With the recent incorporation of the Maestrazgo and Granada, there are now 15 territories with a unique geological heritage recognised by UNESCO in our country. It is the second country in the world with the most geoparks, only behind China

 

Spain has two new UNESCO World Geoparks: the Maestrazgo Geopark in Teruel and the Granada Geopark. Both have joined the UNESCO Global Network of Geoparks, after the decision was announced by the UNESCO Executive Board at its 209th session.

Spain now has 15 UNESCO World Geoparks, making it the second country in the world with the most officially recognised geoparks. It is only surpassed by China, with 41, and followed by Japan (9), Italy (9) and the United Kingdom (8). In total, with the latest additions approved by UNESCO in early July 2020, the total number of geoparks is 161 in 44 countries.

Geoparks are territories that contain both a unique and singular geological heritage, with clearly defined boundaries and sufficient size to generate their own economic development strategy. They are based on their geological peculiarities, but their objectives go beyond that, seeking to explore, develop and promote the relationships between their geological, cultural, natural and intangible heritage in the area. And they do so through projects to promote education in geological and environmental aspects, encourage geotourism, reflect the cultural identity of the area and encourage communication between the different geoparks. UNESCO’s work with Geoparks began in 2001; in 2004 the Global Network of Geoparks was formed; and in 2015 all 195 Member States ratified the creation of the UNESCO Global Geoparks label.

 

Spanish geoparks and their main characteristics

 

Maestrazgo

 

Photo: Turismo de Aragón

 

Reincorporated this month to the list, it is configured around the Guadalope River and its tributaries, and covers a total of 43 municipalities in six regions of Teruel. It has an important geological, archaeological and cultural heritage, among which are samples of Mediterranean Arch Cave Art from the Iberian Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as examples of Levantine Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

 

Geopark of Granada

 

Photo: geoparquedegranada.com/

 

Located in the eastern part of Andalusia, it extends over an area of more than 4,700 km2 that covers 47 municipalities in four regions, including the territory traditionally known as the depressions or “hoyas” of Guadix and Baza. Its geology has conditioned the life and culture of its inhabitants since prehistoric times; in fact, these territories are home to some of the most ancient vestiges and traditions in Europe.

 

Basque Coast

 

Photo: geoparkea.eus

 

Nestled between the Bay of Biscay and the Basque mountains, it stands out for the beauty of its green pastures and forests that run from the coast line to the interior. Its geological heritage is the sum of some 60 million years of our planet’s history, including global crises and catastrophes, such as the five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth (including that of the dinosaurs).

 

Cape Gata-Níjar

 

Photo: geoparques.eu

 

It is located in the province of Almeria and faces the Mediterranean Sea, between the European and African tectonic plates. In the municipalities of Carboneras and Níjar, it is one of the few sub-desert areas in Europe and has received recognition and denominations from the Ramsar Convention, the Biosphere Reserve, the Natura 2000 Network and the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism.

 

Central Catalonia

 

Photo: geoparc.cat

 

In the heart of Catalonia, this area has many places with geological and mining heritage, as well as an important human presence, which has given it a strong personality. Its origins date back 36 million years, when a sea evaporated with the rise of the Pyrenees, leaving spectacular rock formations and natural resources. Today it has unique elements such as the mountains of Montserrat and Sant Llorenç del Munt.

 

Origens Geopark (Conca de Tremp-Montsec)

 

Photo: geoparques.eu

 

In the province of Lleida, in the southern part of the Pyrenees, its landscapes offer a geological record of the last 550 million years through fossils, bones, eggs and footprints of the last dinosaurs that lived in Europe before their extinction. It also preserves a rich mining, archaeological and cultural heritage; even its sky is recognised as Starlight, for its suitability for astronomical observations.

 

Courel Mountains

 

Photo: turismo.gal

 

Located in Galicia, they are home to quiet forests and communities living in villages of medieval origin. The mountain range of the Iberian Massif is characterised by high peaks and deep river valleys, bordering the Atlantic to the north and west. It is characterised by its abundant vegetation of oaks, beeches, yews, alders and chestnut trees, as well as having one of the greatest diversities of flora and fauna in the Peninsula.

 

El Hierro

 

Photo: elhierrogeoparque.es

 

The geopark covers the whole island, about 30km long and about 278 km2, as well as its marine area around the island. With more than 500 open craters and another 300 covered by more recent lava flows, it is the Canary Island with the highest density of volcanoes. Its highly unstable relief and consequent landslides have generated a morphology that has megastructures in the form of an arc.

 

Lanzarote and the Chinijo archipielago

 

Photo: geoparquelanzarote.org

 

The geopark covers the whole island of Lanzarote, the islets of La Graciosa, Montaña Calara, Roque del Este, Roque del Oeste and Alegranza, known as “isla Chinijo”, as well as the abrasion platform that surrounds them. Close to Africa, Lanzarote (known as the “island of volcanoes”) has some rare volcanic structures that make it a real outdoor museum.

 

Las Loras

 

Photo: geoparquelasloras.es

 

In the north of Palencia and Burgos (Castilla y León), its location between the Castilian plateau and the Cantabrian mountain range offers a wide variety of environments and biodiversity, with both Euro-Siberian and Mediterranean areas, limestone cliffs and the alternation of high altitude moors with gorges and deep valleys. It is also the area with the highest concentration of Romanesque style buildings in Europe.

 

Molina and Alto Tajo

 

Photo: geoparquemolina.es

 

Located in the Iberian Mountain Range, between the basins of the rivers Ebro, to the north, and the Tagus, to the south, it has an area of more than 4,100 km2 and only 10,300 inhabitants, making it a demographic desert where man and nature coexist harmoniously. Monasteries, castles, salt mines, churches, forts, bridges, aqueducts and archaeological remains add a cultural note to this unique environment.

 

Sierra Norte of Seville

 

Photo: andalucia.org

 

In the western region of Sierra Morena, in the province of Seville, its geological heritage is mainly composed of marine sediments, and it has at least 32 sites of geological interest. With an extension of some 177,500 hectares distributed among 10 municipalities, it is also one of the most extensive Natural Parks in Andalusia.

 

Sierras Subbéticas

 

Photo: geoparques.eu

 

In the central part of the Cordillera Bética (in the south of the province of Córdoba), in the heart of Andalusia, it has Mediterranean ecosystems with flora that has been isolated for thousands of years at the highest areas. As far as its cultural heritage is concerned, its gastronomy, the white mountain villages and the architecture of Priego de Córdoba, the capital of Andalusian Baroque, are note worthy.

 

Sobrarbe-Pyrenees

 

Photo: turismodearagon.com

 

It covers the region of Sobrarbe, in the province of Huesca (Aragon), in a very diverse geographical area: from very low points to others that reach 3,375 metres high. Its climate ranges from warm Mediterranean temperatures to cold mountain extremes, as well as having the most important limestone massif in Europe, Monte Perdido. It has an enormous ecological (Natural Reserves, original flora and fauna) and cultural heritage.

 

Villuercas Ibores Jara

 

Photo: geoparquevilluercas.es

 

To the southeast of the province of Cáceres (Extremadura), its main attraction is its orography of parallel mountains and valleys, which host a high biodiversity and geodiversity over 580 million years old. This area, which has a mining past, is also home to look-out points, castles and cliffs, as well as Guadalupe, the spiritual heart of Extremadura.

 

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