Five of Andalusia’s Protected Areas that Must be Seen

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Andalusia is an area in southern Spain that consists of some of the country’s most beautiful historical cities, deserts and spectacular beaches. The contrasting landscape of the region is quite impressive. Andalusia has the most protected areas in Spain and they really add to the culture. When people think of Spain, they almost certainly don’t think of these beautiful protected areas, but I’m gonna do my part to get them some attention. These are my five favorite parts of Andalusia that are protected from development and other human interference.

The Sierra de Grazalema Mountains
Puesta de Sol coloreada by Javier Delgado
Puesta de Sol coloreada by Javier Delgado

Located in Cadiz, this national park was named in 1884 as the first national park in Andalusia. The park is home to rugged cliffs consisting of limestone, gullies, mysterious caves and deep gorges. While visiting the park, you might be able to see Egyptian Vultures, which are an endangered species. Garganta Verde is one of the remarkable gorges in the park, as it consists of rocky edges that extend up more than 400m. The largest cave group in Andalusia, Hudidero-Gato, is in this protected park. It consists of an enormous cavern that has an entrance that is 60m tall and is 4km long. I highly suggest you confront your fears and go for a spelunk.

The Cabo de Gata-Nijar Nature Reserve
Situated close to Almeria, this park is a huge maritime reserve. It comes from volcanic roots and is located around the Cabo de Gata headlands. It is very dry and it is even considered to be the driest place in Europe. UNESCO named the area a biosphere reserve in 1997 and a few years later, because of its gorgeous coastal, the park was considered a protected area. The park was Andalusia’s first natural land and sea park. Many birds stop in the area on their way to other parts of the world, so if you’re a bird nut, try to time your visit accordingly and bring your camera. The more you explore the park, the more secrets and treasures you’ll find as the spectacular landscape astounds you. While visiting the park, you will truly feel like you’ve been transported to another world.

The Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Almara Natural Park
This natural reserve is very extraordinary, as it is abundant with wildlife, including raptors, mountain birds and the Iberian mountain goat. You will most likely see eagles, falcons and woodpeckers as well, but I’m in it for the mountain goats. The park is, at 40,663 hectares, rather substantial in size and, as such, the area is perfect for hikers who might enjoy climbing the steep mountain cliffs. At just over 2,000 meters, La Maroma is the highest peak in the park. Like the other hills in the sierras, you’ll probably want to climb La Maroma sometime between the late fall and early spring, as the summer months can be rather hot. The park is home to many caves, such as those at Nerja, so caving is something you can do here, as well. The area is abundant in quartzite and gneiss, whose formation goes back more than 300 million years. The park is rich in plant species, many of which are rare. A portion of the park has been declared a game reserve for those of you who are into that, but the practice is strictly controlled, so make sure you know what you’re doing. You can also camp in the park, should you like, in one of the designated areas for camping.The breath-taking views, especially during the winter months when the mountains are capped with snow, will stick in your mind forever but you should still have your camera on hand. Seeing as it is a protected area, a lot of the land isn’t accesible by car, but there are roads around the perimeters of the area so you can get to where you want to go if you’re willing to hike a bit.

The Doñana National Park
Doñana5 by Arend Vermazeren
Doñana5 by Arend Vermazeren

Unlike a lot of the other areas in Andalusia, this park consists of marshes, lagoons, woodlands and sand dunes. It is located along the Guadalquivir River near the Atlantic Ocean. UNESCO has declared the park a biosphere reserve and a World Heritage Site. There is an endless number of bird species’ that flock to the park each year and you can also view rare and endangered wildlife, such as the Iberian Lynx and the Spanish imperial eagle. In addition, Doñana stretches along the coast of Spain allowing you to enjoy beautiful stretches of beaches . The park is rich with history, as Spanish kings once used the park as a private hunting ground. From November to January, the marshes contain numerous ducks, geese and other types of birds, and during the summer months, you will see fewer wildlife because water levels decrease. Because the park is protected, visitors have limited access, however, there are numerous beaches, trails and lagoons that welcome travellers. You can even hire a guide into the park, where you will ride into the area on four-by-fours or boats, where appropriate. Doñana is one of the most diverse landscapes in the protected areas of Andalucia and, as such, one of my favourites.

La Alpjuarras
This land locked mountainous region consists of extraordinary natural beauty, as the valleys are some of the most fertile in Spain. Because the farmlands are the beneficiary of melting snow from the mountains above, greenery is abundant in the area. Many people, myself included, love the hiking terrain, and some even bring a tent or sleeping bag when exploring the area. Trekkers from all over the world flock to the region to see the natural beauty and its people. The feeling of being in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains with nothing but a backpack and the scenery is truly incredible, but seeing the little towns nestled in the valleys of the mountains gives that feeling a run for its money.

Andalusia is one of the most fascinating parts of Spain, as you will see spectacular landscapes and gorgeous countrysides. When visiting the area, especially if you’re going to be hiking or spelunking, it is wise to purchase travel insurance in case you experience any unfortunate incidents on your travels. You can then see Andalusia with peace of mind and try things you have never tried before. Please, get out there and enjoy the awe-inspiring atmosphere that Andalusia has to offer and you will leave with memories that last a lifetime.

 

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