Ibiza World Heritage
Its cultural and natural riches are the bulwarks that made it possible for Ibiza to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO at its XXIII congress, held in the city of Marrakech in 1999. This was recognition of the fact that Ibiza, thanks to its geographical location on the east-west sea routes, had a strategic role in the Mediterranean and thereby became an important point of reference for successive civilizations throughout the centuries; these generations form part of its history and have all left their mark on the city whose origin dates back to the arrival of the Phoenicians who called it Ibosim in honor of the god Bes.
There are many traces of the different civilizations that have come and gone throughout time. Two especially interesting examples of Phoenician culture remain. One is the archaeological site of the settlement at Sa Caleta, the remains of which are a unique specimen of Phoenician town planning and an early model of the Phoenician enclaves in the Mediterranean. Its origins date back to the 8th century BC when a colony, which was to end up occupying the entire small headland of Sa Caleta, built their first dwellings. Either towards the end of the 7th or at the beginning of the 6th century BC the township was abandoned and its inhabitants moved to the Bay of Ibiza where they settled down for good.
Another example is the archaeological site on Puig des Molins, the largest and best conserved Phoenician necropolis known to exist, with around 3,500 underground chambers, the most common type of Phoenician tomb on the site; pottery, terracotta work, beetle amulets, and ostrich eggs have also been unearthed. All this provides us with a great amount of archaeological information about the dealings their society may have had not only with other similar settlements, but also with different civilizations in the Mediterranean basin. Its site (area 50,000 m2) has been almost perfectly conserved, since it was planted with olive trees after it had fallen into disuse as a cemetery, which makes the site a quite delightful spot.
Different civilizations shaped the city according to the requirements of each era. In the Middle Ages the original walls were built and in the 16th century Philip II caused the Renaissance walls to be erected, making Ibiza the best-defended stronghold in the Mediterranean. The walls were constructed using the most advanced techniques of the time, imitating the most up to date Italian models. The layout was designed by the engineer Giovanni Battista Calvi and later modified and extended by Jacobo Paleazzo Fratin. A Renaissance masterpiece, the fortifications are a benchmark for the study of building techniques used in this type of defences.
The existing area of Dalt Vila, within the Fortified City, occupies the peak of a rocky promontory, and its appearance from both sea and land is the same as in the 16th century. The first Phoenician settlement was founded in the same place and this extraordinary, historical city is famed because the street plans of the original neighborhoods have remained as they were, thus providing a complete visual chronology of different cultures. The beautiful natural surroundings of El Soto are rightly famous, the flora that carpets the slopes providing a home to endemic land species such as lizards and other fauna. The fertile soils of the fields of Ses Feixes are watered with abundant fresh water by a traditional Moorish irrigation system. Nowadays Ses Feixes boasts a great biodiversity of flora and fauna.
The saltpans are without any doubt one of
the natural treasures of Ibiza. Officially named the Ses Salines
d'Ibiza i Formentera Nature Reserve, they are today the most significant
of the wetlands on the island. They hold a unique value as an
ecosystem due to the great variety of plant and animal life that
has been conserved there, thanks to the continued use of traditional
techniques to produce salt. Ecologically speaking, it is a place
of great botanical interest and it is also the part of the Pituisas
with the greatest number of different species of bird present;
up to 200 species have been spotted there. Another feature of
great importance for the ecosystem is the seabed where vast plains
of Neptune Grass, possibly the largest along the Mediterranean
coastline, stretch out over the bottom of the sea, which the seaweed
helps to oxygenate and keep clean.