10th International Conference on Geomorphology
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Geotourism activities in the aspiring Geopark Valleys of Cantabria

Jaime Bonachea1, Victoria Rivas2, Juan Remondo1, Alberto González-Díaz1, Pablo Cruz-Hernández1, Pablo Valenzuela1, and Javier Hernández3
Jaime Bonachea et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences and Condensed Matter Physics, Universidad de Cantabria
  • 2Department of Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Universidad de Cantabria
  • 3Mancomunidad de Municipios Sostenibles de Cantabria

One of the goals of UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGps) is to contribute to the economic development of the territory by valuing geological heritage and linking it to other natural and cultural resources. Geotourism activities in UGGps are essential to achieve this objective.

Since 2018, within the framework of the European project ATLANTIC GEOPARKS (Interreg Atlantic area programme), the Valleys of Cantabria project is being promoted in order to declare a UGGP in the Cantabria region (Spain). The predominant economic activity in the aspiring territory is the tertiary sector (hotel, catering services and tourism), which is major in coastal areas besides fishing. However, livestock farming still plays a major role in rural and depopulated areas. The declaration of a Geopark would contribute to: (i) setting population and attract visitors to areas at risk to depopulation, and (ii) de-seasonalizing tourism, by offering new geotourism products that may include those linked to the geological, natural and cultural heritage of the region. The aiming goal is to commit to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of UNESCO's Agenda 2030, establishing synergies with other Geoparks, working with the population living in the area to promote geotourism, and using environmental education as a fundamental element that contributes to knowledge and social awareness.

The proposed geopark has a marked geomorphological character. Due to the existence of a great variety of landscapes and geomorphological landforms, the Valleys of Cantabria territory offers the visitor an assortment of resources related to geotourism, suitable for all audiences. The visitor can enjoy different viewpoints for observing glacial, river, karst or coastal landscapes and several routes of geological interest, which are referred to interpretive panels. It is worth mentioning the rich underground heritage within the area, one of the most important karstic landscapes of Europe and a paradise for speleology activities. To promote and value this resource, new itineraries focusing on the most representative karstic elements have been proposed within the candidacy, including visits to subterranean caves or climbing activities adapted to people with disabilities. A database including all geotouristic activities, with qualified staff, carried out on the aspiring geopark has been created and local companies that offer geotourism activities in the area for enjoying the geological, natural and cultural heritage (interpretative routes to walk or by boat, farm visits, speleology, climbing, canoeing, bird watching or cycling, among others.), have been identified.

How to cite: Bonachea, J., Rivas, V., Remondo, J., González-Díaz, A., Cruz-Hernández, P., Valenzuela, P., and Hernández, J.: Geotourism activities in the aspiring Geopark Valleys of Cantabria, 10th International Conference on Geomorphology, Coimbra, Portugal, 12–16 Sep 2022, ICG2022-451, https://doi.org/10.5194/icg2022-451, 2022.