For those of you who may be lucky enough to get to visit the Basque Country sometime, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite places with you.

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The flysch formation on the coast of Zumaia revealing different eras of geological development through time. Photo by Jean Michel Etchecolonea, via Wikimedia Commons

Geoparks are areas that are committed to a strategy for sustainable development based on their natural and cultural values. The Basque Coast Geopark is the first of its kind in the Basque Country and seeks to promote both the natural and cultural environment of the coastal area linking the towns of Zumaia, Deba, and Mutriku, all in Gipuzkoa.

This particular part of the Basque coast offers a world famous example of the flysch formation: a sequence of successive rock strata uncovered as a result of erosion by wave action. These flysch strata thus reveal an entire span of geological development stretching back some 60 million years (from about 110 to 50 million years ago). In short, this is a stunning visual record of the earth’s development. This area is likewise known for its karst landscape – a topography formed by the eroded limestone of an ancient tropical sea. This erosion led to the formation of caves that also bear witness to very early human habitation.

The Basque Coast Geopark is an example of new ways of thinking about tourism and how we can interact with rather than harm nature. If you’re interested in these issues, check out Sustainable Development, Ecological Complexity, and Environmental Values, edited by Ignacio Ayestarán and Miren Onaindia. Here you’ll find a collection of articles that address environmental questions from a Basque perspective including, for example, an evaluation of millennium ecosystems from the Basque Country, the environmental value of the karstic landscape of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, Basque forest systems, and the social values and sustainable practices of Basque inshore fishermen.