Designated a Unesco Biosphere reserve in 1977, the Sierra de Grazalema was declared the first natural park in Andalucia in 1984 and is one of Spain’s most ecologically outstanding areas.
The 51,695ha park is famous for its spectacularly rugged limestone landscape of cliffs, gullies, caves and gorges. By far the most impressive gorge is Garganta Verde, with its exceptional griffon vulture colony and rocky walls that tower vertically for 400m. Andalucia’s largest cave system is also here, the Hundidero-Gato with its biggest cavern measuring 4km long and an entrance of 60m tall.
The region is well known for being the rainiest place in Spain, with an annual rainfall of 2,200mm, which means that the 1,300 Mediterranean plant species that have been registered here, many of them endemic and some of them unique to the Sierra, flourish. There is a magnificent and well preserved forest of the rare Spanish fir, a relic from the Tertiary period, in the Sierra del Pinar on the slopes of Cadiz province’s highest peak at 1,654m, El Torreón.
Dotted around the sierra are attractive pueblos blancos (white villages), the one in the most dramatic setting being Grazalema, which nestles between the two rugged peaks of Pico del Reloj and the Pico de San Cristóbal. Other picturesque pueblos blancos include Cortes de la Frontera, El Bosque and Zahara de la Sierra.
Around 3,000ha of the park is called an Área de Reserve, with the most fragile ecosystems, Spanish fir forests and Griffon Vulture colonies. Conservation measures are more strict than the rest of the park and visits are controlled in terms of dates and numbers. At times when fire risks are greater (July to September) walks to this area are closed. For walks in the rest of the park, except for Sendero Garganta Verde, you must go with an authorized Turismo Activo company (details from the information offices listed in our information section). For the rest of the year, you need to obtain permits from the El Bosque information office.
High rainfall and a limestone landscape mean that the water courses and springs are plentiful. The principal rivers are the Guadalete, Guadiaro, Tavizna and Ubrique.
There is a Centro de Visitantes (visitors’ centre) in Cortes de la Frontera (952 154 599), with information on geology, flora and fauna of the park.
In El Bosque is the main park office (956 727 029), which has maps, walking routes and issues permisos (permits) for walks. The tourist offices in Cadiz (956 258 646) and Malaga (952 213 445) can also provide information.
In Grazalema is an information office (956 132 225) that has walking maps and can obtain walking permits from El Bosque office for you.
The park is easily accessible by car or on foot. The main roads crossing the Sierra are the A372 Ronda to El Bosque road and the A374 Grazalema to Ubrique road. The A373 links Ubrique with El Bosque on the western edge of the park. South of Zahara to Grazalema is the winding CA531, while the MA501 links Cortes de la Frontera to Benaoján.