Red squirrel at Cazorla
The Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park is one of the most spectacular areas in Europe. Situated in the north east of Jaen province the park extends over 2,990 sg kms. It is dominated by two towering peaks, both over 1,000 metres high, between which are deep ravines, chasms, karstic towers and steep sided valleys, a diverse landscape that offers shelter to a huge range of animals and plants.
The River Guadalquivir has its source in the park, and its numerous tributaries are responsible for the ravines and waterfalls. The embalse at Tranco has allowed the river to form a lake some 12 kilometres long right in the heart of the park.
There are over 2,300 species of plants, 360 of which are rare and 34 are endemic. Mediterranean shrubland, lowland thickets adapted to dry, stony ground grows beneath holly groves that are normally found in colder more humid climates. However, it is the laurel woodland growing in the valleys that best typifies the area. This gives way to Holm oaks and Aleppo pines, black pines, yew, boxwood, gall-oak, maple, until on the highest ground, swathes of Austrian pine, emblematic of the area. Amongst the lower growing plants are the Cazorla violet and Cazorla narcissus.
Amongst the flora is 36 species of mammals, 130 species of breeding birds, including the bearded vulture, 21 species of reptiles, 12 species of amphibians and 11 of fish. Butterflies and moths abound, including the Spanish Moon Moth, only found in these mountains.
The whole area is covered by tracks and paths suitable for walkers and cyclists. The Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park is also one of the few Natural Parks that caters for the dedicated off-road 4 x wheel driver.
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