Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park is one of the wettest places in the Iberian Peninsula. Straddling the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga this 534 km sq limestone massif is also one of the most rugged areas in Andalucia. For that reason, many of the walks, particularly in the northern part of the Sierra, require a permit that can be obtained from the tourist office in Grazalema itself or the one in El Bosque.
The bureaucracy is worth the effort. The Sierra has some of the most extensive karstic formations in Andalucia. The bare, white, limestone ridges rise above the green valleys. Oak forests dominate the valleys with mastic, hawthorn and gorse. The slopes have heather and rock rose, but the prize goes to the Abies pinsapo, the Spanish fir.
Pinsapo is an ancient species and almost extinct. It grows only on the highest peaks of the mountains in Cádiz and Málaga provinces and the Rif mountains in Morocco. Less endangered endemic species include the Grazalema poppy and the Relojillo de Recoder – a geranium only found in the Sierra de Libar.
The Sierra is home to many elusive mammals, mountain goats, otter, stag, martens, genets and badgers and the many caves host roosting colonies of horseshoe and cave bats. Overhead soar griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures and Bonelli’s eagle.
Gastronomically the area has much to offer including a dish made from thistles, trout from the Majaceite river, and the area’s signature goats cheese; ‘payoya’. All these can be had in the ventas in the white villages of the Sierra, Grazalema, Cortes de la Frontera, Ubrigue and El Bosque.