UNESCO Geopark of Haute Provence
Welcome to the Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark. Geoparks are territories labelled by UNESCO not only in recognition of their geological heritage, but also their remarkable natural, cultural and intangible heritage. There are 161 of them in the world as of July 2020. The Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark was the first to be created in the year 2000. It offers you a journey through 300 million years of the Earth’s history.
From the Carboniferous tropical forest to oceans populated by strange creatures from the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras, followed by the Quaternary glaciation, the landscapes found in Haute Provence bear testimony to the different periods in the evolution of our geological history.
Of the 67 municipalities in the Alpes de Haute-Provence over which the geopark extends, the diversity is striking. The different types of rocks inherited from the region’s geological past lend characteristic colours to the landscapes of Haute Provence: the robines formed by the erosion of black marl, the clues, or water gaps, formed by the erosion of limestone rocks from the Jurassic period, and the traces of red left behind by gypsum deposits are some such examples.
The geopark also consists of many fossil sites, such as the Ammonite Wall, on which some 1500 ammonite fossils as well as the occasional nautilus and pentacrine (crinoids attached to the sea bottom by a stalk, also called sea lilies) fossils can be found. The 320m2 wall is located at the exit of Digne-les-Bains on the road towards the village Barles. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and so much envied by the Japanese that a reproduction of the wall was created and placed in the city of Kamaishi!
Among the must-sees, the ichthyosaur fossil sites of La Robine and Chanolles are accessible by hiking trails. These marine reptiles, which date back to around 90 and 107 million years ago respectively, are protected by the Haute-Provence Natural Geological Reserve. It is this institution that is responsible for the conservation of fossils. The removal of fossils is prohibited within the perimeter of the reserve.
Beyond its impressive geological heritage, the Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark invites you to discover its history (both natural and human) as well as its traditions. The Provençal language, customs, local products and even contemporary art are part of the geopark’s rich heritage. A land of inspiration, the geopark was chosen by artists like Andy Goldsworthy to create original art installations in connection with nature.
The treasures of the Haute-Provence Geopark are everywhere. Why wait any longer to go in search of them! We recommend that your journey through time begin at the Musée Promenade which combines both contemporary art and geology. Explore the thematic trails available and allow yourself to be initiated into the territory of the geopark!