Sierra de Grazalema
Sierra de Grazalema, a natural park in the northeastern corner of the Cádiz province, right by the border of the Málaga province, claims 127,000 acres (45,000 hectares) of mountainous terrain, largely made up of calciferous rock. It is the rainiest spot on the Iberian Peninsula, with an average annual rainfall of 84 inches (210 cm), which offers up a varied landscape of jagged peaks, canyons, chasms and crags, and caves embellished with prehistoric art. There are forests of Spanish fir, and ferns and bursts of grazalema poppy, the latter a deep-red tubular flower, indigenous to this area. In the higher reaches are habitats of griffon vultures and eagles, and down below, in the park, are villages – the white villages of the Sierra de Grazalema – all coated in white to blunt the brunt of the southern heat. Most notable among these are Grazalema, El Bosque and Zaharra de la Sierra, all of them originally laid out by the Moors more than 800 years ago. They offer simple accommodations in rural settings, and park information besides. The park itself was once the hideout of thieving bandoleros, but now gives rock climbers, paragliders, hikers, mountain bikers, and outdoor sports enthusiasts and nature lovers of every stripe a great deal to cheer about.
Sierra de Grazalema Highlights
Grazalema is the principal village here, for which the park is named. It sits smack dab in the center of the park, in the clutch of a valley between El Endrinal and El Pinar mountains. It was once inhabited by the Moors, who laid out its narrow zigzag streets and named it Ben-Zalema. It is now famous mainly for its textiles, in particular its blankets. Visitors can tour the Artesania Teztil de Grazalema, where the textiles are made and sold.
El Bosque, which literally means "the forest," is perched on the western periphery of the park. It is a traditional freshwater fishing village, skirted by the Bosque River where carp and rainbow trout are the principal catch. The river empties into a reservoir a few kilometers to the south, Embaise de los Huranes, which in turn is a habitat for black bass and pike. In the village itself are a trout hatchery and fish farm that anchor the local economy.
Zahara de la Sierra
Zahara de la Sierra enjoys the loveliest setting of all the villages in the park. Its pale white buildings unfold along a gray crag that rises above the town, crowned with an Arabic tower, Torre del Homenage. It's a fair climb to the top, along a dirt trail with loose cobblestones, but the views from the tower are superb, taking in the Zahara Reservoir, the village of Grazalema, and meadows and peaks in a mélange of greens and grays.
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