The Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site

Outstanding Universal Value

According to the concept of World Heritage, there exist assets of such exceptional significance as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for future generations all over the world. This Outstanding Universal Value has been recognised in the Dolomites due to the beauty of the natural landscapes and the scientific importance of their geological heritage.

A World Heritage Site has such exceptional significance as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. The meaning of Outstanding Universal Value is precisely this and UNESCO has identified common criteria for all States Parties to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

To be recognised as having Outstanding Universal Value, the fundamental requirement for inclusion in the World Heritage List as a cultural, natural or mixed site, a Property must demonstrate that it meets at least one of ten criteria. The Dolomites meet two, both regarding natural heritage:

(vii) to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;

(viii) to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.

The Seville Declaration

The World Heritage Committee meets in a different location each year to assess nominations submitted by the States Parties to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. At the end of the meeting, a document is drafted summarising the Committee’s decisions. In this document, if the Property nominated meets the requirements, it is recognised as being of Outstanding Universal Value and formalisation of its inclusion in the World Heritage List proceeds.

The Outstanding Universal Value of the Dolomites was recognised in 2009, when the World Heritage Committee met in Seville. On this basis, its recognition is commonly referred to as the Seville Declaration.

The nine components of the Dolomites World Heritage Site protect a series of highly distinctive mountain landscapes that are of exceptional natural beauty. Their dramatic vertical and pale coloured peaks in a variety of distinctive sculptural forms is extraordinary in a global context. This property also contains an internationally important combination of earth science values. The quantity and concentration of highly varied limestone formations is extraordinary in a global context, whilst the superbly exposed geology provides an insight into the recovery of marine life in the Triassic period, after the greatest extinction event recorded in the history of life on Earth. The sublime, monumental and colourful landscapes of the Dolomites have also long attracted hosts of travellers and a history of scientific and artistic interpretations of its values.

Seville Declaration

(Final Decisions of the 33rd Session of the World Heritage Committee – Seville, 2009, p. 187)


Visitors to the Dolomites cannot fail to be moved by the enormous variety of forms and colours, the sheer rock faces, richly varied habitats, from the deepest gorges to the highest peaks. All of these elements come together to create the Dolomitic landscape, a brilliant mosaic that has long captured the imaginations of those who live in these valleys and visitors from far and wide.

discover the landscape


Few places on the planet offer the chance to read the last 250 million years of the Earth’s history with the rich detail, precision and continuity of information provided by the Dolomites. Fossilized in the rocks of these mountains, it is possible to recognise the different geological eras that followed one another here, including arid plains, tropical atolls, volcanoes and marine abysses. This has drawn academics and researchers from all around the world to the Dolomites since the dawn of geological science.

discover the geology

Inclusion in the World Heritage List

For inclusion in the World Heritage List, it is not sufficient merely for a Property to be of Outstanding Universal Value. The World Heritage Operational Guidelines also require nominated “properties” to fulfil the requirement of integrity (and authenticity in the case of cultural heritage) and be provided with a system for their protection and management. In fact, the property must be complete, at least in terms of the aspects strictly linked to its Outstanding Universal Value. Finally, prior to nomination, a Property must be subject to appropriate protection and have a management plan that takes into consideration its specific characteristics and vulnerabilities.

Inclusion in the World Heritage List is not permanent. Obtaining this prestigious recognition is only the beginning of a journey, in which all stakeholders, from public entities to citizens, have a responsibility for informed and forward-thinking management of the Property, safeguarding it for future generations. This means acting to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value recognised is maintained over time and therefore that the State Party to the Convention in which the Property is located undertakes to guaranteeing the requirements of integrity and protection are met also after inclusion in the list. Periodically, therefore, the sites on the World Heritage List are assessed by ICOMOS (for cultural sites) or the IUCN (for natural sites), two technical bodies that the World Heritage Committee utilises for technical assessments. If the requirements are not met, the Property may be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger or even permanently removed from the World Heritage List.

Nomination procedure
in Italy

Verification of all of these requirements is a long and complex process with various mandatory steps:

  1. Firstly, the request is submitted for inclusion in the national Tentative List, with a special form for the Italian National Commission for UNESCO (CNIU).
  1. The CNIU forwards the request to the relevant ministries (Ministry of Culture, for cultural sites and Ministry of the Environment, for natural sites), which verify requirements are met for continuation of the procedure. Each year, properties are selected from the national Tentative List to nominate for World Heritage status.
  2. The properties in the national Tentative List are required to prepare a nomination dossier and a management plan, which are drafted by one of the nominating parties in cooperation with the relevant ministries.
  3. The CNIU sends the nomination to the World Heritage Committee, which submits it to ICOMOS or the IUCN for technical assessment.
  4. During its annual meeting, the World Heritage Committee may decide to include the site, request redrafting of the nomination, postpone the decision or reject the nomination.

The nomination procedure in Italy is explained in detail on the website of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO .

Nomination procedure
for the Dolomites

The process for the Dolomites was not simple either. Here is a brief description of the key phases:

  • In 2006, a nomination was submitted, proposing the existence of all four criteria required for a natural site. The site was composed of 22 sections, referred to as Systems, and 27 core areas. This nomination was deferred (with a redrafting request) for a series of reasons: excessive fragmentation of the site, insufficient guarantees of integrity, lack of a management plan, and the absence of Outstanding Universal Value for some of the four criteria.
  • In 2007, a new nomination was prepared, this time only including criteria VII and VIII, in which the site was composed of nine Systems.
  • In 2008, the new dossier was submitted, and inspections were carried out by the IUCN.
  • In 2009, the World Heritage Committee, meeting in Seville, added the Dolomites to the World Heritage List. At the time, the management plan was still lacking: the World Heritage Committee, in a clause included in the documentation for addition of the Dolomites to the List, required a commitment to provide the Property with a management body, the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation, and a management plan.
  • In 2010, the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation was established, the founding members being the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, the Region of Veneto, the Autonomous Provinces of Trento and Bolzano, and the Provinces of Belluno, Pordenone and Udine.
  • In 2015, the #Dolomiti2040 participatory process was launched, and its results formed the basis for the future management plan.
  • In 2016, the Overall Management Strategy was finally prepared and adopted.