Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro Natural Park
Part of the Sierra Morena, the Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro covers 38,449ha of gently rolling hills in the far northeastern corner of Cordoba province. Its slopes, rising from 400m to the highest peak, the 828m-high La Colmena, are dominated by Mediterranean woods and scrubland, interspersed with fields of cereal cultivation. The course of the Yeguas river divides this park from its neighbour, the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park in Jaen province.
The park contains a rich array of wildlife, with 88 species of birds, 21 mammals, 15 reptiles and 10 amphibians recorded here. Birds of prey are a common sight and it is one of two of the world's last wildernesses inhabited by the elusive and highly endangered lynx, the other being the Doñana National Park. Along with the neighbouring Sierra de Andújar Natural Park in Jaen province, it is one of the last refuges of the wolf in Andalucia.
The park has geological interest, with its mainly granite rocks and batholith blocks, up to 1m in diameter, which are called bolas.
Apart from the principal river, the Yeguas, the main rivers in the park are the Arenoso, Arenosillo, Frescoso, Frailes and Martín Gonzalo.
The park's office is in Calle Santo Tomás de Aquino s/n in Cordoba, 957 001 300. Or contact Cardeña's tourist office, Calle Miguel Gallo 33, 957 174 370, or the tourist office in Montoro, on Plaza España, 957 160 089.
There is a visitors' centre, Centro de Visitantes Venta Nueva, just outside Cardeña at Km 79 on the A92. It has an audiovisual show about the park, exhibitions on the lynx, Mediterranean woodland and dehesas and a shop.
The main road in the park, the A420, crosses the western section, while from Cardeña the N420 cuts through the middle of the southern section. From Cardeña are a few minor roads that run into the heart of the park; one of these goes to Aldea del Cerezo, from where there is a track that leads to the Yeguas river.
There is limited accommodation in the park, with only one basic hotel in Cardeña, and several cottages to rent.
Camping Albolafia is a campsite near San Rafael de Navallana reservoir, west of the park, with cabins for rent and a swimming pool.
Aldea Cerezo, located in the heart of the park, has a campsite, wooden cabins to rent and a swimming pool.
The most common trees are holm oaks and cork oaks, with some patches of gall oak woodland, stone pines and wild olive trees. The Mediterranean undergrowth is made up of Kermes oak, rock roses, lentisc and strawberry trees. The best preserved and most mature Mediterranean woodland is in the north, in Regajo del Carrizo and La Enguijuela.
On the river banks are oleanders and ash trees.
In the area of El Escorialejo between Cardeña and Venta Cerezo is a stand of Pyrenean oaks, the only one of its kind in the province and one of the few left in Andalucia.
In the park is an impressive variety of raptors; golden, Bonelli's, booted, short-toed and imperial eagles are all here, along with black and griffon vultures, peregrines, sparrowhawks, goshawks and buzzards. There are many nocturnal birds of prey, like tawny, long-eared, little and eagle owls. You can also hear nightingales at night and woodpeckers in the woodland areas. In the rivers and along their often verdant banks are otters, terrapins, dippers and kingfishers.
Inhabiting the park's many dense thickets are badgers, wildcats, foxes, beech martens, weasels and Egyptian mongeese. There is also plentiful game in the park, such as wild boars, partridges, roe deer and fallow deer.
There are four signposted walks in the park. The Aldea del Cerezo is the start or end point for three of these.
Sendero Cardeña-Aldea del Cerezo is a 7½km linear easy walk, mainly through holm oak dehesa, the mixed woodland-and-pastureland characteristic of the Sierra Morena.
Sendero Aldea del Cerezo-Venta del Charco is the easiest walk in the park, of 6½km, through cork and holm oak dehesa and past hunting estates with deer. It ascends the Loma del Garullo (777m), from where there are superb views over the Sierra Morena.
Sendero Vuelcacarretas is a 7km linear walk through cork oak woodland, some of the park's most mature examples of this tree.
Sendero Azuel-Aldea del Cerezo is the longest walk, at 12km, past holm and gall oak woodland and fields of grazing cattle.
Cañada de la Huesa
Casas de García Gómez
Venta del Charco