Świętokrzyskie Geopark with rock formations dating back 400 million years awarded UNESCO status
A geological landscape park, with rock formations dating back 400 million years, has been awarded a UNESCO Geopark Label following a four year campaign to have its status recognised.
The Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross Mountains) Geopark now joins the Global Geoparks Network of 161 Geoparks from 44 countries, all officially defined as “unified geographical areas [with] sites and landscapes of international geological significance.”
The Holy Cross Mountains Geopark, situated in Poland’s oldest mountain range and one the oldest mountain ranges in Europe, covers an area of 5 municipalities, and includes several inanimate nature reserves which contain quarries, caves, mining pits, hills and rocky outcrops, notable for their rock formations and fossils dating back to the Devonian period between 416-359 million years ago.
One particularly notable geological feature of the park and a popular tourist attraction, is Paradise Cave, a karst limestone cave with five chambers and caverns, formed during the Middle Devonian period around 360 million years ago.
Its interiors are adorned with stalagmite and stalactite formations and notable discoveries have includes traces of neanderthal occupancy dating back 50,000 years, as well as remains of a mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and cave bear.
While not a geological feature of the landscape, an Amphitheatre known as the ‘Rocky Amphitheatre’, constructed in 1971 at the level of one of the former mining pits is also a characteristic feature of the park.
The park, which was officially established as a Geopark in 2003, but was largely part of a protected landscape park since 1996, also includes state of the art facilities for both geology enthusiasts and beginners including the Centre of Geoeducation where visitors can learn about the ‘beauty hidden in a rock’ and have the opportunity to travel back in time in a 5D cinema or visit a virtual cave.
They can also discover the most important Devonian rocks in the region as well as the creatures which lived at the bottom of the Devonian sea, a shallow topical sea that once covered all of Europe, including the greatest predator of the sea – the armoured fish.
Giving his announcement on Friday, Mirosław Hejduk, director of the Centre of Geoeducation, who was involved in efforts to get a UNESCO label for the park since 2017, said: “We went through a several year procedure, we fulfilled all the requirements that were set before us and now we can, with great happiness tell you that we have received this prestigious certificate.
“It will be easier now to market our geological treasures, as everyone has heard of the UNESCO brand. Currently, tourists are more and more keen to look for attractions in the open air.”
The Holy Cross Mountains Geopark is the second Geopark in Poland to receive the UNESCO label, the first being Muskau Bend Landscape Park in Western Poland, which received the distinction in 2011.