Researchers and health professionals seem to very much agree on one thing lately: human beings need to spend more time in nature if we are to successfully battle stress, tension and environmental damage. Nature writer, Richard Louv, hit the nail on the head when he stated that the best way to encourage the younger generation to care about the environment, is to ensure they build a valuable bond with Nature from the earliest of ages. If you have been thinking of travelling to Spain but you’d rather forego big cities like Madrid or Barcelona in favour of a truly memorable experience in the Great Outdoors, one excellent choice is Sierra de Cazorla, about an hour’s drive from the centre of the province of Jaén, in the south of Spain.
Why Visit Sierra de Cazorla, Spain
Jaen is home to both the Cazorla and Segura mountain ranges, which total up to around 209,920 hectares of verdant paradise. In 1983, the area was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve and a natural park was established in 1989. These mountains are home to 51 mammal species, 185 birds, and the highest number of butterfly species in the peninsula. The Cazorla mountain range contains the sources of two of Spain’s most famous rivers: the Guadalquivir and Segura rivers, both of which can be visited with local tour companies. The site of the water bubbling upwards from what seems like a relatively small source, and winding into spectacular rivers, streams and waterfalls, is truly a site to behold. Animals also abound, and during a walk amidst the ancient pine trees, don’t be surprised if you see anything from entire families of boars, to graceful deer or speedy foxes.
Cazorla is a trekker’s paradise
Most of the beautiful sites with best views can only be accessed after walking quite a few kilometres, though the paths are pleasant and can be undertaken by little children as well as older walkers (watch out for the slippery stones in the areas closest to the river). The Cerrada de Elías is possibly the most often visited site in the area; walk along the river until you reach a stunning narrow gorge, which you can walk above thanks to a raised boardwalk. The walk can take a couple of hours, so make sure to bring a picnic lunch and bottles of water. In the warmer months, consider taking a dip in the natural pools that bear a bright turquoise hue. Another beautiful site is the Cerrada de Utrero (an easy 3im circular walk that is best visited before the Cerrada de Elías, since it is beautiful but not nearly as breathtaking as the latter).
Outdoor activities are abundant
If you are the adventurous type, ask the hotel you are staying at for information regarding available activities. These include everything from canyoning to trekking and white water rafting. The Cerrada de Utrero is one ideal spot for canyoning. If you plan on indulging in many high adrenalin activities, make sure they are covered by your travel insurance; general policies may not necessarily cover so-called riskier activities like climbing or canyoning.
If you like excitement but prefer ‘gentler’ activities, we suggest the 4×4 tours that will take you to parts of the park which are closed to the general public. The guides will inform you of fascinating facts and introduce you to particularly interesting species in the park – the oldest or tallest trees, etc.
Choose accommodation base on type of experience
You have two choices when it comes to accommodation; you can either stay in the town of Sierra de Cazorla (which has lovely sites, including old churches and a stunning castle called the ‘Castle of Four Corners), or opt to live closer to the park itself. If you plan on roughing it daily, the latter is recommended, since the road from the town to the park is long and winding. One of the area’s most beautiful hotels is the Parador de Cazorla, which is located in the very heart of Cazorla and Segura, making all major natural sites just a stone’s throw away. Behind the hotel, you will see gorgeous families of boars and other animals; indeed, guests normally get up close to the animals at particular ‘feeding times’. Don’t get too close, though, since boars can be very protective of their young. In the summer, the Parador has a gorgeous pool from which to view the beauty of the mountains and soak in the warm rays of sunlight. There are many other hotels and apartments that suit all types of budgets.