Sierra de Grazalema
Sierra de Grazalema
Spain is a country of contrasts and that certainly applies to the climate. Contrary to what you might think, the wettest place in Spain is not somewhere in the north-west by the Atlantic Ocean, but in the heart of Andalusia, in the extreme south of the country. Most of the rain arrives in the Sierra de Grazalema. There’s more than twice as much as the average rainfall in the Netherlands. In winter, cool ocean breezes carry the moist air that is trapped, however it may be very hot during the summer months.
Caves and gorges
The Sierra de Grazalema is a limestone mountain with the typical caves, gorges, dolines (geological organ pipes), etc. The most famous is the Cueva (Cave) del Gato, where the underground river Guadiaro pops.
Another well-known phenomenon is the Salto del Cabrero, a fifty meter wide gap with two vertical walls of eighty meters. The tops of the walls reach a height of more than nine hundred and thirty feet. The name of this gap has two legends connected. According to one of them, a goatherd was on the run from a creditor and jumped with his pursuer into the gorge. The other legend tells that a goatherd performed to jump from one wall to the other without losing a drop of two milk pails.
In the National Park of Grazalema is the only place where you can see the Spanish fir (Pinsapo), which used to be everywhere in Southern Europe thousands of years ago, but now it grows partly in this area due to intensive logging. The most famous town in the Sierra is Grazalema, which owes its name from the Arabic name Gran Zulema. There are indications that there were already people living in this area in prehistoric times, but the emergence of settlements like Grazalema were not observed at the time of the Roman conquest.
Grazalema was in the hands of the Moors during a long time. It was in 1485 when the town was conquered by the Duque (Duke) de Arcos, a few years before the fall of the last Moorish stronghold of Granada, which ended the Moorish domination. In the seventeenth century, Grazalema flourished thanks to the textile industry, but gradually it took off in importance as well as the agricultural activity. Currently, Grazalema has to rely on the many tourists who come to visit the Sierra.
El Bosque, another village like Grazalema, belongs to the so-called Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) of the Sierra. It has a cozy little square where, at the beginning of the evening, the residents meet to talk and have some rest. This town, situated on the River Majaceite, is known for its piscifactoría (fish farming), a sign that the river water is very clean.
From another white village, Benaocaz, you can arrive in a couple of hours in the Salto del Cabrero, a beautiful hike where herds of goats sometimes block the road. Walk from Benaocaz to Montejaque is equally rewarding, but there is a vicious climb between the two places and it can be sweltering hot. Fortunately, you’ll find some fuentes (fountains) ocasionally in the way.