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Hikers in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Granada, Andalusia

4 great natural spaces in Andalusia for enjoying sustainable tourism

Andalusia

Would you like to explore one of the most beautiful landscapes in southern Spain in a sustainable way that’s respectful towards ecosystems? In Andalusia you’ll find four protected natural areas where you can do all sorts of different activities, either on your own, or through accredited companies with a firm commitment to sustainability.All of them follow the guidelines set out in the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Natural Areas (CETS), a EUROPARC initiative dedicated to promoting an environmentally friendly and responsible form of tourism.A different kind of tourism is possible!

  • View of the municipality of Carcabuey in Cordoba, Andalusia

    Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park

    This natural space is located in the south of the province of Cordoba, and covers an area of around 32,000 hectares. There, you’ll be able to explore municipalities such as Cabra, Carcabuey, Doña Mencía, Iznájar, Priego de Córdoba, Rute, Luque and Zuheros. One of the things that makes the reserve so distinctive are the stunning limestone ‘karst’ formations.  Hiking is the main activity you can do in this park that was declared a Protected Natural Area in 1989. It offers a diverse range of paths categorised according to level of difficulty: Easy: Sendero Fuente de Jarcas (near Cabras), Sendero Pinar de Rute (an hour-long route near the village of Rute), or Sendero Sierra del Caballo (in Almedinilla).Moderately difficult: Sendero de las Buitreras (a five-hour long trail in the Carcabuey area), Sendero Pico Abrevia (15 km long, in Doña Mencía) or Sendero de la Tiñosa (this starts at Cortijo de las Chozas, and authorisation from the Department of Environment is required). Very difficult: Sendero Sierra de Horconera (one for the most intrepid of hikers, this route begins in Priego, ends in Rute, and takes approximately eight hours to complete) or Sendero de la Ermita (in Cabra).  Apart from the hiking routes, you’ll be able to visit the Jardín Micológico La Trufa, a botanical garden/ museum complex located in Zagrilla that covers an area of 14,000 m2 where you’ll discover a range of different plant formations. Similarly, the Santa Rita Visitor Centre offers guided tours to find out more about the native flora and fauna. What’s more, in this natural park there are areas set aside for multi-adventure activities for children (prior booking required). 

  • Horses in the Doñana National Park in Huelva, Andalusia

    Doñana National Park

    If what you’re looking for is one of the largest groups of ecosystems in Spain, then this park is the best option for your next trip. It extends over more than 54,000 hectares in the provinces of Huelva and Seville. There you’ll find beaches, dunes, wetlands, preserves, and a biodiversity that’s unique on the European continent. It’s a place where each year, dozens of European and African species of birds come to breed or to spend the winter months. Birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals are all to be found in this park, which is an absolute must for lovers of sustainable tourism. The Iberian lynx, the imperial eagle and the Greek tortoise are three of the protected species in danger of extinction that can be seen in Doñana.  There are a thousand ways to enjoy this park. You might like to sign up for a bird photography session with an expert guide who’ll explain all you need to know about the various species, for example. The park offers lots of opportunities for immersing yourself in the natural world; organised group tours, private visits, or perhaps have a go at horseback riding combined with an off-road trip in a 4 x 4. Looking for more options? Try one of the cycling routes, or jump on board the Barco Real Fernando riverboat, which sails down the Guadalquivir from Sanlúcar to the ancient settlement of La Plancha.

  • View of the mountains in the Sierra Nevada National Park in Granada, Andalusia

    Sierra Nevada National Park

    Stretching from the south-east of Granada to the west of Almeria, this is where you’ll find the highest peak on the Iberian Peninsula, Mount Mulhacén, with an altitude of 3,479 metres. It’s becoming ever more popular as a winter sports tourist destination, as here you’ll find the famous Sierra Nevada ski resort - the most southerly in Europe - located just over an hour’s drive away from the beach!  So you could choose to spend a few peaceful days skiing, or sign up for some of those activities that guarantee a huge adrenaline rush: airbag ski jumping, time trials, obstacle courses on skis, downhill speed skiing and more.  If you’re not a fan of winter sports, then discover the other side of the Sierra Nevada with its more than 450 km of signposted hiking routes, and discover the park’s rich biodiversity. One option would be to start off at the El Dornajo Visitor Centre, where you’ll find out all about the secrets of this natural space. The viewpoint is great for snapping some truly spectacular photos, and nearby you’ll find the Hoya de Pedraza Botanical Gardens, where you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the flora of Granada first hand - not to be missed. Or you could go horseback riding through the white villages of La Alpujarra, or in summer take a minibus tour with a guide who’ll tell you all about the soaring peaks of the area around you.

  • View of the El Tranco reservoir in Jaén, Andalusia

    Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park

    This natural space that extends over an area of more than 200,000 hectares is located in the province of Jaén. You can do all sorts of activities, and there are lots of ways for the whole family to enjoy the natural world while respecting the ecosystem. These are just some of them:Hiking routes. Like the Mina de Mimbre route, where you’ll discover a 17th century mine, the greenways (such as the Segura greenway) that run along the tracks of disused railways, and one of the most beautiful trails in Spain: the Río Borosa walk.Sports and adventures for the family. Cycling (there are various cycle routes where you can lose yourself in the natural world such as the Campos de Hernán or the Mirabuenos), off-road trips (you’ll discover some wonderful places, like the Valdeazores lake), water sports (kayaking and rafting on the River Guadalquivir or on the El Tranco reservoir), aerial sports (the views of the park you’ll have thanks to activities organised by aerodromes such as La Garzo and Las Infantas are breathtaking), and rock climbing (outings to the peaks and slopes of the mountains ranging from easy to extremely challenging).Astrotourism. Looking up at an infinite sky and observing the stars, constellations and planets in the Cazorla, Segura y las Villas Natural Park is a unique experience. If stargazing is your thing, you’ll find various astronomical observation points in Jaén.

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