UNESCO Global Geopark sites tell about the birth of our planet and the story of how cultures formed in natural sites all over the world. UNESCO Global Geopark status has been granted to 147 (as of 2019) unique geological tourism sites all over the world. The unique aspect refers to the fact that each Geopark contains internationally valuable rock or soil structures and formations.
The Rokua UNESCO Global Geopark is currently Finland's only site in the Geopark programme. The Rokua Geopark example has inspired other regions in Finland to apply for status as a UNESCOn Global Geopark. The Saimaa and Lauhanvuori–Hämeenkangas Geopark projects submitted their applications in 2017 and 2018. The Salpausselkä and Lappajärvi projects may submit their own applications at a later time.
Rokua UNESCO Global Geopark
Rokua Geopark is located in North Ostrobothnia within the municipalities of Muhos, Utajärvi and Vaala. It is Finland's first and, for the time being, only site in the UNESCO International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP). Rokua Geopark tells the story of the previous Ice Age: How the shifting ice shaped nature and how people followed the melting ice and retreating coastline, leaving an indelible mark on the environment.
Rokua Geopark is a very diverse as a whole, comprised of three different landscape areas: Rokua Eskers and Dune Area, Oulujoki River Valley and Lake Oulujärvi. The natural formations, flora and fauna of Rokua Geopark as well as the culture of the region spring from ancient geological events and the long history of the region. The bedrock in the region is 2.7 billion years old. Traces of the Ice Age, which dominated the landscape only 10,000 years ago, can be clearly seen in the formations on the surface of the bedrock. On top of this are deposits that tell the story of, among others, agriculture, tar production and salmon fishery as well as architecture. The Rokua National Park and Oulujärvi Hiking Area are also located in the area.
Hikers voted for Rokua Geopark and Rokua National Park as the Hiking Destination of the Year in 2018.
Read more about Rokua National Park and Oulujärvi Hiking Area.
Located in the region of South Karelia and South Savo, Saimaa Geopark has submitted its application for Geopark status to UNESCO. Saimaa Geopark showcases the region's unique geological value, increases local citizens' knowledge of their home region and develops the local economy through sustainable development and responsible tourism. Saimaa Geopark submitted its application to UNESCO in 2017.
There are several Metsähallitus sites within the Saimaa Geopark area. These area Neitvuori (Mikkeli), Kärnäkoski Fortress (Savitaipale) and Pisamalahti Hill Fort (Sulkava).
Lauhanvuori–Hämeenkangas Geopark is a nature tourism area comprised of 10 municipalities within the regions of South Ostrobothnia, North Satakunta and Northwest Pirkanmaa. The region's geosites applying for UNESCO Geopark status are primarily located in the Lauhanvuori and Kauhaneva–Pohjankangas National Parks, Haapakeidas wetland conservation area and Hämeenkangas exercise and multi-purpose area. Alkkianvuori in the Parkano-Karvia area, Kaidatvedet in Parkano, Käskyvuori in Kihniö, Aitoneva, Susiluola in Karijoki and Iso-Kakkori are also key geo and nature sites within the Geopark area.
In the geological story of Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark, an ancient mountain chain is formed and then destroyed, thus creating the mires we see today. The tale of this transforming landscape is written in the area’s bedrock and soil deposits. The oldest rocks in the area were born deep inside the mountains 1,900 million years ago. The youngest rocks were formed by sand deposits on the shore of a tropical sea approximately 600 million years ago.
The thick continental ice sheets of the Ice Age were gentle on these areas, preserving many of the old deposits. Indeed, the region is important to the research of geological development in Northern Europe. While the area was almost completely covered by water after the Ice Age, the land started rising rapidly. The events related to land uplift, including a shifting shoreline and wetland development, helped to shape the soil. The range of mire types is particularly diverse in this area.
Lauhanvuori–Hämeenkangas Geopark submitted its application to UNESCO in November 2018 and the decision will be made in the spring of 2020.
Read more about Lauhanvuori and Kauhaneva-pohjankangas National Parks.
Kvarken Archipelago World Heritage Site
Finland also has many other valuable and interesting geological nature sites. The most valuable of these is the Kvarken Archipelago, which is Finland's only World Natural Heritage site on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Read more about the Kvarken Archipelago.