Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park
The Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park is a stunningly beautiful, rugged park located in the heart of Andalucia between the three great cities of Cordoba, Granada and Seville. It lies within a comarca or district also called Sierras Subetticas. The park was designated a natural park in 1988. It is home to one of southern Spain's largest breeding colonies of griffon vultures, as well as around 70 other bird species, like booted, Bonelli's and short-toed eagles. It also has a rich variety of wildflowers.
The park comprises 32,056 ha of largely limestone plateau, from 500 m to the 1,568 m peak of La Tiñosa, the highest in Cordoba province. It is part of the rugged spur of the Cordillera Bética and has some exceptional geological formations, such as its distinctive and volcanic-like small, funnel-shaped depressions, known as dolinas, which can be seen at Los Hoyones. Poljes - large, closed-in depressions - can also be seen here at the Nava de la Polje. Los Lanchares are a series of jagged, rocky peaks
The seventeen towns and villages in the park include Cabra where San Juan Bautista church is said to be one of the oldest in Spain and Rute with its ruined Moorish castle and a fascinating Baroque church. Rute's fame is based on anís production. You can taste this at any of several bodegas in the village. Iznájar is a charming whitewashed village on the banks of a vast reservoir of the same name.
There's a visitors' centre, the Centro de Visitantes de Santa Rita, in the park on the A-339 road from Cabra to Priego de Córdoba at Km 9 near the summit of the Puerto del Mojón pass. Tel: 957 334 034.
The park is easily accessible from Cordoba (via the A-45 Motorway and then A-319 dual carriageway passing Lucena towards Cabra then A-339 into the park, Granada (A-92 then A-333 to Iznájar) and Seville (A92 and A-45 motorway then A-319 dual carriageway passing Lucena towards Cabra then A-339 into the park. Once in the park, there is a network of minor roads off the main A-339 road, which crosses the park east-west.
Cabra has a a good choice of hotels. Zuheros and Rute have several options and there are cottages to rent throughout the Sierra.
There is a youth hostel in Luque. Priego de Córdoba, just outside the park, has lots of choice.
Camping-Cortijo Las Palomas in Carcabuey has a swimming pool and restaurant.
Camping Huerta del Pilar is in Zuheros.
Camping La Isla - behind the village of Rute at the lake of Iznajar. (follow "Cuevas de San Marcos").
Camping is shaded by olive trees with beautiful view on the lake. It has a swimming pool and bar.
Although situated in a major olive-growing region, the park is mostly free of the cultivated olive groves and wild olive trees and holm oak groves predominate, while gall oaks grow on the north-facing slopes. In the undergrowth are Kermes oaks, lentisc, retama and gorse. On the higher ground, above 1,200m, are thorny scrubland plants, like genista florida.
There are numerous endemic plants in the park, including the narcissus bugei and the orchid ophrys speculum.
Birds of prey in the park include Bonelli's eagles, short-toed eagles, black kites and the occasional golden eagle. The park has Andalucia's largest population of the peregrine falcon, a bird that is the park's symbol.
A griffon vulture colony is at the Albuchite peak, close to the road that links Carcabuey-Luque. Rocky, high areas like the Sierra de la Horconera are inhabited by the ring ouzel, rock thrush, blue rock thrush, alpine accentor and alpine swift.
Mammals here are wild boars, mouflon, wild cats, weasels, badgers and the rare Millers' water shrew.
The permeable limestone landscape means that there is a lack of surface water, apart from the Anzur, Hoz, Salado, Zagrilla and Bailén rivers, but a lot of subterranean water, creating abundant springs and fountains.
Things to see
Ermita de la Virgen in the Sierra de Cabra, about 15 km east of Cabra, is a hermitage perched on a rocky, with staggering panoramic views of the Sierra Morena and Guadalquivir river valley. Take the A340 east of Cabra towards Priego de Córdoba and then turn left on the CV-115, a winding road that leads up to the hermitage. This is where the famous Gypsy Festival takes place, traditionally on the third sunday in June.
Cuevas de las Murciélagos in Zuheros are a series of spectacular caves created by erosion of the limestone landscape. It has impressive stalagmites, stalagtities and other rock formations.
There are nine signposted walks; contact the Santa Rita visitors' centre mentioned in our information section for maps and more information (available in Spanish only).
The Vía Verde of the Subbética is a former railway line, now reconditioned as a walking and cycling track, which skirts around the northern and western fringes of the park, from where you can enjoy many stunning views of the rugged Sierras Subbéticas, cross viaducts and go through tunnels along the route. It´s an appealing way to travel, on foot or by bike, between the dramatically sited village of Zuheros, with its well-known Cueva de los Murciélagos (Cave of the Bats), Luque and Cabra.