Into the Wild in Cazorla (Spain)

By Sally James

Cazorla Nature Preserve

Cazorla Nature Preserve

If you’re tired of visiting big cities and you dream of enjoying an unforgettable experience in the midst of nature, one area that you will enjoy as much for its serenity as for its adventure offerings, is Cazorla, in the south of Spain. Cazorla is around an hour away from the city of Jaén and comprises both a main town, and part of a mountain range known as the Cazorla Nature Reserve (in Spanish, the Sierra de Cazorla, Segura y Villas) – the largest protected green area in Spain, home to ancient towering trees, dramatic waterfalls and serene tracks which vary in length and complexity. The Cazorla Nature Reserve was declared a World Biosphere Reserve owing to the rich variety of flora and fauna.
The mountain ranges of Cazorla and Segura are part of a compact group of mountains with vertiginous peaks, the highest of which is Empanades, reaching into the skies at 1,800 metres. The mountain ranges share several important tree species, including oaks and pines. They are also home to hundreds of different vertebrate species and over 2,000 plant species, many of which cannot be found anywhere else in Spain – including the Cazorla violet.
There are various must-visit spots in Cazorla, including the main town itself, a few kilometres down from the nature reserve and home to the Castle of the Four Corners, which houses the Upper Guadalquivir Popular Arts and Traditions Museum. The Town Hall is worth a visit as well, since it is located in a 16th century convent. The town has two palaces – Cadena and La Vicaría, as well as a lovely central square and old churches.
There are many places to stay in, both in the town itself and within the nature reserve. One of the best is the Parador de Cazorla – Spain is dotted with paradors in major cities and natural areas like. These are luxurious hotels located in reformed monasteries or castles. The Parador de Cazorla is one of the most beautiful in Spain – surrounded by verdant walkways and a variety of fauna, the hotel is perfect for those who like to unexpectedly see (from a safe distance) animals such as deer, foxed and boar families (including the cute, gold hued baby boars).
Another excellent choice is the Hotel Spa Rural Coto del Valle de Cazorla, which is located very close to the main natural attractions, and which has a luxurious spa to boot. Cazorla is best enjoyed in the autumn and winter months, yet nothing appeals more after a day out in nature, than relaxing in a hot tub or receiving a relaxing massage or facial treatment. There are also numerous campsites within the reserve, including Puente de las Herrarias (featuring a campsite, wooden cabins and a hotel) and Chopera de Coto Ríos (with its own swimming pool and restaurant).
The top places to visit in the Nature Reserve include:
The Cerrada de Elías: Hands down Cazorla’s most visited spot. Featuring a suspended wooden walkway, stunning natural pools, waterfalls and lush fauna. This route is far longer than the Cerrada de Utrero (comprising around 7km), yet the walk is pleasant and scenic, with plenty of opportunity to stop and dip your feet in the refreshing water.
The Cerrada de Utrero: This is a short but sweet, 2km route which is perfect for families with younger children. It commences at the Cruce del Vadillo (in the east of Cazorla) and comprises a spectacular gorge with a dam and reservoir, followed by the romantic waterfall called Cascada de Linarejos.
The Source of the Guadalquivir River: It is amazing to think that one bubbling little source can extend to one of the Spain’s most stunning, winding rivers. There is something powerful indeed about visiting the source of so much life.
The Caves: Speleology is a popular activity in Cazorla – some of the most stunning caves include the Cueva del Agua, which sometimes hosts live musical performances. The Cueva del Peinero, surrounded by stately maples and ash trees, is another must-see cave.
The Botanical Gardens: This green spot houses many of the park’s most iconic plant species, grouped according to the altitude at which they normally grow.
The Cerrada de Elías: Hands down Cazorla’s most visited spot. Featuring a suspended wooden walkway, stunning natural pools, waterfalls and lush fauna. This route is far longer than the Cerrada de Utrero (comprising around 7km), yet the walk is pleasant and scenic, with plenty of opportunity to stop and dip your feet in the refreshing water.

Adventure Activities:
Cazorla isn’t just about tranquil walks and nature appreciation; it is also ideal for adventure lovers, with a host of companies offering exciting activities such as mountain biking, canyoning, and ziplining. If you plan on making it an adrenalin-charged visit, ensure that your coverage includes risky sports (not all plans do). Local companies also offer 4×4 rides to restricted areas of the park – these trips are crucial for those wishing to see the very best of the park, since the friendly guides bring you to the most scenic spots, share fascinating anecdotes about the park and provide vital information about everything from tree species to local bird life.