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What is it?

what is a geopark?

Geoparks in the world

Nowadays, there are a total of 195 geoparks in 48 countries. In Spain there are 16 territories with the UNESCO mark, the most recent being the Cabo Ortegal Geopark, in 2023, followed by the Granada Geopark and the Maestrazgo Geopark, in 2020. In Galicia we have the Montañas do Courel Geopark, the first to obtain the UNESCO brand declaration in our country.

For more information

A UNESCO Global Geopark is a territory that has a geological heritage of international relevance and with a high value of knowledge of the history of the Earth. That is one of its characteristics, but there is more. Geoparks are also management figures that seek to conserve, disseminate and value geological wealth as a basis for the sustainable development of the areas where they are located.

The correct name for a geopark is UNESCO World Geopark, since it is the United Nations the organism that grants the distinction as long as it was requested previously and met all the requirements:

  1. Geographically unified territory, with unique geological references and with certain visual appeal and content for visitors.
  2. Managing entity that carries out a comprehensive strategy that ensures the conservation of resources, research, education, tourism and social and economic development.
  3. Carry out actions to value the geology of the territory, with citizen participation and a bottom-up approach.
  4. Sufficient financial resources to sustain the action plan, with the collaboration of companies and entities in the territory or directly.
At the national level, there is the Spanish Geoparks Forum, a key tool to disseminate and promote the different geoparks in the country, as well as to function as a link to coordinate common initiatives and to participate in the activities of the GGN and the European Network. This forum is also constituted as a stable working group, adhered to the Spanish National Committee of Global Geoparks of Unesco, a collegiate body of a consultative nature composed of presidency, full committee, permanent executive committee and working groups.

Global Geoparks Network, European Geoparks Network and National Geoparks Commission

Being a Geopark. Weaving networks

The Cabo Ortegal Geopark is part of the Global Geoparks Network, and the European Geoparks Network, organizations in charge of guaranteeing and facilitating cooperation between all UGGs. Globally, the GGN is an international non-profit association, officially created in 2014 and subject to French regulation. It was born in 2004, under the umbrella of UNESCO, as an organization for the development of good practice models, establishing quality standards for these territories, working for the preservation and protection of geosites and places of geological relevance, with a strategy for local and sustainable economic development. All official geoparks are part of this organization, both at an operational and organizational level, as representatives of the territories on the Executive Board. Some of the obligations for all the members are: the payment of an annual fee, attendance at general and ordinary assemblies, being part of working groups and specialized committees, participating in organized forums and congresses, promoting exchange activities… Some of the Thematic work groups focus on tourism, education, geological heritage, sustainable development goals, etc.
At the same time, this network promotes the creation of work networks at a regional level, with 4 throughout the world: the Geoparks Network of Latin America and the Caribbean, the Global Geoparks Network of Africa, the Geoparks Network of Asia -Pacific and the European Network (EGN). The last one is currently made up of 98 territories, the most recent additions being Cabo Ortegal and Morne Gullion Strangford of the United Kingdom, in 2023. Like the GGN, the European Network shares the same objectives and internal functioning, being made up of specific complementary working groups, authorized by the board of directors, to implement joint programs and activities between all geoparks, acting as a communication channel between all the members.
At a national level, we have the Spanish Geoparks Forum, a key tool to disseminate and promote the different geoparks that exist in the country, as well as to function as a link when coordinating common initiatives and participating in GGN activities and with the European Network. This forum is also constituted as a stable working group, attached to the Spanish National Committee of UNESCO Global Geoparks, a collegiate consultative body composed of a presidency, plenary commission, permanent executive committee and working groups.

The advantages

The UNESCO World Geopark distinction has as its main advantage the expansion of knowledge of the place in which we live, understanding it as a result of millions of years of constant changes. The geological substrate is the basis of everything: life has grown on it and Humanity has also evolved, adapting to the peculiarities of each area. The landscape inherited from the Earth changes is fundamental to understanding our own social, cultural and economic reality.

All this knowledge associated with geology is valued with the figure of geoparks, mainly through non seasonal tourism, that reveals to visitors places with unique characteristics, but also nature, heritage, gastronomy and tradition. The geopark is, in itself, a tourism brand protected by UNESCO that can and should generate economic and employment opportunities.

Near Galicia we have examples of how a geopark impacts its territory. The Geoparkea of the Basque Coast, which covers the municipalities of Mutriku, Deba and Zumaia, receives about 150,000 visits each year, of which approximately 40,000 are with guides from different companies that have the geopark as one of their main sources of income. Closer to Galicia, in the Arouca Geopark (Portugal), with a population of about 22,000 inhabitants and half the area of the Ortegal area, they estimate an annual economic impact of about 15 million euros.

Other benefits of being a geopark are the reinforcement of territorial identity, the possibility of access to more European helplines – Interreg programs, for example -, belonging to a global network for the exchange of knowledge and experience, the creation of business opportunities and for population fixation, etc.


Being a UNESCO geopark has the same international relevance as a World Heritage declaration. That is the reason why only territories that stand out for their unique geology and the way in which they value it, seeking to also comply with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, achieve this qualification.

However, the UNESCO World Geopark consideration is not permanent, the territories must constantly work to maintain it. In fact, every four years you have to pass a revalidation with international inspections that verify on the ground that the development, conservation, educational, scientific, territorial dynamization, communication, etc. objectives are being met, and that they are getting results. Otherwise, they can require corrective measures or the promotion of new lines of work that allow the strategy to be fulfilled. This is important, as it is easier to lose geopark qualification than to gain it.

Each geopark has its own discourse, differentiated from the others, as part of a large puzzle with pieces spread throughout the world that together help us understand how the Earth was configured over millions of years and how they have evolved in each area. the landscape, societies and their cultures.

In this sense, geoparks are obliged to maintain a constant relationship with each other through specialized forums and events in which experiences and good practices are exchanged, with the aim of strengthening the global network and, more than anything, the knowledge of the chapters of Earth’s history that are written in every part of the world. This relationship is maintained at three levels: in the Spanish Geoparks Forum, in the European Geoparks Network and in the Global Geoparks Network.

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