Municipality: Santa Elena
Regions: Campiña Norte de Jaén
Altitude: 1.3 m
The Despeñaperros Natural Park is a natural space located in the north of the province of Jaén, specifically, in the municipality of Santa Elena, and excavated by the Despeñaperros river. It has an extension of 7,649 hectares and, although it is not one of the largest natural parks in Andalusia, it concentrates an extraordinary natural, geological and historical heritage.
It has been declared a Natural Park since July 28, 1989, as a Special Conservation Zone (ZEC), Special Protection Zone for Birds (ZEPA) and a Site of Community Importance.
The Despeñaperros Natural Park is a gorge with steep walls with slopes of more than 500 meters in height. It has been widely used throughout history for being the main connection point between Andalusia and Castilla-La Mancha and for being the natural pass of Sierra Morena.
Since 1985, Despeñaperros was one of the only two railway accesses connecting Andalusia with the rest of Spain and the most important until 1992, when the Madrid-Seville high-speed line was completed. To this day, it is still considered the entrance to Andalusia.
The erosion of the Despeñaperros river is responsible for creating spectacular landscapes, such as Los Órganos, the Salto del Fraile waterfall and Las Correderas. In addition to incredible views, the Despeñaperros Natural Park has been the scene of different episodes throughout history, such as the epic battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, in 1212.
In fact, the name of this natural park dates from this battle. It is said that the Muslims were known by the Christians as "dogs" and that it is in these mountains where the precipitations of the Almohad troops took place.
Flora and fauna
The dominant vegetation in the Despeñaperros Natural Park is similar to that found throughout the Sierra Morena: Mediterranean forest, with a predominance of holm oaks and cork oaks, gall oaks, oaks, pine trees and cypresses. The scrub that can be glimpsed is made up of strawberry trees, cistus, myrtle, heather and kermes oak.
The gallery forests, which appear in the rivers and streams that make up the Despeñaperros Natural Park, stand out for their landscape diversity with alders, ash trees and willows. On the other hand, this park has the peculiar characteristic of having thirty endemic species throughout the world and in the Iberian Peninsula.
If we talk about the fauna of Despeñaperros, we have to highlight the significant presence of deer and wild boar, for which hunting hunts are authorized. However, the presence of a few specimens of Iberian lynx and Iberian wolf, as well as specimens of foxes, wild cats and mongooses, is more noteworthy. Among the birds that inhabit the Despeñaperros Natural Park, we can differentiate between the imperial eagle and the griffon vulture.
Despeñaperros is not popular for its size, but for the number of different activities that can be done there. Thus, it becomes a privileged place for lovers of hiking, cycling or cave paintings.
- Caves, such as the Cueva de los Muñecos or the Cuevas del Santo that allow us to travel millions of years back in time.
- Paintings. Some of the caves found in Despeñaperros hold authentic treasures inside. There are even samples of Neolithic rock art.
- Geotourism. Despeñaperros is one of the key points of interest for geotourism, with large folds and metamorphic processes formed by limestone, slate and Armorican quartzite.
- Observation of flora and fauna. Some species can only be seen in the Despeñaperros Natural Park.
- Bellowing deer. When the mating season arrives, at the beginning of autumn, you can hear the sound that the deer make when they fight each other to surprise the females.
- Hiking. There are several hiking routes that you can also complete by 4x4 car, bicycle, horseback...
Outstanding natural spaces
- Cimbarra waterfall
- Los Órganos Natural Monument
- Rock paintings in Monte de Los Órganos
- Cave of the Dolls
- Salto del Fraile waterfall
- The Sliders
- Hill of the Star
- Caves of the Saint
- Retamoso Cow Caves
- La Aliseda recreational area
- Despeñaperros river path. Parallel to the Despeñaperros river, you can appreciate a varied landscape, with riverside vegetation. The route, in many of its points, is located on the railway bridge. The trail starts at the railway station.
- Route of the Stove. On the banks of streams, this route begins in the Aldea de Mirada del Rey. You will discover the characteristic views of the park, you will spot eagles, deer and check the mycology of the area, as well as discover the culture and history.
- Batán Mill. 5.9 km trail. and low difficulty. With a duration of two hours, this trail is 4 kilometers long. in autumn