The Sierra de Maria-Los Velez Natural Park rises between the depressions of Chirivel and Huescar. Its rugged massifs create a beautiful landscape with remarkable contrasts of rugged reliefs, leafy forests and snowy peaks, which move away from the aridity that characterizes the landscape of the province of Almeria.
In this territory you will find 9 trails of spectacular beauty for lovers of flora and fauna. It is here where you can come into contact with nature and create unforgettable moments.
Walking along the trails of the Sierra de Maria-Los Velez Natural Park allows you to see an authentic green island of vegetation. The “Pinar de la Alfahuara”, specifically, houses one of the best preserved forests of the province of Almeria. It is made up of dense masses of Aleppo pine, black pine, holm oaks and other deciduous trees.
A simple tour in the foothills of Sierra Maria on the Umbria de la Virgen trail, where the botanical garden is located, is a great way to learn all about the different species of flora in this area.
The landscape of the park undergoes changes every year due to the temperature oscillations and the scarce, but torrential, rainfall. This causes the areas with less vegetation to suffer from shocking erosion.
A characteristic point of Sierra Maria is the presence of exclusive plant species like the impressive Sabina Albar, which can be found in the Centaurea of Sierra Maria. It is located at an altitude of 1,600 meters and has been declared a Natural Monument.
When you reach the lower areas of the park, you notice a big change in the appearance of the landscape when compared to the higher areas. You’ll go from pine forests and bushes to fruit trees which contain almonds, cherries, and many other exciting fruits.
In the Sierra Maria-Los Velez Natural Park, you will find an authentic green island that is located in the northernmost part of the province which borders the north and east of Murcia and west of Granada.
This site of national interest contains holm oaks, which are the most striking, although the pine forests cover a greater space. The trees serve as a home to various species of animals that make life in the natural reserve. This is the same reserve that provides wealth to a region with an incalculable artistic and cultural value.
Various plant communities have developed in the territory of the Natural Park, thanks to the soil that has natural limestone, creating ravines, caves and cracks.
Together it creates varied microclimates which are able to adapt a quite varied and rich flora.
To ensure its existence over time, restricted distribution areas have been created in order to protect many of the species and families that are found here.
The large area of the Sierra Maria-Los Velez Natural Park, from the bottom to a height of 1,500 meters, is full of pine tres. They have the ability to adapt to different climatic characteristics and aspects of the soil. Different species of pine can be found: the Aleppo pine occupies the shady areas, while the lower access sites show small forests of black pine and and other deciduous trees.
There are records that confirm that the pine forests have been occupying these territories since the mid-16th century. However, reforestation has also been done, because forests offer resources necessary for the development of life since the beginning of time.
Fortunately, in recent years there have been important changes with respect to the way in which forest resources are seen. Therefore, indiscriminate falling of trees has stopped being practiced so that forests can develop properly.
In addition to large areas covered by pine forests, the Sierra Maria-Los Velez Natural Park has junipers and other shrubs in the highlands. Special mention goes to two species as they are only found in this biodiversity reserve: the Centaurea mariana
and the Sideritis stachydioides
Sideritis belongs to the family of labiates and grows in areas of calcareous rocks. It is characterized by delicate whitish hairs with striking purple flowers.
With respect to the limestone peaks that rise to more than 1,800 meters, the thorny species are the predominant one.
It is a community with species such as blue broom, which withstand extreme aridity and winter temperatures.
On the other hand, in the cereal plains it is common to see isolated oaks that have the capacity to form dehesas, as well as the creation of dense thickets in the mountain massifs to avoid landslides on steep slopes.