The vast cork-oak forest
Between the Grazalema mountains and the Punta de Tarifa promontory, there are a series of mid-height mountain ranges (with heights of between just a few metres above sea level in the area near Tarifa and 1,091 metres on the Aljibe peak) which are home to what is known as the "cork oak kingdom". This site represents the most important formation of this species on the Iberian Peninsula.
Although the relief of the terrain is not exceptionally steep, in the southern part there are narrow river valleys known as “canutos”, or “tubes”, which are absolutely unique in Europe, the site of remnants of the relictual vegetation of the Tertiary period. Not only the cork oak, but various other species such as the Andalusian gall oak form valuable woods, which also contain species such as rhododendron, wild olive, ash, carob and windmill palm trees. At heights of between 300 and 900 metres we find we are entering the “kingdom of the cork oak”, the most important formations of this species on the Iberian Peninsula, and which features a combination of tree heath, rock rose, heather, broom, Spanish broom, buckthorn, etc. These woods comprise one of the best and most extensive examples of the primitive Mediterranean forest. It is also home to a very varied fauna (as many as 250 species of vertebrates can be found here), including numerous mammals (mongoose, roe deer, genet, otter, wildcats, red deer, wild boar, etc) and birds of prey (the booted eagle, short-toed eagle, Bonelli’s eagle, Egyptian vulture, eagle owls), and including particularly an important colony of griffon vultures.
Los Alcornocales Nature Reserve
Alcalá de los Gazules.
What you need to know
In the towns and villages near the reserve there are numerous examples of the area’s artistic and monumental heritage. There are a number of places nearby such as Ubrique, Cortes de la Frontera, Los Barrios, Alcalá de los Gazules, Algar… all typical white villages from the area known as the Campo de Gibraltar. The culture and traditions which have evolved around the cork harvest, which takes place every nine years, are another interesting feature. In fact this natural space accounts for 30% of the national cork production.
The reserve has three outstanding ecological aspects. First, its scenic beauty, deriving from its location in the midst of a succession of interconnected mountain ranges; its rich fauna and vegetation; and finally, its most unique feature, namely the largest cork oak forest on the Iberian Peninsula, as well as one of the most important in the world, as the cork oak woods in this nature reserve are some of the best conserved in existence.
Information for visits
The Park has a network of marked trails, and 12 cattle routes. Check with the visitor centres.