The Andalusian Sierras from Malaga to Gibraltar - Spain
2007, 192 pages, Full Colour
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The southern part of the Iberian peninsula is characterised by a rugged mountain chain called the Betic Cordillera. The western part of this chain, between Málaga and Gibraltar, is an area of exceptional natural beauty. This entire region is attractive and the most beautiful areas are protected in a number of famous national or regional parks, such as the Sierra de Grazalema, Los Alcornocales, Torcal de Antequera and the Sierra de las Nieves.
The landscape is very variable and offers a home to a great number and variety of plant and animal species. There are impressive limestone rock escarpments along which the griffon vultures patrol for food. There are dense, damp Mediterranean forests where mongoose and genets skulk. Other areas have a charming landscape of gently rolling hills with meadows and open oak woodland, with picturesque white villages on the murmuring rivers in the valleys. There are flowery scrublands galore, bare, windswept upland plateaux and dark, forbidding forests... No one part of the Andalusian Sierras resembles another and there is something new to discover round every bend.
As may be expected in such a spectacularly diverse region, these mountains attract many visitors. Most come simply to enjoy the sun, the Andalusian way of life or to walk the mountain trails as they marvel at the landscape. But amongst naturalists -birdwatchers, butterfly and reptile enthusiasts and, above all, botanists - it is recognised as a real gem. The sheer diversity of plant species is dazzling with a large number of endemic species and highly localised species (species that occur only in very specific locations). In spring the mountains are full with attractive orchids, lilies, irises, mints, peonies, legumes, daffodils, rockroses and other wildflowers. Even if you have never taken a special interest in wildflowers, the spring flora of the Andalusian Sierras will still impress you as something special.
Birdwatchers flock here to find Mediterranean specialities, such as rock bunting, common and blue rock thrushes, subalpine warbler and a large number of raptors, including short-toed, booted, golden and Bonelli´s eagles plus griffon and Egyptian vultures. This is also the only place in Europe to find (with luck and dedication) five species of swifts. Another major attraction is the bird migration, particularly of storks and raptors. Here the Straits of Gibraltar are only fifteen kilometres wide, which makes this the favoured crossing point for migrating birds. Hundreds of thousands of migrants pass over the Straits of Gibraltar in March-April and again in August-September.
To continue with the superlatives, this is also the region to find Europe´s largest spider (the Gibraltar funnel-web spider) and Europe´s largest praying mantis plus such famous 'mini-beasts' as Monarch butterfly and Spanish scorpion. In addition to all this, the Straits of Gibraltar offer some wonderful whale-watching opportunities.
The nature Guide to the Andalusian Sierras - from Málaga to Gibraltar - (2007) provides a beautifully illustrated and detailed guide to this fascinating region. Carefully selected itineraries allow you to discover the area at your own pace.
A trip to the Andalusian Sierras can easily be combined with a visit to the wetlands of Coto Doñana and surrounding reserves, which are covered in the nature Guide to Coto Doñana and surrounding coastal lowlands. Alternatively, you can go north, into the endless rolling hills of Extremadura, covered in the nature Guide to Extremadura, or east, into the high mountain area of the Sierra Nevada and Alpujarras, and beyond, to the semi-desert area of Cabo de Gata.
Photograpy: Straits of Gibraltar, CGF - Dirk Hilbers; Yellow Bee Orchid, Saxifraga - Jan van der Straaten; Cork Oaks, CGF - Dirk Hilbers