Yesterday we went exploring a few of the Sierras in Almeria but at one point we almost terminated the trip as whilst heading along the sunny A92, the wind seemed like it would prohibit our access. Anyways, we braved it and firstly went to a lovely little pueblo called Baños de Sierra Alhamilla in, well the Sierra Alhamilla.
The hot spring at Baños de Sierra Alhamilla flowing at 58 deg was known to the Phoenicians and later by the Romans, but it was the Arabs who used it more. The source was abandoned for many years until in 1777 a local bishop rehabilitated it and built the spa resort of Balneario de Sierra Alhamilla near the source. The spa was renovated in 1991 respecting its existing structure and aesthetics. It now has 25 rooms around a courtyard and in the basement are the Roman baths and seven white marble baths. The Balneario de Sierra Alhamilla is an ideal place to relax, situated in an oasis in the foothills of the Sierra Alhamilla and turned into a beautiful hotel with all amenities; restaurant and restrooms, combining the ancient with modern facilities to enjoy the health-giving properties of the local natural mineral waters.
A little outside the main pueblo are a number of cave houses which look to be used these days for keeping livestock and animal feed.
Surrounding the town is a vast array of lush plant-life and despite the Sierra’s dry and barren appearance there are over 40 species of flora. The Sierra is one of Spain’s most important habitats for the rare rosemary rosmarinus eriocalyx, with flowers of varying shades of blue.
A little further into the Sierra Alhamilla is an area of well-preserved holm oaks, the only woodland in an otherwise treeless area. Adapted to extreme temperatures and times of drought, these holm oaks are a relic from the days when much of Almeria was clad in Mediterranean forest. The best examples of these holm oaks can be found on the Sierra’s north-facing slopes; on the south-facing ones they are concentrated in the Barranco del Rey and the Cerro del Vivero. Apart from the holm oaks and some reforested areas of Aleppo and maritime pines, most of the Sierra’s vegetation is dominated by low scrubland.
Following on from this visit to Sierra Alhamilla, we travelled to even higher ground to revisit an area known as Las menas in Sierra de los Filabres. We made a short excursion here last August which you can read about by clicking here.
At the time of our visit yesterday, there was still a lot of snow about transforming the Sierra into a winter wonderland.
The partly desolate village of Las Menas sits high in the Sierra de los Filabres and takes a fair amount of effort to get there, especially when confronted with beautiful snow-covered scenery! From what I understand from reading local notice-boards, Las Menas is one of many former mining towns that have been abandoned in years-gone-by for one reason or another, usually because the cost of mining the product outweighs the value of the product mined.
The Sierra de los Filabres is a nature-watching paradise and especially for the bird-life. It is the largest mountain range in Almería Province and forms the southern limit of the Almanzora Valley. Its highest points are the 2,168 m high Calar Alto, the Tetica de Bacares or “La Tetica” (2,086 m and near to Las Menas) and the Calar Gallinero (2,049 m).
There are over 110 types of birds living in the Sierra de los Filabres and although most of the birds in this area are migratory, there are a number that do nest amongst the higher altitudes. Eagles, owls and falcons are also common to these slopes and those who are patient enough are rewarded with views of them.
Other species of wild-life living in mostly the wooded areas, include the wild boar, mountain goat, wild deer, foxes and wild cats. Apparently the Sierra de los Filabres is the only place in the province of Almeria where wild-cats can be found in such numbers.
Summing up, what would seem like a fairly quiet place with not much going on is actually teaming with more wild-life than you could imagine. I tried my best to capture as much as possible with my camera but it doesn’t wait for you, it doesn’t sit still and pose. So, whilst I haven’t got as many photographs of wild-deer as I might like to have to have and whilst my photographs of (I think) a beautiful pair of Bonelli’s Eagles were far too blurred to be of use and whilst the quick brown fox jumped too quickly across the road for me, I certainly enjoyed watching them.
This is a nature-watchers paradise but don’t think you can just spend an hour dashing around and seeing all there is to see, you need at least a WHOLE day to fully appreciate the environment here and for me, I couldn’t think of a better way to study the environment and be at one that through the lens of a camera.