Gorbeia Natural Park

  • Region: País Vasco
  • Province: Álava and Viscaya
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1994
  • Park surface area: 20,016 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Areatza, Artea, Cigoitia, Urkabustaiz, Orozko, Zeanuri, Zeberio and Zuya

Points of interest

The largest protected area in País Vasco, Gorbeia Natural Park is formed around mount Gorbea and the altitude of this area gives it a typical mountain climate: the massif acts as a barrier that stops the humid winds that come from the bay of Biscay, which generates important differences between the north slope, more humid, and the south slope, more dry and sunny. Gorbeia has, consequently, an exceptional wealth of mountain ecosystems with a good state of conservation.

The limestone rock (formed by old coral reefs from the warm seas of 110 million years ago) eroded by water is mainly covered by beech woodland gives rise to a unique landscape, a labyrinthine of special beauty that changes with the seasons.

The Ojo de Atxular, the great central crevasse, the Axlaor sinkhole and the Supelegor cave stand out along with the 130 other cave systems such as the Urrikobasoko Lezandi chasm at 301 m. deep and the Otxabide Lezandi complex with around 14 km of galleries.

Close to the village of Gujuli, the river Jaundia cascades more than 100 metres over a spectacular limestone cliff where there is a viewpoint that provides an impressive vantage point to view the waterfall.

Culturally, the landscape around what is now the Gorbeia Natural Park has given rise to a high number of legends and mythology with characters such as the Basajaun (Basajaun or Baxajaun, the so-called “Basque Yeti”, is the Lord of the Forest or the “Wild Lord”. These are characters from Basque and Aragonese mythology of prodigious size and strength that the first settlers of those lands found living in the mountains and more remote forests. His wife is called Basandere (Lady of the Forest or “Wild Lady”).

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Flora

The Gorbeia Natural Park is home to some important deciduous forests, especially on the Alava slope (Altube area). and the tree species that occupies the largest area is beech mixed with various oaks. Also, areas of Cantabrian holm oak and strawberry trees reveal that centuries ago the climate was much more temperate. Alder, willow, ash and poplars form the riverside woodlands.

The excessive fellings that took place from the 18th century for use in the ironworks, shipbuilding and even the production of paper led the Vizcaya County Council to decree that the felled areas be repopulated, these repopulations were carried out with commercial species such as Monterey pine (Pinus radiata), Lawson’s cypress and Black pine (Pinus nigra).

Fauna

Due to the humid and shady climate this is the ideal environment for amphibians such as Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra), Iberian spiny toad (bufo spinosus) and the Iberian frog (Rana perezi)

Among the birds, those that have adapted to hunting in the forest, such as the goshawks and the long-eared owl stand out. Also, those that live in more open spaces such as the Eagle owl, peregrine falcon, black and red kite whilst on the river banks the dipper and kingfisher are present in good numbers.

Among the mammals look out for otter, stone marten, genet, red dee, roe deer, fox, deer and badger.

Short video of Gorbeia Natural Park

Information/Visitors Centers

There are several fully-equipped recreational areas and two visitor centres in the Gorbeia Natural Park. The Alava visitor centre is located in Sarria (Central de Baias), the Bizkaia visitor centre is found in the village of Areatza. Both centres are equipped with Interpretive panels, multimedia projections, maps and guides for the many walking routes in the area.

La Casa del Parque is located a kilometer and a half from the town of Sarria next to the recreation area and parking.

Centro de Interpretación del Parque Natural de Gorbeia (in the Gudarien plaza, Areatza). Take the N-240 road that connects Bilbao with Vitoria-Gasteiz until the Areatza exit, the centre is located in the town square, next to the town hall.

The official website for the Gorbeia Natural Park is here: https://gorbeiaparkea.eus/es/home


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Valderejo Natural Park

  • Region: País Vasco
  • Province: Alava
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1992
  • Park surface area: 3496 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Valdegovía/Gaubea, La Lastra. In addition to La Lastra, there are three other rural centers in Valderejo; La Hoz, Villamardones and Ribera. The last two were abandoned several decades ago

Points of interest

The Valderejo Natural Park (Parque natural de Valderejo) is located in the extreme west of the municipality of Valdegovía (The Castilian y Leon area is also protected under the name of Montes Obarenes-San Zadornil Natural Park ). Access is from La Lastra where the Valderejo Natural Park Interpretation Center is located or from the town of Herrán (Burgos).

Here the Purón river with its wide valley flows through an isolated and sparcely populated area resulting in a magnificent natural conservation of wildlife.

Below the abandoned town of Ribera, the river passes through an impressive gorge before joining the Ebro river. An important Roman road once passed through the gorge which was a communication route between Frías (Burgos) and the port of Orduña. Also in the area there are remains of megalithic monuments such as the burial mound of San Lorenzo, the monolith of Monte Lerón and various hermitages from different periods.

The area enjoys a climate in transition between the Atlantic and Mediterranean environments, with hot, dry summers and winters in which there are heavy snowfalls. These conditions result in a wide biodiversity, a great wealth of both flora and fauna due to the existence of species that are typical of both these environments.

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Flora

The vegetation is very well preserved, standing out among the tree species are scots pine, beech, holm oak, gall oak and other riverside trees such as willow and hazelnut .

Fauna

About 200 animal species have been recorded in the Valderejo Natural Park with birdlife including including griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), red billed chough (Pyrrochorax pyrrochorax) and alpine accentor (Prunella collaris)

Amongst the mammal populations to look out for there is hare (Lepus capensis), wild boar (Sus scrofa),roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and the Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) is also present.

Short video showing the scenery in the Valderejo Natural Park


The walk to the summit of Valderejo (4.8 km)

Recuenco at 1,239 metres is the highest peak in the Valderejo Natural Park. It rises up in the far west of Valdegovía and looks out over the Losa Valley. Other peaks are Arrayuelas (1,128 m) and Vallegrull (1,226 m), but in contrast with these Recuenco shows smooth curves covered in vegetation, making it accessible from many points.

Those wishing to hike to the top generally start out from either the abandoned village of La Hoz (925 m), part of the protected park area, or from the pass known as La Horca de Lerón (902 m), which separates Valdegovía from the Losa Valley. A third option starts from San Pantaleón de Losa. (http://www.valdegovia.com/en/valderejo-rutas-cima.asp)

Information/Visitors Centers

Casa del Parque Natural de Valderejo (La Lastra)

The Reserve Centre (Casa del Parque or Parketxea) was built over the old Lalastra village school, abandoned since the 1970’s. Inside you will find interpretative panels and information about the fauna, flora, history and culture of the area along with reccomended routes for walking and driving.

Casa del Parque Natural de Valderejo (La Lastra)
Casa del Parque Natural de Valderejo (La Lastra)

A series of buildings and equipment that once formed a vital part of the inhabitants’ daily life has been restored and most are located around Lalastra Each is accompanied by an explanatory panel explaining the use to which they were once put.

  • Wash-house
  • Baking oven, skittle-alley, horseshoeing frame and clock
  • Water-powered mill
  • Crossroads
  • San Lorenzo hermitage

The official website for the Valderejo Natural Park (Valdegovía town website) is here: http://www.valdegovia.com/en/valderejo_historia.asp


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Señorío de Bértiz Natural Park

  • Region: Navarra
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1984
  • Park surface area: 2,040 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Oieregi, Oronoz, Goitikoetxea, Aranea and Markesenea

Points of interest

The Señorío de Bértiz Natural Park is located in the municipality of Bertizarana 49 kilometres north of Pamplona along the banks of the river Bidasoa. (Access is via the village of Oronoz in the Baztan valley or Oiergi in the Bertizarana valley).

The protected area was once privately owned and belonged to the sitting Lord of Bertiz from the 1600’s until 1898, when it was acquired by Pedro Ciga Mayo who oversaw the planting and reforesting schemes that can be seen today. He donated it to the local community of Navarre in 1949, with the condition that it was “maintained in its current condition and used exclusively for recreational, educational and scientific purposes”.

To the south, in the lower zone of the Bidassoa river and close to the town of Oronoz-Mugaire, are the palace and gardens standing on 3.4 hectares which include an abundant botanical collection, with species represented from all over the world.

The northern area of the Señorío de Bértiz Natural Park is a succession of valleys and mountains covered with native atlantic forest of beech and oak.

There are several forest tracks and footpaths that lead to the top of Mount Aizkolegi where there is a castle house, now abandoned, from which you can enjoy magnificent views of the park.

Fauna

The tranquility that this Natural Park enjoys allows the observation of some of the common mammals in the area such as wild boar, fox, badger, stone marten, hedgehog, roe deer. Others also present although with less density are otter, polecat, genet and wild cat. The Pyrenean desman, also present, is a small insectivorous mammal endemic to the Pyrenees that requires fresh and clean waters to live.

Raptors seen over the park are Golden eagle, Griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures, Short-toed eagle, Bonelli´s eagle, Booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), Goshawk and Peregrine Falcon. In the evenings owls such as Eagle and Tawny can be heard but reraely seen.

Some of the birds to look out for are Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris), Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus, found in the beech woods), Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus), Black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), Middle Spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), Red backed shrike (Lanius collurio), Alpine Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus), Red billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus), Snow Finch (Montifringilla nivalis), Citril Finch (Serinus citronella), Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus), Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia), Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) and the very elusive Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria).

Amphibians and reptiles include Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita), Midwife toad, (Alytes obstetricans), Tree frog (Hyla arborea), Painted frog (Discoglossus pictus), Golden-striped Salamander (Chioglossa lusitanica), Alpine newts (Triturus alpestris), Iberian rock lizard (Lacerta montícola), Schreiber’s green lizard (Lacerta schreiberi), Green lizard (Lacerta viridis), and Bocage’s wall lizard (Podarcis bocagei).

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Walking routes in the Señorío de Bértiz Natural Park

There are some excellent walking trails here of varying distance and all are well signposted and color coded.

AIZKOLEGI (green path)
The summit of Aizkolegi (830 m.) is the highest point and has a magnificent viewpoint over Bertiz and the surrounding valleys. The last owners built a summer palace here of which the ruins are preserved.
Length: Almost 11km. along forest track.
Total route: 22km.
Average time: 6 to 7 hours

IRRETARAZU (blue path)
The Irretarazu path starts from the main path of the park at the height of Carbonera. Along the route you can see remains of some of the traditional uses of the forest: charcoal, grazing, small buildings to store chestnuts, water catchments … The path ends at the Aizkolegi track.
Length: 7km. along paths and tracks.
Total distance: 11 km.
Average time: 3.5 to 4 hours.

SUSPIRO (red path)
This path is a variant of the Irretarazu path but slightly shorter.
Length: 5 km. along paths and tracks.
Total route: 9 km.
Average time: 2.5 to 3 hours.

ITURBURUA (black trail)
This trail is a variant of Suspiro but shorter.
Length: 3 km. along paths and tracks.
Total route: 6 km.
Average time: 2 hours.

AIZKOLEGI-PLAZAZELAI (yellow path)
This path is known by the name of “straw path” as it was built to allow the passage of the straw carts bound for neighboring farmhouses.
Length: 2.5km. along the steep forest track and path.
Average time: less than 1 hour.

PLAZAZELAI (purple path)
The Plazazelai gate (540m.) Marks the limit of Señorío de Bertiz with the Baztan valley.
Length: 8km. along the forest track.
Total route: 16km.
Average time: 5 hours
This is the only route authorized for cyclists.

ERREPARATZEA(orange path)
This small walkway runs along the banks of the Bidasoa river between the main access of the park and the bridge and the Reparacea palace. This road was the main access to Bertiz until the Oronoz-Mugairi road was built.
Length: 700 m. down the old road.
Total route: 1.5 km.
Average time: Half an hour.

Information/Visitors Centers

Oficina de turismo de Bertiz (Barrio Señorío de Bertiz, s/n)

The Rural Tourism Center located in the Barrio Señorío de Bertiz has information on tourist routes, gastronomy, hospitality, culture, popular festivals.

Centro de Interpretación de la naturaleza (Barrio Señorío de Bertiz, s/n)

The wildlife interpretation centre is located in the Tenientetxea farmhouse and is filled with interpretation panels covering all aspects of the natural history, fauna, flora and geology of the area plus information on walking routes etc.

Jardín Botánico de Bertiz (Barrio Señorío de Bertiz, s/n)

The Señorío de Bértiz botanical garden is home to about 120 species from all over the world since thanks to its mild microclimate it supports plants from temperate and subtropical climates, highlighting among others, Camellias, Palms , Cypress, Araucaria, Ginkgo, Liquidambar, different species of bamboo and water lilies around a small lake.

In the 18th century Palace, temporary exhibitions are housed on its ground floor.

  • Closed Monday (Also closed for lunch from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m every day)
  • Tuesday to Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • Weekends and bank holidays from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Entrance 3 Euros for adults and 1.50 for children and over 65’s

The official website for the Señorío de Bértiz Natural Park is here: http://www.parquedebertiz.es/informacion-es/el-parque-natural.html


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The Urbasa-Andía Natural Park

  • Region: Navarra
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1997
  • Park surface area: 21,408 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Ziordia, Olazti, Altsasu, Urdiain, Iturmendi, Bakaiku, Etxarri-Aranatz, Ergoiena, Arakil Islands, Irañeta and Arakil

Points of interest

The Urbasa-Andía Natural Park is covered by beech forest accompanied by other species such as yews, junipers and pines. There is a great diversity of fauna and flora inhabiting this area that includes 16 rugged peaks of over 1000 metres.

In the lowlands the forest gives way to pastures dotted with heather and buckthorn where it is common to see horses and sheep grazing (think of the delicious Idiazabal cheese).

Another characteristic of this area is the absence of rivers as the limestone terrain allows the water to seep and run underground through numerous cave systems, making it a good destination for lovers of caving.

Human habitation has been traced to 100,000 years ago and there are also many dolmens, menhirs and cromlech in the area that are reminders of the Iberian celtic tribes.

There are several signposted trails of different levels of difficulty the most popular being the Itinerario de las fuentes, Ruta de los pastores, Camino de los montañeros and the Dulantz y cañon del Iranzu.

The protected area of the The Urbasa-Andía Natural Park is divided into various zones.

Sierra de Urbasa

The Urbasa mountain range is a plateau located in the northwest of Navarra that presents an average altitude of about 1000 metres. It is a great elevated plane, which descends steeply towards the Araquil corridor to the north and towards the Amescoas to the south. Together with the Andía, Perdón, Alaiz, Izco and Leyre mountains they form a geomorphological and climatic border between the Atlantic and Alpine Navarra Mediterranean area. The name Urbasa means in Basque “humid forest” (from ur “water” and basa “forest”)

Sierra de Andía

The Sierra de Andía (Andimendi in Basque) is a plateau with gentle undulations bounded by the valleys of Araquil and Ergoyena to the north and the Estella depression to the south, Sierra de Urbasa to the west and with the Pamplona basin to the east

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Reserva Natural del Nacedero del Río Urederra

The Urederra River originates in the municipality of Baquedano and travels 19 kilometers before flowing into the Ega river which is a tributary of the Ebro river. Urederra means “beautiful water” in Basque.

The official access path to the Nacedero del Río Urederra waterfalls is the Nacedero del Urederra Natural Reserve route, a pedestrian path that starts from the car park in Baquedano. (Take the the NA-718 Estella – Olazagutía highway and then the NA-7187 at km 13.8.

Reservation of tickets to the Nacedero del Urederra are required to visit this area. The opening hours for the Reception Area in winter are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m and in summer from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The reservation to the Nacedero is compulsory and free but you do have to pay for the car parking. The rates are as follows: € 2 motorcycles € 5 cars € 10 motorhomes € 25 minibus (up to 20 seats) € 50 bus (more than 20 seats). Parking in the town of Baquedano is prohibited, you can only park in the town if you are a resident.

There is a limit of 500 people per day divided into 3 time slots. This is a circular walk, takes about 2 hours and covers 6 kilometers.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Interpretación Urbasa-Andía Parque Natural

The parks information center located near the top of the Olazagutia mountain pass. KM 31,5 on the NA-718. There are exhibitions and plenty of information regarding the landscape, ecological, historical and cultural values that exist in Urbasa and Andia.

Área de Interpretación (Borda de Severino) at KM 25,5 on the NA-718

This is a small area for the interpretation of pastoral life in which a charcoal burner has been reproduced recalling the traditional uses of the Sierra de Urbasa. Its well worth a visit.

The official web page for the is https://www.parquedeurbasa.es/


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Bardenas Reales Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve

  • Region: Navarra
  • Declared a Natural Park:1999
  • Declared a Biosphere reserve: 2000 (includes the Natural Reserve ‘Rincón del Bú’ and the Reserva Natural ‘Caídas de la Negra
  • Park surface area: 41,845 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Valtierra, Arguedas, Carcastillo, Santacara, Mélida, Rada, Caparroso, Villafranca, Cadreita, Tudela, Cabanillas, Fustiñana and Buñuel

Points of interest

The Bardenas Reales Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve is a semi-desert region, or badlands in the southeast Navarra. The soils are made up of clay, chalk and sandstone and have been eroded by water and wind creating surprising shapes, canyons, plateaus, tabular structures and isolated hills, called cabezos. Vegetation is scarce in many places and the small streams that cross the area are dry for most of the year.

The climate is characterized by extremes, with very cold winters giving way with almost no transition into spring and torrid summers. Rainfall, scant and irregular is frequently torrential. The action of strong dry winds, particularly from the north-east (cierzos), accentuates the aridity of the area.

Three different habitat areas are present:
  • The great plateau, known as El Plano in the north is an almost flat, elevated alluvial plateau, whose soil originates from the Aragón river.
  • La Blanca in the central area is a great depression where softer sedimentary rocks leaving clay unprotected, gives rise to spectacular erosive formations (badlands).
  • La Negra is an area located to the south is formed by plateaus of different altitudes and cut by rivers flowing at the bottom of the cliffs. (This part of the Bardenas has a lot more flora present.)

Since 1951, the Spanish Air Force has had a 2,222-hectare firing range in the Bardenas. In 2016 , the Parliament of Navarre called for the removal of the shooting range but practising still takes place throuout the year.

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Flora

This area is surprisingly rich in flora in terms of abundance and biogeographical significance. Common species are thyme (Thymus vulgaris ), Spanish broom (Genista scorpius) and Cistus (Cistus albidus).

Look out for Helianthemum origanifolium subsp. rotundifolium, Fumana ericoides, Fumana thymifolia, Atractylis humilis, Stipa parviflora, Centaurea linifolia and Polygala rupestris.

Brachypodium retusum grassland appears in open clearings along with interesting species such as Narcissus dubius, Narcissus triandrus subsp. pallidulus and Sideritis spinulosa.

The only forests area that exist in Bardenas are the pine groves located on the slopes of La Negra. They are open forests dominated by Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis ) and are accompanied by species such as black juniper, kermes oak and mastic tree

Bardenas Reales Natural Park - Biosphere Reserve
Bardenas Reales Natural Park – Biosphere Reserve

Fauna

In terms of fauna, an abundance of birds of prey, such as Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Golden Eagle and Peregrine falcon are present in good numbers along with a diversity of grassland birds, such as Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Eurasian Stone Curlew, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Dupont Lark.

Mammals present are rabbit, hare, fox, weasel, badger, wild cat, roe deer and wild boar.

Look out for the The European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) in ponds and lagoons.

Video of the Bardenas Reales Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve

I really like the music that goes with this video. 🙂


Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Información Bardenas Reales Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve

Access is from the NA-8712 km. 0.8 (Tudela-Arguedas / Arguedas-Tudela)

Open from 9.00am-1.00pm and then later also from 4.00pm. (It is closed during lunchtime).

Most people visiting this area start at the visitor centre that can supply you with maps and more information about the area. Apart from biking and hiking routes many people take the signposted 34km dirt track that is passable with a normal car (You don’t need a 4×4 so long as you don’t stray off the path! 🙂 ). Be prepared for your car and you to get very dusty as you pass through areas where Star Wars, James Bond and Game of Thrones, amongst others have been filmed. Its best to arrive fairly early in order to avoid the heat of the day as there is little if any shade here.

There are many places to pull in and a wealth of photographic opportunities throughout the drive.

Also, remember that here is nowhere selling food or drink nearby so you will need to bring your own if you plan on staying a while.

IMPORTANT: Access is limited to the areas of La ralla, Rallón, La Gorra and la Balsa de Zapata during February, March, April, May, June, July and August in order to protect nesting birds and other wildlife. Just check with the tourist office if you are intending on exploring these areas.

Zona Turística El Ferial

Next to the El Ferial Reservoir. (Entrance from the N-121, km. 60,800 (Tudela-Caparroso; Caparroso-Tudela).

Here you will find a recreation area with an information point and a restaurant. there is also a bird watching observatory on the shore of the lake and some interesting footpaths.

See the official websiite for the Bardenas Reales Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve here: https://bardenasreales.es/


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Sierra de la Pila Regional Park

  • Region: Murcia
  • Declared a Regional Park: 1992
  • Park surface area: 8,836 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Molina de Segura, Abarán y Blanca, Fortuna, Jumilla, La Garapacha, Fuente Blance, Hoya Hermosa, Peña de Zafra, and Las Casicas

Points of interest

The relatively small Sierra de la Pila Regional Park is located in the northeastern region of Murcia. Its steep reliefs are part of the limestone, dolomite and gypsum mountain ranges made up of medium-altitude massif. The park is divided into two halves separated by the Barranco del Mulo: The western part where the Caramucel summit is located at 1023 meters of altitude and the eastern part with peaks such as La Pila (1264 meters) and Los Cenajos (1200 meters ).

Like almost all the Regional Parks in Murcia, this area is included in the Natura 2000 Network and is a Site of Community Interest (SCI). A large part of the park is also a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA).

Raptors are well represented here and include Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus), Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) and Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo).

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The area has a good amount of juniper groves, pine and holm oak woodland as well as much vegetation typical of the Spanish southeast such as palm hearts, strawberry trees, black hawthorn and lentiscus. As in the Sierra Espuña, snow was also produced here and near the summits of Cenajos there are the ruins of two snow wells.

There is also a large network of forest tracks that are great for discovering the scenery and wildlife of the area. (more than 50 kilometers).

Information/Visitors Centers

The information point “Fuente la Higuera” has been closed for sometime so the best place to head for is the visitor centre in El Valle. Here you can get plenty of information about the natural parks of Murcia

El Valle Visitor Center

Carretera El Valle, 61, La Alberca

From Murcia take the A-30 towards Cartagena, turn off towards La Alberca, exit 148 and follow the signposts marked “El Valle


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Take a trip on the Wildside! Discover the wildlife and nature of Spain, its Natural and National Parks and find the top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain.