Trip Advisor has just released its top ten landmarks in Europe, as voted by users of the frighteningly influential reviewing website. Two of these, both in the top five of the list, are in Andalucia.
Number 2, rather surprisingly, is the Mezquita. The 10th-century mosque in Cordoba is a wonder of Moorish architecture, with its forest of striped brick arches and jasper columns, but it would normally play second fiddle to the monument which comes in at number four, according to Trip Advisor users.
Yes, the top visitor attraction in Spain by numbers, the Alhambra, has slipped down into fourth position on the Trip Advisor leader board. The Moorish hilltop palace in Granada, which dates from the 13th century and is famous for room after room adorned with intricate Arabic plasterwork, exquisite geometrically-patterned ceramic tiles, and serene gardens with pools and fountains, was pushed down the list by its fellow Muslim monument. First place in the European hit parade was held by St Peter’s in Vatican City, Rome, and third by a church in St Petersburg, which (according to Trip Advisor) goes by the unsavoury name of “the Saviour of Spilled Blood”.
These two monuments, which any visitor to Andalucia, shouldn’t miss, also held very respectable positions in the world ranking – number 6 and 8 respectively. Topping the global countdown is Machu Picchu, the Incan city in Peru, followed by Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi (2), and Angkor Wat in Cambodia (3).
Religious heritage plays a strong role, with four of the top ten being Islamic buildings – the two mosques and the Alhambra, plus the Taj Mahal in India (5), a Muslim tomb, while Angkor Wat is a Buddhist site; the St Petersburg church (7) is Russian orthodox; and St Peter’s Rome and Milan cathedral in Italy (10) – Roman Catholic. Faiths, while causing endless wars across the centuries, have also left us with some of our most spectacular, and popular, monuments.
Peña de los Enamorados (Lovers’ Rock), part of the Monumental Compex of Antequera, will almost definitely be declared UNESCO World Heritage Status this July. Photograph: Michelle Chaplow
The other exciting news for Andalucia is that the Dolmens of Antequera have moved a step closer to being declared UNESCO World Heritage (Patrimonio de la Humanidad in Spanish), at the next meeting in Istanbul this July.
The three stone structures, built in the Neolithic period (fifth millennium BC), together with the natural rock formation Peña de los Enamorados, are very likely to be given the coveted status, and the funding that comes along with it. Other UNESCO monuments in Andalucia include the aforementioned Alhambra and Mezquita, as well as the Alcazar and Cathedral in Seville, and the Renaissance towns of Ubeda and Baeza in Jaen.
After a recent visit by an assessor, at the end of last year, a report specified that the area surrounding the dolmen complex must be protected (from development), and the visual impact of the museum reduced – it will lose its first floor. Another ruling was that the old railway line near the site be turned into a via verde (green pathway) more than 10km long. Then, at a meeting of ICOMOS (International Committee of Monuments and Sites) in Paris last week, it was accepted that these modifications were being addressed, and the application was given the green light.
The final decision is set to be made at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in the Turkish city on 10-20 July. After this rubber-stamping, the town of Antequera – at the very heart of Andalucia, and closest to the dolmens of Viera, Manga and el Romeral, the first megalithic complex in Spain to gain World Heritage status – will be put firmly on the global historic monument map.