Venturing into the Los Alcornocales park in search of nature and history.
Each time you open a bottle of fine wine, chances are the cork will have come from Los Alcornocales in the east of Cadiz province. This densely forested region of mysterious beauty constitutes one of the world’s largest cork oak forests. Every summer, cork strippers venture into the forest to carefully remove the thick bark from the trees, a process which can be repeated only every nine years or so for each tree.
Today this 420,000-acre wilderness is protected as a natural park. Aside from its interest for nature lovers and botanists, the landscape of the park makes a perfect setting for outdoors activities. Based in the mountaintop village of Alcala de los Gazules, the Amatur company offers a full program including kayaking, horse riding, rock climbing, archery, hiking and other activities. Added to that there is plenty of rustic charm and history in the villages that fringe the park.
There is also accommodation in rural hotels and inns, including two of the most original hostelries in Spain.
Near the town of Castellar, the 17th-century Convento de La Almoraima stands in the midst of a 30,000-acre hunting estate within the Los Alcornocales park, with 17 rooms boasting typical Andalusian decor in a parador-like environment. Guests can enjoy exploring the estate on foot or in a guided four-wheel-drive tour.
Even more original are the self-catered homes available in the Castillo de Castellar. Because of its remote location this walled city, rising like a sentinel on a precipitous mountaintop, was abandoned as its inhabitants moved to a new Castellar in the valley below. But it was precisely the original village’s dramatic location that drew a number of new residents who were more interested in scenery and the simple life than in easy access. Now impeccably restored and maintained, the castle features eleven comfortable one- and two-bedroom holiday homes, comprising the Complejo Turistico Castillo de Castellar.
Amatur - Plaza San Jorge 1, 11180 Alcala de los Gazules (Cadiz), Spain. Tel. 34 956 413 005. Fax 34 956 413 228
Complejo Turistico Castillo de Castellar - Calle Rosario 3, 11350 Castellar de la Frontera (Cadiz), Spain. Tel. 34 956 236 620. Fax 34 956 236 624. Email: [email protected] Website: www.cadiz.org/tugasa
Hotel Convento La Almoraima - 11350 Castellar de la Frontera (Cadiz), Spain. Tel. 34 956 693 002. Fax 34 956 693 214.
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Copyright © 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet