Spain oozes Unesco sites but those we normally think of are the likes of The Mezquita in Cordoba or The Alhambra Palace in Granada. Geoparks are the geographical equivalents and there are fifteen Unesco geographical sites in Spain.
What is a Geopark?
A Geopark is an area with clearly defined boundaries which contains geological heritage of international importance and relevance.
They are recognized as UNESCO Global Geoparks in the International Program for Geosciences and Geoparks. Geological heritage refers to places of geological interest from a scientific, educational, aesthetic and / or rarity point of view, and can include land, sea or underground areas. They are windows into the history of the Earth that show us the processes and events that occurred in history, the animals and plants that populated our planet, the relationship between geological elements and biodiversity and the use and exploitation of geological resources, rocks and minerals, throughout history.
A Geopark is not by a protection figure, although in some cases it may coincide or encompass protected natural areas but sites must be protected by applicable local, regional or national legislation. Geoparks assume the obligation to defend the geological elements that favor their uniqueness, opposing their destruction and commercialization.
Where are Spain´s Geoparks?
Across the Spain´s mainland and islands stunning scenery formed by each areas individual location and long history give us these treasures today. Incredibly diverse, rich swathes of nature now protected for generations to come. These are the fifteen Geoparks presently in Spain.
Maestrago, Teruel, Aragon
A large part of this geopark contains dinosaur fossils with thousands of bones and footprints and has four natural monuments within its borders. Find out more about Maestrago.
Cabo de Gata -Nijar, Almeria, Andalucia
This coastal geopark has spectacular geology and is two distinct areas – Sierra de Cabo de Gata of volcanic and metamorphic origin, and its sedimentary deposits, represented by fossil coral reefs and the deposits of the Bay of Almeria. Find out more about Cabo de Gata – Nijar.
Sobrarbe-Pirineos, Huesca, Aragon
In the heart of the Pyrenees mountains and including the highest peaks but also the most accessible mountain ranges. A Stunning landscape where natural and cultural heritage, it is also a Biosphere Reserve. Find out more about Sobrarbe-Pirineos.
Sierras Subbéticas, Cordoba, Andalucia
Once below sea level ammonite fossils abound in this craggy landscape. Caves, chasms and sculptured rock formations formed by both the sea and later wind and rain created these craggy mountains. Find out more about the Sierra Subbéticas.
Costa Vasca, Deba, Basque Country
The 13 kilometre of coastline features beaches and small coves nestled among high cliffs, in which flysch, a rocky formation that looks uncannily like the pages of a book can be found. Find out more about Costa Vasca.
Sierra Norte de Sevilla, Seville, Andalucia
Gentle hills, mountains and valleys ranging from 100 meters to almost 1,000 meters above sea level. The main features are meadows and wooded pastures. The predominantly holm oaks and cork oaks create a valuable ecosystem resulting from the work of man on these ancient Mediterranean forests. Find out more about Sierra Norte.
Villuercas-Ibores-Jara, Caceres, Extremadura
A peculiar layout of mountains and parallel valleys which has been recognized as an exponent of Apalachian-type relief. This has produced landscapes and forests of great beauty and ruggedness. Find out more about Villuercas-Ibores-Jara.
Cataluna Central, Barcelona, Catalunya
It has unique elements that have been internationally acclaimed: a unique ancient marine basin with large salt deposits, the ancient deltas of Sant Llorenç del Munt and Montserrat and spectacular karst elements in several Caves. Find out more about Cataluña Central.
Molino Alto – Tajo, Castilla – La Mancha
A land crossed by networks of stunning canyons and gorges with a multitude of ecosystems and examples of how their inhabitants have made use of natural resources sustainably.
Visit the Celtiberian forts to learn how the pre-Roman inhabitants lived with nature. Find out more about Molino Alto – Tajo.
Isla del El Hierro, Canary Islands
El Hierro is the second smallest (of the larger islands) and the most westerly of the Canary Islands. It is no more than 30 km long. The UNESCO Global Geopark covers the whole of the Island of El Hierro (278 km2) and includes a marine area around the whole Island (about 312 km2), forming a total area of 595 km². Find out more about El Hierro.
Lanzarote & Archipielago Chinijo, Canary Islands
This Geopark covers a total of 2,500 km2 and the island of Lanzarote is part of it, as well as the islets that make up the five Chinijo Islands. A large part of it is underwater, providing even more geodiversity to the Geopark. Find out more about Lanzarote & Archipielago Chinijo.
Las Loras, Castilla y Leon
Las Loras resemble enormous natural fortresses, more than 1000 metres high, which define the extent of the Castilian Plain and lead us into a territory of valleys, deep canyons eroded by rivers, rock labyrinths, beech and oak forests which has been occupied since Palaeolithic times. One of the most diverse environments in Northern Spain. Find out more about Las Loras.
Origens is located in the southern slopes of the Pyrenees in the northeast of Spain, 200km from Barcelona.
It is diverse and breathtaking to follow in the footsteps of the last dinosaurs that lived in Europe through fossil remains such as bones, eggs and footprints or hike through spectacular gorges, such as Mont-rebei or Collegats. Find out more about Origens.
Montañas Do Courel
The Courel Mountains witnessed the arrival of the Romans 2,000 years ago, their legacy includes 66 Roman forts, 99 gold mines and more than 5 km of water channels. Add to that twenty-four viewpoints, five museums and interpretation centres and 189 km of trails where pure nature reigns. Find out more about Montañas do Courel.
Granada Geopark, Andalucia
This area represents one of the landscapes least altered by human action within the European continent. Its arid character with a scarce vegetation cover is very close to the Mediterranean sea
An imposing landscape, full of badlands, which also houses many other values not only geological and geomorphological, but also prehistoric, historical, cultural and biodiversity as well as some of Europe´s oldest skeletal remains. Find out more about Granada Geopark.
See where to stay in Granada Geopark in my post Disconnect in an Eco, Self-sufficient Podtel in Gorafe, Granada´s Desert