Tourist overcrowding threatens conservation of one of Spain's most beautiful villages
Albarracín, a quaint village in Teruel with just over 1,000 inhabitants, renowned for its historical heritage and mountainous setting, stands as one of the most unique medieval villages in Spain. Designated a National Monument in 1961, a member of "The Most Beautiful Villages in Spain," and proposed by UNESCO for World Heritage status, Albarracín is facing increasing concerns over its conservation and integrity.
The picturesque cobblestone streets are witnessing degradation due to the tens of thousands of tourists who explore the village, impacting the centuries-old crenelated wall that once protected the medieval settlement.
The Santa María Foundation, specializing in heritage restoration, has raised the alarm regarding this emerging risk. Antonio Jiménez, the foundation's manager, has warned in statements to La Vanguardia that the presence of a "perpetual pilgrimage of visitors" is causing a "very serious" erosive process, particularly in the northern part of the wall, considered the town's most important monument.
Access to the fortification is open and free, allowing tourists to ascend to the highest points without supervision to enjoy a better panoramic view. "Everyone climbs where they please and without control, including those who climb in an adventurous manner. This erodes the terrain, destroys the vegetation cover, and even exposes the conduits carrying cables to illuminate the wall," Jiménez said.
The foundation's manager notes that the Andador Tower, located at the apex of the wall, is also suffering from wear and tear caused by mass tourism and is currently "very degraded on the exterior. There is a serious danger there," he added.
However, Jiménez emphasizes that the issue is not tourism itself but the "tourist mismanagement" in the area. Among the measures proposed by the Santa María Foundation to alleviate these adverse effects are: delineating pathways, replanting the rest of the slope with native varieties, and channelling visitor flows to avoid congestion and harm to the environment.
He has stated that payment formulas for access are not yet being considered, but limiting access to the Andador Tower or engaging in discussions with tour guides to provide certain guidelines to their clients are on the table.
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