What is a GeoPark?

A geopark is a designated area that allows its visitors to experience geological history firsthand. The purpose of these parks is to convey how landscapes are formed, what types of raw materials and rocks are found underground and how geology affects the respective land use. In addition, these parks are intended to bring the local inhabitants closer to their geological heritage and to enable them to identify with their region.  


In conjunction with the joint federal/states committee for soil research (BLA-GEO), the GeoUnion established its own panel of experts. The GeoUnion Alfred-Wegner Foundation awards the title National Geopark and evaluates the applicants based on its own catalog of criteria.

The European Geopark Network awards its own label, according to a catalog of criteria and an on-site visitation by international experts. The prerequisite is prior certification as a National Geopark.

Today, the national geopark initiatives are supported and coordinated by UNESCO through a global network, the Global Geopark Network. The parks benefit from their affiliation with a global network of cooperation and exchange. Under the aegis of Dr. Lutz Möller, the German UNESCO commission is heavily involved in this network.


In particular, these parks advocate the sustainable use of natural resources while at the same time preserving the respect for the environment and the integrity of the landscape.


Currently (as of September 2014) there exist 111 geoparks in 32 countries worldwide, with 15 located in Germany.


In this year, the Global Geopark Network was established in order to promote sustainable tourism.


Since 2002, the UNESCO offers countries support in such efforts. In the same year, due to the growing interest in geoparks, the BLA-GEO – a commission of the Conference of Economics Ministers – and the GeoUnion decided to introduce the national seal of quality “National Geopark” in Germany.


This year saw the establishment of the European Geopark Network, which links and supports its members across all of Europe. Six German parks are members of the European network.

A number of SENCKENBERG scientists are also involved in geoparks, including activities in the following parks:

The geopark GrenzWelten (BorderWorlds) covers an area of 3,700 square kilometers in the borderland between northern Hesse and Northrhine-Westphalia. Due to its location in the transition zone between the Rhenish Slate Mountains to the west and the Hessian Basin to the east, the park combines a wide variety of rock strata from different geological eras.

  • extraordinary professor Dr. Dieter Uhl supports the geopark as an informal consultant and by giving lectures

Eder meander near Dodenau. Photo: M. Müllenhoff

The geopark Bergstaße-Odenwald extends across an area of 3,500 square kilometers between the Rhine, the Main, the Bergstraße, the Odenwald mountains and the Necker. The landscape is characterized by more than 500 million years of geological history and a multi-facetted natural environment. In addition, the geopark works in cooperation with other partners, including the UNESCO World Heritage sites Messel Pit and the Felsenmeer (“Sea of Cliffs”) in the Lauter Valley.

  • SENCKENBERG was commissioned with the operation of the Messel Pit by the State of Hesse. The scientists excavate fossils and research their findings, etc.

Felsenmeer (“Sea of Cliffs”) in the Lauter Valley

The geopark Westerwald-Lahn-Taunus encompasses an area of 3,800 square kilometers and is located entirely within the Rhenish Slate Mountains. In addition, it includes vast parts of the Westerwald and Taunus mountains, as well as the interjacent Lahn Valley.

  • Dr. Peter Königshof is active on the geopark’s scientific advisory board

Basalt park Bad Marienberg

The geopark Harz. Braunschweiger Land. Ostfalen covers an area 100 kilometers wide from east to west (the width of the Harz Mountains) and 120 kilometers long from south to north. The landscape is characterized by the natural transition from the Geest depression in the Aller plain across the Eastphalian Hill Country to the Harz Mountains.

  • Dr. Volker Wilde works as the chair of the geopark’s advisory board
  • Among other projects, Dr. Eberhard Schindler was involved in preparing a geological site of global interest (the so-called Kellerwasser (cellar water) type locality) in the Harz Mountains.

Quartz sand pit near Uhry

Overview map 

 This map shows all geoparks and geopark initiatives that have already been certified as a National Geopark or whose certification is currently pending.




Links to all 15 Geoparks:

© all image rights remain with GeoUnion
(click on the map for an enlarged view)

European Geoparks GeoUnion Global GeoParks Unesco