugal's World Heritage Sites

Portugal is located on the Iberian Peninsula right next to Spain. People have been living in this area since prehistoric times. Portugal has been influenced throughout the ages by several different cultures including the Romans, Muslims and Visigoths. By the 15th and 16th century, Portugal had established a global empire that lasted for nearly six centuries. Due to Portugal’s long and colorful history, it is the home of thirteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites and thirteen proposed sites that people are trying to get added to that list.

All but one of these World Heritage Sites is cultural in nature. One such site is the Alto Douro Wine Region. This region became a World Heritage Site in 2001. People in this region have been making wine here for over 2,000 years. Alto Douro has been world famous since the 18th century for its port wine, which also happens to be the region’s main product. Thanks to a long history of winemaking, Alto Douro’s landscape reflects the evolution of this human activity over time, as can be seen through its terraces, quintas, villages, chapels and roads.

Several monasteries in Portugal have made it on the World Heritage list. These monasteries include the Monastery of Batalha, the Monastery of Alcobaça and the Monastery of the Hieronymites.The Monastary of Batalha became a World Heritage Site in 1983. It was built throughout the 14th and 15th centuries in order to celebrate the victory of the Portuguese over the Castilians at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. The Monastery was built in a Gothic style strongly influenced by Manueline art and is composed of several sections such as the royal cloister, chapel-house and funeral chapel.

The Monastery of Alcobaça became a World Heritage Site in 1989 and was built in the 12th century. It is considered to be a masterpiece of Cistercian Gothic art due to its large size, exquisite architectural style, the high quality materials used to build it and the amount of care that was put into the craftsmanship. T he Monastery of the Hieronymites (also known as Jerónimos Monastery) stands at the entrance to the harbor of Lisbon. It is one of the most notable structures in all of Lisbon and an incredibly successful example of Manueline style architecture. This monastery, along with the nearby Belém Tower, became a World Heritage Site in 1983.

The sole natural site on the Portuguese World Heritage list is the Laurisilva of Madeira, added in 1999. Even though this site is the largest laurel forest left in the world, it seems almost small when you consider that it was once part of a much larger laurel forest that has since been wiped out. The only places in the world you can find this type of forest is in the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands. It is an incredibly biologically diverse area, filled with many unique plants and animals found nowhere else.

Ryan Embly is a writer from the car rental website Car Rental Express. They have cheap cars for hire in cities all over Europe and North America