Tag Archives: Natural parks in Andalucia

Sierra Cazorla Segura y Las Villas

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Jaen
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1986
  • Park surface area: 209,920 hectares

Points of interest

The Sierra Cazorla, Segura y las Villas offers a great array of very well conserved ecosystems, each of high natural value with many endemics. Spectacular landscapes including waterfalls, deep valleys and lakes make this park unique. The important Guadalquivir and Segura rivers both begin in the park. Large pine forests clothe this limestone mountain range whose highest point is Pico Empanada at 2,107m. It is a very accessible park with many old donkey routes crisscrossing the mountains.

Flora

Too many to name and a botanists dream destination. Boasting more than 2000 different plant species, of which 34 are unique in the world such as Viola cazorlensis. This territory holds a 5th of the variety of plant species to be found within the Iberian peninsular.

A visit to the botanical gardens at Torre de Vinagre is pretty much obligatory.

Fauna

Historically this zone has constituted a refuge for the wild fauna. There are 280 species of vertebrates (11 of which are fish, 12 amphibians, 21 reptiles 185 birds, and 51 of mammals). One reptile unique to the park is the Valverde lizard. (Algyroides marchi)

Spanish ibex, Red deer, Fallow deer, Mouflon, Wild boar and Red squirrel are well represented.

Griffon vulture is plentiful and the Bearded vulture has been re-introduced recently.


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Also in the area

The area has held onto its historic roots and the village of Segura de la Sierra is dominated by its Mudejar castle. The church of Our Lady of Collado dates from the 15th century also there are Arab baths.

The village of Hornos de Segura has marvellous views, it retains its old city walls and the Puerta de la Villa or old city gate plus the castle and church which have led to the denomination of this town as an “Historic Artistic Site”.


The Sierra de Cazorla in Andalucia has the stunning Parador de Cazorla.
Located at the heart of the Cazorla Nature Reserve, in stunning natural surroundings, the Parador de Cazorla
Located at the heart of the Cazorla Nature Reserve, in stunning natural surroundings, the Parador de Cazorla

Click here to reserve your room over at booking.com.

Located at the heart of the Cazorla Nature Reserve, in stunning natural surroundings, the Parador de Cazorla is perfect accommodation for a rural getaway in the north east of Andalusia.


Information/Visitors Centers

Cazorla, information centre

In the town of Cazorla you will find a well equippped information centre. probably the best place to start if you are in the area.


Torre del Vinagre

The main park visitor centre is at Km. 45 of the A-319 road between the villages of Cazorla and Hornos de Segura, one of the main access routes into the park.

The Torre del Vinagre visitor centre should be an obligatory visit and there is a huge amount of information about Spain’s largest Nature Park. Its outstanding location in the Guadalquivir valley makes it possible to enjoy one of the most emblematic sectors of this natural area.

The Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas encompass five types of environment, each with its own scenic attraction, and this information centre helps visitors to discover all their secrets. The different landscapes comprised of rocky environments, with a whole universe of shapes and colours; water environments, based around water as the source of life, richness and diversity; pine groves, the predominant woodland in the Sierra; the craggy relief of the high peaks – a wilderness that is nevertheless full of life; and lastly the human landscapes, where Man has transformed the land he has occupied since times immemorial.

The exhibition presents the inhabitants of these five landscapes, and there is a room in which visitors can view live images of deer and other local wildlife. These species, among others, are crucial to the hunting activity for which the area is famous, and the Torre del Vinagre centre describes their evolution in great detail.

Opposite the Torre de Vinagre Visitor centre you will also find the excellent Botanical gardens .


Fluvial Río Borosa

To get to this visitor centre follow the signposts along the A-319 CazorlaHornos de Segura road to the Torre del Vinagre visitor centre at Km. 45. From there, turn off towards the River Borosa and the Loma de Mariángela ridge. The facility is 1,5 kilometres further on.

The Río Borosa Visitor Centre is in one of the most emblematic parts of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park, on the bank of the river from which it takes its name and which is the Guadalquivir’s first sizeable tributary. Next to the centre there is a fish farm and a path called the Río Borosa trail which follows the course of the river and enables visitors to familiarise themselves with the area.

The location is the ideal setting for visitors to discover the importance of water and the river ecosystems which exist in this protected area. But apart from shaping the landscape, water has also been used by Man since ancient times to transport wood, this area’s main natural resource. In the Río Borosa visitor centre we can see how logs were floated down river from the timber yards to the railway stations lower down the mountain, from where they were distributed throughout Spain.

Common and rainbow trout, barbel and nase constitute the diet for a wide variety of the small mammals and fish-eating birds which inhabit this environment. Between them they represent a huge food chain which is also covered in the display at the visitor centre.


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Sierra de las Nieves

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Málaga
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989. Park surface area: 20,132 hectares
  • 1995 designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the Natural Park inside the biosphere reserve area of 93,930 hectares.
  • Biosphere Reserve towns and villages: Alozaina, Casarabonela, El Burgo, Guaro, Istán, Monda, Ojén, Parauta, Ronda, Serrato, Tolox y Yunquera
  • 2021 declared a National Park and increased to over 23,000 hectares

In the summer of 2021 The Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park was upgraded to NATIONAL park status. It covers a huge area of approximately 300 square kilometres with its limits ranging from Marbella inland to include the villages of El Burgo, Istan, Monda, Parauta, Ronda, Tolox and across to the Sierra Bermeja close to Estepona.

Points of interest

The Sierra de las Nieves is a limestone massif clothed with evergreen oak trees and also home to the rare Abies Pinsapo or Spanish fir tree. The name “Nieves” refers to the winter snow which was once an important commodity in the area. Snow wells can still be seen on the exposed high areas. The snow would be collected by workers, deposited in the hand built, deep hollows. The snow was compacted, creating ice to be removed later in blocks and delivered the coast on mule or donkey trains to be sold.

The summit of Torrecilla is at 1919m altitude and although close to the Mediterranean coast receives higher precipitation due to an Atlantic influence. Not far from the highest point is also the “deepest” in the form of the G.E.S.M cavern “Los Hoyos del Pilar”. At 1101m deep it is the third deepest such abyss in the World. (Grupo de Exploraciones Subterráneas de Málaga = GESM)

Flora

Combinations of factors such as climate and limestone relief create habitat zones where specialized plants have adapted. The exposed reaches with little soil contain hedgehog broom (Erinacea anthyllis) together with Andalucian gorse (Ulex baeticus), a hedgehog-shaped crucifer; Hormathophylla spinosa, Spiny hare’s-ears (Bupleurum spinosum), the yellow-flowering Echinospartum boissieri, Woolly lavender (Lavandula lanata), Prostrate cherry (Prunus prostrata) and evergreen milk-vetch (Astragalus granatensis subsp andresmolinae).

Mats of common and Phoenician junipers (Juniperus communis / J. phoenicea) grow a little lower, dropping down into specimens of Yew (Taxus baccata) and huge Spanish firs (Abies pinsapo).

Other trees in the park are oak species Lusitanian oak (Quercus faginea subsp. Alpestris), Holm oak (Q. rotundifolia) and Cork oak (Q. suber) with Wild olive, Sweet chestnut, Carob, Aleppo pine, Maritime pine and planted Stone pine. Riparian vegetation contains Ash, Poplar and Willow.

Plants that are endemic to this small area of western Andalucia are Saxifraga bourgeana, Omphalodes commutata, Linaria platycalyx and Ononis reuteri. They occur in Sierra de las Nieves and neighbouring Sierra de Grazalema.

Fauna

The Spanish ibex is the most emblematic of the sierra (Capra pyrenaica hispanica), there are roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) Wild boar, Wild cat and Stone martin and introduced Mouflon.

Birds of prey include Bonelli’s, Booted, Short-toed, and Golden eagle, Scops, Eagle and Tawny owl, Peregrine falcon, Goshawk, Buzzard and Hobby. Amongst the smaller birds are Rock thrush, Blue rock thrush, Ring ouzel, Wryneck, Hawfinch, Ortolan bunting, Wheatear, Black wheatear, Black-eared wheatear and Southern grey shrike. Crossbill, Crested tit, Tree-creepers, Gold crest and Woodpeckers are numerous in the woodlands.

Also in the area

Information/Visitors Centers

Palace of Mondragón” Museum in Ronda town. Read more here at Ronda Today


Infomation centre Cortes de la Frontera (In the village of Cortes de la Frontera, Calle Jacaranda, 1)

The visitor centre in Cortes de la Frontera acts as a gateway to the nature reserves of Los Alcornocales, Sierra de Grazalema and Sierra de las Nieves.

The centre offers visitors the chance to learn more about the landscapes, nature, history and people so they can enjoy these nature areas to the full.


Tourist Information in Ronda (Paseo de Blas Infante close to the bullring)

The Ronda Tourist Office provides tourist information for visitors to the city of Ronda, the nearby Serrania and the Genal Valley, the province of Malaga and the rest of Andalusia. Its qualified staff will help you discover a territory full of unusual attractions, brimming with history and tradition, with numerous leisure alternatives, events, a comprehensive range of restaurants, accommodation, cultural visits, museums, wine cellars, etc.


Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Bahía de Cádiz

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Cádiz
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 10,522 hectares
  • Towns and Villages: San Fernando, Chiclana de la Frontera, Puerto Real, Puerto de Santa María and Cádiz

Points of interest

This 5km bay area (Bahía de Cádiz) is a wintering ground and summer breeding area to 200 different aquatic bird species.

This Atlantic tidal area consists of sandy beaches, river estuary, marshlands, salt pans, dunes and rocky inlets.

Extensive pine groves once covered a large part of this area.

The tidal marsh of Sancti Petri, which is situated in Chiclana de la Frontera, to the south of the Bay of Cádiz and which forms a part of this natural park, is an area of high scenic value, given that is one of the few marshes that has not been altered by its use as a salt mine. In addition, the condition of the island and the existence of a large stone pine forest (Pinar del Coto de la Isleta) at higher grounds clearly contributes to an image of what the natural landscape of the Bay of Cádiz must have been like many years ago.

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Flora

Flora in the Bahía de Cádiz is made up of plants that have adapted to living in sand with saline atmospheres and tidal flow. Cord grass, glasswort or maritime purslane, among others, have an important presence, whilst in the transition of the marshland into dry land there are grasses such as rostraria and barren brome.

On the intertidal plains, rich in nutrients, there are submerged meadows of gracilaria and algae, such as ulva linza and the sea lettuce. These seafloors, rich in food, half way between The Strait and the Doñana marshes, play an important role in the migratory movements of birds, enabling many birds to winter on the coast

In the area and endemic to Andalucia are Armeria gaditana, Taraxacum gaditanum and Hymenostemma pseudoanthemis, the latter two are recorded as vulnerable on the list of endangered plants.

Enclaves of Stone pine, (Pinus pinea) including a woodland of 6 hectares at Sancti Petri. Edible pine nuts are collected from this species. These forests are a sanctuary for birds such as blackbirds, robins, owls and kestrels, as well as for chameleons, amphibians and mammals like the European hedgehog and the dormouse.

Fauna

There are a great amount of aquatic birds like grebes, cormorants, gulls and gannets. White stork, herons and avocets nest here. Flamingo and osprey can also be observed. Invertebrates such as shrimps, crabs, clams, cockles along with the fish sole, sea bream, grey mullet and sea bass are abundant. It is an important breeding ground for many commercial species of fish and crustaceans.

Also in the area

Phoenician and Roman remains. Numerous galleons sunk off the coasts.

The site is surrounded by urban centres of around 400,000 inhabitants and the Cádiz port. This of course creates urban, tourism and leisure environmental pressures on the protected area.

Information/Visitors Centers

Parque Natural Bahía de Cádiz visitor centre. (Calle Buen Pastor, carretera de Campo Soto (opposite camposoto beach))

The Visitor Centre of the Bay of Cadiz Nature Reserve is in San Fernando (Cádiz). The recently built facilities, a model with regards to sustainability, are located at the Salina of La Leocadia, opposite the camposoto beach. The ideal place for a visit to this Nature Reserve, as its facilities offer you diverse information on the area and the activities possible there.


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La Breña y Marismas de Barbate

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Cadiz
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 5.077 hectares (3.925 land plus 1.152 marine.)
  • Declared a Zone of Special Protection for Birds: 2002
  • Towns and Villages: Barbate, Vejer de La Frontera

Points of interest

Halfway between The Bay of Cadiz and El Estrecho between Mediterranean and Atlantic waters is the La Breña y Marismas de Barbate Natural Park.

Although one of the smaller parks in Andalucia it has 28km of marked pathways and covers both land and marine areas. 100 metre cliffs drop vertically into the powerful Atlantic ocean. Above the cliffs is a dense woodland of Stone pines (Pinus pinea) which create a naturally rounded canopy of shade. As well as the pine woods and marine zone there are moving dunes and wetland where the Barbate river reaches the Shore.

Freshwater cascades fall from the cliffs and when the tide is out you can walk across the sand to see the caverns and waterfalls. (Be careful and always check tide times! )

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Guide walking in the area of La Breña y Marismas de Barbate

Flora

Rosemary, European dwarf fan palm, Buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioides) and Phoenician junipers can be found as well as Stone pine and some Aleppo pines. At the cliff edge plants have formed dense cushions to cope with the Atlantic wind and salt spray. Seablite (Suaeda sp) and perennial glasswort (Arthrocnemum perenne) are plants that have adapted to survive these harsh conditions.

Also found here are European beachgrass, Sea Daffodil and Maritime Juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus ssp. Macrocarpa), the latter is in danger of extinction.

Marine environment

Seagrass beds are important nursery areas for juvenile fish and the plants help to stabilize the sediment. The offshore Kelp forests harbor many species of flora and fauna that find shelter, food and surfaces for attachment on the kelp and the surrounding rocky sea bed.

Fauna

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis), Little egret (Egretta garzetta), Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii) Herring gull (Larus argentatus), Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus).

Many small birds live in the pine trees including Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Woodlark, Dartford Sardinian, Orphean Warblers, Hoopoe and Serin. Spoonbills, Night heron and Osprey may be seen at the marsh areas. Jackdaws and common starlings form colonies in the walls of the ancient watch tower and in cracks and ledges in the cliff.

This is one of the few remaining habitats for the Chameleon.

The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is making a home for itself here. It is a large colourful butterfly that is a well documented migratory species through America. (They have also been recorded in Los Alcornocales and Marbella areas.)

Marine life includes, Cockles and Fine Clams also fish such as Sole, Eels, Mullet, Bass and Gilthead Bream.

Also in the area of La Breña y Marismas de Barbate

The Phoenicians caught their fish, salted the catch and exported them from this coastline. There are two watch towers, Torre del Tajo which looks out over the highest cliff and the second is close to Caños de Meca. These were built in the 17th and 16th century respectively.

Information/Visitors Centers

In the town of Barbate. ( Avenida del Mar. Puerto de la Albufera, dársena deportiva, s/n)

At the Parque Natural De la Breña y Marismas del Barbate information center you will find an exhibition with a large selection of articles relating to the natural environment: maps, books, souvenirs, etc.

In addition to this, the information centre organises all kinds of activities involving ecotourism: hiking, horse riding, guided tours to the manufacturers of preserved fish, birdwatching routes, yoga sessions and lots of other activities of interest.


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El Estrecho (The Strait of Gibraltar)

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Cadiz
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2003
  • Park surface area: 18.887 hectares (9,640 terrestrial and 9,247 marine)
  • Towns and Villages: Algeciras, Tarifa

Points of interest

El Estrecho (The Strait of Gibraltar) natural park covers the southern most tip of Spain, containing within it environs a richness of history, vegetation and especially bird and marine life.

The coast of Morocco is just 14km away and this offers the shortest span for birds migrating from Europe to the African continent. Birds funnel into this area throughout the year with spring and autumn offering the most amazing sights. More than a million birds of over 200 species congregate in the area each year, this natural phenomenon is observed by many keen birdwatchers and researchers.


For birdwatching, general nature and also marine trips for whale and dolphin spotting, get in touch with Inglorious Bustards

Located near Tarifa in Andalucia and putting you right at the epicentre of birding in The Strait of Gibraltar. With Inglorious Bustards you can experience the incredible event of bird migration.


El Estrecho is also where the Mediterranean sea connects with the Atlantic ocean, the latter has a lower salinity and the meeting point creates a unique zone of high diversity. Research on the marine environment has found more than 1900 species of plant and animal life with some being new discoveries.

The park protects oak woods inland, coastal pine groves, cliff habitats, beaches and the coastal waters.

Due to the exposed site, strong winds are a common occurrence, making this (especially Tarifa) a popular area with windsurfers.

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Flora

Note worthy plants in the park are Green-flowered narcissus (Narcissus viridiflorus), Portuguese sundew (Drosophyllum lusitanicum), Genista triacanthos and Chamaespartium tridentatum.

Inland on high ground are natural Cork oak woods with Kermes oaks, Lentisc, Dwarf fan palms and Wild olive trees. There are also some planted areas of Pine and Eucalyptus. Stone pine woods form on the coastal cliff tops with an under story of Prickly and Phoenician juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus and J. phoenicea). Under the pines of Punta Palomas are low growing Annual Valerian (Centranthus calcitrapae) and Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis).

More open scrub land away from the coast consists of Mastic tree, Rockroses, Portuguese Crowberry (Corema album) and Osyris (Osyris quadripartita).

Growing on (therefore preserving the sand dunes) are Sand couch (Elymus farctus) Southern bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus creticus), Marram grass (Ammophyla arenaria) and Sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias).

Cliff faces that hold vegetation contain Rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum), Marigold (Calendula suffruticosa) and Yellow sea-aster (Asteriscus maritimus).

Marine Flora

In the shallower coastal strip of sand are coverings of Cymodoceion nodosae, whereas deeper water, from 22m, holds kelp beds (Laminaria ochroleuca) these plants that can grow to around 3m in length.
In clear waters there are many forms of sea weed with the most outstanding being Cystoseira.

Terrestrial fauna

Among the reptiles and amphibians are Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida/Timon lepidus), Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus), Iberian Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis), Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) and Stripe-necked terrapin (Mauremys leprosa).

Mammals include Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Otter (Lutra lutra) and Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon).

Raptors that stay through the year include Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) Spanish Imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti) and Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraetus fasciatus).

Booted eagle (Hieraetus pennatus), Black kite (Milvus migrans) and Short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus) arrive in spring to breed during the summer months.

White storks (Ciconia ciconia) give an amazing display when they collect in spiraling thermals by their thousands.

Along the shores can be seen Audouin’s, Mediterranean, Slender-billed, Lesser black-backed and Yellow-legged Gull. Grey, Ringed, Little ringed and Kentish Plover may be viewed on the beaches.

Marine fauna

The marine zone of the park aims to protect various species, some of which are rare and endemic to the Mediterranean sea. Jellyfish including Merona ibera, Cervera atlantica and Scleranthelia microsclera and Sponges (Axinella estacioi) Elephant ear (Spongia agaricina).

Also molluscs and crustaceans such as the giant Mediterranean limpet (Patella ferruginea), which is one of the most threatened marine species in the Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean fan mussel (Pinna nobilis) and Date mussel (Lithophaga lithophaga).

In rocky areas Mediterranean red coral (Corallium rubrum) grows, it is a protected species, orange coral (Astroides calycularis) can be found growing on rock walls and on the many shipwrecks in the area. Enclaves of Phymatolithon calcareum and Lithothamnion corallioides form in areas protected from strong currents at around 20m deep.

Turtles recorded in the area include the Leather back (Dermochelis coriacea), the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the vulnerable Loggerhead (Caretta caretta).

Resident species of Dolphins are Common (Delphinus delphis), Bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus) and Striped Dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), the latter is in danger of extinction.

Also resident are several groups of Long-finned pilot whales plus there are regular sightings of Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus). Other species such as Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and Orca (Orcinus orca) regularly occur in the area. Minke (Balaenoptera acuturostrata) and Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are more rare visitors but have been seen in the past.

Fish of special interest include Golden grouper (Epinephelus alexandrinus), the beautifully coloured Mediterranean rainbow wrasse (Coris julis), Scorpion fish (Scorpaena porcus), Senegalese and Common sole (Solea senegalensis and Solea vulgaris), Thornback and Undulate ray (Raja clavata and Raja undulata), the Angler fish (Lophius piscatorius), White bream (Diplodus sargus), Gilthead seabream (Sparus auratus) and the huge Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola).

Also in the area

  • The Roman Ruins of Baelo Claudia are situated in the west of the park. The town developed about 2000 years BC centered on a fish salting and fish paste “Garum” industry. By the sixth century AD it was abandoned. The ruins feature a forum, temple, an amphitheatre and the large fish salting pits. (Website here)
  • Tarifa, a small fishing town, was the first point of the Moorish invasion of Southern Spain in 711 AD. The castellated walls were built over different eras, largely the ancient Tarifa medina and the 18th century. The 8th Century Jerez Gate has recently been restored and the Arab Castle of Guzman El Bueno, built in 960 AD, is open to visitors.
  • To the west of Tarifa is the “Necropolis de los Algarbes” which is an important Bronze Age site covering an area of 2 hectares. (Found alongside Camping Paloma). Also at the same site is the ‘Cueva del Moro’ which is the most important cave in Tarifa. The Palaeolithic carvings of this cave, discovered in 1995, originate from the Solutrean civilisation more than 18,000 years ago. Large figures, mostly equine, are carved into the rock. These findings are Europe’s most southern Palaeolithic art. Within the local mountain ranges there are over 49 caves and shelters with prehistoric art belonging to the Superior Palaeolithic ages and later.
    On the site “Silla del Papa” are foundations of a great building, made with stone blocks that could be Visigoth place of worship. (Sadly, telecommunication towers have been erected within this site).

Information/Visitors Centers

Both Algecirus and Tarifa have municipal tourist offices.

Huerta Grande near Algeciras on the road to Tarifa at Km 96

An old military residential complex has been converted into what is now the most important visitor centres on the Cadiz coast. The centre offers a fascinating insight into the diversity and landscapes of the Campo de Gibraltar area: seabeds teeming with life, beaches and cliffs in constant transformation.

Huerta Grande also offers a wide range of activities including observation points with spectacular views of the Strait and of migrating birds, and conveniently located trails along which visitors can enjoy all the scenic and botanical richness of the area.


Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!

http://wildsideholidays.co.uk/

Los Alcornocales

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Cadiz/Malaga
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 167.767 hectares
  • Villages and Towns in the area: Alcalá de Los Gazules, Algar, Algeciras, Arcos de La Frontera, Los Barrios, Benalup-casas Viejas, Benaocaz, El Bosque, Castellar de La Frontera, Cortes de La Frontera, Jerez de La Frontera, Jimena de La Frontera, Medina-sidonia, Prado del Rey, San Jose del Valle, San Roque, Tarifa, Ubrique

Points of interest

Los Alcornocales is a forest of Cork oak trees, the largest in Iberia and therefore important to the worlds cork supply. The park, which also embraces mountains, creates a green corridor from the Sierra de Grazalema natural park through to the coastal zone at Tarifa.

The harvesting of cork is done on a 9 to 12 year cycle. The bark is stripped from the tree by hand, packed onto mules and taken to forest tracks where it can be loaded onto a vehicle. The cork collection is only carried out for 3 months in the heat of summer when it separates easily from the tree.

Therefore, the fauna and flora are left undisturbed between these harvest times, giving an important refuge to many plants and animals.

Recent research has discovered a wealth of animal and plant forms that exist here because of the humidity. The heavy tree canopy and many deep water channels (canutos) combine to create a subtropical micro climate in a normally very dry part of Spain.

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Flora

Cork oaks (Quercus suber) dominate the landscape with smaller numbers of other oaks Algerian (Q. canariensis), Gall (Q. faginea), Pyrenean (Q. pyrenaica), Holm (Q. ilex) and Wild olive (Olea europaea subsp oleaster).

The undergrowth and areas too exposed for the oaks include Tree heathers, Spanish lavender, Spurge flax, Lentisc, Rockroses, Needle-leaved broom (Teline linifolia), Yellow-heart iris (Iris filifolia), Hawthorns, Spanish heather (Erica australis) and Umbel-flowered heather (E.umbellata).

In the steep sided river ravines grow Rhododendron (R. ponticum ssp. Baeticum), Alder buckthorn, Holly and Laurustinus.

The Portuguese sundew (Drosophyllum lusitanicum) can only be found in low-altitude sandstone regions of south west Iberia such as this.

There are over 40 species of fern in the area and they can be found tucked into damp rocks and draped from rough bark of the huge oaks. One is the rare fern psilotum nudum along with Hare’s foot fern (Davallia canariensis), Hard fern (Blechnum spicant) and two species from the Canary Islands, which are Pteris incompleta and Culcita macrocarpa.

Los Alcornocales Natural Park with Explore la Tierra


Fauna

Roe, Red and Fallow deer have been introduced as game for hunting as well as Spanish ibex on the higher terrain. Other mammals include Wild boar, Mongoose, Fox, Badger, Genet, and Dormouse. In the rivers are Terrapins and Otters.

Birdlife is varied with Kingfishers, Dippers and Sand martins near the water courses.

Among the raptors are Short-toed, Bonelli’s, Spanish imperial, and Booted eagles, Sparrow hawk, Goshawk, Peregrine, Kestrel, Tawny owl, Eagle owl and Common buzzard. Egyptian and Griffon vultures can be seen in more open areas.

Smaller birds include Golden orioles, Hoopoes, Bonelli’s warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Bee-eater and Nightingale.

During spring and autumn migrating birds pass through or rest in the forest which is close to the Strait of Gibraltar. (See below Huerta Grande Information center)

Of the twenty two species of bats listed in Andalucia, twenty are recorded in the park.

Also in the area

The Archaeological Site of Baelo Claudia (Bolonia/Tarifa area) has been declared a National Historic Monument. This Roman city-factory is surprising due to its excellent condition and was important at the time due to its canned and brine foods and was the origin of the garum sauce exported to the entire Roman empire. (Website here)

Information/Visitors Centers

El Aljibe in Alcalá de los Gazules, on the road to Benalup at Km 1

Thi visitor centre is in the principal village in the area, Alcalá de los Gazules, mid way between the fertile farmland plains and the highlands.

The centre illustrates all the uniqueness of this part of the province of Cadiz. The themes addressed include the way in which the present appearance of the mountain ranges is the result not only of environmental conditions but also of the human activity which has taken place there throughout history.

Another exhibition room focuses on the ecological and scenic uniqueness of the area’s fertile campiña plains and its woodland, highlighting the characteristic features of woodland masses, their associated fauna, the resources obtained by Man from the environment and present day tourist activity.

The El Aljibe botanical garden has an interesting and well laid out selection of plants from the area. (Read more here about the Aljilbe Botanic garden in Alcala de los Gazules)

Information centre Cortes de la Frontera (In the village of Cortes de la Frontera, Calle Jacaranda, 1)


The visitor centre in Cortes de la Frontera acts as a gateway to the nature reserves of Los Alcornocales, Sierra de Grazalema and Sierra de las Nieves.

The centre offers visitors the chance to learn more about the landscapes, nature, history and people so they can enjoy these nature areas to the full.


Other information centres in the area of Los Alcornocales

Huerta Grande near Algeciras on the road to Tarifa at Km 96

An old military residential complex has been converted into what is now the most important visitor centres on the Cadiz coast. The centre offers a fascinating insight into the diversity and landscapes of the Campo de Gibraltar area: seabeds teeming with life, beaches and cliffs in constant transformation.

Huerta Grande also offers a wide range of activities including observation points with spectacular views of the Strait and of migrating birds. There are also some walking trails taking the visitor through the scenic and botanical richness of the area.

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