Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park Cadiz Malaga
Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park Cadiz Malaga
Declared Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, the mountains of Grazalema provides an incredible landscape, with contrasted reliefs on limestone on the result of a violent geological history: deep valleys in the form of canyons, caves, ledges and slopes … and a wide variety of forms caused by the dissolution occurred in ancient geological times.
The Natural Park of Sierra de Grazalema is located between the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga with an area of 53,411 hectares in the western zone of the Betic Cordillera. Border land between the Muslim kingdom of Granada and Castile between the XIII and XIV centuries, this mountain was the site of frequent fights. It raises a very concentrated human environment, where villages are located on the tops and slopes being fully integrated into the landscape. This unique cultural context, typical of many civilizations in the belt of mountains surrounding the Mediterranean, continues nowadays despite the course of centuries.
A total of 14 municipalities are included, to a greater or lesser extent, on the surface of the Park: Grazalema, Zahara de la Sierra, Villaluenga del Rosario, Benaocaz, Ubrique, El Bosque, Prado del Rey, El Gastor y Algodonales from the province of Cádiz and Benaoján, Montejaque, Cortes de la Frontera, Jimera de Líbar and Ronda in Málaga.
This mountain range from Cádiz rises between 600 and 1600 metres on the surrounding valleys and depressions. It is an area of rugged reliefs, with valleys of vertical faces like the “Garganta Verde”, whose depth reaches 400 metres. There are also frequent caves among which we can mention the “Complejo Hundidero-Gato”, the biggest cave in Andalusia or the “Cueva de la Pileta”, known worldwide for its prehistoric remains.
Despite the presence of man since ancient times, the mountain range contains important natural vegetation mass typically Mediterranean: oaks, gall oaks, carobs and olive trees. In the shady place of the Sierra del Pinar is located a magnificent forest of Spanish firs, the best preserved nowadays in the Serranía de Ronda.
In close mountain ranges we can observe woods or isolated examples of this kind, witnessing its former extent. The visit to the Pinsapar, as well as other sites and Reserve Areas of the Park, can be performed only at certain times of the year and limiting the number of visitors. Sometimes it must also be accompanied by a guide.
Elms, willows and poplars are the species that form the typical gallery forest along the course of rivers and streams, and can be seen for example in the upper part of the River El Bosque. All these species to a total of 90 are represented in the Botanical Garden El Bosque, which provides two alternative routes.
Many species of birds inhabit in the Park, but perhaps because of their size and majestic flight are the birds of prey the most attract our attention. From one of them, the griffon vulture, here are the largest colonies of Europe. Although the most cultural heritage comes from the Muslim civilization, there are numerous Roman remains of ancestor’s towns, “Iptuci” (Prado del Rey), “Ocuri” (Ubrique), “Acinipio” (Round), etc.
Customs and the exploitation of lands are closely linked to the natural habitat that has arrived intact until nowadays. Among the old artisanal practices we have to emphasize the production of wool blankets in Grazalema (also made ponchos and scarves). The leather goods and leather garment of the Sierra are typical in Ubrique, Prado del Rey and Cortes de la Frontera. In the latter also highlights the work of cork, handbags, umbrellas and roofs of heather, the Arabic tiles and copper jewellery. An original artisan product is the gastoreña bagpipe, musical instrument worked on a cow horn, typical from El Gastor. The basketwork, esparto grass and honey are other important resources.
The regional food is another important cultural wealth. In general, in all the towns you can taste the homemade sausages. The “soup from Villaluenga” is very comforting in winter. In Benaocaz it is elaborated the “suspiros”, a delicious candy cooked in the oven, and the popular porridge. You can also taste in Grazalema the delicious confectionery, where they make almond amarguillos, cubiletes and the typical Grazalema soup. The mistela (hot pounch) from Montejaque and the grape juice of Prado del Rey are the most traditional wines of the area. Other typical products include cake pork rinds, sheep cheese, etc…
Legacy of the past also are the traditional festivals and fairs, held mostly during the summer. In Zahara de la Sierra, the streets and squares are decorated with reeds and grasses during the big party: El Corpus. The toro de cuerda, typical in Benaocaz and Villaluenga, is celebrated in August. In Ubrique takes place “la quema de gamones” May 3; on this day, the villagers burn the tips of Asphodel making them explode.
One of the most deeply rooted celebrations is the one that takes place in Benamahoma: the struggles of “Moros y Cristianos’, in memory of the old battles between both sides.