Why a World Heritage Site?

In 1996, Laponia was inscribed on the World Heritage List by the UN body UNESCO. That means the area is important for the whole world to care for and protect. Its selection is based on the combination of unique nature and the cultural values present in Laponia. The area bears traces of the Earth’s early history but also of mankind’s. The landscape has been formed in interaction with a living Sámi tradition where reindeer herding has been pursued for a long time.

When UNESCO decided to include Laponia among the World Heritage Sites, it was because it meets certain criteria, which UNESCO calls ”Outstanding Universal Values”. Here some examples of what is behind Laponia’s designation as a world heritage site:

  • Laponia is the largest and best-preserved example of nomadism, where people have migrated with reindeer between different foraging areas Photo: Carl-Johan Utsi
  • The area has a rich heritage that shows how for a long period the land has been used in a long-term sustainable way. Photo: Carl-Johan Utsi
  • This area is still used for reindeer herding – the traditions live on. Photo: Carl-Johan Utsi
  • The mountains in Sarek and Sulidälbmá teach us how the land formed geographically and why it looks as it does today. Photo: Peter Rosén
  • The large mountain lakes in Badjelánnda are so beautiful. Photo: Carl-Johan Utsi
  • The fantastic valley Ráhpavuobme, where the delta area constantly changes and contrasts with the surrounding high summits. Photo: Laponiatjuottjudus
  • In Laponia there is everything associated with glaciers, for example U-shaped valleys, moraine areas, precipices and gushing glacier rivers.
  • It is possible to see how the ice and frost have affected the area, forming spectacular palsas (or thermokarst mounds) that grow and collapse, and how ice rivers have blasted through rocks and stones. Photo: Laponiatjuottjudus
  • Sjávnja is extremely significant as a wetland area. The area is practically impassable except under winter conditions. Photo: Jan-Erik Nilsson
  • In Laponia there is old-growth forest with trees over 700 years old. The forest grows free and untouched. Photo: Jan-Erik Nilsson
  • In Laponia it can be clearly seen that people have been part of the ecosystem for 7,000 years. Carl-Johan Utsi

Indigenous peoples

The indigenous peoples number approximately 370 million people in 70 countries. In Sápmi, the Sámi home area in Norway, Sweden and Finland and Russia, there are at least 80,000 Sámi.

Indigenous peoples have their origins in those who lived in the area for a long time before other ethnic groups arrived or before present-day national boundaries were drawn up. Indigenous peoples are nearly always in a minority in a country and have their own language, their own culture and customs. Through their special relationship to land and water, they are in need of other rights than other minorities in order to preserve and develop their lifestyle and culture.