Walking in the Sierra de Grazalema

Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve

  • Region: Morroco and Spain (Andalucia (Cádiz and Málaga))
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2006
  • Protected area: Almost 900,000 hectares (terrestrial) and 17.976,82 hectares (marine)
  • Towns and villages: 108 (63 in Cádiz and Málaga and 45 in Tetuán, Larache, Tánger and Chefchauen).

Points of interest

The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve runs between southern Europe and North Africa and is dominated by a string of mountain ranges forming an open arch to the Mediterranean Sea (the Strait of Gibraltar) which in turn divides the mountain range known as the Bético-Rifeño system into two sections.

The uniqueness of this natural and socio-cultural crossroads makes this the first intercontinental biosphere reserve declared by UNESCO which was jointly proposed by the Ministry of the Environment of the Junta de Andalucía and the High Commissioner for Water and Forests of the Kingdom of Morocco.

Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve
The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve is located in sourthern Spain and northern Morocco

In Spain

Containing some of the most outstanding natural spaces in the eastern part of the province of Cádiz and the western part of Malaga, It is also the first of its kind to feature a sea within its boundaries.

It also includes two previously declared Biosphere Reserves in Andalusia: the Sierra de Grazalema natural park and the Sierra de las Nieves national park. The Alcornocales and the Estrecho Nature Reserves; the natural spaces of Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja, Sierra Crestellina, Desfiladero de los Gaitanes and Playas de los Lances beaches; and the natural monuments of the Duna de Bolonia sand dunes, Pinsapo de las Escaleretas fir forest and the Cañón de las Buitreras.

The reserve presents a rich and varied fauna, with some threatened or endangered species and the role of the Strait of Gibraltar stands out as a vitally important flyway for European and African migrating and resident birds.

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In Morocco

The Moroccan section of the intercontinental biosphere reserve is located in the region of Djbala on the Tingitane Peninsula, adjacent to the Strait of Gibraltar. It is bordered by the Gharb plain and the hills of Hafs to the west, the Rif Central to the east, the Mediterranean coastline to the north, and the western Prerif to the south.

The region is very mountainous and marked by two major crests: the Numidian chain and the mid-ocean limestone ridge. Extensive depressions are found in the crests, including the Chefchaouen furrow, which covers the central portion of the region.

The highest peak is Jebel Lakraa with a height of 2,159 metres. Included in the reserve are the Talassemtane National Park and sites such as Koudiet Taifour, Lagune de Smir, Jbel Bouhachem and Jbel Moussa.

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Talassemtane National Park

The Talassemtane national park was created in 2004 in order to conserve the last of Morocco’s threatened fir forests and also contains other plant species endemic to this Spanish/Maghrebi biodiversity hotspot such as the endangered Atlas cedar and Andalusian Belladonna Atropa baetica. (over 1380 plant species have been recorded here, 47 of which are endemic to Morocco).

The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve is located in sourthern Spain and northern Morocco
The water falls of akchour in the National park of Talassemtane

The park’s proximity to the tourist destination of Chefchaouen makes it a popular hiking destination with walks such as the Bridge of God and the villages of El Kalaá and Akchour. The park’s elevation ranges from 350 meters to 1,050 meters.

The AllTrails website has some good advice on walking and hiking in this area: https://www.alltrails.com/parks/morocco/tangier-tetouan/talassemtane-national-park

Further reading


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