The Sierra de Andújar is one of the most remote and thinly populated areas in Andalucia, a Natural Park where you can, truly, get away from it all and return to nature
By Nick Nutter | Updated 22 Sep 2022 | Jaén | Parks | Login to add to YOUR Favourites or Read LaterThis article has been visited 2,685 times
The Sierra de Andújar Natural Park is just to the east of another Natural Park, the Cardeña y Montoro Natural Park, separated from it by the course of the river Yeguas. As such, the rolling hills and high rocky crags of the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park have much the same vegetation and fauna as its neighbour. The park's highest peak of Burcio del Pino, at 1,290m marks the boundary between Andalucia and Cuidad Real.
Being just that little bit more remote than its neighbour, the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park has a greater expanse of natural vegetation. It claims to have the best-preserved area of Mediterranean forest and scrubland on the Iberian Peninsula. The lower slopes have been cultivated since the Neolithic and the landscape has been moulded into the ubiquitous dehesa, a mix of sustainable wooded copses and pasture that provide material for humans in the form of crops, wood and cork, whilst also allowing the free pasture of cattle, pigs and goats. The forest consists of pine groves, oak groves, holm oak groves, gall oak groves and cork oak groves and the Mediterranean scrub is rockrose, mastic and juniper, with aromatic herbs such as thyme, marjoram and rosemary providing sensations for the nose as you push through.
The birds and animals recognise no distinction between the two parks although the extra remoteness does encourage a larger population of the two large mammals in danger of extinction, the lynx and the wolf. The lynx population in the Sierra de Andújar is the most important and viable in the world, and constitutes the main source for the supply of specimens for breeding in captivity and the reinforcement of other areas such as the Doñana National Park.
The disappearance of the Iberian lynx is due to several reasons. Perhaps one of the most important is the decline of its main prey, the wild rabbit, due to viral diseases (myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease) suffered since the 20th century, which have reduced their populations by more than 80%. This is combined with the destruction, degradation and fragmentation of its habitat, the Mediterranean forest that affects both lynxes and rabbits. Another important cause has been death caused by human beings, due to direct persecution in the past and currently due to accidental abuse, poaching or the use of illegal predator control techniques, such as snares, poisons or traps. The Iberian lynx is a beautiful animal that is part of our natural heritage, whose future is in our hands. With pateince, the Sierra de Andújar is the most likely place to spot this animal in the wild.
In addition to the wolf and lynx, the Sierra de Andújar is also a haven for mongoose, otter, imperial eagle, golden eagle, black vulture, eagle owl, wild boar, fallow deer and the mouflon. The mouflon is a wild sheep that is native to the Caspian region. It was brought to the Iberian Peninsula during the Neolithic period something like 8,000 years ago and is thought to be the ancestor of all modern breeds of domestic sheep.
The Centro de Visitantes Las Viñas de Peñallana is north of Andujar at Ctra. A-6177, Km.13. The centre has information about the park and the six walks that traverse it.
In April the parks’ population soars from an estimated 41,000 inhabitants to an incredible 500,000. The reason for this is the ever more popular Romeria that attracts people from all over Spain. It now rivals the El Rocio pilgrimage. The destination is the Sanctuario Virgen de la Cabeza, a hermitage perched on the top of a granite outcrop, the Cerro de Cabezo, with spectacular views of the Sierra and the Jándula river valley. The sanctuary itself was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and the rather nondescript building is as a result of the rebuild ordered by Franco. It is worth taking the walk to the sanctuary for the stunning views, but not on the last Sunday in April.