Category Archives: Natural Parks in Andalucia

Cabo de Gata-Níjar

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Almeria
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1987
  • Park surface area: 49.000 (34,000 terrestrial and 15,000 marine)
  • In 1997 it was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Points of interest

Cabo de Gata-Níjar is an arid part of the Iberian Peninsular that is molded from volcanic rock giving rise to a demanding habitat for both plants and animals. Domed rock formations adorn the beaches and abrupt cliffs form tiny coves. The deficiencies in the soil have created an area of low growing, drought resistant vegetation.

This combination has lead to limited numbers of inhabitants who could survive off the salt works or fishing, allowing the area to remain relatively untouched to developement untill the tourism boom of the 80’s and 90’s.

The 300 hectares of salt pans are used by numerous species of birds resting on their migrational route as well the breeding and resident species.


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Flora

Dwarf fan palm is well adapted to the harsh demands. Wild olive trees, lentisc and kermes oaks are common vegetation in the scrub zones.

A pink flowered snap dragon (antirrhinum charidemi) is endemic to the park and dianthus (dianthus charidemi) can only found in a few localized area.
Some of the highly specialized plants are;

Verbascum charidemi, Teucrium charidemi, Androcymbium europaeum, Helianthemum alypoides, Linaria nigricans, Sideritis osteoxylla, Ulex canescens.

Saltwort, common reeds and glasswort grow in sandy, saline areas.

Fauna

Grey and purple heron, cranes, storks, black-winged stilts, oystercatchers and avocets can all be observed at the salinas (salt flats separated from the sea by a sand bar), as well as thousands of flamingos.

There are many migratory transitions here as ducks over winter and spring and autumn brings thousands of birds resting during migration.

Sea birds include yellow-legged gulls, razorbills, shags, terns, cory’s and balearic shearwaters.

The rare Dupont’s lark (Chersophilus duponti) lives on the steppe where there are also little bustards.

Italian wall lizards (Podarcis sicula) are the most unusual of the 15 or so reptiles. Others include ocellated lizards (Timon lepidus / Lacerta lepida), grass snakes (Natrix natrix) and Lataste’s viper (Vipera latasti).

The marine reserve protects the Mediterranean moray (Muraena helena), garfish (Belone belone), cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), and flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans) as well as a multitude of crustaceans, molluscs and fish.

Also in the area

You can visit a cave called Cueva Ambrosio and the fort on top of the hill named Cerro de las Canteras.
You can visit a cave called Cueva Ambrosio and the fort on top of the hill named Cerro de las Canteras.

Information/Visitors Centers

Los Amoladeras, between Retamar and San Miguel de Cabo de Gata on the AL822 at Km 7. (Approaching on the Murcia bound carriageway of the N-344 from Almería, turn off at the El Alquián exit and continue as far as the Retamar quarter. From there take the AL-3115 towards the village of Pujaire. The entrance to the visitor centre is at Km. 7, just after the intersection with La Rambla de Las Amoladeras)

The exhibition at the Las Amoladeras visitor centre looks at the existence of human settlements in the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Nature Park and the surrounding areas since the Neolithic period. The different civilizations which subsequently colonized the area throughout history left their mark on the terrain, and this is reflected in the tour of the centre, which takes in traditional activities and crafts inherited from Arab culture, such as esparto, jarapa rugs and pottery.


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Sierra de Maria-Los Velez

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Almeria
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1987
  • Park surface area: 22,670 hectares
  • Z.E.P.A

Points of interest

A part of the Cordillera Bética mountain range which holds forests in an otherwise arid part of Almeria. The Sierra de Maria-Los Velez creates a haven for wildlife and a special biosphere for plants. The Sierras hold close to half of the plant species listed within Almeria. The main high point, the Sierra Maria, has northern facing slopes which are cooler and more humid, so the vegetation is dense. In contrast, the drier south facing high points are home to only a few plants that can withstand the poor soil and extremes of temperatures. Aptly named the hedgehog zone, these are generally low growing thorny, flowering cushions.

Traditional lifestyles continue in the area such as keeping sheep and goats, cutting timber, logs and collecting resin and almonds along with a new introduction, distilling essential oils from aromatic plants.


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There are two UNESCO World heritage sites

Cueva de los Letreros, close to the town of Vélez Rubio, is a cave containing prehistoric red and brown sketches of human figures, animals, birds and astrological signs which date back to 400 BC. It is from one of these drawings that the symbol for the province of Almeria has been taken, “Indalo” is a figure holding up an arch dating from Neolithic times.

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Sierra Mágina

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Jaén
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 19,961 hectares

Points of interest

There are three peaks over 2000m within the Sierra Mágina park. The highest is Mágina which stands at 2,165m and dominates the limestone terrain. This area is part of the Cordillera Subbetica range and along with other mountains in the area has a selection of highly specialized plants that are endemic to the park.

The exposed rocky peaks, vertical cliffs, shaded woodland, river banks and extensive Olive and Almond groves each offer a different habitat.

The “Pinar de Cánavas” is a natural monument south of the village of Jimena. It is a small woodland of exceptionally large, centennial Aleppo pines (Pinus halepensis).

The sierra Magina contains many limestone caves, several of which are open to visitors. Neolithic cave paintings and Paleolithic tools date back to the 4th and 3rd century BC. (Ask about them in your hotel or one of the information centres.)

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Sierra de Castril

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Granada
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 12,696 hectares
  • ZEPA in 2002

Points of interest

The Sierra de Castril, a limestone massif, is part of the Sierra Bética mountain range. Altitudes vary between 855 and 2138m with spectacular scenery holding caves and cliffs shaped by water erosion. The main river, Castril, flows from the north to south of the park added to which there are many natural springs, streams and waterfalls.

The western boundary of the park meets with the neighbouring natural park of Sierra de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas in Jaen province.

There are two outstanding cave formations, both in the Sierra Seca area of the park. The Cueva de Don Fernando is Granada’s largest cave and the second biggest in Andalucia. This 2.5km long cave drops to an amazing 241m below sea level. The Cueva del Muerto has spectacular stalactites and stalagmite formations. (Visit the information centre in Castril to fiond out more. See below)

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Sierra de Andujar

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Jaén
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 73.976 hectares

Points of interest

The Sierra de Andujar natural park lays in the central part of the Sierra Morena and is a semi-mountainous area with peaks ranging between 500 to 1290m, the highest peak being Burcio del Pino.

The densely wooded areas maintain their natural Mediterranean vegetation. The northern edge borders with Ciudad Real, a province of Castilla la Mancha. To the west is the Cardeña y Montoro natural park, the two parks only being separated by the river Yeguas. There are two reservoirs in the eastern side of the park, Embalse del Jándula and Embalse El Encinarejo.

There are also two game hunting reserves that connect with the parks borders.

The park holds four threatened species, Pardel lynx, Wolf, Imperial eagle and Black vulture.

Flora

Holm (Quercus ilex) Gall (Q. faginea) and Cork oaks (Q. suber) with a natural thicket of Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo), Lentisc (Pistacia lentiscus), Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Wild olives (Olea europaea subsp. oleaster), Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), Thyme, Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Calamint (Calamintha nepeta) form the native undisturbed Mediterranean tapestry. The Sierra Quintana has an excellent area of Atlantic oak woodland (Quercus atlantica).

Willows, Poplars, Oleanders and Alder trees are part of the selection seen on the rivers banks. Stone pines (Pinus pinea) also form important woodlands here and edible pine kernels are still harvested in this area.

There are several unusual plants in the park to note, such as Frangula alnus subsp. baetica, Digitalis purpurea subsp. heywoodii, Coincya longirostra and Jasione crispa subsp. Mariana.


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Fauna

This is one of the few remaining habitats where the endangered Pardel lynx and Wolf can roam.

Iberian lynx
If you are very lucky you may even see an Iberian lynx In the Sierra de Andujar.

If you are really interested in seeing Iberian lynx then get in touch with Mick Richardson for Granada Wildlife.

Important species for game hunting in the area are the Wild boar, Mouflon, Red, Fallow and Roe deer. Mongoose, Remember that hunting is strictly controlled in this area and is a part of the conservation strategy for thenatural park

Wild cat and Fox are amongst the nocturnal mammals with elusive Otters on the river banks.

At the high rocky crags to the north of the park are Griffon and Egyptian vultures, Golden and Imperial eagle plus Red-billed chough. There are Azure-winged magpies and near to the water are Golden orioles, Nightingale, Purple and Grey herons.

Also in the area

  • The town of Andújar, south of the park, has a Roman bridge of 15 arches spanning the Guadalquivir river.
  • There are wonderful views from the 13thC sanctuary built on a towering crag, La Virgen de la Cabeza. There is a pilgrimage which makes its way to the sanctuary from Andújar on the last Sunday of April each year. “La Romería de la Virgen de la Cabeza” is the largest festival of Andújar with around half a million participants.

Information/Visitors Centers

The Viñas de Peñallana visitor centre is at the entrance to the Nature Park is on the J5010 Andújar-Santuario Virgen de la Cabeza road.

  • It offers visitors an introduction to the different types of landscape to be found in the area and to the numerous animal species they support.
  • The Iberian lynx is perhaps the Park’s most emblematic species. Visitors can follow its tracks to discover its habitat and learn about its behaviour and about the problems which have made it the most threatened species of feline on Earth.
  • The centre also provides information about the lifestyles and history of the Park’s human inhabitants, explaining how their respectful exploitation of the area’s natural resources has contributed towards the conservation of important environments in places like the Sierras de Andújar.

See the oficial website here.


The Grazalema Guide

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The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

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The Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalusia

The Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalusia is a section of the Betic Cordillera and runs parallel to the Mediterranean sea for around 100km.

The temperature range is dramatic with the summits under snow for many months, followed by a hot Mediterranean style summer. This creates special microclimates across the exposed rocky summits, glacial lakes, sheer sided gorges, mixed oak woods, pine woods and fast rivers with wooded banks.

Declared a National Park in 1998 and encompassing an area of 86,208 hectares it is a popular destination throughout the year. It holds an exceptional variety of animal and plant life due to the combination of altitude and its proximity to the Mediterranean sea.


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These mountains were formed during the Tertiary Period (65 to 1.8 million years ago), at the same point as the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and the European Alps. This mountain building event is called the Alpine Orogeny. The uplift happened as the African plate moved northwards colliding with the Eurasian plate. The Sierra Nevada mountains consist of mainly metamorphic rocks such as Gneiss and Mica schist. Many of the rocks are juxtaposed and mixed up due to intense faulting and folding during the compression of the two tectonic plates.

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