- 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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.