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Zagori, Greece Vies for UNESCO Cultural Landscape Status

Zagori Greece UNESCO
The famous arched stone bridge in Zagori. Credit: Erik1980/CC BY-SA 3.0

The region of Zagori, in Epirus, Greece is among the candidates to be assigned the prestigious status as UNESCO’s World Cultural Landscape.

Zagori is an awe-inspiring natural landscape with an incredibly well-preserved network of 46 villages, featuring national parks, a monastery, rivers and waterfalls.

Following much deliberation, UNESCO is shortly expected to announce which sites have been given the honor of a place on its list.

This year, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is reviewing nominations from both 2022 and 2023, with participants from across the world attending the session in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to examine almost 50 contenders.

The nomination for Zagori was brought forth by Greece’s Ministry of Culture in 2022 and it was the first candidacy of the country in this particular category.

The dossier includes extensive reports on the biodiversity, fauna, and flora of the Zagori, and the unique natural environment there, featuring rivers, unique geological formations and Vikos Gorge.

Vikos Gorge, a wonder of the natural world in Greece, is known as the “Greek Grand Canyon” because of its dizzying cliffs and stunning heights.

Vikos Gorge Zagori
Vikos Gorge, in the Zagori region of Greece. Credit: Anas.Dimitris/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-4.0

Although in depth it does not rival the American canyon, which is more than six thousand feet deep, Vikos Gorge is one of the most lovely and verdant ravines in the country, with a depth exceeding 490 meters (1,500 feet).

The region’s application to UNESCO also includes chapters that refer to the historical background of the area, with emphasis on the 17th and 18th centuries, the rich architectural heritage there, and the many monuments spread throughout the area. It also includes the wealth of intangible cultural heritage to be found in Zagori, such as music, festivals, and folk traditions.

According to a Ministry announcement in 2022, the drafting of the cultural landscape application was the result of collaboration between the Services of the Ministry of Culture and the Region of Epirus, based on the operational instructions of the UNESCO Convention signed in Paris in 1972 for the protection of world cultural and natural heritage.

A host of experts worked to finalize Zagori bid for UNESCO

Scientists in many different specialties, archaeologists, historians, foresters, biologists, environmentalists, architects, economists, and ethnologists worked in the whole process of preparing the file.

Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni said at the time:

“Zagori, a region of unique beauty and special value and importance of our country is the first Greek candidacy submitted to UNESCO, for inclusion in the list of cultural landscapes.

“The participation of the local community in the composition of the dossier was particularly important, as a candidacy in the field of the cultural landscape is very different from the candidacy of a monument. It requires the involvement of the society, the citizens of the region.”

According to UNESCO, cultural landscapes that are the combined works of nature and humankind, and they express a long and intimate relationship between people and their natural environment.

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