Monday, April 15, 2024

Sierra de Grazalema, one of the green lungs of Andalusia

March 7, 2021
Sierra de Grazalema, one of the green lungs of Andalusia

The Sierra de Grazalema rises to the waters of the Mediterranean, like a gigantic wall dotted with small white villages. This is why it gratefully receives the generous squalls that arrive from the Atlantic, storms that make this massif the rainiest place in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.

Located in the westernmost part of the Betic massifs, halfway between the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga, these mountains have been carved at the whim of the rains, giving rise to one of the most abrupt mountain ranges in Andalusia. As such, it is home to one of the most extensive caves in Andalusia, the Hundidero-Gato system, with almost 8 kilometers of galleries and a drop of more than 200 meters. But it is also home to other topographical landmarks of interest, such as the Sierra del Endrinal, elevated karst that presents colorful active pieces alternating with wide plains, and spectacular dolines and poljes, such as those present in Líbar and those of the Llanos del Republicano. Likewise, it is also home to mountain ranges with magnificent panoramic views, such as those of Caíllo and Ubrique, which give rise to amazing escarpments, deep gorges -Salto del Cabrero and El Saltadero- and imposing canyons with vertical walls that can reach a depth of 400 meters -Garganta Seca and Garganta Verde-.

The Sierra de Grazalema is dominated by holm oak forests and a cohort of mastic trees, hawthorns, and gorse, leaving room in the shady areas for gall oaks of excellent stature. On the sandstone soils, the holm oak gives way to cork oak and undergrowth made up of various species of heather and rockroses, as well as myrtles and ferns. But the botanical protagonist of these sierras is the Spanish fir, a fir clinging to bygone eras only present in the higher elevations of the sierras of Cádiz, Málaga, and the Moroccan Rif. Scattered groves can be found in the Sierra del Pinar, the Zafalgar, Endrinal, and Margarita mountain ranges. It is also remarkable for its variety of flora, as there are more than 1,300 species, including almost fifty endemic Iberian species, seven of which are exclusive to this natural area, such as the Grazalema poppy or the geranium known as the “relojillo de recoder”.

As far as fauna is concerned, there are numerous mammals, as can be seen in the mountain goats, otters, mongoose, martens, genets, and badgers. But the representative species is conditioned by the large number of existing caves, which are home to unique colonies of bats.  But the representative species is conditioned by the large number of existing caves, which are home to unique colonies of bats. The profusion of crags also favors the existence of numerous rupicolous birds, such as buitre leonado, alimoche the eagle-azor perdicera.