Granada province

Granada province

Designated a natural park in 1989, this rugged and spectacular limestone mountainous region in the north of Granada province, adjacent to the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park and part of the Sierras Bética, is exceptional for its geological features, with a dramatically eroded landscape of gorges, vertical cliffs, waterfalls and, below ground, numerous caves.

In the northeast of Granada province adjacent to neighbouring Almeria is the sparsely populated 53,649ha Sierra de Baza Natural Park, part of the Cordillera Penibética. Its steep slopes are mainly pine-clad, up to the more barren, rocky ground over 2,000m. Its central part is made up of remote, jagged limestone peaks, which can be snow covered for some of the winter and are inhabited by majestic birds of prey.

The Sierra Nevada is a dramatic, rugged and extensive mountain range, the highest in Europe after the Alps and the most significant section of the Cordillera Penibética. The protected area encompasses 86,208ha of torrential rivers, sheer-sided gorges, stony scree slopes, glacial lakes between snowy summits and, in the foothills of the Alpujarras, cultivated terraces of almond trees and vegetables.

Granada was first settled by native tribes in the prehistoric period, and was known as Ilbyr. When the Romans colonised southern Spain, they built their own city here and called it Illibris. The Arabs, invading the peninsula in the 8th century, gave it its current name of Granada. It was the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians in 1492, at the hands of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon.

The Cárcavas de Marchal Natural Monument is a spectacularly eroded clay massif covering 5.2ha. For many years people have been carving out caves in the Cárcavas de Marchal for habitation. Located some 55km east of Granada city, Marchal is south of Purullena, off the A92 motorway.

These magnificent waterfalls, Los Infiernos, are located just outside Loja on the Genil river and cover an area of 2.5ha. Apart from its diverse plant, bird and animal species, this stretch of river is also noteworthy for its geological features, where the river has dramatically eroded the limestone landscape to create a series of rapids and the waterfalls themselves.

The only cave open to visitors in Granada province, the 1.2km-long limestone Cueva de las Ventanas is situated 45km north of Granada and just east of Piñar village, on the road to Bogarre. The Cueva de las Ventanas (Cave of the Windows) is named after the three large opening of the cave that serve as both an entry and exit.

South of Granda, on the western edge of the Sierra Nevada National Park, is the Falla de Nigüelas. Here, it's possible to see how a fault line (falla) caused a massive landslide during the Quarternary period. The Falla itself covers 7.6ha.