Geoparks Of Central Europe

Germany's Vulkaneifel Geopark is popular to geoscientists.
Germany's Vulkaneifel Geopark is popular to geoscientists.

A geopark is a region with a unique geological heritage and an economically sustainable development strategy that benefits the locals. Geoparks use the geological heritage to promote awareness of numerous issues affecting society. The majority of them promote the awareness of geological hazards like earthquakes and prepare mitigation strategies in case of such an occurrence. The Global Geoparks Network is an organization that UNESCO established in 2004 seeking to conserve and promote global geological heritage.

Central European Countries With The Most Geoparks

1. Germany

Germany has six out of the 16 geoparks in Central Europe, and this includes Muskau Arch Geopark which stretches from western Poland to Dresden and Cottbus in Germany. Muskau lies on a triangle created by Zielona Gora, Dresden and Berlin. UNESCO designated Muskau Arch Geopark as part of its network in 2004. It is the most scenic moraines in Central Europe, and its unique horseshoe shape was created 340,000 years ago during the oldest of the three Ice Ages in Europe when the Muskauer glacier advanced from the ice which occupied over half of the continent at that time. The park has over 80,000 inhabitants in the three districts which have over 19 municipalities and towns.

Bad Urach town in the Swabian Alps Geopark, Germany. Image credit: T. Schneider/Shutterstock

Swabian Albs Geopark has the highest number of caves in Germany. Geopark Swabian Albs is in Baden-Wurttemberg which is 25 miles from Stuttgart. It is the middle part of the Jurassic chain of islands right between Franconian Jura and Franconian Swiss. The park is a Karst-foothill with the highest density of caves which includes forty accessible caves and twelve visitors’ caves. The Karst landscape has numerous geo-sites including springs, fossil reefs and sinkholes among others.

2. Austria

Carinthia, the Carnic Alps Geopark, Austria. Image credit: kateafter/Shutterstock

Austria is a highly mountainous state located in the Alps. In fact, parts of the Southern Limestone Alps, the Northern Limestone Alps, and Central Limestone Alps are in this nation. Austria has four of the 16 Geoparks in central Europe, including the Carnic Alps. The Carnic Alps Geopark is in the southern part of the country, right near the Austria-Italy border. The geopark includes the Gailtal Alps and the Carnic Alps. The Carnic Alps is one of the few areas on earth which preserves a continuous sequence of Ordovician to Permian age. It occupies about 340 square miles on each side of Gail Valley. The Ore of Alps Geopark is 3.1 miles south of Salzburg, and it occupies an area of about 81 sq miles.

3. Slovenia

Slovenia has two out of the 16 geoparks in central Europe which includes Idrija Geopark. Idrija Geopark is in the western part of Slovenia in Idrija municipality. Idrija has the second biggest mercury mine on earth, and the area where the geopark is located has a diversified morphology that features narrow and deep gorges and valleys. It occupies an area of about 114 square miles. UNESCO recognized Idrija as well as the world's largest mercury mine in Almaden, Spain, as part of global heritage due to their high mercury production going back centuries.

Other Geoparks in Central Europe

Central Europe has 16 geoparks, and a majority of them are in Germany. The Czech Republic has only one geopark known as Bohemian Paradise about 87 miles northeast of Prague. Bakony-Balaton Global Geopark is in the middle of the Hungarian Transdanubia, where it is surrounded by some young folded mountainous ranges. Novohrad-Nograd Geopark is the first global transnational geopark which is on the Slovakia-Hungary border. Novohrad-Nograd Geopark occupies an area of about 613 square miles and is in the Pannonian Basin.

Geoparks of Central Europe

1Nature and Geopark Styrian EisenwurzenAustria
2Carnic Alps GeoparkAustria
3Ore of the Alps Global GeoparkAustria
4Papuk GeoparkCroatia
5Bohemian Paradise GeoparkCzech Republic
6Geopark Bergstrasse - OdenwaldGermany
7Geopark Harz Braunschweiger Land OstfalenGermany
8Geopark Swabian AlbsGermany
9Nature park Terra VitaGermany
10Vulkaneifel GeoparkGermany
11Muskau Arch GeoparkGermany/Poland
12Bakony-Balaton Global GeoparkHungary
13Novohrad-Nograd GeoparkHungary/Slovakia
14Hateg Country Dinosaur GeoparkRomania
15Idrija GeoparkSlovenia
16Karavanke/Karawanken GeoparkSlovenia/Austria

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