World Heritage in Andorra

Patrimoni de la Humanitat a Andorra

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“Cultural heritage is one of the main testaments to the history, identity and creativity of a country.” (Art. 34, Constitution of the Principality of Andorra).

Several of Andorra's many cultural and natural assets have acquired a special status that makes us particularly proud: the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, the Ordino Valley, the Falles of Andorra la Vella and Transhumance. They all form part of World Heritage, UNESCO's plan for the protection of natural and cultural assets.

The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, which was declared World Heritage in the cultural landscape category in 2004, is a very representative microcosm of the way people have harvested the resources of the Pyrenees mountain range for millennia. The landscapes of the Valley are witnesses not only to climate change on the planet, but also to changes to the economic and social systems of its inhabitants. The area, the only one in Andorra without any roads, is home to several human habitats, in particular the summer settlements of shepherds and terraced fields, stone pathways and the remains of iron casting works. 

The Falles of Andorra have been included in the category of Intangible Heritage since December 2015, and were part of Andorra’s candidacy for the “Fire festival of the summer solstice in the Pyrenees.” This was a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary project that brought together 63 municipalities in Catalonia, Aragon, Andorra and the south of France and has the official support of three countries (France, Spain and Andorra). The ancient tradition of Falles, which involves swinging luminous balls of fire in the night, is revived every year to celebrate the Midsummer Eve.

Transhumance, the seasonal migration of people and their livestock between geographical or climatic zones, takes place every year. Shepherds and shepherdesses organise the movement of thousands of animals along centuries-old trails in spring and autumn.

Agriculture and livestock farming dominated Andorra's economy from ancient times through to the middle of the last century. This activity is closely linked to the natural cycles of the territory, located in the middle of the Pyrenees mountain range. Livestock transhumance has been practised both within our valleys to take advantage of the high-mountain pastures in summer (vertical transhumance), and moving the herds to the plains of the neighbouring territories of Spain and France (horizontal transhumance) in winter. At Incles Valley, you can witness this legacy first-hand and also see cattle grazing at high altitude. 

This traditional activity in Andorra was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2023.

Bear Festivities

As a mountainous country, Andorra has had to overcome adverse conditions such as frost and snow in an already difficult environment. This is the environment in which, during winter, the hardest season of the year, the Festes de l’ossa, or Bear Festivities, were founded in various parts of the country. We do not know why the festival celebrates the she-bear (ossa) rather than the male of the species (os) or all bears, because no theory has been confirmed by reliable sources.

The Festa de l’ossa is a farce, performed in the form of a comedy play in one act. It is a lively and dynamic cultural expression, creating a ritual that opens up a space for the community to meet. We allow ourselves to talk openly about the events of the year in a festive but also sarcastic and critical way.

You can follow this performance at the Ball de L'Ossa (Bear Dance) in Encamp, which is held on Carnival Monday, and at L'última Ossa (The Last Bear) in Ordino, which takes place in the first week of December.

The Festes de l’ossa festivities are included in the Andorran Government's General Inventory of Cultural Heritage as intangible assets and, since November 2022, they have been recognised as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Ordino, named a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO

Ordino has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since October 2020, as it is one of the areas in Andorra which has known how to conserve its natural environment best. Ordino is a great example of perfect integration of both society and nature: despite being divided into 8 different towns, their rural customs and traditions peacefully coexist with the latest technology and equipment, sustainable public transport and premium accommodation and food services for the whole family. Finally, lovers of outdoor sports will find Ordino the ideal place to engage in their favourite activities, given that the valley has unique natural landscapes all year round.

As recognition of this, Ordino has now been included in the World Tourism Organization's (UNWTO) list of Best Tourism Villages, serving as international recognition of the its status as a rural destination that is committed to nature, the environment and sustainable development through tourism, which acts as the parish's main axis of development.

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