The Camino de Santiago is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO

The Camino de Santiago is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). This means that it has considered the Camino de Santiago to be of cultural and natural importance; and that it deserves to be preserved for future generations of humanity.

The Camino de Santiago is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO

However, not all routes of the Camino de Santiago are included as UNESCO World Heritage sites. La Via de la Plata or the Camino Ingles, for example, have not yet been catalogued as such.

The Camino de Santiago from Sarria is the most popular section and is an excellent option to capture the essence of the pilgrimage and meet more people who are living this experience. If you want to plan your trip, tell us more about your dates and leave the organization in our hands, we are experts!

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    In this article we want to tell you how the Camino de Santiago was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and which routes are included in this denomination. Likewise, we would like to talk to you about which individual elements are included in the list, as well as the Camino de Santiago’s other recognitions.

    Santiago de Compostela

    After reclaiming the Camino de Santiago routes at the end of the 20th century, international recognition of historical, cultural and heritage value soon arrived. The first element of pilgrim tradition that was recognized by UNESCO as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity was the city of Santiago de Compostela itself.

    The pilgrimage goal

    In 1985, the Galician capital was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. To grant this classification, they considered the important role it had played as the destination of the most important pilgrimage movement of the Middle Ages.

    “The proposed heritage site is associated with one of the most important moments in medieval history. From the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea thousands of pilgrims, bearers of the scallop and their particular clothing, have walked for centuries to the Galician shrine, following the Caminos de Santiago, the true routes of faith.”

    UNESCO Criterion IV

    Its architectural richness

    The history of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela with its more than 1,000 years, also played a key role in that cataloguing. According to criterion I of the declaration of Santiago de Compostela as a World Heritage Site:

    “Around the Cathedral, which is a world-renowned masterpiece of Romanesque art, Santiago de Compostela retains a valuable historic centre worthy of one of the greatest holy cities of Christianity.”

    UNESCO Criterion I

    The latter was added to by the urban richness of the city and its wide network of monuments, many of which are the fruit of the pilgrim culture that was generated with the Camino de Santiago, during the Middle Ages. And that, therefore, they are a reflection of a cultural and religious movement, unprecedented in European history.

    Cradle of influence

    In addition, the weight that Santiago de Compostela had had as a sanctuary within the influence of artistic and architectural influences throughout the Iberian Peninsula was taken into consideration. According to Criterion II of the Unesco declaration:

    “During the Romanesque and Baroque periods, the shrine of Santiago exerted a decisive influence on the development of art and architecture, not only in Galicia, but also in the north of the Iberian Peninsula.”

    UNESCO Criterion II

    Other distinctions

    Before UNESCO granted the cataloguing of a World Heritage Site to the Camino de Santiago, it was declared a site of Cultural Interest in Spain. In 1987, the Camino de Santiago became the first European Cultural Itinerary.

    In May 1993, the Camino de Santiago was recognized as part of European Cultural Heritage. This recognition was granted from Brussels and all the countries of the European Union were part of it.

    Declaration of the Camino de Santiago Frances as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO

    Finally in 1993, after the first Holy Year had finished, UNESCO declared the Camino de Santiago Frances, a World Heritage Site. The inclusion of the Camino Frances in the World Heritage list was decided in Colombia, in the city of Cartagena.

    In 1993, UNESCO declared the Camino de Santiago Frances a World Heritage Site.

    This cataloguing included the complete layout that linked the Pyrenees with the heart of Galicia. This was a change in UNESCO World Heritage cataloguing, because until that time, only cities and monumental sites received this title.

    In 1998, UNESCO extended the Declaration of World Heritage to all the routes from France. In this way, routes such as the Camino de Santiago de Le Puy, Camino de Limoges, Camino de Tours and the Camino de Toulouse became part of the UNESCO list.

    The French routes were the first to have the cataloguing of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because they were the most commonly used routes during the Middle Ages, as we told you in the history of the Camino de Santiago. This route was also one of the first to be recovered, in the 20th century, and thanks to the work done by Elías Valiña, who began to implement the first symbols on the Camino de Santiago.


    In July 2015, the 39th Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee met in Germany. It decided to extend the recognition granted to the Camino de Santiago.

    According to UNESCO, the extension of the cataloguing of World Heritage Site to other routes of the Camino de Santiago, beyond the routes that came from France, was carried out in the face of the need to explain and preserve the origins of pilgrim tradition. We must not forget that the Camino Primitivo was, as its name suggests, the first pilgrimage route.

    The Caminos del Norte to Santiago

    In this way, the list also included the so-called Caminos del Norte in the Spanish Peninsula. This extension awarded the Distinction of World Heritage by UNESCO to four new routes: the Camino del Norte, the Camino Primitivo, the Interior Camino Vasco and the Camino Lebaniego.

    Other elements

    In addition to the previous northern paths, 16 individual elements were included in the World Heritage list that played a key role within the area of Compostela pilgrimage. These are:

    • San Salvador Cathedral (Oviedo)
    • Lugo Cathedral
    • Cathedral of Santiago the Apostle (Bilbao)
    • The Cathedral Basilica of the Virgin of the Assumption (Mondoñedo)
    • The Cathedral of Santa Maria (Vitoria)
    • Church of Santa Maria de la Asunción (Castro Urdiales)
    • The Church of San Salvador (Priesca)
    • Church of Santa Maria (Soto de Luiña)
    • San Salvador Monastery (Cornellana)
    • Monastery of Santa Maria (Cenarruza-Puebla de Bolívar)
    • Collegiate Church of Santa Juliana (Santillana del Mar)
    • Monastery of Santa Maria (Sobrado)
    • Monastery of Santo Toribio (Liébana)
    • Roman Wall of Lugo
    • San Adrián Tunnel (Guipúzcoa)
    • Briñas Bridge (La Rioja)

    We hope you found this article interesting. Everything expressed in it only highlights the enormous importance of the Camino de Santiago at an international level, in terms of both cultural and historical and natural heritage.

    In 2015, it was decided to extend the recognition granted to the Camino de Santiago to more routes such as the Camino del Norte.

    If you want to have the experience of doing the Camino de Santiago, a route listed by UNESCO as of International Interest, please do not hesitate to contact us. In Santiago Ways, we are lovers of the Camino de Santiago and we will be happy to help you organize your trip.

    To contact our team, you can call us, leave us a comment in any post on our blog about the Camino de Santiago or write us on our Facebook page. Our team will contact you as soon as possible. We’re waiting for you!

    Buen Camino!