UNESCO Global Geopark Bergstraße Odenwald

Experience Earth’s history, nature and culture

True to the slogan "Between granite and sandstone—continents in motion", the UNESCO Global Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald offers a charming landscape through which over 500 million years of Earth's eventful history come alive and become tangible. In addition to the Sea of Rocks in the Lautertal valley and the Kühkopf-Knoblochsaue European reserve, special attractions include the Buchen-Eberstadt stalactite cave, and the Messel Pit and Lorsch Monastery UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visitors have access to an extensive infrastructure as well as guided tours by the Geopark rangers and Geopark on-site guides.

The UNESCO Global Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald extends over three German states (Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria), lying between the Messel Pit UNESCO World Heritage Site near Darmstadt to the north, the Rhine Valley in the west via the Odenwald hills to the Main valley in the east, and Heidelberg and the Neckar Valley in the south.

To the west of the area lies the flat Upper Rhine Plain. The towering Crystalline Odenwald offers a sharp contrast to this. It was formed from abyssal rocks of the Palaeozoic period, which developed around 340 million years ago when two major continents collided. In the process, melts of rock were formed underground, which rose into the earth's crust. Evidence of these dramatic geological events can still be seen today, for example, at the famous Sea of Rocks in Lautertal. As a landscape, however, the Crystalline Odenwald is a gently undulating open area. To the east, it morphs into a plateau with large forests and distinctive valleys. The plateaus and valleys consist of sand, silt and claystones formed in the midst of a river- and lakescape in the interior of the giant continent Pangaea during the Earth's middle ages, about 250 million years ago. The southeast, on the other hand, is marked by the transition to building land - a landscape formed by shell limestone tract characterized by typical karst features (caves and sinkholes).

The Bergstraße-Odenwald Nature Park has been a national geopark since 2003. In 2004, it became one of the first 25 regions worldwide to join the "Global Geopark Network (GGN)" as a Global and European Geopark. In 2015, it was accepted into the "International Geoscience & Geoparks Programme" of the UNESCO, in conjunction with the distinction "UNESCO Global Geopark". Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites are located also in the Geopark, the Messel Pit and the Lorsch Monastery.

Sustainable development efforts

In cooperation with municipalities, tourism agencies and local businesses, the UNESCO Global Geopark acts as a platform for the development of sustainable tourism, for the preservation of regional identity, for the development of authentically local products and the implementation of infrastructure projects.

Nine administrative districts and over 100 municipalities are encompassed by the UNESCO Global Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald, including the university cities of Darmstadt and Heidelberg. The unique natural heritage and rich cultural heritage of the UNESCO Geopark are reflected in the broad array of visitor attractions.

A network of over 20 information facilites as well as numerous resting points, shelters and marked hiking trails are available to visitors. In addition, a large number of geo-experience trails highlight special features of the landscape and natural environment. Those wanting to explore the region under expert guidance can take advantage of many environmental education offerings and guided tours led by the 45 geopark rangers and nearly 200 on-site guides.

International partnerships

The UNESCO Global Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald has been in a long-term cooperation with the Chinese Geoparks Lushan and Hong Kong, since 2007 and 2010 respectively. The partnerships have enabled mutual visits, training for rangers and cooperation in geopark management and science, and thereby encouraged knowledge sharing and joint learning.

The UNESCO Global Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald has taken part in a German-Brazilian symposium series in Baden-Württemberg and Brazil. In October 2017, for example, the Geopark participated in the Symposium on Sustainable Development in Porto Alegre, where the focus was on innovative approaches to solving current social challenges, such as those in the areas of energy, water and soil.

Other UNESCO Geoparks are regularly involved in events conducted in the Bergstraße-Odenwald Geopark. The Portuguese UNESCO Geopark Naturtejo, for instance, partook in the Peony Project of the City of Lorsch and the World Heritage Site Lorsch monastery in June 2017. In addition to numerous offers and activities built around the peony, the two Geoparks swapped local peony varieties. 



Year of UNESCO designation: 2015

Provinces: Hesse, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg

Area: approx. 3,780 km²

Website: https://geo-naturpark.net


Model Region for Sustainable Development - Bergstraße Odenwald UNESCO Global Geopark and the 2030 Agenda .
Deutsche UNESCO-Kommission, 2021