A team of Cuban experts are preparing an application for the “living landscape” Viñales Valley in the western part of the island to become a UNESCO recognized Global Geopark, a title which would recognize the region as one of global geological significance and enhance tourism to the region.
The Global Geopark title is conferred by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and designates areas where a the regions geological heritage is integrated into its local development and economy. There are currently 120 geoparks in 33 different countries.
Viñales Valley would be Cuba’s first Geopark, as well as the first in the Caribbean region.
UNESCO defines a Geopark as “a geographical area where geological heritage sites are part of a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. The Geopark should take into account the whole geographical setting of the region, and shall not solely include sites of geological significance.”
Viñales Valley is known for its geological diversity and vibrant local economy based on ecotourism and agriculture. Its numerous caves contain highly preserved paleontological sites and cave art, and its famous round-top mountains are filled with ammonite fossils.
It’s most famous for the Saint Thomas cave, an enormous cavern visited by thousands of tourists each year.
Viñales is considered to contain some of the most well preserved evidence of a prehistoric metorite impact that some scientists believe may have contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs.
The base of the valley is notable for its tobacco production, where the crop is still grown by traditional methods that have remained largely unchanged for centuries.
“Viñales Valley is a “living landscape” with a high degree of authenticity in terms of location and setting, forms and designs, materials and substances, uses and functions, traditions and techniques, and spirit and feeling. It has been able to preserve its specific character, while adapting to modern conditions of life and receiving flows of visitors,” UNESCO says of the site on its website.