When you enter the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas you are among the largest mountain ranges in the Iberian peninsula. The majority of the region's towns and villages are located between 700 and 1,000 metres above sea level, and while over half of the park's surface area is at an altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 metres, some peaks soar to over 2,000 metres, such as Cabañas (2,028 metres), Alto de la Cabrilla (2,039 metres) and Empanadas (2,107 metres), which is the park's highest point. There are more than 50 peaks that reach a height in excess of 1,600 metres.

These spectacular mountains are laid out in sheer ranges running northeast-southeast, occasionally interweaving and usually separated by deep valleys carved out of the rock by the rivers and flanked by rounded, rocky escarpments.

The eastern area of the park is the most mountainous, while the northeast is home to numerous limestone crags: high mountains whose sheer sides rise majestically from the ground a ...


Natural Architecture

The rock formations in the park have a variety of remarkable shapes. As they are limestone, they do not all react in the same way to the passage of water; different sections offer unequal levels of resistance and as a result, unique profiles are formed and natural architectural shapes emerge in this karst landscape created from limestone dissolved by water. Visitors will have their breath taken away by the majestic picones, enormous rocks in the shape of needles or towers; muelas and castellones, sheer sided rocks with a flat top, like molars or castles; and poyos, colossal blocks of stone with horizontal, ledge-like contours that sit atop certain mountains.

Another type of rock that is very common in the park is tufa, an eye-catching creation that is formed by layers of calcium carbonate building up underwater in waterfalls and sheer, dripping rock faces. In some places the rock underfoot has been intricately sculpted by the passage of water into la ...


A landscape of flora

Above all, the park boasts an immense blanket of pine forest. However, visitors will discover that this forest is varied and diverse, with pines of different species and sizes existing in harmony with many other types of trees and bushes. This is not a place for monotonous rows of identical pine trees, sprouting like columns from a soil that is bare of any other type of vegetation.The three pine forests ...As you climb higher you will find Aleppo pines and both Corsican and European black pines (the park boasts the most impressive forests in Spain of this latter species). With their straight, pale-coloured trunks, these mighty pines are the masters of the landscape at high altitude, while higher still, the peaks are the exclusive preserve of the towering rocks and breathtaking panoramas. Below the wide belt of pine forest the landscape has been harmoniously humanised with the planting of olive groves, which have an intense mountain quality to their appearance as the ...


The clearest signs of human activity in the park can be observed in the north, in the Segura region. The lowest areas are home to olive groves, inching up the sides of the slopes and interweaved with numerous traces of woods and scrubland. The economy of the park and its dependent surrounding area is centred on olives, and the olive groves are a key part of its landscape and culture and of the daily life of the park's inhabitants. In fact, the groves are a type of "cleared forest" that, although artificial and lacking the structure and diversity of natural forests, nevertheless constitute a complex agroecosystem that is home to a wide range of plant and animal species.

A substantial part of the higher areas in the Segura region display signs of an entirely different kind of human activity: raising livestock. These high mountain pastures have few trees and have historically been deforested in order to provide grazing for Segura sheep. At times this remarkable landscape is almost overwhelming in its breadth of awe-inspiring panoramas, everywhere flanked by soaring mountains and dappled with scrubland and rock formations. In winter it becomes a land of snow, while in spring the green pastures once again emerge. It has always been the home of an ancestral farming culture that deserves to be recognised and treasured

Besides the larger towns, the profusion of villages and tiny, isolated farmhouses is another sign of human presence that gives a distinct personality to this part of the park. In the higher reaches many of these human enclaves are no longer populated, or only during those months when the weather is more benign. The traditional architecture of the villages has not always been preserved but the presence of these settlements is not just agreeable from an aesthetic point of view; they are also a moving testimony to a way of life that was historically tough, yet always capable of adapting masterfully to the difficult mountain conditions..

Nestled alongside these enclaves are small orchards, which are known locally as hortales and are situated on the huelgas, small strips of more or less flat and fertile land on the banks of rivers and streams. Agriculture in these mountains has always been of a purely subsistence nature and as a result the orchards have suffered the same fate as the villages and farmhouses they were connected to: abandonment. However, in the lower areas close to the towns there are still many active market gardens that produce exquisite vegetables. Each huelga, even if it has been abandoned, remains a small paradise that contributes great diversity and a soothing sense of balance to its surrounding environment, as it combines a green-fingered gardener's touch (terraces, ponds, walnut trees, poplars and the like) with the grandiose spectacle of the ever-present mountains.

The abundance of water in the park prompted the construction of a number of reservoirs of different sizes, capacities and uses. They are all of great importance to the park's economy and landscape, although their construction had a significant negative social impact at the time, given that most of them were built at a point when the political context was particularly harsh. Today the park's reservoirs are an attractive recreational and sporting resource and this website includes a number of references to that extent: however, in the context of the relationship between the landscape and the people who live here in the mountains, it is worth remembering the hardships suffered by a resident of the village of Vega de Hornos, who was affected by the construction of the large Tranco reservoir. His words are a vivid illustration of the decisions that were forced upon the inhabitants of the mountains for centuries by those in power. Today we are lucky to be living in different times.

"In 1940 the thing we had been dreading for a long time finally happened: they told us that the area would have to be vacated immediately and the houses knocked down (...) Large groups of woodcutters and sawyers came in, using their enormous axes to cut everything down to an even size, categorising the wood and burning the firewood and the thousands of centuries-old oaks that had up until then covered the land around the village. Later they made it into charcoal. In a short space of time the area looked as though it had been struck by an atomic bomb. Along with everyone else in the village, we had to move away, taking all our belongings and animals with us: we had to move to different areas, different landscapes; we had to change our customs, our neighbours and many other things that we can't put a name to but which were real and remained inside each and every one of us. These changes were extremely hard for everyone, although each of us suffered in silence"

Recuerdos sumergidos, 1931-1941 ("Submerged Memories, 1931-1941").
Ángel Robles Rodríguez, born in El Chorreón, a farmhouse that was expropriated in order to build the reservoir.