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A Brief Guide To The Natural Park of Grazalema
One of Spain's most stunning natural parks. A fabulous location to spend time, be it resting walking, bird watching or photography.
The village of Grazalema is found in the Andalucia region of southern Spain, in the north east part of Cadiz province (at a height of 800m) in the mountain range bearing the same name - Sierra de Grazalema. In 1977 this area was declared a "Reserve of the Biosphere" by UNESCO due to the exceptional variety and wealth of its fauna and flora. In 1984 it was made the first Nature Park of Andalucia by the Junta de Andalucia.
The park status envelopes several beautiful towns and villages; Grazalema, El Bosque, Ubrique, Zahara de la Sierra, Benaocaz, Benamahoma, Prado del Rey, and Villaluenga del Rosario are within the Cadiz side of the park. Benaojan, Cortes de la Frontera and Montejaque, are in Malaga province.
The parkland consists of 51,695 hectares of which the highest point is El Torreon at 1,654m. These limestone mountains form the western tip of the Cordillera Betica range and there is only low lying land from there to the Atlantic coast. A history of high rainfall has created the cliffs, crags, caves, sink holes, river valleys and gorges that make the area so varied.
Fauna and Flora
Grazalema and Ronda have the last examples of the Abies pinsapo fir trees, living fossils that grew in the Tertiary period and still exist today.
Papaver rupifragum, Phlomis x margaritae, Echinospartum algibicum and Erodium recoderi are plants that are endemic to the park. These plants and many others, special to Andalucia, are best seen in the collection at the Botanic Gardens in El Bosque.
There are 30+ different species of orchids that flower here, beginning in January with most peaking during the spring. Many can be easily seen at the road and path sides.
The Mediterranean scrub consists mainly of wild olive, Retama, Lentisc, Phlomis, Quercus coccifera, Genista, Oleander, Rhamnus and Cistus. Woods and forests are made up of pine trees and evergreen oaks including the important cork oak Quercus suber.
Large soaring birds, if seen in a group, are likely to be Griffon vultures. There is a large breeding colony in Garganta Verde. Eagles seen are Booted, Short-toed, Bonelli's or Golden. There are also several Egyptian vultures breeding in the park. Other birds to look out for are Red billed chough, Lesser kestrel, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Black-wheatear, Blue rock thrush, Rock thrush and Woodchat shrike.
Mammals are mainly nocturnal but wild mountain goats can be seen on mountain walks. (Often near the roads in colder months.) Red deer, Fox, Hare Egyptian mongoose, Stone martin, Genet and Wild Boar are more difficult to see.
There are around 75 butterflies listed for the park. The Two–tailed pasha, Cardinal, Cleopatra, Scarce Swallowtail, Large Tortoiseshell and Marsh fritillary are some of the largest and more easily seen.
Things to See
El Bosque: Visitors center, Botanical Gardens, Molino de Abajo (a restored water powered flour mill).
Grazalema: Woolen Mill
Zahara: Visitors centre, Castle tower, Molino El Vinculo (an old style olive press and shop)
Cortes de la Frontera: Visitors center
Montejaque: Spelunking museum
Benamahoma: Water museum
Benaocaz: Eco museum
Benaojan: Cueva de la Pileta, a beautiful cave created by water erosion and home to ancient man, demonstrated by artifacts and cave paintings
If you plan to go walking, permits are required, to limit the number of visitors to some areas. You will be asked for passport details of one person, which day you wish to enter, which path and how many people.
Contact number for Entrance Permits
Note: The walking routes of Pinsapar and Torreon are closed July, August and September in order to protect them from fire. This time may be extended if the fire risk continues.
Click the map image to get a large version showing all the walking routes described below.
6 hours, steep initial climb. Linear. Start 2km from Grazalema, finish in Benamahoma arriving at the campsite on Calle Nacimiento. There are great views and of course the Pinsapar forest is the highlight of this walk. (Alternatively, retrace your steps from the forest to return to the car park.) Permit needed.
5 hours, a steep incline to the summit. Same path return. Start point is 5km from Grazalema on the road to El Bosque. The highest peak within park at 1654m. Amazing views of the park and surrounds. Good chance of seeing wild mountain goats, raptors. Permit needed.
4 to 5 hours with a very steep descent. Same path return. The start point is 4km from Zahara on the mountain pass road to Grazalema. Approx 400m deep gorge with a vast, beautiful cave at the base. (For the vulture viewing platform continue along narrow path hidden behind sign, without turning left down hill to the Garganta. The last part is a steep, short rocky climb. Please respect the silence sign.) Permit needed.
Llano de Ravel
3 hours, a gravel track, slight incline. Same path return. Start point 4.5km from Zahara on the mountain pass road to Grazalema. The more gentle of the permit walks aims towards the base of the Pinsapar forest, though not into it. Permit needed.
Salto del Cabrero
4 hours, linear (or walk to the rock from which the name is taken and return on the same path, beginning from either end.) Start from Puerto del Boyar 3km from Grazalema on the Benamahoma road. There is a fairly steep decent into Benaocaz to finish the linear route arriving near Hostal San Anton. Great views, plenty of plants, animals and birds to enjoy.
Cerro de Coros
2 hours, circular, narrow in parts. Start point is the parking area at Puerto de las Palomas. When facing the Zahara lake the entrance is through a wire fence on the right hand side. From this high vantage point an easy walk will give fabulous overviews of Grazalema and Zahara areas. Often bringing you close to the vultures.
2 to 3 hours, linear, crossing the river by small bridges. Start in Benamahoma at the lowest point of the village, to descend with the flow to El Bosque. Entering El Bosque near to the Botanical gardens and continuing to the centre. A cooler, easy, walk for the summer. ( Returning by the same track 5 to 6 hours.)
Sima del Republicano
4 hours, returning on the same route. Mainly on farm tracks, with the last part across fields. Start point is alongside a derelict hostal just on the Grazalema side of Villaluenga. The Sima or swallow hole is a steeply descending cavern created by water flow.
Fuente de Libar
5 hours, ascend from Montejaque to a large high, limestone valley typical of the area. From the Plaza de Montejaque aim uphill to the church and then continue out above the village. This track also leads to several farms and much of the valley is grazing land. You could return at any point although the track does continue to Cortes de la Frontera, the last part becoming more difficult and adding another hour or so.
Slow Travel Google Map - Spain, Andalusia, Sierra de Grazalema: Clive, August 2006. Clive and Sue show the sites in their corner of Southern Spain.
Slow Travel Google Map - Andalusia, Spain: DavidX, October 2006: The Andalucia region in southern Spain.
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