Los Alcornocales Natural Park

CADIZ and MALAGA – The great forest of cork oaks: a green and humid island in arid Andalusia.

Hyla meridionalis Andalousie
phylloscopus bonelli Cádiz
davallia canariensis Los Alcornocales
Circaetus gallicus Málaga

Cork oak forest

Wild river

Mediterranean sub-humid climate

Canutos y laurisilva

Medieval castles

Los Alcornocales, one of the largest protected natural areas in Spain, with 167,000 ha (1,670 km²), extends into the Campo de Gibraltar canton, north of Algeciras and the Strait of Gibraltar, south of the Sierra de Grazalema and west of Cortés de La Frontera (Malaga). 400,000 inhabitants spread over 18 municipalities live on the outskirts of this immense non-urbanized territory. Main human infrastructure, the highway between Los Barrios and Jérez separates the middle mountains to the north (Sierra del Aljibe, culminating at 1,092 meters, and Sierra del Picacho) from the hills and coastal slopes to the south.

The park is mainly covered by cork oaks (Quercus suber), an indigenous species that gives its name to the natural space and is greatly favored by the dominant sandstone rock (sand compacted and cemented by diagenesis). The traditional capital of the cork is Cortés de La Frontera, where you can visit a museum which instruct about its uses and traditional management. After the harvest of the cork we will see the trees that expose the internal part of the trunk, of a very bright orange-red coloration.

Los Alcornocales Natural Park

Jimena Castle stands guard over the treasures of the great forest of Los Alcornocales Natural Park.

cork oaks, quercus suber

The evocative power of newly barked cork oaks (Quercus suber).

Rhododendron ponticum, canutos

The freshness embodied by Betic rhododendrons between the ferns: shiny leaves and large, attractive flowers.

Hozgarganta River

The Hozgarganta River, the ultimate frontier of wildlife in the rivers of southern Spain.

The climate in this area is Atlantic Mediterranean, with a very pronounced marine influence near the coast, where the phenomenon of “beards of the Levant” causes horizontal rains and humid conditions similar to a subtropical climate. In the streams, called “canutos”, for example, in the La Miel stream, there is lush laurel vegetation, with bay aurels (Laurus nobilis), betic rhododendrons (Rhododendron ponticum ssp. baeticum), common alders (Alnus glutinosa) and rare ferns. A few meters away, arid Mediterranean bushes colonize the land. In the heights there are bare rocks, poor soils and heaths of Mediterranean heather. On the summits, so close to the Strait of Gibraltar, migratory raptors pass during the migration seasons.

The wild Hozgarganta river, near the municipality of Jimena de la Frontera, offers habitat for endangered dragonflies, such as the splendid dragonfly (Macromia splendens). You can also find the spectacular monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

Finally, it is necessary to highlight the Tajo de las Figuras cave, near Benalup, which dates back to the Neolithic period and is famous for its rock paintings (Southern Art) representing birds, mammals and anthropomorphic figures.

We organize nature vacation tours to enjoy Los Alcornocales.

Note. The combined action of climate change, too dense pressure of large herbivores and pathogens is causing a serious problem of mortality and degeneration of the cork oaks, a threat named La Seca, which theathens these forests in the long term.

To discover this immense forest, more than twenty trails have been authorized by the regional government, but they are far from each other and quite variable in length and difficulty. For trekking lovers, note that the GR7 stages are of unequal length between Tarifa to Montejaque (150 km).

Los Alcornocales, one of the largest protected natural areas in Spain, with 167,000 ha (1,670 km²), extends into the Campo de Gibraltar canton, north of Algeciras and the Strait of Gibraltar, south of the Sierra de Grazalema and west of Cortés de La Frontera (Malaga). 400,000 inhabitants spread over 18 municipalities live on the outskirts of this immense non-urbanized territory. Main human infrastructure, the highway between Los Barrios and Jérez separates the middle mountains to the north (Sierra del Aljibe, culminating at 1,092 meters, and Sierra del Picacho) from the hills and coastal slopes to the south.

The park is mainly covered by cork oaks (Quercus suber), an indigenous species that gives its name to the natural space and is greatly favored by the dominant sandstone rock (sand compacted and cemented by diagenesis). The traditional capital of the cork is Cortés de La Frontera, where you can visit a museum which instruct about its uses and traditional management. After the harvest of the cork we will see the trees that expose the internal part of the trunk, of a very bright orange-red coloration. A threat, named La Seca, hangs over these forests. This is the combined action of climate change, too dense pressure of large herbivores and pathogens is causing a serious problem of mortality and degeneration of the cork oaks.

The climate in this area is Atlantic Mediterranean, with a very pronounced marine influence near the coast, where the phenomenon of “beards of the Levant” causes horizontal rains and humid conditions similar to a subtropical climate. In the streams, called “canutos”, for example, in the La Miel stream, there is lush laurel vegetation, with bay aurels (Laurus nobilis), betic rhododendrons (Rhododendron ponticum ssp. baeticum), common alders (Alnus glutinosa) and rare ferns. A few meters away, arid Mediterranean bushes colonize the land. In the heights there are bare rocks, poor soils and heaths of Mediterranean heather. On the summits, so close to the Strait of Gibraltar, migratory raptors pass during the migration seasons.

The wild Hozgarganta river, near the municipality of Jimena de la Frontera, offers habitat for endangered dragonflies, such as the splendid dragonfly (Macromia splendens). You can also find the spectacular monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

Discovering the park is not easy, the huge forest easily hides points of interest. More than twenty trails have been authorized by the regional government to walk through the natural park, but they are far from each other and are quite variable in length and difficulty. Also, the stages of the GR 7 that leads from Tarifa to Montejaque (150 km) are unequal in length.

Finally, it is necessary to highlight the Tajo de las Figuras cave, near Benalup, which dates back to the Neolithic period and is famous for its rock paintings (Southern Art) representing birds, mammals and anthropomorphic figures.