Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park

Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park
 

Overview
Sierra Subbetica Natural Park covers over 31,000 hectares and is part of the Beticas mountain range that is south-east of the province of Cordoba. It was declared a natural park in 1927 by the Central Board of National Parks after the field visit by geologists gathered in Madrid at the XIV International Geological Congress, which began promoting its study and protection. In 2006 the park was recognized by UNESCO and included in the European Geoparks Network with the name Geopark Subbéticas Sierras together with thirty other protected areas.

Erosion to these limestone mountains has left some stunning formations. The area is also home to some very pretty villages that are full of historic interest. It is also one of southern Spain's largest breeding colonies of griffon vultures.

The park is located north of the Montes de Malaga Natural Park.

Walking
There is a visitor centre located in Cabra. They can provide information about the park and its walks. The park has nine signposted walks. The Vía Verde of the Subbética skirts around the northern and western park of the park. This is a former railway line, which has been converted into a walking and cycling track. The route provides many stunning views of the rugged Sierras Subbéticas.

     

Geology
The geology of the Sierra Subbetica Natural Park consists of limestone formed from sediment deposited from about 200 million to 25 million years ago, in a vast sea that extended southward from the coast of the Iberian Plateau. The limestone has been formed from carbonate mud, the result of the accumulation of marine shells and skeletons at the bottom of the sea. Sediments began to be compressed, distorted, broken and stacked to emerge in a slow process that began 25 million years ago and continues today. Water, snow and wind have subsequently changed the shape the landscape which is rich in fossils especially ammonites.

This group of marine molluscs are extinct relatives of today's cephalopods, are of great interest in palaeontology. They were distributed widely in the seas around the world during the Jurassic and Cretaceous and evolved very rapidly resulting in a vast number of species similar in overall design but different in detail. The park is recognized worldwide as one of the most important to study the evolution of this group of fossils.

Sightseeing
There are over a dozen towns and villages within the park, many of which are worth visiting. Cabra where San Juan Bautista church is said to be one of the oldest in Spain and Rute has a ruined Moorish castle and a fascinating Baroque church. Iznájar is a particularly pretty whitewashed village on the banks of a vast reservoir of the same name.

The hermitage Ermita de la Virgen in the Sierra de Cabra, is not far from Cabra. It is perched on rocky outcrop and provides stunning panoramic views of Sierra Morena and Guadalquivir river valley.

Animals/Birds
The park has one of the largest colonies of griffin vultures in Southern Spain as well Andalucia's largest population of the peregrine falcon, a bird that is the park's symbol. Other birds of prey include Bonelli's eagles, short-toed eagles and black kites. Golden Eagles can also been seen here occasionally. Wild boar, mountain goat and Cabrera shrew are just some of the mammals that inhabit the area.

Plants
Over 1200 plant species are listed in the Sierra Subbetica Natural Park with about 30 endemic species, some of which are threatened with extinction. The predominant vegetation is Mediterranean scrubland, with holm oak woods, peonies and gorses, hawthorn, spurge flax, Centaurea castellana and gall oaks. The river banks are home to poplars, willows, salt cedars amongst others.