Sierra de Guadarrama
The Sierra de Guadarrama forms part of the natural division between the northern and southern plateaux in the central area of the Iberian Peninsula. Located between the mountains of Gredos and Ayllón, it extends in a southwest-northeast direction through the provinces of Madrid, Segovia and Avila.
It currently houses the Guadarrama National Park with La Pedriza as one of the most characteristic and unique areas of the sierra, and the peak of Peñalara (2,428 m) as the roof of the chain.
The geography of this region is conditioned by the nature of the rocks and the erosive processes that have shaped its peaks. We found granite and gneiss of Hercephalic age that have withstood erosion over millions of years.
The glaciers left their imprint and thus we can see it in the magnificent circus of Peñalara with its moraines, lagoons originated by the ice excavation and other indicators that tell us the geological history of these mountains.
The flora is characterized by the abundance of wild pine forests, oak groves and holm oaks in lower areas and of grasslands and shrubs in high mountain areas. In these ecosystems are deer, wild boar, roe deer and badgers, among other mammals. In addition there is a great amount of species of aquatic birds in the reservoirs, and great raptors like the imperial eagle or the black vulture.
The climate is continental Mediterranean and varies considerably depending on the height, being in the high areas much more humid and cold than in the Central Plateau. The snow use to appear between the months of December and April from 1.800 meters. Unprotected from other mountain systems, on the cornices and peaks the wind and storms are usually very intense.
As a natural and strategic frontier, its inhabitants have created different routes to control and to cross it. The oldest mountain pass that is preserved is the Puerto de la Fuenfría with its Roman road dating to the first century. Currently the Sierra de Guadarrama is crossed by numerous mountain passes, some of them with a height above 1.800 meters. This fact, together with the proximity of the city of Madrid, makes these mountains have a large influx of mountaineers and tourists.
Its landscapes, good state of preservation and good communications make the Sierra de Guadarrama the ideal place for mountain sports such as mountain skiing, cross-country skiing, hiking or mountain biking.
The proximity to cities such as Madrid, Avila and Segovia (the latter two declared World Heritage by UNESCO) along with other cultural attractions such as La Granja de San Ildefonso, San Lorenzo del Escorial or the Monastery of Santa María de El Paular are a further incentive to visit this mountain range. We cannot forget the Castilian gastronomy, with its roasts of lamb and suckling pig, the morcilla of Burgos, the beans of La Granja or the cocido of Madrid and the red wines of the Ribera del Duero or the whites ones of Rueda.
Sierra de Gredos
The Sierra de Gredos is part of the Central System which, with a length of 500 km in the center of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the watershed of the basins of the rivers, Duero to the north, and Tajo to the south. The southern slope shows greater slope than the northern face. That’s why towns like Arenas de San Pedro or Candeleda located in the southern valley of Tiétar, have altitudes of 510 and 430 meters respectively, while places of the northern slope, located at a similar distance from the watershed, such as the Parador National of Gredos or Hoyos del Espino have altitudes of 1.580 and 1.460 meters respectively.
Almanzor peak (2.592 meters) is the highest Summit in the central mountains and it is part of the Cirque of Gredos.
This cirque together with the one of Cinco Lagunas, constitute two of the most attractive and wild places of the mountain range and an interesting place for mountaineering in all its disciplines.
The climate is typical of the high mountain and is characterized by cold winters with snow between the months of December and April, mainly above 1.500 meters. Summers are sunny, hot and dry. There is a great contrast between the south and north slopes that is reflected in the vegetation.
In the southern slope, which enjoys a less cold climate in winter and with some more rainfall, we can see pine, chestnut and oak forests; In the northern slope the climate is colder and windy and the precipitations are scarcer, so the forest is less developed (also the product of intensive logging) and the jara and the scrub take over the landscape.
This same vegetation is the one that appears in the high mountain where, on the granite rock, settle lichens with greenish and blackish colours.
The famous animal is the mountain goat of Gredos (Capra pyrenaica victoriae).
The silhouette of the males is enhanced by its large antlers, which can reach about one meter in length. There are also numerous birds of prey emphasizing the griffon vulture, eagle, short eagle, eagle, royal kite, hawk, etc.
Very close to Gredos there are the cities of Segovia, Ávila, Salamanca and Toledo, all them all declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Another villages of cultural interest are Barco de Ávila, with its castle of Valdecorneja, the walls surrounding the city (XII century) and the bridge (XIII century) on the Tormes river. The villages of Navalperal, Navacepeda and Navarredonda have XVI century churches.
On the southern slope are the villages of the Valley of Cinco Villas with San Esteban del Valle, Mombeltrán, Caves of Pedro Bernardo and Arenas de San Pedro with an architectural, archaeological and cultural richness that worth a visit. And of course, in spring, the Valle del Jerte and Ambroz with their cherry blossoms.