The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley is a cultural landscape, a “joint work of man and nature, that forms a coherent unit for its aesthetic, historic or cultural values” (Law 9/2003, on the cultural heritage of Andorra).

The valley preserves many features and structures related to the exploitation, organisation and management of natural resources (forests, pastures, hats, paths, water, etc.) that show the use and evolution of this territory throughout its history. With its great identifying value, the valley has become a living testimony to the history and the lifestyles of a rural mountain country. Extraordinarily beautiful spots are the result of the interaction between man and the environment.

The presentation of the candidacy to UNESCO’s World Heritage List is the exclusive prerogative of states that are part of the World Heritage Convention, signed by Andorra in 1996. The candidacy of the cultural landscape of the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley to the World Heritage List was a joint initiative by the Andorran government, and the Comuns [political, administrative and legal body of the Andorran parishes] of Encamp, Andorra la Vella, Sant Julià de Lòria and Escaldes-Engordany, of the Andorran National Committee for UNESCO (CNAU) and the Andorran National Committee for ICOMOS, with the participation of various agents with interests in the valley, as well as that of groups that use the area.

The idea arose from the Andorran National Committee for ICOMOS and was initially submitted to the Ministry of Culture in 2001, and on 1st of July 2004, the World Heritage Committee, which met at its 28th session in Suzhou, China, approved the addition of the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley to the World Heritage List, in the category of cultural assets (cultural landscape). At present, there are only 88 cultural landscapes throughout the world.

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Its main objective is to contribute to maintaining peace and security in the world through education, science, culture and communication and to promote collaboration between nations, to guarantee universal respect for justice, human rights and fundamental freedom. Acceptance on the World Heritage List establishes the exceptional universal value of a cultural or natural asset so that it can be protected for the benefit of humanity.

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Although most of the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley has been maintained in its natural state, the valley is not an unspoiled territory. Man has used it, travelled it and enjoyed it for centuries, shaping a landscape in which his traces can be found all over.

The main uses of this area have been agrarian activity (agriculture, stock breeding and forestry), the iron and steel industry and hydroelectric uses. As a result of these uses, there are numerous features which, integrated into the unique natural setting, are generators of the cultural landscape of the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley. The plant life has also been modified by all these activities, the prints of which can be seen indirectly in the meadows installed on the forestland, terraces worked into the steep slopes or birch groves that replace the former pine forests.

The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley is currently the setting for new activities linked to leisure time, of which we would particularly highlight hiking, mountaineering, observing and interpreting the natural and cultural heritage, hunting and fishing. The valley is crossed by two long walking paths, the GR7 and the GR11, and there are local paths that interconnect with them and mean that you can reach almost anywhere on foot. Man continues to use this territory adapting to today’s reality, combining new demands with traditional activities, some of which, such as stock breeding (cattle and horses) still have a significant presence and contribute in an essential way to maintaining the landscape.

The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley has a variety of microclimates thanks to its size and differences in altitude, with sunny sides and shady sides of mountains, favouring a great variety of habitats and a wealth of flora, fauna and countryside. The lowest point is at an altitude of 1,056 metres and the highest part at 2,905 metres at the peak of La Portelleta. Both these places are in the parish of Escaldes-Engordany.

The hypsometric gradient between the highest point and the lowest point, 1,850 metres, as well as the differences in the way the slopes face, mean that there is a great variety of soil which favours the large selection of plant life and diversity of microclimates.

There is also a quasi-public sector and a society that use the water resources of the Valley: Forces Elèctriques d’Andorra, responsible for the hydroelectric use of the water of the River Madriu, and the Companyia d’Aigües Potables d’Escaldes-Engordany, which supplies water to the parish of the same name. In both cases, the contribution from the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley is generous and extremely important, if we take into account the fact that the water collected from the River Madriu permits the production of 15% of all the electrical energy generated in the country, and its water guarantees the supply of drinking water to 20% of the national population.