Are you looking for some travel inspiration or a reason for your next adventure? Do you consider yourself a traveller who likes to travel a bit further afield, maybe off the beaten track and you are someone who enjoys visiting places for their geological and fossil heritage? Here is a list of 18 world fossil site destinations to consider adding to your bucket list.
In October 2022 a list of the “First 100 Geological Heritage Sites” was published by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) as part of their 60th anniversary and in cooperation with over 200 experts from 55 countries.
Initially, 181 candidate geological heritage sites from around the globe were considered until a final 100 were selected spanning 56 countries.
Each site was scored according to its international earth science relevance in terms of tectonic activity, stratigraphy, sediments, petrology, minerals, hydrology, paleontology, or geomorphology.
Among the “First 100 Geological Heritage Sites” are 19 fossil sites around the world dedicated to the international importance of the fossil record starting more than 580 million years ago with the emergence of multicellular organisms of the Ediacaran period at Mistaken Point in Newfoundland, Canada and ending during the Pleistocene 60,000 years ago with now extinct fossilised megafauna preserved in the asphalt seeps of Rancho La Brea in California, North America.
So, let us dig a little deeper into those places selected for their fossil record within the first 100 geological heritage sites as selected by the International Union of Geological Sciences.
Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, Canada
Discover the fossils of Mistaken Point's tilted mudstone and sandstone coastline cliffs are deep marine in origin and date back to the Ediacaran Period between 580 - 560 million years ago.
Ediacara Hills of Flinders Ranges South Australia
Explore the Ediacara Hills of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. This location is among the “First 100 Geological Heritage Sites” worldwide designated by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) in 2022.
The Chengjiang Fossil Site in Yunnan Province, China
Fossil Coast’s Geo Travel blog series explores the Chengjiang fossil site of Yunnan Province in China dating back approximately 518 million years ago.
The Burgess Shales of British Columbia Canada
Fossil Coast’s Geo Travel blog series explores the Burgess Shale of Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Canada. The Burgess Shale fossil record provides us with a window into a complex marine environment during the Middle Cambrian Epoch.
The Fezouata Fossils Found On The Edge Of The Sahara
Explore the Fezouata fossils of Jbel Tizagaouine in Morocco. This area forms part of a much larger and internationally important lagerstätte of fossilised soft-bodied marine organisms.
The Giant Trilobite Fossils of Arouca UNESCO Global Geopark Northern Portugal
Explore the giant Trilobite fossils of Canelas in the Arouca UNESCO Global Geopark of northern Portugal.
The Early Tetrapod’s of Poland’s Swietokrzyskie Mountains
Explore the Świętokrzyskie Mountains or Holy Cross Mountains in Poland where the evolutionary fossil record of early terrestrial tetrapods has been rewritten.
The Coal Age Galapagos of Joggins Fossil Cliffs UNESCO World Heritage Site Canada
Explore the Joggins Fossil Cliffs UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in 2008 in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Mozambique’s Tete Fossil Forest is the Largest Discovered in Africa.
The Tete Province Fossil Forest of Mozambique is the most extensive area of Late Permian Conifers, as well as Cycads and Ferns, unearthed in Africa. The Tete Province Fossil Forest or Mágoè Fossil Forest is a 1,482 Km2 area of petrified wood with some trunks reaching upwards of 25 meters in length.
The Lower Jurassic Ammonite Wall of the UNESCO Haute-Provence Global Geopark, France
The Géoparc de Haute-Provence was designated in 2015 by UNESCO and is the largest in France. Among the Geoparks' 18 fossil and geological sites dating back over 300 million years is the Lower Jurassic Ammonite Wall or Dalle à ammonites of Digne-Les-Bains.
The Upper Jurassic Fossil Lagerstatte of Solnhofen-Eichstatt in Bavaria, Germany
The Upper Jurassic fossil Lagerstätte of Solnhofen-Eichstätt of the Altmühltal Nature Park in Bavaria, Germany is the only occurrence of the Tithonian plattenkalk or platy limestone from the Altmühltal Formation worldwide. It is also where the earliest known bird was discovered called the Archaeopteryx (pronounced ark-ee-opt-er-ix) or Urvogel in German meaning “first bird”
The Lower Cretaceous Marine Reptiles of The Ricaurte Alto Province, Colombia
The Lower Cretaceous marine reptile fossil Lagerstätte of Boyacá in the Ricaurte Alto Province of Colombia, South America is regarded as the most complete and globally important fossil record of marine reptiles.
Dinosaur Provincial Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Alberta, Canada
The largest and most spectacular area of badlands in Canada is also the location of Dinosaur Provincial Park in Drumheller, Alberta. This 83 SqKm area is the richest and most diverse Saurischian ("Lizard-Hipped") dinosaur fossil site worldwide for the Late Campanian Age dated between 75.5 - 77.0 million years ago from the Oldman and Dinosaur Park Formations.
Jamaica’s Fossil Rudist Bivalve Assemblages from the Late Cretaceous
The Late Cretaceous rudist bivalve or clam assemblages of Jamaica’s Guinea Corn Formation from the Late Maastrichtian are dated between 72.1 - 66.0 million years ago.
The Messel Pit Fossil Site of the Bergstrasse-Odenwald UNESCO Global Geopark
The Messel Pit ("Grube Messel") of Germany is regarded among the richest fossil exposures providing a snapshot of 48 million years ago during the transition from the Early to Middle Eocene between the Ypresian and Lutetian Ages. The first fossil discovered was a crocodile in 1975.
The Napak Primate Fossils of Uganda
Napak in Northern Uganda is regarded amongst the richest fossil locations for well-preserved hominoid ("ape") primates dating back over 20 million years during the Miocene Epoch.
The Petrified Forest on the Greek Island of Lesvos, Greece
Located in the northern region of the Aegean is the Greek island of Lesvos. Since 1985, an area of 150 Km2 around the small fishing village of Sigri (meaning “safe”) on the western side of Lesvos is the site of the state-protected Lesvos Island UNESCO Global Geopark and Petrified Forest.
La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles, California
Among the most complete asphaltic fossil records stretching back over the last 50,000 years during the Late Pleistocene ice age is the Lagerstätte of the La Brea Tar Pits found in Hancock Park off Wilshire Boulevard in the heart of Los Angeles, California.