Do We Need UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

By Abi King | Spain

Jun 07

Highlights of Unesco World Heritage Sites, Menorca. Do we benefit more from ancient sites that stand as is, than those that try to explain? There is life here. Just quiet life. Slow moving life. The kind that curls up at the break of day yet grows roots that last hundreds of years. - via @insidetravellab

The Stories the Stones Tell in Menorca

No, not the Rolling Stones.

The still stones.

The ones that, by all accounts, should be gathering moss as they stand and wait in one place (and since we’re delving into history today, did you know that the whole “rolling stone” phrase didn’t start with Bob Dylan but dates way back to a Syrian slave in Italy called Pubilius Syrus. Ah, the party trivia I bring to you!)

But back to Menorca and the big news surrounding their stones.

This particular small Balearic island stands poised to grab UNESCO World Heritage Status for its many Talayotic archaeological sites (yes, I had to look the word up too.)

Built as creamy-crumbling tombs, walls and walkways, Menorca has a staggering 1574 of these prehistoric places.

I managed to hot foot it to two: Naveta des Tudons and Poblado Torre d’en Galmes.Naveta d'es Tudons UNESCO World Heritage Site Candidate in Menorca from @insidetravellab

Poblado Torre d'en Galmes Talayotic Settlement-UNESCO-Menorca

It was one of those days where spring stood on the brink of summer. When the grass swayed, bees buzzed and the sun tried a few warm up routines rather than switching on full blaze.

I strolled around these beautiful areas.

But I found it hard to bring them alive.

Recent trips to Stonehenge at dawn or the Ggantija Temples in Malta have come with interactive information centres: pictures, diagrams, and a snowglobe or two to help transmit the sense of occasion.

But joking apart, they’ve helped to span the centuries, to imagine these stones, these grasses alive with the chatter and chaos and piety and absurdity that describes the human experience.

Perhaps the info famine will change when the UNESCO award arrives.

Then again, perhaps it shouldn’t? Perhaps there’s a benefit to being left alone?

At Poblado Torre d’en Galmes, I leave my guide on the high slope and pick my way around the rocky earth below. Beneath arches. Into tombs.

Sandy stones at UNESCO World Heritage Site candidate in Menorca via @insidetravellab

The only sound of life is the thump and slight scratch of my boots on the ground. The artificial snap my camera makes as I line up photo after photo.

It’s disorientating. Which is real? The stories from thousands of years ago as told by these rocks? Or my temporary presence here, gone before I’ve arrived, no hint of me remaining?

Neither? Both

Do we benefit more from ancient sites that stand as is, than those that try to explain?

Whatever the answer, the longer I walk in and around these sites, I realise how much I was wrong.

There is life here. Just quiet life. Slow moving life. The kind that curls up at the break of day yet grows roots that last hundreds of years.

Flowers in Menorca UNESCO Site via @insidetravellab


As spring tips into the summer, these cream and pallid stones form a backdrop for golden grass speckled with colour. Scarlet poppies, giant fennel, wild garlic and violets peek out from behind the olive trees and the distinctive Aleppo pine.

Nature, as always, lays claim to the past, the present and the future, no matter what man has in store. Whether we’re talking about lowly travel writers with their boots and their notes or the mighty UNESCO World Heritage Site decisions.

Nature always has her way.

Beautiful purple flowers in Menorca from @insidetravellab

Grass at Menorca UNESCO world heritage site from @insidetravellab

White flowers in Menorca from @insidetravellab

What do you think? Should we keep ancient monuments “pure” or is it better to add information and infrastructure?



I travelled to Menorca as part of a project between iAmbassador and Visit Menorca. As ever, as always, I’m free to write what I like – and that includes mulling over the lyrics of Bob Dylan.

*Now it’s even easier than ever to to get to Menorca with EasyJet’s new London Southend to Mahon Menorca route


About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • Sarah Lee says:

    I think it entirely depends on the ancient site. Generally we live in a knowledge-based world and are used to having answers at our fingertips (thanks smartphones and Google), so it’s normal to want to know why something exists and how it was used. But is it necessary? Will the site not create its own story in our minds like it has for generations? It’s great to have all the answers to things but is it essential? Not always.

    • Abi King says:

      That’s a REALLY good point, Sarah. I think I HAVE become so accustomed to having information at my fingertips through google and my iPhone that it did really feel strange to be without that for a change. So perhaps for no better reason than making me slow down, maybe it’s good that I can’t find out much until afterwards…and just see and experience what is for a while. Got me thinking now…

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