Natural wonders of Spain;
May 30th, 2010
Photo of the imposing Picos de Europa showing Peña Maín in the centre and my favourite (though not to climb) Naranjo de Bulnes to the left. The photo is by batiskafo on Flickr.
Route up Peña Maín here “From the summit of Peña Main there are spectacular views of the whole of the central massif. This is a lovely route taking you over the Peña Main range and through the farming pastures above Tielve. Care is needed as the paths are not well defined in the higher section of this walk.”
The cable car at Fuente Dé takes you up a dizzying 750 metres past the sheet rock faces in four terrifying or exhilarating minutes, depending on your head for heights, to the wonderful alpine meadows at height of 1850m. The cable car (teleferico in Spanish) is said to be the longest unsupported span of cable car in the world. There isn’t much to Fuente Dé itself save for a campsite and a few bars, but its situation at the foot of the cliffs which tower around forming an incredible glacial cirque is very impressive indeed. Once at the top there is great hiking all around including up to Peña Vieja or Pico Tesorero (2570 m). Alternatively, from here you can walk 2.5 miles to the Refugio de Aliva, which serves snacks and drinks. From here you can take the path down to Espinama below, a few kilometres down the road from Fuente Dé.
The Playa de Mónsul is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cabo de Gata. The beach is flanked by weird overhanging volcanic rocks, and there is a large mobile dune in the shape of a half-moon (technically a barchan dune) at the entrance to the beach.
Cabo de Gata is the best example of fossil vulcanism in the Iberian Peninsula. It was caused by the crashing together of the Eurasian and African plates during the Miocene.
There are a number of blowholes known as bufones along the Asturian coast, the best of which is perhaps the Bufones de Arenillas near the village of Puertas de Vidiago. Closeby is the similarly spectacular Bufón de Santiuste. Both of these blowholes are capable with the right tide of throwing up noisy shoots of water as high as 40 metres. They were formed by karstic and wave action. Bracing stuff. Continue reading
The Mallos de Riglos are remarkable, almost sheer rock formations in Huesca, forming part of the foothills of the Pyrenees. The rocks are conglomerates and were formed during the Miocene.
Unsurprisingly, these 300-high cliffs are a Mecca for climbers from around the world, and the little village of Riglós nestled improbably below the rocks does a very nice business in accommodating them. However, some of the most demanding routes require spending a free night in a tiny tent strapped to the bare rock face. I suffer from a degree of vertigo and the idea of waking up half way up the sheer face of Los Mallos is one of my all-time favourite nightmares, though I do get a frisson (and a stiff neck) watching those who dare to climb these looming beasts, each of which has its own name; El Puro, El Pisón, Castilla, Volaos, Cuchillo, Frenchín, Visera and Fire.
Castellfollit de la Roca is a village in la Garrotxa, spectacularly perched on top of a steep cliff. The best view is from the bridge over the river Fluvià. The cliff is illuminated after dark until midnight for about 6 months of the year. I am told that road widening near Castellfollit has done away with the very weird and wonderful privately constructed free children’s labyrinth beside the river that used to make drivers stop and stare. Castellfollit itself has a spectacular old church, some narrow medieval streets, a parador and a fonda, but in my personal experience is a very unfriendly little dump. To be enjoyed from afar.
The Arribes del Duero is a stunning gorge separating Spain and Portugal. The gorge cuts through granite rock and runs some eighty kilometres, of which fifty run alongside the Portuguese border, with cliffs rising to more than 200 metres in places. The cliffs support superb birdlife including griffon vultures, golden eagles and black storks are overs. Boat trips starting at Fronteira de Zamora can be arranged. There are also several hydroelectricity dams along the river. Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno described Arribes del Duero as “One of the most beautiful and impressive landscapes in Spain.”
Arribes del Duero is also a natural park, covering 106.105 ha. Portuguese natural park lies alongside Arribes del Duero. Taking the two parks together, Douro Internacional covers 191.255 ha making it one of the largest protected areas in Europe.
La Cueva de los Murciélagos – The Bat Cave is a system of caves in Zuheros, Córdoba, and one of the largest in Andalucia. It is situated on the edges of the limestone Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park. The cave is famous for its rock paintings and archaeological remains dating from Neolithic times, and features beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Aneto is the highest mountain in the Pyrenees at 3,404 metres is part of the Maladetta ridge. The Aneto glacier is still the largest in Spain with 163 ha. though it is melting fast due to climate change and is predicted to succumb by the mid-late 21st century. The glacier covered some 692 ha in 1894 at the close of the so-called Little Ice Age. Aneto’s French name, Pic de Néthou, is in disuse as the mountain lies entirely within Spain, specifically in the province of Huesca in Aragon. First climbed in 1842 by a Russian named Chikhachev. Continue reading
The Torca del Carlista in the Basque Country is the largest cavern in Europe. It is currently only accessible to expert cavers. It is the fourth (not the second as some sources claim!) largest cave chamber in the world. Legend has it that a Carlist follower threw himself to his death here rather than be taken alive.
Photo of the Torca del Carlista
El Torcal de Antequera in Malaga is one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe. Photo by Jakub Botwicz from Wikipedia.