Idrija lies in a valley along the tectonic fault where Pre-Alpine and Karst worlds meet. The majority of 12,000 inhabitants live in two towns in the valley, while the surrounding hills are predominantly rural areas. Idrija has a rich mining heritage transcending into present day, and its mine was the second largest mercury mine in the world. According to legend, the mining in Idrija started in 1490 when mercury was discovered by “Škafar”, a local tub maker. The town is one of the few places in the world where mercury occurs in both its elemental liquid state and as the cinnabar ore (mercury sulfide). The world’s second oldest preserved mine entrance known as Anthony's Main Road (Antonijev rov) has been rearranged into a museum and is a starting point for tours to the upper levels, complete with life-sized vignettes of workers over the ages. The lower levels of the mine are situated as deep as 400 meters below the surface and are no longer mined but have been closed and flooded with water. With the refurbishment of Šelštev and Anthony's Main Road, the oldest part of the mine was opened to the public on 22 June 1994. Today it is open for tourist visits and enables the guests to directly experience the mine’s ambience.
Idrija is renowned for its well preserved technical heritage. The Gewerkenegg Castle, which was built as a warehouse for mercury and wheat, also served as the administrative building of the Idrija Mercury Mine and today houses a music school and the Idrija Municipal Museum. The picturesque historic town center displays various Idrija lace shops, coffeehouses and squares, the Town Hall, the monumental building of popular school (today housing Idrija Lacemaking School and Idrija Lace Centre), a restored Miners' House, the Mine's Theatre (the oldest stone-made theatre in Slovenia) and the Mine's Warehouse (Magazin), a former granary and storehouse.
In the present lace-making is the town's most popular and highly-developed craft. It boasts several centuries of tradition and renown, and has played a vital role in shaping the town's identity. Today's high-tech industry is the most important economic activity in Idrija, with public services and tourism also growing in importance. The town is surrounded by unspoiled nature. Outstanding geological heritage and natural values are the main reasons for establishing the Idrija Geopark. Due to the importance of mining which also represents a cultural link to the rest of the world, Idrija is on the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage.
CHERPLAN Pilot Site: Old Town (historic center), Smelting Plant, Kamšt water pump with Rake water channel, Joseph’s Shaft, Ovčjak and Idrijca Klavže water barrier, Putrih and Belca Klavže water barrier on the Belca creek (as defined in nomination dossier for UNESCO WHL “Heritage of Mercury” Almaden, Idrija).
Pilot Activities: Preparation of a unified (Cultural Heritage and Environmental) Management Plan for selected cultural heritage monuments including WEBGIS application. Preparation of WHS documentation for selected cultural heritage monuments within the pilot project area.