The islands of Shetland have been on an incredible geological journey. This land has travelled from near the South Pole, across the equator, to its current spot at the crossroads of the North Atlantic and the North Sea.

Due to the lack of trees and the abundance of stone, Shetland has some of the best-preserved archaeology in Europe.

The geology of the islands influences every part of life – they provide a home for unique biodiversity and they influence human settlements, their activities, and their industries.

Map of Shetland UNESCO Global Geopark

Discover why Geopark Shetland is so special

Where else can you walk on an ancient ocean floor, explore an extinct volcano and stroll across shifting sands all in the space of a day?

Shetland is like a giant geological jigsaw, each part with a different history. Some of these rocks range from 3 billion to just over 300 million years, and their variety has influenced the diverse natural and culture heritage of the islands.

Whether folk are looking for adventure and action or peace and rest – Shetland has it all - in spades.”
Val, Shetland Amenity Trust

Explore the local area

See the place names which reflect the geological features, explore some of the 100 geosites which showcase the landscape, and imagine what the world once was in the museum and gallery exhibits.

There are leaflets, walking trails and other guides to help you know what to see and learn more about Shetland’s geology.

Sustainable Local Businesses

These Green Tourism businesses are assessed on everything from energy efficiency to biodiversity and awarded bronze, silver or gold.

We want Scotland's UNESCO Trail to be an opportunity to explore the country in a sustainable and responsible way.

The global geopark has a number of partner businesses who are committed to respecting the landscape and nature of Shetland, and work to protect, improve and promote the environment. Check out the northern isles journey below to see some of these businesses.

How to get here

Public transport

You can take public transport up north to the Shetland islands – you can travel to Aberdeen by train and by Citylink coach. You can then catch the ferry over to the islands.


The Northlink ferry overnight crossing runs from Aberdeen directly to Lerwick, three times a week taking around 12 hours. The other four weekly crossings see it stop at Kirkwall before Lerwick, which takes around 14 hours.


Planes also fly direct to Sumburgh Airport from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness or Kirkwall with Loganair, with connections from Birmingham, Belfast City, Bristol, Exeter, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Teesside.

Getting around Shetland

Shetland is part of the National Cycling Network and the North Sea Cycle Route passes through the islands. There is an extensive public bus network, an inter-ferry service which takes both foot passengers or vehicles, and inter-island flights take off from Tingwall, 6 miles outside Lerwick.

Find travel information for getting to Shetland

Check the Shetland Travel Information website for travel within the islands

The Northlink ferry on a sunny day sailing into Lerwick
The Northlink ferry

Experience more UNESCO sites

Make the Geopark Shetland part of a longer trip - we can help you plan a trip to all of the UNESCO sites in the area, including Orkney.
Cuween Chambered Cairn made of stones, sits on the top of Cuween Hill as the light fades against the water

UNESCO Sites to Explore in Scotland's Northern Isles

Explore the two UNESCO sites in Scotland's northern isles. Shetland is a recognised Global Geopark, while Orkney is home to the World Heritage Site of Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

View Journey

Learn more about the UNESCO Trail

Geopark Shetland works to conserve the geological heritage of the archipelago, demonstrate its ties to the natural and cultural heritage of its islands, raise awareness and understanding of that history, and promote sustainable development that supports heritage and geotourism.

Read more about Scotland's UNESCO Trail and watch UNESCO: Explained video

Find out more from UNESCO about the Geopark Shetland

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Every UNESCO designation tries to include the UN Sustainable Development Goals in their work.


An urgent call for action from a global partnership of countries.

Recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations comes from strategies to:

  • improve health and education
  • reduce inequality
  • encourage economic growth
  • tackle climate change

Check out all the UN Sustainable Development Goals

A man explores inside the stone house of Mousa Broch
Mousa Broch

Geopark Shetland's Sustainable Development Goals

Here’s how the Geopark Shetland is working towards three of the goals.

Goal 3

Good Health & Wellbeing

By encouraging people to explore the outdoors we are contributing to healthy lifestyles and combating obesity. This is achieved by visiting sites, walking, and events such as Nature Week.

Goal 4

Quality Education

By actively educating the local community and visitors of all ages, the geopark serves as an outdoor classroom and incubator for sustainability, cultural diversity, and peace. Museums such as the Shetland Museum and Archives explore these themes through their learning programmes and exhibitions.T

Goal 11

Sustainable cities & communities

Instilling in the geopark community a sense of pride and regional identity. This is achieved through high-profile events like the excavation of Old Scatness, and small actions, such as introducing residents to new places during Nature Week.

Useful links