Tag Archives: Natural parks in Andalucia

Montes de Málaga

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Malaga
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 4,996 hectares

Points of interest

The Montes de Málaga natural park is just 5km from the city of Málaga. It consists of rolling hills and mountains with a high point of 1031m. The highest road pass is Puerto de León at 960m.

There are many streams that cut through the park and fall into the Guadalmedina river to the west. The slopes are planted with pines and offer beautiful views of the Mediterranean countryside and coast.

The natural trees and scrub were removed to allow for cultivation as early as the 16thC. At this time olive trees and vines were planted but this caused a major problem in more recent past for the city of Málaga. Clearing the ground over the centuries had allowed water erosion, which silted up the river course and created flash flooding of the city below. This problem was eased around 1930 by the mass planting of Aleppo pines.

Many country restaurants or “Ventas” can be found through the park making it an extremely busy retreat from the city at weekends and bank holidays. (Read about ventas in the Ronda area here)

Flora

In the northern area of the park natural vegetation of Carob (Ceratonia siliqua), Wild olives (Olea europaea subsp. oleaster), Holm (Quercus ilex), Cork (Quercus suber) and Gall oaks (Quercus faginea) occur. Otherwise Aleppo pines (Pinus halepensis) are planted to secure the land. Other pines found here are Stone pine (Pinus pinea) and Monterey pine from California.

Lower shrubs include Lentisc (Pistacia lentisc), Strawberry tree (arbutus unedo), Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), Prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus), Oleander (Nerium oleander), Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Dwarf fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), Rockrose (Cistus ladanifer), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) and Thyme (thymus vulgaris).

Fauna

The Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) comes top of the list for animals in the park. There are very few areas of suitable habitat left in Iberia for this unusual lizard. Other reptiles are spine-footed lizards, ocellated lizards, salamanders and geckos.

Mammals include Wild boar, Fox, Badger, Polecat, Genet, Weasel, Stone martin, Wild cat, Squirrel, Hedgehog and Rabbit.

Birdlife includes Short-toed and Booted eagles, Goshawk, Buzzard, Eagle, Barn and Tawny owl. Some of the smaller birds are Cuckoo, Thrush, Redwing, Green woodpecker, Jay, Woodpigeon, Red legged partridge, and sometimes Ring Ouzels in winter. The Firecrest is often seen as are all Tits. Nightingales living by the waterways can be heard in summer.


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Also in the area

  • In the Piedras de Cabrera area there are cave paintings in small scattered caverns.
  • Malaga city has historic buildings such as the Cathedral and ruins like the Roman amphitheatre and Arab fortress with city walls.
  • In Casabermeja the only Moorish remains are walls and the Zambra Tower.
  • Megalithic burial chambers have been found in the hills of Lagar de Villanueva and Chapera, as well as near the Cortijo del Hospital.
  • Histórico La Concepción Botanical Gardens. A 23-hectare botanical garden dating to 1855, with tropical & subtropical flora from 5 continents. Website (in Spanish)

Towns in the Montes de Malaga Area: Casabermeja, Colmenar, Málaga

Information/Visitors Centers

Ethnological museum “Lagar de Torrijos” On the road from Málaga to Colmenar (C-345) Km 544 (One kilometre past La Fuente de la Reina and about 20 kilometres from Malaga.)

The Lagar de Torrijos Ecomuseum stands in the midst of the dense pine groves so typical of the Montes de Malaga, at the beginning of one of the most attractive trails in the Nature Park.

The Montes de Malaga area was very famous in the past for its superb sweet, semi-sweet and dry wines. Even today the area conserves a number of the traditional wine pressing houses called lagares, although they are somewhat few and far between. Lagares are buildings in which most of the space is dedicated to wine production. One outstanding example is the Lagar de Torrijos, which dates back to 1843 and represents a prototypical Montes de Malaga wine pressing house. The building, which has been conserved virtually just as it was built, today houses an Ecomuseum which no visitor to the Nature Park can afford to miss.

The display inside provides a full explanation of the time honoured traditional techniques employed to produce the superb wines which have given the area such renown. Visitors can also browse through rooms containing bread ovens, an oil mill and even the living quarters.


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Sierra Subbética

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Córdoba
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1988
  • Park surface area: 32,056 hectares

Points of interest

Set in the middle of Andalucia the Sierra Subbética is a limestone semi-mountainous area with a rolling hills and a high point of 1.570 m named la Tiñosa. The main economy comes from olive oil, therefore much of the area has intensive olive grove plantations.

There are many historical remains in the locality. Cueva Murciélagos or “The Bats Cave”. Items were discovered in this cave from the Neolithic period. Historical remains from Celtiberian to more recent past.

The villages and towns in the Sierra Subbética are a delight to explore.

If you have an interest in fossils then this area should be on your bucket list for Andalucia as it is part of the “Fossil route”

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Flora

Holm oak (Quercus ilex) woods have a shrubby companion mixture of lentisc, wild olive, retama and peonies. Hawthorn, spurge laurel, gorse and purple phlomis occupy the open areas exposed to the sun. Gall oaks (Quercus faginea) are to be found on the northern slopes in more humid parts along with laurustinus, kermes oak, buckthorn, smilax and strawberry trees.

The highest regions which are exposed to the elements contain the hedgehog zone or low, compact spiny plants including Alyssum spinosum and hedgehog broom (Erinacea anthyllis).

River banks hold poplar, willow, hawthorn, tamarisk, southern nettle tree and brambles.

Fauna

Raptors to be seen around the park are golden, short toed, booted, bonelli’s and imperial eagles, goshawk, sparrowhawk, kestrel, lesser kestrel, eagle owl, priffon vulture and Peregrine falcon.

On high rocky outcrops look for alpine accentor, blue rock thrush and rock thrush, whereas near water you may find dipper, kingfisher, various warblers and daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii).

Mammals include wild boar, spanish ibex, stone marten, fox, rabbit, hedgehog and wild cat.

The Sierra Subbetica has the most southerly population of the Miller’s water shrew (Neomys anomalus.) These red-toothed shrews add fish, amphibians, and crustaceans to their diet of worms and insects. They are adapted to their aquatic life by having long, stiff hairs on the rear feet that add surface area, increase traction, and trap air bubbles that enable them to scamper over the water surface and help them to swim.

At the rivers and streams the viperine snake and terrapin can be found and in drier areas watch out for the Lataste viper.

Also in the Sierra Subbética

  • Cuevas de las Murciélagos – The Bat Cave, near Zuheros was first recorded in 1868, but not explored until 1938.It contains impressive stalagmites and stalactites with underground lakes and caverns. Importantly it also holds unique rock paintings. Neolithic burial remains discovered in the cave show evidence of human occupation of the caves dating from over 35,000 years ago. Some of the finds from the cave are housed in the archaeological museum in Zuheros.
  • Almedinilla village also has a museum, set in an old watermill. The village has the remains of a Roman villa complex. Many historical remains have been discovered in the area from the Bronze age, Iberian, Phoenician and Roman eras.
  • The village of Cabre became one of the first Christian strongholds in the Roman province of Betica.
  • The Route of the Ammonites of Las Sierras Subbéticas Geopark. The limestone, which has been shaped by water for thousands of years, presents a fascinating karstic landscape with a great diversity of geological elements: poljes, karrens, sinkholes, chasms and more than 800 caves. The rocks of the Sierras Subbéticas mountain ranges date back over 200 million years. Key chapters of the complex history of the Tethys Sea were recorded within the sediments, most notably ammonites, an ancient animal with a spiral shell that, due to the abundance and variety of their fossils, are an indisputable symbol of the Sierras Subbéticas Geopark

Towns and villages in the Sierra Subbética

Cabra, Carcabuey, Doña Mencía, Iznájar, Luque, Priego, Rute and Zuheros

Information/Visitors Centers

Dedicated to the Cueva de los Murciélagos Natural Monument, the Cueva de los Murciélagos Ecomuseum is well worth a visit
Address – Zuheros – Carretera CO-6210, km. 4, 14870 .


In Cabra, the Santa Rita Visitor Centre displays the geological phenomena responsible for the unique physiognomy of the Sierras Subbéticas mountain range. It consists of a journey into the depths of the earth, showing the various formations caused by water modelling the limestone rock. There are numerous interactive features displaying the natural and cultural heritage of the Sierras Subbéticas mountain range. An important part of the facilities are dedicated to geological resources and the Geopark. Visitors are greeted by a giant sculpture of an ammonite, a symbol of the importance given to geological heritage in this region.

The Santa Rita Visitor Centre is part of the Route of the Ammonites in the Sierras Subbéticas Geopark

“Address: Cabra – on the A-339 at km. 11


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Sierra de Baza

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Granada
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 53,649 hectares

Points of interest

The sierra de Baza with its limestone peaks over 2000m is a relatively humid, botanical jewel between two arid plains of Las Hoyas de Guadix-Baza and the Llanos del Marquesado. It is part of the Cordillera Penibética range with the highest peak of Santa Bárbara at 2,271m. The steep slopes have a covering of pines with oaks and acer.

Thia natural park is home to nearly a hundred and fifty endemic species exclusive to the Iberian Peninsula: Iberian endemics 81, Southern Iberian endemics 51, Granada endemics 17.

Flora

Sempervivum nevadense, once thought only to exist in the neighbouring Sierra Nevada, grows on the rocky ground at the highest peak. This exposed area also holds tight cushions of spiny shrubs that are protected from grazing animals and against weather extremes.

Reforestation schemes have extended the wooded areas and a mix of Austrian, Aleppo and Stone pines. On higher slopes the Nevada Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris subsp. nevadensis) and Corsican pine (Pinus nigra subsp. salzmannii) are important remnants of the original native pine species. With these pine areas grow Juniper,

Phoenician juniper and Spanish barberry (Berberis hispanica). As well as pines there are Gall (Quercus faginea), Holm (Q.ilex) and the shrubby Kermes oaks (Q.coccifera). Shrubs include Peonies (Paeonia broteroi, Paeonia officinalis) Bay laurel (Laurel nobilis), Mountain Ash, (Sorbus aucuparia), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) and from the Granada Almeria area only the Sloe (Prunus ramburii).
The lower slopes have been further shaped by man and consist of agricultural land with cultivated cereal crops, interspersed with Mediterranean scrubland and pine trees.

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Fauna

The wide variety of birdlife includes Golden, Short-toed, Booted and Bonelli’s eagles, Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard, Egyptian vulture and Eagle owl. On the ground look out for Crested lark, Red-legged partridge and Hoopoe, with Turtle doves and woodpeckers in the wooded areas.

Mammals include Red, Roe deer, Wild boar, Fox, Badger, Genet, Stone martin, Wild cat and common Shrew.

At the park’s watercourses are water snakes (Natrix maura), southern toads (Bufo terrestris), Betic midwife toad (Alytes dickhilleni) and Spanish Painted Frog (Discoglossus jeanneae).

Also in the area

  • Cave paintings and Neolithic-Bronze remains in the hills of Cerro Jabalcón.
  • There are Arab baths in Baza dating from the 13thC.
  • La Dama de Baza (Lady of Baza) is an early Iberian figure dating back to the 4th century BC. Only discovered in 1971, she is carved from stone with traces of paint decoration. She resides at the archeological museum in Madrid.

Villages in the area

Baza, Caniles, Dólar, Gor, Valle de Zalabí

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Visitantes Narváez accessible by taking the Baza exit on the A92 at Km 325.

This visitor centre is housed in an elegant, classical style early 20th century building at the heart of the Sierra de Baza Natural Park.

In it, visitors can learn about the biodiversity of the surrounding Sierra, and how its varied flora is influenced by factors such as differences in altitude, climate or relief.

One section of the exhibition is dedicated to local archaeological sites and evidence of Man’s early presence in the area. There is also a display of craft products donated by the local people to demonstrate traditional activities in the Park.

A virtual tour of this information centre can be found here
https://visitas-virtuales.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/junta-de-andalucia/virtual-tour-english/granada/index.htm

There is an excellent magazine website in Spanish language about the area
http://www.sierradebaza.org/


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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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