6 Natural Parks, scenario for legends
Cádiz is Nature. Route of Natural Parks.Viewpoints, narrow passes, gorges and canyons can be found inland in the province of Cádiz together with rural architecture, good cooking, traditional lifestyles, olive-oil mills and windmills, Roman roads, festivities and the production of handmade blanket. Musical instruments, confectionery, cheeses and jams are art and part of popular adventure, legends and wisdom scenes, which have turned this Natural Parks into much more than extraordinary spaces for Nature lovers.
More than 220,000 hectares of spots, reserves and natural parks, which make this province be one of the provinces in Spain with the largest number of protected spaces.
Ecological and landscape diversity is emphasized in the six natural parks in the province: Sierra de Grazalema, Los Alcornocales, Parque Natural del Estrecho (Natural Park of the Estrait), Bahía de Cádiz, Breña and Marismas del Barbate (Barbate Marshlands) and the Natural Park of Entorno de Doñana. Places offering a wide range of leisure activities apart from their doubtless natural interest.
Caves, paths, reservoirs, cave art and thick forests outline the landscape of the Natural Park of los Alcornocales.
Known as "the virgin wild of the Iberian Peninsula", the African coast can be seen from it. Griffon vultures and eagle owls are usually in this park.
Deer, roe deer, otters and mongooses also find their shelter in this park, which is considered as the best conserved forest in Europe.
Its microclimate, very closed to the tropical areas climate, has favoured the proliferation of exuberant, almost impenetrable vegetation.
Bandits and black marketeers have been inside its caves and along its paths carrying one of the most valued products in those so hard times: coffee coming in from Gibraltar which arrived inland through paths.
Storks, booted eagles, hawks, and many spices meet in this so exceptional setting for ornithologists, and where you can practice canyoning and canoeing, visit archaeological sites or take a hot air balloon ride.
Even a walk in the thousand-year-old cork oak forests, which take barks off in shifts between 9 and 10 years, is an adventure. Cork extraction is one of the main resources in the park as well as livestock and big game hunting.
Narrow and deep river valleys -known as "tubes" - provide the same humidity species had in the Tertiary Age- which are the main characters in this park which has a surface area of 170,025 hectares going through the province from north to south, bounded by the Grazalema Park to the north and the Estrait Park to the south.
Where the sea and the forest merge, vertigo of the cliffs with the beaches of the Caños de Meca is in the Natural Park of Breña and Marismas (Marshlands) de Barbate. With drinking-water springs next to the seashore, paths for hikers and the possibility to enjoy diving.
White wagtails, pratincoles and other birds flutter around the hollows of these cliffs which are more than 100 m high and suddenly flow into the Atlantic Ocean.
On the mountain: Barbate pine forest with a surface area of more than 2,000 hectares. In the surrounding areas, the Faro (Lighthouse) and the Cape of Trafalgar, a place for history since 1805, year the battle took place where the Major Nelson died. Trafalgar Square, in the centre of London, hence the name and remembers the battle with this monumental square. In the park, meanwhile, calmness continues outside any battle.
The park produces between half a million and two millions pine cones a year, which are sold within the domestic market.
Pine cones are used as fuel and pinions are used in confectionary. Pinions are the main ingredient of "piñonadas de la Breña" in Barbate, a family-tradition sweet, made with eggs, sugar and pinions which can be bought in the town and in gourmet shops.
The Natural Park of Sierra de Grazalema, within its 50,000 hectares, has the Pinsapar de Benamahoma, a spruce forest that survived the withdrawal of glaciations.
UNESCO declared it as Biosphere reserve in 1975 and the European Union, Special Protection Area for Birds. It has the highest level of rain in the Iberian peninsula with an annual average higher than 2,000 litres per square metre.
The route of the White Villages is integrated in the Sierra de Grazalema. There are companies organising multi-adventure, speleology, horse-riding or climbing activities. The Ganganta Verde (Green Throat) path is one of the main ones in the area.
In Grazalema, it is interesting to visit the handmade blanket factory and in Zahara de la Sierra the Molino del Vínculo (Vínculo Mill) to know how olive oil is produced.
With designation of origin since 2002, this oil is characterized by the wild aromas from the mountains, slightly spice and bitter, resulting from the fact that it is grown in a rough land where mass production is not possible.
Payoya goat cheese is among the most genuine products in the north of the province -native spices to Sierra de Cádiz (Mountains of Cádiz) -highly valued and awarded in national competitions.
The Natural Park of Entorno de Doñana is one of the best spots for horse-riding. In the Cádiz area, the Park offers the possibility to visit marshland and pine forests, watch birds or access the National Park from Sanlúcar de Barrameda crossing the Guadalquivir, on the Real Fernando boat. If you like, you can continue in a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
3,400 hectares of marshlands, salt marshes and pine forests next to the river Guadalquivir belong to the natural park around the same name national park.
Marshlands, beaches, pine forests, canyons and dunes make up the Natural Park of
Bahía de Cádiz (Bay of Cádiz), where nautical trips can be made, visit marshes and salt marshes, memories of one of the most prosperous industries in the Bay in the XIX century when there were more than one hundred marshes.
The isle of Sancti Petri is in front of the coast, where mythology places the temple of Hercules and Atlantis and where relevant antiquity characters such as Hannibal or Julius Caesar stayed.
It was there that the Phoenicians erected a sanctuary devoted to Melkart, a deity worshipped by those sailors who arrived on these coasts 3,000 years ago from the most easterly side of the Mediterranean Sea.
It is interesting entering the labyrinth of the park by boat and enjoy and taste fish recently landed from the marshes in any modality: on a tile or salty.
The Natural Park of the Estrait, declared in March 2003, covers mountains, coasts and seabeds between Tarifa and Algeciras. Placed between two seas and two continents, it offers a very singular historical, landscape and natural wealth. Imperial eagles, whales and dolphins next to the ruins of Baelo Claudia, the town better representing the Roman urbanism in the Iberian peninsula. From that town garum was exported, a delicious fish sauce, an exquisite taste for all the Roman Empire.
Around thirty caves with prehistoric paintings, with sand dunes on the beaches of
Bolonia and Punta Paloma, and offshore an unknown amount of wreckage, sunk ships loaded with treasures....
| El Parque Natural Bahía de Cádiz y su paisaje cambiante al ritmo de las mareas.
|| Parque Natural de Los Alcornocales.