In Spain there are geological wonders shaped over millions of years that explain the history of the planet while inviting tourists and explorers to discover a territory in a particular way, taking care of the environment and connecting with its people and places. Territories with this particularity, that of being able to explain the history through their geology, culture and history have been delimited through the figure of geoparks, enclaves that present unique geological forms, of special scientific importance, uniqueness or beauty. Do we have geoparks in Aragon?
There are 88 geoparks in the world and 26 of them are located in European countries. In Spain there are 15, making it the country with the highest number of declarations after China. In our land, Aragon, we find two of these territories delimited by the UNESCO figure: Maestrazgo (Teruel) and Sobrarbe-Pyrenees (Huesca).
In fact, Aragon was a pioneer in the regulation, through the figure of the Cultural Parks of Aragon, which served as the germ of the geoparks. This figure of protection has been, since 1997, a national and international reference in the management of cultural heritage. Geoparks are a structuring element, as well as a driving force for rural, cultural, environmental and educational development policies.
This geopark is the only one located in the Pyrenees. With a total of 2,202 square kilometers, it occupies the entire Sobrarbe region. It has three UNESCO crowns and more than a hundred geosites such as the last glaciers in Spain, endless caves, canyons, ravines, mountain folds and the last great virgin river in the Pyrenees.
Besides being a Geopark, Sobrarbe has three World Heritage Sites, two Intangible Heritage Sites and a Biosphere Reserve. In order to learn about its marine past, the evolution of the rivers and the territory, there are more than a thousand kilometers of marked trails along which 30 georoutes explain the details of the landscape, as well as 13 interpreted itineraries for mountain biking, another itinerary for cars, a geomining circuit and a via ferrata with geological interpretation to enjoy and understand the landscape.
Sobrarbe is also a perfect example of Pyrenean culture, so in this Geopark you can admire popular architecture, megalithic monuments, cave paintings, Romanesque churches, medieval castles in breathtaking locations, and learn about customs such as dances, pilgrimages, ancestral carnivals or the descent of boats down the Cinca River, held on the third Sunday in May. In an attempt to vindicate its traditions and promote tourism, Sobrarbe is a land full of musical festivals of different kinds.
Among the attractions to visit in the Aragon Geopark, the Ordesa and Monteperdido National Park (Cola de Caballo, Añisclo Canyon), the Ibón Basa de la Mora or Ibón de Plan (with its legend, included) or the Vero River Cultural Park with the Vero River Canyon, La Larri Valley, the Peña Montañesa, the Cinca Waterfall and the descent of the river by boat are not to be missed. The villages of Ainsa, Boltaña or Torla are incredible redoubts to know the popular architecture of the Pyrenees.
To discover the geopark and plan your visit, click here. You can also download the Sobrarbe-Pyrenees Geopark map.
With a few more kilometers than the Sobrarbe-Pyrenees geopark (2,622 square kilometers), the Maestrazgo geopark is formed by 43 municipalities and only 14,000 inhabitants. The absence of overcrowding and the growing depopulation make this geopark a perfect place for disconnection and the discovery of unique spaces that have been shaped by the passage of time.
The Maestrazgo geopark has an important geological, archaeological and cultural heritage. As a remarkable fact, and that differentiates it from other geoparks, it contains mostly deposits with dinosaur fossils. It is therefore a historical scenario of great value where thousands of bones and footprints have been discovered and have served to describe and learn about new species, including the first dinosaur defined in Spain. Dinópolis, in spite of having its headquarters outside the geopark, has two satellite centers: one in Castellote and another in Galve; as well as an associated center in Mas de las Matas (Casa Feliu).
Besides being the scene of dinosaurs, it is also a great geological scenery. The place to learn about the geological history of this land is in the Geological Park of Aliaga whose magnificent geological formations and structures, modeled in spectacular reliefs, are considered by scientists as almost unique examples in the world.
Throughout the geopark there are nine routes, areas that encourage active and sustainable tourism. Among the most popular tourist activities in this geopark are hiking, road cycling or mountain biking, caving, canyoning, water trekking, climbing, horseback riding and bungee jumping…..
Some of the archaeological sites are part of the Cave Art of the Mediterranean Arc of the Iberian Peninsula, a World Heritage Site (UNESCO). Up to 11 of its municipalities have their urban ensembles declared as Assets of Cultural Interest, being also Cantavieja, Mirambel and Puertomingalvo highlighted as the most beautiful villages in Spain.
The Maestrazgo Geopark has four Natural Monuments in its Cultural Park (located within the Geopark): Puente de Fonseca, Grutas de Cristal de Molinos, Nacimiento del río Pitarque and Órganos de Montoro. In this other post we talked about trekking routes in Aragón, and we already highlighted the trekking route of the Source of the Pitarque River.
Geoparks are also a place to learn about the traditions that have accompanied (and continue to accompany) these places. For example, the Tamboradas de la Ruta del Tambor y el Bombo and the Dry Stone construction technique are included in the Representative List of Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
The fauna also has a prominent place in the Maestrazgo Geopark. It has Special Conservation Areas and Special Protection Areas for birds, such as the area around the Guadalope-Maestrazgo river.
Knowing the geoparks in Aragon
Since last February 10 and until March 27, 2022, the traveling exhibition on the Global Geoparks of Aragon can be enjoyed at the Museum of Natural Sciences of Zaragoza (Odón de Buen Hall, Paraninfo). It is a free exhibition that informs the general public about the Global Geoparks declared by UNESCO in Aragon, as well as about the concept of geoparks, the geological, environmental and cultural peculiarities of the two Aragonese geoparks, or the projects related to science, education and sustainable development that are carried out in these protected areas. The exhibition is itinerant, first presented in Huesca, now in Zaragoza and will continue traveling throughout Aragon to finish in Logroño and Guadalajara in 2022.