The National Park of Sierra de Cazorla isn’t only Spain’s largest National Park, but also the second-largest in whole Europe – behind the Vatnajökull in Iceland. The entire National Park extends not only over the Sierra (English: Mountain range) of Cazorla but also over the mountain ranges of Segura and Las Villas. That is why it is actually called Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park and there is so much within, waiting to be discovered. It isn’t just the size, which is impressive, the National Park was also declared Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1983 and a special protection area for migratory birds in 1988 – making it the place to be for bird’s oberservation. These titles are well deserved, because the Sierra de Cazorla National Park combines rich fauna and flora with breathtaking landscapes and a lot of possiblibilities for outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, cycling, hiking and climbing. Keep reading to get to know more about my experience and my suggestions for this unique piece of nature close to Albanchez de Mágina and Jaén.
We made the trip by bike - coming from the Olive Oil Greenway and honestly it was tough to make the steep ascent to get into the park. We started from Cazorla, where we got all the needed information about the park and cycling opportunities, so make a stop at the market square in Cazorla. The information point is in the old church.
Starting the route, one steep ascent followed the one before. At last, we pushed our bikes uphill the serpentines, because our legs were arching too much to make it further, but once you are up to the top you’ve made it into the park. Sure the easier way is to ascent by car but do as you like. I can only speak for myself that I really much prefer a well-deserved view over the lazier way by car. You have more time to look around and enjoy your unique surroundings instead of rushing by in your vehicle. But it is definitely a question of how much time you have, your fitness state, your preferences, and weather condition. In summer it can get pretty hot - actually, it was already during the spring season.
When you reach Puerto de las Palomas, you are at an altitude of 1200 meters and almost at the highest point. After that follows another small ascent and then, on your right, there's a viewpoint over the border valleys. If you keep going on the main road, there is a little descent - leading you to Puerto de las Palomas viewpoint. The difference to the angle mentioned before is quite apparent – instead of olive tree cultivation, green forests and rock formations characterize the landscape.
Inside the Park, the way is descending even more and it's a lot of fun to make the whole distance downhill- which took us uphill almost a day- in 30 minutes. The rush of speed and passing by trees is incredible. Pay attention, be careful and responsible with your own speed, there are some cars (depending on the season and time – many) using the street. The first sight after the downhill rush is the Guadalquivir - the river, which is the source of the diverse and vivid wildlife in the Sierra Cazorla National Park and the second-longest in Spain. There is a bridge over the Guadalquivir and a small parking area. If you up for it there is a hike starting from this location. Furthermore, from this spot, you can go to the right by car and discover the birthplace of the Guadalquivir or continue your route. I have heard that it's definitely worth going since there are some beautiful viewpoints and hikes in the area. However, the National Park is so big that you have to make priorities. Especially when you are by bike…
If you want to know even more about the Sierra Cazorla National Park in the second part you will find more information and suggestions.
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