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National & Natural Parks in Andalucia


There are two National Parks and four Natural Parks in Andalucia. National Parks are areas of ecological and cultural importance protected by the state for the enjoyment of the general public or for the preservation of wildlife. Natural Parks are protected by long term planning, use and agriculture. These valuable landscapes are preserved in their present state and promoted for tourism purposes.

Doñana National Park

Doñana National Park - Courtesy of Natuanda.com
Doñana National Park

The Doñana National Park (Parque Nacional de Doñana) became a nature reserve in 1969. It Is one of the most important protected areas in Andalucía and Europe’s largest nature reserve. Its ecosystems consist of wetlands, dunes, beaches, and bush. It is host to a unique biodiversity of many endangered species, including the Iberian Lynx and the Imperial Eagle. It is a breeding and wintering area for thousands of European and African birds.

Bonanza Marshes in Cádiz is a totally natural marshland. Salt works are still active in these marshes and Flamingos are frequent visitors. There are 20 known species of freshwater fish, 21 reptiles, 37 non-marine mammals and more than 360 birds. Probably the best way to enjoy the National Park is to go on one of the organised tours in a 4 x 4 with a driver-guide or go on a boat trip along the River Guadalquivir. Other activities here include archery, bird watching, photography, horse riding and hiking.

Tel. +34 959 439 627

Visitor centres:

Bajo de Guía is an ideal starting point for your journey. It has extensive promotional material to facilitate your visit.
Tel. +34 956 380 922 Open all year.
El Acebuche has trails and bird hides on the lake. It also has an exhibition showing the importance of the wetlands.
Tel. +34 959 439 629 Open all year.
Fabrica de Hielo houses an exhibition about the Doñana Natural Area.
Tel. +34 956 386 577 Open all year.

Sierra Nevada National Park

Sierra Nevada National Park - Courtesy of Natureflip.com
Sierra Nevada National Park

The Sierra Nevada National Park (Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada) covers a large area of the provinces of Granada and Almeria. From the city of Granada, you can clearly see the snow capped peaks. Mulhacen (3,482 metres), the highest mountain on the Iberian peninsula is in Sierra Nevada. The Cerro del Almirez (2,517metres) is shaped like a truncated pyramid and offers some of the best views of the entire mountain range. On the slopes of Mulhacen, you will find Lake Caldera – oe of the largest lagoons in the range.

Sierra Nevada has outstanding vegetation, with some of the most important flora in Europe. The high altitude means there are five different layers of vegetation, providing the richest flora of any Mediterranean mountain range.

In 1986, the Sierra Nevada National Park was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. On the lower slopes, there are Oak, Chestnut, Fig, Cherry and Walnut trees. Amongst the most notable flora here are violets and the Sierra Nevada poppy. The mountain goat is common in this protected area and bird types include the Alpine accentor, wheatear, skylark, tern and the golden eagle.

Tel. +34 958 980 238

Places of interest:

Bubión is one of three villages in the Poqueira gorge. The views here are stunning. On a clear day, you can see the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. The Arabic style streets and houses with their flat roofs are well looked after and there are fountains in most of the streets.
Capileira is the highest of the three villages in the Poquiera gorge – a beautiful natural area in Granada. It enjoys lush vegetation and spectacular views.
Dólar has evidence of its Arabic past that can be found in the castle, the baths, the church and the chapels.
Guadix is a city in Granada province, one of the oldest human settlements in Spain. Visit the Alcazaba (Arabic Castle) and its Cathedral.
Huéneja is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada National Park. The Barril del Castillo and the Fortress of Manaiva are certainly worth a visit.
Pampaneira is the lowest of the three villages in the Poqueira gorge, below Mulhacén, the Sierra Nevada’s highest mountain.

Activities:

In addition to the popular ski resort of Sierra Nevada, there are many recreational facilities throughout the park and the region. There is also a skiing resort in the Ragua mountain pass and numerous hiking trails.

Some of the main activities that can be enjoyed include climbing and rappelling, abseiling, horse riding, 4 x 4 tours, archery, hot air ballooning, paragliding and canoeing.

Bicycles and mountain bikes (MTB) are very enjoyable ways to see and enjoy the National Park. Two wheel enthusiasts have at their disposal more than 500 kilometres of tracks that can satisfy all tastes. You can ride different kinds of routes, practically flat, hard climbs, fast descents, very technical sections and combinations of all of these. The best option is to start going up from any town making an ascent, continue over flat ground and then come back down.

The area’s vast expanse of forests, clear rivers, snow-capped peaks, ecological hot spots and moist and fresh valleys make this a region of unique beauty. Marquesado, Puerto de Las Alpujarras and the Ragua Pass constitute unique settings for the enjoyment of hikers.

Visitor centres:

El Dornajo is located in the northern part of the park. From the centre, you can reach an observatory and the Cortijuela botanical gardens.
18160 Guéjar Sierra, Granada. Tel. +34 958 340 625. Open all year.
Laujar de Andarax is located in the south of the park in the Almerian Alpujarras. It informs visitors about the water resources of the countryside and their traditional forms of exploitation based on Arab tradition.
Carretera de Laujar de Andarax a Orgiva Km 1 04470. Tel. +34 950 515 535. Open all year.
El Jardín Botánico de la Cortijuela. Where you can admire over 400 different plant species.
Tel. +34 958 026 000 / +34 697 695 893. Open March – October.
Ermita Vieja Nature Centre.
Carretera Central Eléctrica Km 2 18152 Granada. Tel. +34 958 228 496. Open all year.

Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park

Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park - Courtesy of Hotelsparierradecazorla.com
Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park

Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park is one of the largest Natural Parks and Biosphere Reserves (UNESCO) in Spain. It is also a national hunting area and a protected area for birds. It has 36 species of mammals, including mountain goats, deer (fallow and mouflon), otters, genets, foxes, wild boar, polecats and badgers. The area features mountains, crisscrossed by rivers that form numerous waterfalls, lakes and pools and amazing forests, making this one of the most visited places in Spain.

There are griffon vultures, golden eagles, ospreys, lizards and snakes. There is continuous forest, mainly pine. including some of the oldest specimens in Europe. Higher up, you will find oak forests and, in the wetter areas, yew and holly, both of which are rare in Spain. On the river banks, there are ash, willow, poplar and reeds all helping to shelter the waterfowl and small mammals.

Inside the park, there is the Torre del Vinagre Botanic Gardens, where you can learn about the flora of the area.

Tel. +34 953 711 534

Places of Interest:

Cazorla is beautiful city in Jaén province and a lovely place to wander through the streets and squares. Visit the ruins of the Santa Maria Church and enjoy tapas in the Plaza Huevo. The historic La Almazara (an olive oil mill and museum) will take you back in time. Imagine using these ancient tools to produce olive oil.

Ubeda is a city in the province of Jaén and a UNESCO World Heritage site with very impressive architecture – the town hall building La Casa de las Torres has elements of the renaissance. The Plaza de Toros, with two floors and the clock tower in the main square are symbolic elements of the city.

Activities:

The park is large and you can drive your own vehicle or hire a 4 x 4 with a driver-guide, enabling access to unauthorized areas. There are a wide range of other activities including flying and paragliding, horse riding, climbing, hiking and canoeing, There are 20 marked hiking trails inside the park, including Rio Borosa and Cerrada de Utrero.

Visitor centres:

Torre del Vinagre is between Cazorla and Hornos de Segura. Visitors can explore the various environments that shape the landscape of the natural park, including the rocks, the water, forests and wildlife.
Open all year. Disabled access.
Torre del Vinagre Botanic Gardens offers examples of the Natural Park’s rich flora, including endemic and threatened species.
Open all year. Disabled access.
Borosa River is next to the Borosa River, the basin of which is one of the most attractive places in the park. It is crossed by a path that completes the visit. In the centre’s theme rooms, the importance of water as a modeling agent of the landscape and the river ecosystems in the park are displayed.

Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara & Alhama

Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara & Alhama - courtesy of hotel cortijobravo.com
Sierras de Almijara, Tejeda & Alhama

Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara & Alhama form an impressive mountain range representing a geographical barrier between the provinces of Málaga and Granada. Located on the Málaga side, in the heart of the region of Axarquia, Alhama is in the westernmost part of the province of Granada. From the peak of Tejeda (2,065 metres), there are spectacular views of the Mediterranean coast and the other mountains nearby.

Rivers and streams descend rapidly down the slopes, offering spectacular waterfalls and forests where old tree trunks have been petrified by mineralized limestone water. Water erosion has also created impressive cliffs called Cahorros. Other geological elements are the Nerja Caves, a national monument and the abyss of Maroma.

These hills are dominated by the white and grey tones of its ridges and ravines, a consequence of the abundant marble in the area. Pine trees dominate the scenery, growing on the white sands left by the erosion of the marble. This has allowed the growth of Aleppo, Wild, Corsican and even Salgareño pine.

Amongst these expanses of trees and rocks, you will find eagles, such as the Royal or Bonelli and a wild goat population, a species exclusive to the Iberian peninsula. The Park has one of the largest populations of wild goats in the country. The common squirrel has in recent years colonized this area. There are also peregrine falcons, hawks and nightjars.

Places of interest

The towns here offer great historic value with their Moorish and Mudejar feel. There are whitewashed walls, elegant arches, stone steps and Mozarabic brick towers. The night mingles with the smells of jasmine and orange blossom. In this respect, the towns of Salares and Frigilina are outstanding. But the greatest pearl of this region is Alhama de Granada.

Alhama offers an ensemble of Roman, Andalucian and Moorish origin, with whitewashed walls, twisted archways, steps and towers. Of particular interest is Las Termas de Pajares (the baths of Pajares) where a pool from the Islamic period is preserved. And the walled area, where some remains of watch towers that once guarded the town are found. Also, the “Casa de la Inquisición (House of the Inquisition), a magnificent Neo-Gothic building.

Nerja is a historical village with the original buildings dating back to 1487. The Balcony of Europe is a 10th century castle that has now become a sea lookout. In the Boquete de Calahonda there is the Paseo de los Carabineros, a beautiful coast road nestled in a natural rocky setting.

Frigiliana‘s main attraction is its Mudejar Moorish district with narrow, winding, stepped alleys filled with flowers.

The Axarquia Region is like a smaller version of Málaga, with its mountains, valleys, peaks and coast. In any case, it has the most towns of all the districts of Málaga and is in the easternmost part of the province. Hence, its coastal zone is called the Costa del Sol Oriental.

Activities:

The cliffs created by the Natural Park’s rivers make it a great environment to enjoy canyoning. One of the most enjoyable places for this kind of adventure is El Río Verde, (the green river), where you can enjoy incredible views of the Almijara Mountains. In these mountains, one feels surrounded by the natural scenery of high peaks with great mountain traditions and the urge to climb to the top of some of the highest peaks in the county. The area is also popular for climbing, abseiling and horse riding.

There is a large variety of paths, giving you the chance to discover the natural richness and the culture of the park whilst enjoying a hike. Of all these paths, we recommend the Frigiliana-Fuente del Esparto with impressive cliffs or the Raspón de los Moriscos, offering spectacular views.

Bahia de Cadiz Natural Park

Bahia de Cadiz Natural Park - Courtesy of Cadizturismo.com
Bahia de Cádiz Natural Park

Bahia de Cádiz National Park is on the Atlantic coast. It is made up of a mosaic of landscapes which includes beaches, mud flats and marshes. While the traditional uses of the bay are sea salt extraction and fishing, it is also a winter breeding habitat for migrating populations of more than 200 species of waterfowl.

The intrusion of the sea and the river mouths of the Guadalete and San Pedro rivers, along with the mild Mediterranean climate, give this wetland its ecological character and its diverse landscape of beaches, dunes, lagoons, wetlands and estuaries. Due to its intermediate position between the Straits of Gibraltar and the Doñana National Park, it is an excellent place to observe birds migrating between Europe and Africa.

The area has some of the most important Spanish colonies of terns, stilts and avocets. On the beaches, you can spot pelicans, cormorants, seagulls and wading birds, including oyster catchers, tridactyle, sandpipers, agujas, colipintas, terns and snowy plovers. Other inhabitants are the elegant flamenco and the osprey.

Places of Interest:

San Fernando is certaily a place worth visiting, particularly the Town Hall, the Royal Institute and Naval Observatory, Botanical Gardens, Castillo de San Romualdo, Teatro de las Cortes, Zuazo Bridge, la Carraca Arsenal, Islet and Sancti Petri Castle, the Municipal Historical Museum, the Naval Museum and the Archaeological Group:”Punic Furnaces.”

Cádiz is over 3,000 years old and one of the oldest cities in Western Europe. It is an ideal destination for people who love culture, art, beaches and nice weather. The most important places to see here include the Genoese Park, City Hall, the Cathedral, the Old Women’s Hospital, San Felipe Neri Church, the Church of San Agustín, La Casa de las Cadenas, Gran Teatro Falla and the Romano theatre.

Sanlúcar de Barrameda is at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. It is surrounded by nature, river, parks and countryside and it is highly prized for its environment, culture and gastronomy. Amongst its landmarks are the Old City Hall on the famous Plaza del Cabildo, Santiago Castle, the Basilica de La Caridad, the Orleans y Borbón Palace, the Medina Sidonia Palace and the Barbadillo Manzanilla Museum.

Jerez de la Frontera enjoys international recognition for its Sherry, wines, horses, flamenco dancing and motorcycle racing. Amongst its most important monuments are the old town which has been declared a Historical and Artistic Centre, the Cathedral Church of San Miguel, the Church of La Merced, the Duque de Abrantes Palace (Headquarters of the Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art), the Alcazar Archaeological Museum, the Old Town Hall, the Zoo, the Botanical Gardens and the wineries.

El Puerto de Santa Maria is in the Bay of Cadiz. Sherry and bulls make this a very interesting city. Interesting places to visit are the Bullring, the La Niña galleon, the House of Lions, San Marcos Castle, the Mayor Priory Church and the Capuchin Convent.

Activities:

There are plenty of sports here, including windsurfing, kite surfing, surfing, sailing, fishing, diving and swimming. The Sierras are the perfect location for adventure and mountain sports, including hang-gliding, bungee jumping, caving, mountain biking and horseback riding.

Discovering roads and trails is a popular pursuit by bike or walking. In this Natural Park you can enjoy all these activities most of the year.

Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park

Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park - Courtesy of andalucia.org
Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park

Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park is between the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga. It was the first park in Spain to be declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1977. It was then named as a Natural Park in 1985.

Villages are perched on mountain tops and slopes and are fully integrated into the landscape. There are 13 villages included in the park area – Grazalema, Zahara de la Sierra,Villaluenga del Rosario, Benaocaz, Ubrique, El Bosque, Prado del Rey and El Gastor (in the province of Cádiz) and Benaoján, Montejaque, Cortes de la Frontera, Jimena de Líbar and Ronda,(in the province of Malaga).

The Cádiz Mountains contrast with the surrounding valleys. It is an area of rugged ridges and valleys with vertical walls. There are also several caves amongst which is the “Hundidero-Gato” complex, the biggest cave in Andalucia, and the “Piletas” Cave, known worldwide for its prehistoric remains.

Many bird species inhabit the park, but birds of prey are the most important because of their size and majestic flight. The Griffon vulture has its largest colonies in Europe here. It is also home to many different types of eagle, including the Imperial, Calzada,Toed,Bonelli and Royal. You can also find mountain goats, deer and roe deer. There are also more than 200 vertebrate species, including fish, amphibians and reptiles and 44 types of mammals, many of them nationally and internationally protected.

The forests are ubundant with elms, willows and poplars along the river. The most prominent plant species in the area are Mediterranean oaks, cork and quejigo trees, along with the Pinsapo which can reach heights of over 30 metres and the Grazalema poppy which is unique to this area.

Places of interest:

Grazalema is a very ancient village, dating back to Celtic times. Arabs were the ones with the greatest impact on the environment, leaving a huge architectural heritage, a water driven handcraft industry, livestock and literature.

Arcos de la Frontera is one of the most beautiful villages in Andalucia, perched on a high cliff overlooking the river Guadalete. A Historical Artistic monument, it has traditional Andalucian architecture of Arabic origin and a maze of whitewashed streets to get lost in and discover unimaginable corners.

El Gastor is a town near the Tajo de Algarín mountain (1,068 metres) known for the beauty of its streets and alleys, stepping up the foot of the mountain. This location gives the area a panoramic view of the Sierra, also offering views of the village nestled on a wooded mountain.

Prado del Rey is known for its leather, carpentry, honey and artificial stone industries. To the south there are the ruins of the ancient Iptuci.

In Ronda, you can visit the Cave of the Pileta (a true relic of Andalucian prehistoric art) and numerous megalithic monuments, including the Dolmen de Chopo. Of special interest is the Roman city of Acinipo, with its remains of a theatre and amphitheatre. Other landmarks include the perfectly preserved Old Bridge, the Arab Baths and the Casa de Mondragón – a mansion once inhabited by Catholic Monarchs.

El Bosque is at the entrance to Grazalema Natural Park and it is surrounded by mountains. It is one of the most beautiful parts of Spain.

Activities;

There is a pleasant canoeing route through the mountains on the tranquil waters of the reservoir of Zahara de la Sierra. Bungee jumping is common, as is caving in El Susto and La Escéntrica. Other activities include rappelling, abseiling, horse riding and hot air ballooning. Walking and cycling and discovering roads and trails are popular ways to see nature in Grazalema Natural Park. These activities can be enjoyed all year round.

Visitor centres:

El Bosque is located in the town of El Bosque near Cádiz.
Tel. +34 956 727 029 Open all year.
Caving Interpretation Centre is in Montejaque (Malaga).
Tel. +34 952 167 196 / +34 952 167 551
Pinsapos Botanic Garden, Zahara de la Sierra, Cádiz.
Tel. +34 956 123 004
Castillejo Botanical Gardens, El Bosque, Cádiz
Tel. +34 956 716 134 Open all year.

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alhama tejeda almijara

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sierra de cazorla national park

Sierra de Grazalema, Málaga, Spain

Sierra Nevada National Park, Granada, Spain