A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance. The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 states parties which are elected by their General Assembly.
The World Heritage List includes 962 properties (2012 updated) where Portugal has 14 classified sites:
- Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores
- Convent of Christ in Tomar
- Monastery of Batalha
- Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon
- Historic Centre of Évora
- Monastery of Alcobaça
- Cultural Landscape of Sintra
- Historic Centre of Oporto
- Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde
- Laurisilva of Madeira
- Alto Douro Wine Region
- Historic Centre of Guimarães
- Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture
- Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications
The last one, included in 2012, is Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications.
The site, extensively fortified from the 17th to 19th centuries, represents the largest bulwarked dry-ditch system in the world. Within its walls, the town contains barracks and other military buildings as well as churches and monasteries. While Elvas contains remains dating back to the 10th century ad, its fortification began when Portugal regained independence in 1640. The fortifications designed by Dutch Jesuit padre Cosmander represent the best surviving example of the Dutch school of fortifications anywhere. The site also contains the Amoreira aqueduct, built to enable the stronghold to withstand lengthy sieges.