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The Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

The Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park: Quick facts

  • The Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park covers 177,484 hectares.
  • It is the third largest of the Natural Parks in Andalusia in terms of surface.
  • Height above sea level:between 82 metres (the Melonares reservoir) and 959 metres (the La Capitana peak).
  • 2,000 of the 2,500 types of fungus are found between this Natural Park and that of Aracena, representing the greatest diversity in Europe.
  • The Cerro del Hierro is a natural monument and a climber’s paradise: its highly original shape is partly due to erosion, partly due to mining.
  • One of the best known local products is “anis”, an alcoholic liqueur served in local bars and cafés.
  • The Natural Park is home to one of the old converted railway lines (“Vías Verdes”), perfect for gentle cycling through attractive scenery.

Geography of the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

The Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park is located in the most northerly part of the province, bordering with the province of Córdoba to the east and the province of Badajoz (Extremadura) to the west. It forms part of the Sierra Morena, a mountain range that runs through Andalusia from the Mediterranean to neighbouring Portugal.

Walking & activities in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

Walking is the most varied activity, with a complete range of hikes through “dehesas” (plains), man-made natural monuments such as the abandoned mines of Cerro del Hierro, or the beautiful banks of the river Huéznar, with its exuberant vegetation and crystalline waters.

Fishing is possible not only in the River Huéznar (trout), but also at the El Pintado reservoir (carp, barbel and pike).

On the same reservoir (El Pintado), it is also possible to enjoy canoeing.

A climbers’ paradise is located at an area known as Cerro del Hierro, an abandoned iron-ore mine measuring 10 square kilometres, with marked out routes, although permission is required to test them out.

One of the Spanish network of Vías Verdes (converted railway tracks) runs through the park: 20 kilometres of cycle path crossing beautiful scenery but without the need for climbing steep gradients!


Accommodation & gastronomy in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

Accommodation is fairly limited in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park, with the majority being in and around the towns of Cazalla and Constantina. Nevertheless, the small local hotels are of excellent quality and very welcoming.

The abundance of game, both large (deer and wild boar) and small (generally speaking, migratory birds) strongly influences the local gastronomy, as do cured pork meats such as chorizo, blood pudding and ham.   Cakes and sweets are also typical, with traditional recipes using honey and locally manufactured aniseed, in either the classical style or with cherries.  

  • Partridge and bean stew – a speciality in the village of San Nicolás del Puerto.
  • “Salmonejo” – a dish made with rabbit and partridge, from Constantina.
  • “Cencerilla” – rabbit stew, on the menu in the village of El Pedroso.
  • “Migas” – a flour based dish with meat and garlic, from El Real de la Jara.

Mouth-watering!

Human activity in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

Remains found in vertical caves in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park (Cueva de la Sima in Constantina) suggest that Neandarthal man was present locally. Since then, all of the historically important populations have either passed through or inhabited the area, including the Phoenicians, the Romans, and the Arabs. The main reasons for their presence were the vast grazing plains, and the dense forests whose wood was used for construction. In addition, and representing one of the most impressive vestiges of human activity at the same time as the most attractive natural “monument” in the Natural Park, is that of the Cerro del Hierro. Hierro is the Spanish word for iron, and it was the extraction of this mineral that began in Roman times and only finally ceased in the 1980s. In fact, there is still an inhabited hamlet at the site where it is possible to get a true feel of what it was like living and working in the local mines. Whether seen from a distance, or walking amongst its unique rock formations, the Cerro del Hierro is well worth a visit.  

The Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park is also rich in archeological remains from other civilizations, including burial chambers and a number of necropolises.  

In more modern times, the following towns and villages are either partially or wholly within the boundaries of the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park: Alanís, Almadén de la Plata, Cazalla de la Sierra, Constantina, Guadalcanal, Las Navas de la Concepción, El Pedroso, La Puebla de los Infantes, El Real de la Jara and San Nicolás del Puerto.

Industry in the area includes breeding of the Iberian pig and the fighting bull, production of alcohol, and tourism by inhabitants from the city of Seville and surrounding area.

Constantina is home to the Natural Park Visitor Centre El Robledo, where information is on offer and videos are shown regarding the local economy and natural Resources. There is also an interesting botanical garden and nursery with examples of the types of trees and plants that grow throughout the Natural Park.


Flora in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

Vegetation in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park is for the most part indigenous, and therefore totally adapted to the hot, dry summers and relatively mild winters. The most characteristic species of tree are the holm and cork oak, dotted all over the rolling hills and flat plains, and offering a certain amount of shade in summer. Near Constantina there is an impressive wood of gall oaks, as well as the only specimens of Pyrenean oak in the province of Seville.

Of the vast number of plants that have been catalogued in the Natural Park, there are over 20 types of orchid, and if the Sierra Norte de Sevilla is combined with that of Aracena in nearby Huelva, 2,000 of the 2,500 types of fungus found in Andalusia (the most diverse European region) are located here.

The thinness of the soil on the open plains and the hot summer temperatures has meant that plants are necessarily hardy and do not require high humidity. Varieties include lavender, rock roses, thyme, Spanish broom and gorse.

The river banks of the three rivers that flow through the Natural Park have their own specific vegetation, quite distinct to that of the open plains and hills. The most common species of tree are the elm, willow, alder and ash.


Fauna in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

Although the Natural Park has lost a high percentage of its varied fauna in relatively few years due to human influence, there are numerous species of birds and animals living in the area. Camouflaged against the woods and thickets are the deer, the largest and most characteristic mammal, and the wild boar, whose populations are often protected and controlled in extensive hunting reserves. The Iberian Lynx is sadly extinct from the area (although there are plans for reintroduction), but there are a number of other carnivorous land mammals, such as foxes, badgers, mongeese, wild cats, polecats and genets.

In the clear waters of the rivers flowing through the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park there is a thriving population of otters, the existence of which is linked to the existence of fish species, including the only rainbow trout in the province. The El Pintado reservoir is also home to other species, including the catfish and barbel.

However, it is birds that have best adapted to the terrain, and make up the numerous mammal species in the Natural Park due in no small part to the variety of habitats. Of birds of prey, there are nesting pairs of golden eagle, plus the black vulture, the Spanish imperial eagle and the buzzard, amongst others. It is relatively easy to spot black storks flying above the plains, and although much more difficult to spot in dense vegetation, the spectacular golden oriole is also resident in the area. Due to the surface rivers and reservoir expanses, water birds such as the kingfisher, herons, cranes and spoon-billed duck are common.


Geology in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

The Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park is not particularly mountainous: quite the contrary, as most of the land is made of rolling hills and mounds, broken by rivers beds such as those of the River Viar. Soil is thin and poor in content, with the sub-soil composed mainly of slate, granite and quartzite. The land mass is a mixture of sedimentary rock that some 550 million years ago was under the sea, and volcanic magma, examples of which can be found scattered in the countryside around El Pedroso and in El Real de la Jara and called “Plutos” in deference to Pluto, the Greek god of hell and the depths.

With the exception of the northern confines of the Natural Park, there are no mountains as such: indeed, the highest spot is a mere 906 metres above sea level, and although accessible, not of specific interest as such (curiously, the highest peak in the province of Seville is at the very southern point, bordering on the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga).


Climate in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

The Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park forms a natural barrier for the humid Atlantic air that flow inland through the Guadalquivir valley. For this reason, annual rainfall is relatively high, between 600 and 800 mm. This said, climate in the Natural Park is classed as Mediterranean-continental, which means that temperatures vary more widely than Atlantic influenced weather, with night frost and an average winter temperature of 9º that increases to 25º in summer, with peaks of up to 40ºC.


Water and river systems in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

The impermeability of the ground means that practically all rainwater runs on the surface as opposed to disappearing underground. All of the 3 largest rivers in the area, the Viar, Huéznar and Retortillo are tributaries of the Guadalquivir, running gently down to the largest river in the region to the south of the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park, eventually flowing out into the Atlantic Ocean between the provinces of Huelva and Cadiz. The Viar is 133 kilometres in length and drops some 810 from its highest to its lowest point, passing through the El Pintado reservoir. The Rivera del Huéznar is 65 kilometres long, of which half is within the Natural Park, and whose source is in the village of San Nicolás del Puerto, where the water can be seen to appear from below ground in an attractive pool. Nearby is a waterfall classified and protected as a Natural Monument. Of its total length of 49 kilometres, 16.5 of the river Retortillo run through the Natural Park, ending at the Retortillo reservoir, where it is possible to enjoy water based activities.


Festivities in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park

Fiestas and festivals in the villages and towns within the Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park are varied, and based on religious, historical or even gastronomic celebrations, such as:

Alanís – Carnival, Easter processions, Fair (August) and Medieval festival (September).

Almadén de la Plata – Carnival, “Ham” fair (March), Easter processions, La Divina Pastora religious procession (May), Fiesta del Pirulito (24th June).

Cazalla de la Sierra – Carnival, Easter procession , “Outdoor stew” food festival (May), puppetry festival (August), Food tasting festival (September).

Constantina – Carnival, Santa Ana celebrations (July), Procession of the local patron saint (August), Mushroom picking festival (November).

Guadalcanal – Carnival, Easter Processions, Extremadura – Andalusia regional gathering, Corpus Christi, Cultural week (August), local Fair (August).

Las Navas de la Concepción – Patron saint celebrations (June), Ecotourism fair (October), local Fair (August).

El Pedroso – Carnival, Book Fair (April), Patron saint’s day (September), Local Product Fair (December).

La Puebla de los Infantes – Carnival, Paramotor Festival (February), Food & Crafts Fair (April), Religious procession (June), local Fair (August).

El Real de la Jara – Carnival, Easter processions, Countryside day (May), Corpus Christi, Campanology Festival (Christmas).

San Nicolás del Puerto – Religious procession (Mayo), “Night of Terror” (July), Cultural Week (August), Cerro del Hierro celebrations (August), Patron Saint (Santa Bárbara) celebrations (December).

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