Category Archives: Natural Parks in Spain

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)

Continue reading Sierra de Castril

Despeñaperros

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Jaén
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 7,649 hectares

Points of interest

Despeñaperros is a natural mountain pass connecting Andalucia with Castilla la Mancha through the Sierra Morena mountain range. The rock structure forms a dramatic landscape with vertical cliffs and unusual rock formations. Los Organos is one such formation of quartzite rock taking the form of giant organ tubes.


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The river has cut a deep, spectacular gorge in the eastern part.

Just a few kilometres from Despeñaperros and close to the village of Aldeaquemada is the Cascada de la Cimbarra Natural Area. This is a beautiful place with rugged terrain where the Guarrizas River flows into a narrow gorge to form a series of waterfalls. La Cimbarra is the most beautiful and spectacular of them, and the local people give this name to the whole section of waterfalls.

Close to the village of Aldeaquemada is the Cascada de la Cimbarra
Close to the village of Aldeaquemada is the Cascada de la Cimbarra – Despeñaperros

An impressive exposed vertical wall made up of rocky strati that are highly resistant to erosion. This rock is called Armorican quartzite and is also visible in other parts of the natural area. On the surface of the rocks you can sometimes see fossil remains and spectacular ripples produced by the action of waves. These marks belie the marine origin of the rocks, going back 500 million years.

Other waterfalls famous for their unique beauty are El Cimbarrillo, on Martín Pérez river, and María Antonia, on La Cimbarrilla river.

Flora

The naturally forested areas have a selection of oaks: Gall oak (Quercus faginea) Holm’s oak (Quercus rotundifolia) Cork oak (Quercus suber) and Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica). Many pine trees have been planted and consist of Stone pine (Pinus pinea), Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster), and Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis).
The typical scrub is made up of Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) Tree heather (Erica arborea), Mastic tree (Pistacia Lentiscus), Rockroses (Cistus ladanifer), Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Wild olive (Olea europea), and Sloe (Prunus spinosa).

Fauna

Numerous species of birds live in the park, from the Griffon vulture to the smaller Rock thrush, Blue rock thrush and Black wheatear. Five eagles can be seen here; Booted, Short-toed, Golden, Imperial and Bonelli´s.

Iberian lynx is thought to be here in small numbers as is the wolf although rarely seen. Other more common carnivores are the fox, ichneumon (mongoose), genet and the wild cat. Wild boar and red deer also inhabit the quiet areas.

Also in the Despeñaperros area

  • In 1212 the Christians fought the Muslim Almohads in the battle of las Navas de Tolosa. This was an important step in the re-conquest.
  • Important archeological remains within the park are at the Muñecos cave in Santa Elena which contains extremely valuable Neolithic sculptures. In the Las Vacas del Retamoso ancient cave paintings can be viewed.
  • This protected area is also outstanding for its rich cultural heritage, with some twenty major prehistoric remains. Interesting examples are the Tabla de Pochico panel of rock art, on La Cimbarra Hill, and those at Monuera and Desesperada. Valuable examples of prehistoric art have been found at these sites, and they have received the UNESCO World Heritage designation as a result.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Visitantes: Llano de las Américas
Address: Ctra. JA-7102 Santa Elena – Miranda del Rey, km 2.

The interpretative material on display highlights some of their most emblematic places to visit and there are knowledgable staff on site who can provide visitors with any information you may need so that you can get the best out of a visit to the area

http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/medioambiente/servtc5/ventana/mostrarFicha.do?idEquipamiento=163856&lg=EN


The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

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

http://grazalemaguide.com/

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.


Finda a place to stay in the Sierra de Andujar

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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

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

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

http://grazalemaguide.com/

Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro

The natural park of Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro. Above image – Dehesa de encinas con viboreras – Photo by Zumaya Ambiente Creativo.

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Granada
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 41, 212 hectares

Points of interest

The natural park of Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro is a combination of gentle hills with outcrops of batholithic boulders, forest and meadows. The highest point being 828m at La Colmena.

It is located on the north eastern border of Cordoba and is separated from the natural park of Andújar in Jaen by the deeply ravined river Yeguas. There are cultivated fields along with Cork and Holm oak forests plus dense natural Mediterranean scrub.

This Natural park is part of the Sierra Morena and shares some endangered species in common with other natural parks in this mountain range. The Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro has among its inhabitants the protected Lynx and Wolf.


Hotels in the Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro

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Flora

On a humid plateau near Cardeña there is a woodland of Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica) with shrubs of rockrose and lavenders. It is the only woods of this type in Cordoba province. The most dominant oak trees are Holm (Quercus ilex) and Cork (Q. suber) with small areas of Gall oaks (Q. faginea).

The undergrowth consists of Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), rock roses (Cistus sp), Lentisc (Pistacia lentisc), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Wild olive (Olea europaea subsp oleaster) and strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo).

There are also reforestation areas of Stone pine (Pinus pinea) and Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster). The river banks are clothed with Willows, Ash, Oleanders, Black poplar and Alder.

Fauna

Dense thicket gives cover to much wildlife including Red, Fallow and Roe deer, Wild boar, Badger, Fox, Mongoose, Stone martin, Genet, Wild cat, Weasels, Hare and Rabbit.

Among the raptors are Imperial, Bonelli’s, Booted, Short-toed and Golden eagles, Sparrow hawk, Goshawk, kite, Buzzards, Kestrel, Lesser kestrel and Peregrine. Black and Griffon vultures, Tawny, Long-eared, Little and Eagle owls.

Along the river you will find Kingfisher, Dipper, Nightingale, Warblers, Wrens, Stripe-necked terrapins and Barbel.

There is a hide for bird watching on the reservoir named Embalse de Tejoneras. The birds you may see include Herons, Egrets and Little grebes. Many aquatic birds rest here on this lake on their migratory routes.

Also in the area

Tin, copper and lead used to be mined in the area of Venta del Charco, where there are remains from the Iberian and Roman eras. Roman coins and silver Iberian vessels have been discovered at Azuel.

Remains of Megalithic graves from the Metal Age (3rd century B.C.) have been discovered at Torrubia.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Visitantes Venta Nueva, just outside Cardeña at Km 79 on the A92.

This visitor centre in the Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro has an interesting exhition displaying the typical Mediterranean landscape of this fertile highland zone, with its extensive dehesa pastureland, its Mediterranean scrub and its pine groves.

Visitors can follow the Cardeña-El Cerezo trail, which enters the dehesa and winds past a series of unusual granite blocks known as bolos.

For other sites and places to see try to visit the tourist office in the town ofCardeña. (Number 3, Miguel Gallo street)

Nearby towns

Cardeña, Montoro (Tourist office in Cardeña here in Spanish)


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Hornachuelos

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Cordoba
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 60,031 hectares

Points of interest

Oak woodland in Hornachuelos offers protection to endangered species such as Black vulture, Lynx, Black stork and Bonelli’s eagle.

This parkland covers the eastern end of the Sierra Morena, close to Cordoba. The western part of this range is divided into a further two parks as it is dissected by provincial borders, thus forming an extended belt of protection. Sierra Norte de Sevilla is within the province of Sevilla. Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche is in Huelva province. There are no high peaks, rather a more gentle outline crossed by many rivers, with several large reservoirs.

The river Bembézar and its reservoir cut through the centre of the park.


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Flora

Dominated by oaks with Holm, Gall and Cork oaks and a Mediterranean scrub being a mixture of; Lentisc, Myrtle, Strawberry tree, Kermes oak and Rockroses. There is a gentle transition between mountain coverage and farmland with Dehesas. These are farms which combine open planting of mixed oak trees with pasture land beneath.

The plentiful river valleys are lined with Oleander, Hawthorn, Ash, Willow and Poplars. Dwarf fan palms, wild olive and Carob trees are found in areas with limestone rock formations.

Pond weeds that inhabit the water courses are Potamogeton sp, horned pond weed (Zannichellia) and duck weed (Lemna).

Fauna

Of special note are Black vultures which have far fewer numbers in Spain than the Griffon vultures. They are of a larger size and nest in trees rather than cliffs. The third vulture in the park is the Egyptian vulture. Eagles recorded here are Golden, Short-toed and Bonelli’s. Other birds of prey include Goshawk, Kestrel and Buzzard.

Scrub covered slopes are home to Red deer, Wild boar and Mongoose. More secretive fauna of the park includes Wolf, Lynx, Otter and Black stork.

Also in the area

  • Farming cattle and Iberian pigs, hunting and cork collection are the area’s main natural resources.
  • There is an abandoned monastery set on a hillside above the Bembézar river, Monasterio de Santa María de los Ángeles, built in 1489 by Fray Juan de la Puebla, 10km northeast of Hornachuelos.

Information/Visitors Centers

La Huerta del Rey (1km out of Hornachuelos on the road north to San Calixto)

In the visitor centre there is a good exhibition detailing the wild life of the area concentrating especially mammals and large birds of prey. There is a recreation of a walk through the woods at night and the exhibition also illustrates traditional customs and activities in the Sierra de Hornachuelos such as hunting, beekeeping and cork production.

Towns in the area

Almodovar del Rio, Córdoba, Hornachuelos, Posadas, Villaviciosa de Córdoba


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Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Huelva
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 186,827 hectares

Located in the far west of the Sierra Morena Mountains, in the north of the province of Huelva, the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Natural Park is characterised by its extensive forest, high rainfall, mild climate and interesting natural and cultural heritage.

Dense forest covers most of the park due to the humid climate which has an Atlantic influence. This is the western end of the Sierra de Morena mountain range, close to the Portuguese border. Oak and Chestnut are the main tree species with meadow pastures which are grazed by Ganado Bravo, fighting bulls. Cerdo Iberico, a breed of black pig from Iberia, is raised in the pastures and feeds on the acorns giving it a distinct flavour.

The village of Jabugo, one of the 28 within the park, produces world renowned Jamon Iberico products. The museum of ham in Aracena is well worth a visit. (Not for vegetarians though)

There are two reservoirs (Embalse) in the The Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche Natural Park. The Embalse de Zufre and Embalse de Aracena.

Flora

Chestnut trees were encouraged here by the Romans and have established dense woodland. Oaks such as Cork (Quercus suber) and Gall (Q. faginea) grow better in the valleys and lower slopes. Poplars, Willows, Alders and Ash occupy river and stream banks. Stone pine (Pinus pinea) and Black pine (Pinus pinaster) have been planted as well as Eucalyptus. Scrub consists of Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), Smilax (Smilex aspera), Pistacia terebinthus (Turpentine tree). Few Pyrenean oaks exist as they have been used for firewood over the last few decades.

Fauna

Some of the many bird species are Black stork, White stork, Golden, Spanish imperial, Booted eagles, Griffon, Egyptian, Black vultures, Lesser kestrel, Goshawk, Osprey, Black-winged, Black, Red kites, Marsh, Hen, Montagu’s harriers, Crane, Little bustard, Great spotted cuckoo, Red-necked nightjar.

Some colourful characters are Hoopoes, Azure-winged magpies, Bee-eaters, Golden orioles, Southern grey and Woodchat shrikes
Mammals include Wild boar, Fox, Badgers, Genet, Wild cat, Mongoose, Stone martin, Polecat, Weasel and introduced Red deer and Mouflon.

Also in the area

Grutas de las Maravillas (Website in Spanish here) is a limestone wonder with tremendous stalactites and stalagmites and more than 2km of caverns including 6 lakes. The entrance for visitors is in the town of Aracena which is also known for its 13thC Templar church and ruined castle.

The most ancient European copper mines are located south of the village of Riotinto. They were worked since Phoenician times and presently there is a fascinating museum and narrow gauge tourist train visiting the open cast mines. (Website here in Spanish)


Find a hotel in the area

Molino Río Alájar is located in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche Nature Reserve. It is a collection of 6 charming cottages with a shared pool and tennis courts.

The property offers a wide range of activities, including flamenco guitar lessons, Spanish lessons and tennis coaching. It also organises hiking and bird watching walks in the nature reserve.

Click here to find out more about Molino Rio Alajar.

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Information/Visitors Centers

“Cabildo Viejo”, Plaza Alta, Aracena.

The Cabildo Viejo visitor centre is in the centre of Aracena and occupies a historic building erected in the 17th century. Its name stems from the fact that the building was also once the seat of Aracena’s first town council. The house’s size and beauty give us some idea of the historic importance of Aracena in this area. The interpretative exhibition inside the centre focuses largely on the heritage, traditional crafts and gastronomy of the Nature Park.

Aracena Tourist Office

The tourist office in Aracena has a very helpfull set of staff and speak English. They can point you in the right direction whether you are looking for tickets for the cave, a tour of the ham museum or other attractions in the area. Just follow the signs in the town for “Oficina de Turismo

Towns in the area

Alajar, Almonaster La Real, Aracena, Aroche, Arroyomolinos de Leon, Cala, Cañaveral de Leon, Castaño del Robledo, Corteconcepcion, Cortegana, Cortelazor, Cumbres de Enmedio, Cumbres de San Bartolome, Cumbres Mayores, Encinasola, Fuenteheridos, Galaroza, Higuera de La Sierra, Hinojales, Jabugo, Linares de La Sierra, Marines (los), Nava (la), Puerto-moral, Santa Ana La Real, Santa Olalla del Cala, Valdelarco, Zufre


Wildside Holidays – Spain

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http://wildsideholidays.co.uk/