Tag Archives: Natural parks in Andalucia

Huétor

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Granada
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 12,428 hectares

Points of interest

Situated just north east of Granada on a main arterial route the natural park area of Huetor is limestone mountain terrain with typical features such as steep sided ravines, mixed woodland and Mediterranean scrub. Altitude in the park is between 1,000 and 1,600meters above sea level so this area offers fantastic views across to Sierra Nevada from the viewpoint Mirador Buena Vista.

There are several caves and fresh water springs in the area. Usage of this water source can still be seen today in the form of the Aynadamar canal built by the Moors to take spring water from the Fuente Grande in Alfácar into Granada city itself. This water is still channelled to the gardens and fountains of the Alhambra.


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Flora

The plant life here has an interesting mix of influences, from central Europe, North Africa and the normal types for southern Spain with some endemics from the area of Granada.

The forested area has a wide variety of trees many of which have been introduced through planting schemes. Aleppo pine, Austrian pine, Maritime pine, Cedars and Abies pinsapo or Spanish fir. Holm oaks and some Gall oaks of the original forest also exist, along with smaller Acers.

Of the 800 plus plant species noted in the park the endemics can be divided as follows; 75 endemic to Iberia, 54 from the southern Iberian peninsular and 42 to Iberia and North Africa.

Some of the more noteworthy are Crocus nevadensis, Centaurea funkii, Evax nevadensis, Centaurea montícola, Cotoneaster granatensis and Adonis vernalis subsp Granatensis.

Fauna

Raptors include, Golden eagle, Booted eagle, Goshawk, Sparrow hawk, Buzzard, Little owl, Tawny owl and Eagle owl.

Mammals in the park are red deer, wild boar, spanish ibex, fox, genet, least weasel, wild cat, badger, beech martin and dormouse (Eliomys quercinus).

Several different small lizards, ladder and grass snake plus Lataste’s viper are some of the reptiles.

There is a recovery centre for endangered animals at Las Mimbres. (Ask about it in the visitor centre – See below)

Discovered first in la Sierra de Alfácar, Huetor park, is a small bright blue butterfly, Lysandra bellargus ssp alfacariensis (Family- Lycaenidae, also listed under the name Polyommatus bellargus-Adonis blue, subsp alfacariensis)


Granada Wildlife can help you to get the best out of a visit to the Granada area

Also in the area

  • There are (or were) well preserved Arab baths in Cogollos Vega. But I have heard that they were altered in such a way that did not respect the value of the archaeological site.
  • The lovely woodland walk to the Cueva del Agua (Water cave), although the cave entrance has been closed off to preserve it, there are good views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. La Cueva del Agua is situated on the slopes of the peak As Cabezo in the Sierra Arana. Currently, access is via two forest roads, from Vega, and from “Sotillo” Iznalloz.

Villages and Towns in the area

Cogollos Vega, Beas de Granada, Huétor Santillán, Víznar, Alfacar, Nívar, Diezma.

Information/Visitors Centers

Puerto Lobo Visitor Centre. (On the Viznar to Puerto Lobo road km 43.)

Near the recreational area of the same name and to several signposted walking routes of interest, you’ll find the Puerto Lobo Visitor Centre which lies within the Sierra de Huétor Nature Reserve.

The exhibition inside provides visitors with information on the natural heritage of this mountain range, composed of limestone and where the water has gradually moulded a karst system with caves, galleries and stalactites. That same water which enters the rock subsequently emerges as crystalline springs which since the Muslim period have been channelled through dykes like that of Aynadamar, which supplied the city of Granada with drinking water.

However, this park has many other attractions apart from its valuable natural resources since it is a place with a rich historic and cultural past, particularly interesting is its Moorish legacy and that it was a key witness to what was to become the Spanish Civil War.

In the reception area the centre also has a comprehensive shop selling attractive products, both local and those of the Andalusian Network of Natural Areas (RENPA). Finally, at the entrance to the building there is a beautiful botanic garden where you can discover some of the species endemic to the park.


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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 Cazorla Segura y Las Villas

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Jaen
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1986
  • Park surface area: 209,920 hectares

Points of interest

The Sierra Cazorla, Segura y las Villas offers a great array of very well conserved ecosystems, each of high natural value with many endemics. Spectacular landscapes including waterfalls, deep valleys and lakes make this park unique. The important Guadalquivir and Segura rivers both begin in the park. Large pine forests clothe this limestone mountain range whose highest point is Pico Empanada at 2,107m. It is a very accessible park with many old donkey routes crisscrossing the mountains.

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