SIERRA DE GRAZALEMA
The park’s designation by UNESCO as a Biospheric Reserve and an area of global scientific interest, like its classification as a Natural Park and Protected Space by the government of Andalucía, has ample justification in the extraordinary variety of indigenous botanical species, as well as the wealth of more common species found in abundance in the park’s wilderness.
The plant life of the Sierra de Grazalema mountain range is singularly Mediterranean, typified by its leafy and verdant trees, although the throne of botanical royalty is held by our native Pinsapo (Abies Pinsapo Boiss) a species of pine peculiar to the region which only grows at 1000m above sea level or higher and can reach a height of 30m. It also constitutes a genuine ecological rarity, as it is one of the few tree species still living that existed during the Tertiary Era (1.6-65m years BC). It survived the last Alpine ice age and is in effect a living fossil.
You’ll find the Pinsapo spread out among various zones of the Sierra, especially in the Pinar woods, where there is a whole Pinsapo forest
|of 420 hectares, a site of great ecological importance, representative of the qualitative and quantative whole of the Pinsapo population across the entire Sierra. Equally we will also find others species such as the holm oak, cork oak, Portuguese oak, maple, Spanish juniper, common juniper, carob, olive, ash, laurel and the arbutus, among others, notably the oleander and other bank-side vegetation.
The fauna of the Grazalema region draws as much interest as the flora, thanks to the diversity of habitats here. Of the larger herbivores, we should highlight the presence of the roe and common deer, and what’s commonly known as the mountain goat, which are sometimes seen on rocky summits near the town itself.
Hunters such as the fox, the genet cat and the Egyptian mongoose are common. Raptors such as the Egyptian vulture, royal eagle, peregrine falcon, alpine swift, black kite and the Eurasian eagle owl, as well as the most important European colony of griffon vultures, are frequently seen from Grazalema in flight over nearby gorges.
Public access to the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema
The Sierra of Grazalema Natural Park has a wide variety of facilities to enable the visitor to explore and observe the park’s exceptional ecological riches deep inside its tree-clad ravines, rocky plateaux and primeval forest.
Visitors who want to press further into the park than the roadside viewing areas allow can take advantage of a complete network of itineraries that take in the most significant areas of the park wilderness. Between these there are tracks between and around villages, allowing quick and easy access to everyone. Other itineraries present levels of difficulty for walking ranging between medium and high, but on these you will be penetrating the most out-of-the
way areas of the park, where you’ll get a sense of the real majesty of the place. To protect the environment of the protected ‘Area de Reserva’ entry is strictly controlled and you will need a permit from the office of the Central de Reservas del Parque (usually a formality), which is in the Centro de Visistantes in the nearby town of El Bosque.
Longer walks in and around the Parque region have a further special interest to visitors, as they also touch on the rich historic and cultural heritage of the area. The small villages in and around the park are examples of both traditional architecture and balanced development, and some have been designated as protected sites of historical interest, where the visitor can encounter the people who live in these mountain fastnesses, their gastronomy and crafts, and immerse themselves in a landscape both natural and urban of a singular beauty.
Equally unmissable are the nearby caves of La Pileta, the most important display of prehistoric cave art in the region, or the Bronze Age megaliths such as the Dolmen de Alberite, to the Iberian and Roman settlements (Ocuri, Iptuci…) or the castles and fortresses from the frontier centuries of the Muslim and Christian armies (Zahara de la Sierra). Some of these are included in the Archeological Route of the Pueblos Blancos, an initiative of the ‘Mancomunidad’, the union of regional authorities, of the municipalities of the Sierra de Cádiz.
Visitors can also visit sites and structures linked to more recent activities which, in some cases, have almost disappeared, such as the numerous mills, the wool factories of Grazalema, the 14th century salt pans of Hortales…
Vía VerdeComplementary to the Park itself there is also a series of agencies offering recreational and sporting activities, as well as study options for numerous earth sciences. These include environment studies, walking, routes by horse or bike, climbing, caving, canoeing, sail-gliding, orientation, birdwatching and more. There are also two study centres for students and organized special interest groups. You can find more information in the various local Oficinas de Información and Centros de Visitantes around the park and its surrounding villages.
Almost finally, the park has yet one more facility to offer the visitor: the chance to sleep in it. There are numerous hotels and camp sites on the edge of the park, ranging from luxury to pup-tent basic, and camp sites have all facilities and recreation areas nearby.