UNESCO was established on 16th of November 1945 to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture. Its purpose is to protect the most valuable natural and cultural objects of our planet. The List of World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage covers 812 places: 628 cultural, 160 natural and 24 mixed sites from 137 countries.
Slovakia has 7 sights inscribed in the World Heritage List – 5 cultural and 2 natural.
- Banská Štiavnica (a former major mining town) and tajchy (ancient water reservoirs around the town)
- Bardejov (a historic town)
- Levoča, Spiš Castle and associated cultural monuments
- Spiš Castle
- a medieval ecclesiastical town Spišská Kapitula
- frescos in a medieval church in Žehra
- Spišské Podhradie
- Vlkolínec (folk architecture)
- Caves in the Slovak Karst:
- Dobšinská Ice Cave
- Domica Cave
- Gombasek Cave
- Jasovská Cave
- Ochtinská Aragonite Cave
- Primeval beech forests in Poloniny National Park and Vihorlat Mountains (localities: Havešová, Stužica, Rožok and Kyjovský Forest)
- Wooden churches in central and eastern Slovakia (in Hervartov, Tvrdošín, Kežmarok, Leštiny, Hronsek, Bodružal, Ladomírová, Ruská Bystrá)
In 1993, the first three places mentioned in the list were all cultural Banská Štiavnica, Spišský Castle and Vlkolínec. Then in 1995, Jaskyňa Slovenského a Aggtelekského Krasu (Caves of Slovak and Aggtelek Karst) – a Slovak-Hungarian project was the first Slovak natural Heritage Sight. In the year of 2000, the historic heart of the city Bardejov became fifth UNESCO’s sight of Slovakia. Bukovské Vrchy (Bukovec Mountains) and Vihorlatské Vrchy (Vihorlat Mountains) in the eastern part of the mountain Karpaty (Carpathian Mountains) was inscribed in 2007. The last one is a cultural sight and in UNESCO from 2008 – Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of the Carpathian Mountain Area.
Historic Town of Banská Štiavnica (1993)
According to the historical establishment of this city it was a very difficult task to build this city on rocky slopes. Great deposits of gold and silver ore were inspiration for fighting with the rock; the adventure turned into a dangerous mining profession. Ore was mined in the surroundings of Banská Štiavnica for more than thousand years. This treasure of the town was used to support science, education and culture and also to finance wars.
Banská Štiavnica was giving until she had nothing to give and was left poor only with her history and memories. For the citizens, this is one of the reasons of the importance of entering the World Heritage List in December 1993, with its historical centre and the antiquated remnants of the town’s mining industry. Becoming one of the most precious sites in middle Europe started not only a systematic renovation, but also development of economic activities, culture, and education.
Vlkolínec is located in the mountain of Veľká Fatra (Greater Fatra), 718 meters above the sea level, below the peak Sidorovo. Vlkolínec is a town in district Ružomberok, and is permanently inhabited community, currently with 35 residents in 18 houses out of 55 houses.
For the first time, it was mentioned in 1376 as a street of Ružomberok. It is a reservation of folk architecture in the best condition from all reservations in the country. This purely wooden village entered the List of World Natural and Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1993.
Spiš Castle & Surrounding Sights (1993)
200 meters above the surrounding land, located on a dolomite rock, there is one of the most precious cultural monuments – Spišský hrad (Spiš Castle).
Spiš Castle is situated in a region called Spiš, above the town of Spišské podhradie and the village Žehra. It is an evidence of a huge architectural development from the 12th to 18th century and one of the largest castles in Central Europe with its area of 41426 m2.
History of the castle is very rich as well. It was built in the 12th century and soon became a political, administrative, economical and cultural centre of Szepes county. Through its history it had more owners such as Hungarian kings, the Szapolyai family, the Thurzo family, the Csaky family. Since 1945 Spiš Castle is owned by Slovakia.
Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst (1995)
Mountain range Slovenský Kras (Slovak Karst) is a part of the mountain Slovenské Rudohorie in southern Slovakia. Huge karst plains and plateaus create this beautiful piece of nature. It is a protected landscape since 1973 and on 1st of March 2002 it was declared as a Slovak Karst National Park.
There are a few important rivers such as Slaná, Štítnik and Turňa. The highest peak is Jelení vrch with 947 m above the sea level. Region is divided into 7 plains and it has several abysses, but most importantly 712 caves currently identified which make up a temperate-zone karstic system inscribed in UNESCO.
- Opened to public: Ochtinská aragonitová jaskyňa (Ochtinská Aragonite Cave), Gombasecká jaskyňa (Gombasek Cave), Jasovská jaskyňa (Jasovská Cave), Jaskyňa Domica (Domica Cave)
- Closed to public: Krásnohorská jaskyňa (Krásnohorská Cave), Hrušovská jaskyňa (Hrušovská Cave)
Dobšinská Ice Cave (2000, extension to Karst Caves)
Dobšinská ľadová jaskyňa (Dobšinská Ice Cave) is an amazing ice cave in Slovakia, situated close to the mining town of Dobšiná, in the mountains – Slovenský raj (Slovak paradise), and 130 meters above the Hnilec River. Total length of the cave is 1 483 meters (according to a few sources it is 1 232 meters), of which 515 meters are open to public from May to September.
The cave was discovered by a royal mining engineer Eugen Ruffinyi in 1870. Before that, the entrance was known as Studená diera (Cold Hole). Just one year after the discovery it was opened to the public. By installing electricity already in 1887 it became the first electrically lit cave in Europe.
The cave descends from the entrance which is situated in the northern part of the peak Duča. The average temperature is around 0°C. The interior cools off during the winter. Also during the summer the warm air cannot fall down to the cave.
Bardejov Town Conservation Reserve (2000)
Bardejov is a town located in North – Eastern Slovakia, in region of Šariš which has approximately 33,000 inhabitants. Even though the first written mention dates back to the 1240s, its town centre still exhibits amazing medieval monuments. Tour to the square of Bardejov is an amazing adventure, perfect in more ways, such as size, coloring, and consistency. Really precious are St. Egidius Cathedral and Town Hall.
Violation of the town’s border by Prešov was the reason of protest of the monks from Bardejov to King Béla IV. in 1241, what became the first written record about the city. In the same time church of St. Aegidius was built. Bardejov Town Reserve was a medieval town located on a major Central European trade route. The town was very important trading place on the route from Baltic Sea to Black Sea, and also a centre of a trade with Poland. Bardejov became a free royal town. Its golden age ended in the 16th century, when the whole country was destroyed by war and other kind of disasters.
Bukovec & Vihorlat Forests (2007)
The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathian, an outstanding example of undisturbed, complex temperate forests, constitute a transnational serial property of ten separate components along a 185 km axis from the Rakhiv Mountains and the Chornohirskyi Range in Ukraine, west along the Polonynian Ridge, to the Bukovec and Vihorlat Mountains in Slovakia.
They contain an invaluable genetic reservoir of beech and many other species that are associated with, and dependent on these trees. They are also a great example of the recolonization and development of terrestrial ecosystems and communities after the last Ice Age, a process which is still ongoing.
On June 28, 2007 the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Committee on its meeting in New Zealand adopted a decision to include the Ukrainian-Slovak nomination „Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians” to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage.
Beech Virgin Forests of the Carpathians are now equal to the famous Yellowstone Natural Park, the Niagara Falls and over 160 other natural phenomena.
This is a transboundary serial site that contains of 10 separate areas located along the 185 km axis from the Rakhiv Mountains and the Chornohora Mountain range in Ukraine to the Bukovské Vrchy and Vihorlat Mountains in Slovak Republic.
These virgin beech forests represent all stages of beech forests in their entirety, contain the largest remaining primeval beech forests in Europe and the largest and tallest beech specimens in the world.
Primeval beech forests of the Carpathians are the best example of this forrest type and its associated ecological processes that still remains and are a significant parts of the very last renounce Europe’s original nature.
These virgin forrests are the best of the last: Uholka – Shyrokyi Luh (Ukraine), Stuzhytsia (Slovakia/Ukraine), Svydovets (Ukraine), Havešová (Slovakia), Maramarosh (Ukraine), Rožok (Slovakia), Kuziy-Trybushany (Ukraine), Vihorlat (Slovakia), Chornohora (Ukraine).
Ancient virgin beech forests pure, ecologicaly stable and in tact, cover extensive areas of these sites and include the largest virgin beech forrest in Europe – the Uholka – Shyrokyi Luh massif in Ukraine. They are relics of forrests that used to cover 2/5 of temporate Europe whose beauty and degrated habitats and immemorial processes are important part of the continent’s heritage.
They are real paradise for fungi – about 700 species. Almost all species of wood-destructive fungi of Europe are distributed here.
The land is very rich with early spring flowers growing here with high density.
Further species are rather diverse, too. One series of virgin ecosystems help to preserve a number of animal populations which are ecologically associated with damaged trees and dead wood, such as owls.
All the European woodpecker species are found in these Primeval Beech Forests.
Rare pandemic amphibian species are very common here, but these areas serve as a habitat for 73 species of mammals which is the highest number from all comparable World Heritage Sites in Europe.
The virgin forrests embody freedom and the eternal beauty. So, from this point of view, they should represent an exceptional ethic and esthetic value.
Great candlelight tranks of beech trees make up a giant collonade of real temple of nature which reminds us with power, magnificiance and ancient origin.
Primeval beech forests exhibit the visual appeal commonly associated with old-growth forrests that some believe, inspired European Gothic architeture.
Wilderness and non-disturbance of virgin forrests, recognition by total absence of any signs of human activity, presence of a great number of huge standing and lying dead trees covered with carpets of moss and birds of lakons. If these sites sense an inevitable harmony of chaos and hours seeing this beauty with the eyes of ancient philosophers.
Primeval beech forests of the Carpathians have the potential to become a real Mecca for a great number of naturalists from all over the world.
Wooden Churches of the Slovak Carpathian Mountains (2008)
The Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area inscribed on the World Heritage List consist of two Roman Catholic, three Protestant and three Greek Orthodox churches built between the 16th and 18th centuries. The property presents good examples of a rich local tradition of religious architecture, marked by the meeting of Latin and Byzantine cultures. The edifices exhibit some typological variations in their floor plans, interior spaces and external appearance due to their respective religious practices.
They bear testimony to the development of major architectural and artistic trends during the period of construction and to their interpretation and adaptation to a specific geographical and cultural context. Interiors are decorated with paintings on the walls and ceilings and other works of art that enrich the cultural significance of the properties.