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Natural Parks in Andalusia

El Estrecho Natural Park Cadiz

Natural Parks in Andalusia

El Estrecho Natural Park Cadiz

El Estrecho Natural Park has a unique cultural value as a historical stage of relations between Europe and Africa and for being a key location in the cultural transitions between the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. There are a high number of archaeological sites and an artistic and ethnographic heritage that features a wide variety of styles that have come to constitute the identity bursts of Andalusia.

The Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site, declared National Historic Monument, is the central heart of historic and artistic heritage of the Park. This ancient Roman factory city is extraordinary for several reasons: its privileged location, its preservation condition, its size, the potential for knowledge-research of urban and productive structures and its potential tourism.

We also have to emphasize the surveillance and defence system made up of a series of lookout Towers or beacons, which have the advantage of being able to be used as reference landmarks on tours or itineraries along the coast.

Within the Nature Park has so far recorded the presence of more or less 30 caves with rock art manifestations and that in most cases are identified by schematic paintings.

Due to the location of the Strait of Gibraltar and its complex system of winds and currents, there is plenty of underwater archaeological heritages consisting of different kinds of remains of sunken ships (flotsams). One of the most striking aspects is that for some time it has been suffering a process of despoilment.


The Natural Park area of the Strait is influenced by a Mediterranean oceanic variety. The annual rainfall exceeds 700 litres and the average temperature is 17 ° C. But what really stands out in the territory is the prevailing easterly wind with gusts up to 125 km / h. This factor is crucial in the adaptation of vegetation to the environment and indirectly in the landscape.

Geomorphologic Characteristics

There is a complex tectonic with pilling up of landslides with different stratigraphic units, which include Flysh formations that are sedimentary sequences with alternations of hard materials such as sandstones and limestone with other soft ones like clay and loam, represented in the cliffs and abrasion platforms.

We also can mention some important karst submarine formations, the one of Punta Camarinal, the quaternary dunes and beaches along the coast.

To the Northwest of the area appears La Sierra de la Plata, where it is the highest point and La Loma de San Bartolomé. La Sierra de la Plata is a coastal range, it is located to the east-west and has higher altitudes in the northern sector, in particular La Silla del Papa with 459 m., than in the South, with La Laja of 343 m, where it branches before reaching the sea into two branches: Cabo de Gracia and La Plata. On the east it joins the Laja de las Algas Laja with 415 m.

San Bartolomé is a small elevation in the North-South area that culminates in 444 metres and that it is part of the so-called Arco de Bolonia.

The coastline is varied and gives rise to two distinctly separate types of coast separated by La Isla de Tarifa, being sandy and with smooth slope on the west and consists of rocky cliffs on the east.

There are tow kinds of soils in the mountains and hills: the brown forest soil over siliceous sandstones of El Aljibe and the loamy Lehm over limy sediments of El Eocene. The brown forest soil is of the hills and mountains, and the second one is of the hills. There are also, in this region, fertile alluvial soils, red soils and land Mediterranean brown limestone.

As regards hydrological level there are only small streams and rivers such as El Jara, El Vega and El Guadalmesí.


The fauna of this area is noted for the large number of birds. The results published up to now include more than seven hundred thousand birds taken the census belonging to thirty-four species. The more numerous are white stork (Ciconia ciconia), honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus) and black kite (Milvus migrans). We also can observe the imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti) and the black stork (Ciconia nigra), considered endangered and “Species that should be object of protective measures concerning their habitat,” according to European regulations. Besides these, you can see the black vulture (Aegypius monachus), lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus) and the black-winged kite (Elanus caeruleus). Likewise, the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), the western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygargus) Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraetus fasciatus), Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae) and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) have been seen in the context of the MIGRES. All of them are considered vulnerable by the Spanish legislation. The colonies of griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) are the southernmost in Cadiz and in the Iberian Peninsula.

Between the two mountains the Natural Park counted a total of 50 breeding pairs.

Having failed to mention many species, another important aspect of the fauna in the area of the Strait of Gibraltar is the phenomenon of migrations. Although they relate to insects, birds, fish and marine mammals, most of investigations have focused on the group of birds. This has generated a significant number of associations and naturalists in the area involved in several projects to study birds in their passage through the Straits. Among these we have to emphasize MIGRES Program, funded by the Ministry of Environment and coordinated by the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO / Birdlife). Most of these actions are performed in the Parque Natural del Estrecho.


The key feature of the flora in El Estrecho Natural Park is the present aspect that it has, a result of the peculiar weather conditions of the area and of an intensive human pressure since ancient times.

In the mountain areas, such as Sierra de la Plata and San Bartalomé, the ground that covers the slopes is formed by oaks and olive trees, replaced in much of its surface by brush, pine and eucalyptus of reforestation. In the lower parts of the mountains and peaks, forest formations disappear to give way to grasslands and scrub trailing.

We can emphasize the endemism Narcissus viridiflorus, Genista triacanthos, Chamaespartium tridentatum y Drosophyllum lusitanicum.

The dune of Bolonia has adapted vegetation to this environment, with some stands of Elymus farctus and beach grass (Ammophyla arenaria), under whose protection is installed species of sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias) and Lotus creticus.

In Punta Camarinal and Punta Paloma, the arboreal substrate is dominated by a tree replanting pine (Pinus pinea) with some specimens of juniperus (Juniperus phoenicea) and juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus subsp. Macrocarpa), more abundant along the cliffs. As we move away from the coast, in Punta Camarinal, we can observe species such as the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus), the Bayon (Osyris quadripartite) or black jaguarzo (Cistus monspeliensis), highlighting among all the Camarina (Corema album). In Punta Paloma, however, the spaces left by the pines, are coated with a monospecific area covered in broom, under which plants are abundant Centranthus calcitrapae and Anagallis arvensis.

On the cliffs of the Cerros del Estrecho we can observe are two plant units: one formed by the crithmum (Crithmum maritimum), Calendula suffruticosa and Asteriscus maritimus on perpendicular cliffs that cut the strata perpendicularly and another, with little vegetation on vertical cliffs over walls of sandstone.

Sea environment

In the sea environment of El Estrecho Natural Park, we can find three different marine provinces: the Lusitanian, the Mauritanian and the Mediterranean, giving a great uniqueness to the whole area, whose waters contain very high levels of biodiversity. In the scientific works carried out in the area have been cited more than 1900 species of flora and fauna, being described, some of them, as new ones to Science. Also, a considerable number of these species are new records for the Andalusian coast.

Among the species with high conservation interest due to its endemicity and/or rarity in global or local level include: Los poríferos (sponges) such as Axinella estacioi, cnidarios (jellyfish) like Iberian Merona, Cervera atlantica, Scleranthelia microsclera, etc. leaving without mentioning many crustaceans and molluscs species. These species live in habitats characterized by biological communities settled on hard substrates (rocky bottoms with high heterogeneity, generally located between 10 and 50 m deep).

There are also important to preserve a total of 23 species, considered of communal as Patella ferruginea, (the biggest limpet from the shores of Europe), the Lithophaga lithophaga or piddocks and Pinna nobilis or nacre. The regression of one of their preferred habitats such as the phanerogam beds, has contributed to the dramatic decline of their populations; the echinoderm Centrostephanus longispinus or long-spined sea urchin; as well as all sea turtles (loggerhead, leatherback, hawksbill and olive ridley) , and cetaceans.

The Directive 92/43/EEC included in its Annex V (species of Community interest whose taking in nature and exploitation may be subject to management measures) a species from Algeciras-Tarifa coastline: the precious coral (Corallium rubrum), established in specific areas with rocky bottoms superior to 40 metres deep but that suffers from high pressure to its high economic interest.

The seabed which is situated on the marine environment of the Park, has a great diversity due to the wide variety of substrates and the rugged bathymetry of them. These two features, with the presence of an unpredictable current system allow us to observe the provision of numerous plant formations.

In the sandy bottoms of the coastal strip between the town of Tarifa and the inlet of Bolonia, there are the meadows of the sea grass Cymodocea nodosa (Cymodoceion nodosae), collected, are located opposite the beach of Los Lances and coves of Valdevaqueros and Bolonia.

In deeper sandy bottoms, deeper to 30 metres, appear dense formations of Laminaria ochroleuca that form important groves.

On the bottoms with good visibility and absence of suspended solid material, which are abundant throughout the coastal fringe of the Park in the rocky intertidal zone and the subtidal, there are algal formations located most notably the presence of species of the genus Cystoseira.


El Estrecho Natural Park CadizIn the  El Estrecho Natural Park have been identified 17 landscape units in the terrestrial landscape, and 7 more in the marine environment. This diversity of forms in the space makes the landscape, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable natural resources of the reserve. Its conservation is, therefore, a key aspect in this space.

On the other hand, we do not forget the value of this space as a privileged area from which you can see landscape features as valuable like the north coast of Africa, Tarifa Island or the Columnas de Hércules, reasons enough for ensure their conservation.

El Estrecho Natural Park Interesting Facts

  • Declaration: 2003.
  • Protected area (ha): 18.931,- from which 9.247,- are marines.
  • Country: Spain.
  • Autonomous Region: Andalucía.
  • Province: Cádiz.
  • Municipalities: Algeciras and Tarifa.
  • Figures of protection located in the space: Paraje Natural “Playa de los Lances” (1989).
  • Natural Monument “Duna de Bolonia” (2001).

El Estrecho Natural Park Cadiz

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