UNESCO Global Geopark Swabian Alb

Knowing Rocks

The Swabian Alb has borne witness to many fascinating and unique chapters in the history of the Earth. Its geological, paleontological and archaeological heritage is internationally significant, and earned the Swabian Alb a UNESCO Global Geopark designation in 2015. It is truly a superlative Geopark offering a journey through 200 million years of the Earth's history.

At 6,200 square kilometers the UNESCO Global Geopark in southwest Germany covers the entire Swabian Alb and is one of the largest geoparks in Europe. The karst mountains of the Swabian Alb were formed over millions of years. Today, it provides a unique picture of the Jurassic period (201 to 145 to 201 million years ago). The stratigraphy of the Jurassic was developed here and sites in the "Jurassic Park" such as the Aalenian or Pliensbachian have entered scientific terminology. The Swabian Alb boasts 2,800 caves, 12 show caves and one visitor mine—the most in any central European region.

In the Geopark, visitors can marvel at turquoise karst springs, unique waterfalls and delicate tufa terraces. Once, the Alb was covered by a warm tropical sea lined with reefs and islands. It was home to countless species of sponge, coral, sea lily, ammonite, belemnite, fish, shark-like rays, marine crocodiles and even ichthyosaurs. The fossil sites and fossil discoveries in the Alb from the Jurassic Sea, such as the "sea angels" from the Nusplingen Plattenkalk, the ichthyosaurs from Holzmaden, and the ammonites featured in the Geopark logo are famous the world over.

The Geopark Swabian Alb is a treasure trove of early cultural artefacts. It was here that archaeologists found the earliest figurines and musical instruments ever unearthed—a sensational discovery of global significance. 40,000 years ago, southern Germany remained firmly in the grip of the Ice Age. The conditions in the Swabian Alb were extremely challenging for modern humans (Homo sapiens), with the numerous caves in the region serving as a welcome refuge for these ancient hunters. Yet, despite the inhospitable conditions, the people living here were seemingly the first to enjoy enough leisure time to devote to carving works of art from mammoth ivory and bone – such as the "Venus of Hohle Fels" and the "Lion Man".

Geological raw materials (like Jurassic cherts and bean ore) were used intensively by humans very early on, which also contributed to the early settlement of the Swabian Alb. Evidence of iron smelting dates back to the Celts. The Heuneburg is the oldest city north of the Alps, and the Heidengraben was the largest Celtic settlement in Europe.

Another exciting chapter in the Geopark’s history is a spectacular meteorite strike that formed the Steinheim Basin in the Tertiary period. The well-preserved crater rim and central cone are truly unique and of international significance. The region of the Swabian Alb was also home to volcanoes in the Miocene 15 to 12 million years ago. Hundreds of volcanic vents, craters, maars, and thermal and mineral springs can still be found in the mesmerising landscape today.

In 2006, a panel of experts selected the 77 most important geoscientific and scenic points in Germany, called the "National Geosites. Eight of these are located in the Swabian Alb UNESCO Global Geopark: the Upper Danube Valley, the Lone Valley, the Mössingen landslide, the Ofterdingen ammonite pavement, the Höwenegg volcanic crater, the Blautopf with Blaubeurer Alb, the Randecker Maar and the primeval finds in Holzmaden. In addition, the Swabian Alb has been recognised in all three UNESCO categories. The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Swabian Alb is situated in the heart of the Geopark. The three UNESCO World Heritage Sites "Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura, a section of the "Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes" near Aalen and an archaeological site of the "Prehistoric Pile Dwellings" in Blaustein are located within the Geopark territory.

Grounding sustainability

The Swabian Alb UNESCO Global Geopark manages a network of 28 information centres, including show caves, museums, nature conservation centers and educational institutions. The network of partners also comprises numerous nature, cave and landscape guides. In cooperation with universities, districts and municipalities, and partners from business and tourism sectors the Geopark develops projects in the fields of geotourism, heritage protection and education for sustainable development. The comprehensive visitor guidance concept for the region includes geosites designated as geopoints, raising awareness among inhabitants and tourists and celebrating geological heritage.

The Geopark Schools Project addresses children and youth from the region as future global leaders. Schools in the area can become partners of the Geopark by fulfilling certain criteria and implementing the messages and goals of the Geopark. Targeted activities and programmes with a geological focus help students to realize and internalize the importance of sustainable behavior and values. In this way, the Swabian Alb UNESCO Global Geopark makes a valuable contribution to the 2030 Agenda and makes it possible to understand how geology shapes the present and the future.

There has also been an exchange with the Finnish UNESCO Global Geopark Rokua since 2013, especially regarding geopark schools. A partnership with the Hungarian UNESCO Global Geopark Bacony-Balaton is being pursued.

Illustration Geoparks


  • Year of Designation: 2015
  • Provinces: Baden-Württemberg
  • Area: around 6, 200 km²
  • Website: www.geopark-alb.de


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