For mountain and geology enthusiasts the Sierras Subbéticas have a great deal to offer. This limestone area has a succession of peaks, crags, ravines and a host of karst formations, all dotted with vegetation dominated by extensive olive groves and some endemic species.
Water plays a vital role in this environment. There are many springs such as Zambra which go on to form streams to sweeten the landscape. Rivers mould the rock forming deep canyons such as the one at El Bailón. Traditional art has transformed some of these springs, with decorative fountains that supply the local population such as Fuente del Río, in Cabra, and the impressive Fuente del Rey in Priego, which has more than one hundred spouts.
|Fuente del Rey, Priego de Córdoba, photo Antonio Sepulveda|
Strolling on its tracks and trails you will skirt around complicated karst terrain such as Lapiaz de los Lanchares, a trail which then heads up towards Picacho de la Virgen de la Sierra, the site of a traditional pilgrimage. Here there is a wonderful viewpoint where you can look out over Poljé de la Nava and, on a clear day, you can see as far as the peaks of Sierra Nevada.
Mountain walkers and climbers can get up to La Tiñosa, the highest peak in the province of Cordoba, with views of a beautiful landscape dotted with villages. The rock is grey and ochre and contrasts with the green of the vegetation. This includes holm oaks and scrub with mastic and kermes oak, which in turn give way to hawthorn, purple phlomis and peony in sunny areas.
|Santa Rita Visitor Centre, on the A339 between Cabra and Priego de Córdoba|
At the botanical trail at the Santa Rita Visitor Centre you can see examples of the 1,200+ species of flora present in the Nature Park.
Visitors to this region will be surprised by the many caves to be found. Special mention should be made of Cabra Cave, ideal for speleology, and of course its most famous cave, Los Murciélagos, a designated Natural Monument. This archaeological gem is home to numerous species of the unusual mammal that gives it its name (“murciélago” = bat), as well as Neolithic remains – this is a major Neolithic site in Andalusia. This region has a long tradition and history, and there are vestiges here dating back from the Palaeolithic period, the Bronze Age and even Iberian statues. Its Roman remains include a milestone, considered to be the world’s earliest road sign.
Especially outstanding amongst the wildlife are mammals such as the wild cat, wild boar, common fox, European hedgehog, and most unusual the ‘Cabrera shrew’, which, in this area is to be found in one of the most southerly locations of the continent.
Birds have a strong presence with the black wheatear, the cuckoo, the red partridge, the Lapland
bunting, and on the flower-covered limestone rocks the royal eagle, the black vulture the short-toed eagle as well as the peregrine falcon are notable, the latter is the emblem of the Natural Park of the Subbetica Mountains. Other birds of prey are the common kestrel, the royal eagle owl, the owl, and the common little owl.
A walk around the maze of narrow white streets in Zuheros, with its castle and viewpoints, is a good way to discover its important Moorish history. Here you can also see baroque art in the churches and squares of the region’s towns and villages. You can sample the exquisite local gastronomy, washed down with regional wines and the internationally renowned anisette from Rute.