Sierra Espuña is a mountainous region of the Betic Mountain Range in the municipalities of Alhama de Murcia, Totana and Mula. At the end of the 19th century, the entire mountain range was in a terrible ecological state, with practically no trees and it was on the edge of becoming a desert. Reforestation became a long process, but in 1931 it became a ‘Natural Site of National Interest’. It is now also a ‘Special Protection for Birds’ and a ‘Site of Community Importance’.
Sierra Espuña enjoys a Mediterranean mountain climate, although it can be exposed to humid winds due to the altitude. Rain is mainly experienced in winter, spring and autumn and it can be torrential, causing local flooding. Snow is common during the winter months on the peaks and upper-middle areas.
There are around a thousand different plant species on the Sierra Espuña. Of all these species, 36 are protected or are of peculiar botanical and biogeographic interest. The predominant tree is Aleppo Pine, although in higher areas the Black Pine and Rodeno Pine predominate. Other trees include Holm Oaks, Gall Oaks and Montpelier Maples. Plants that have adapted to growing in extreme weather conditions on the peaks include the Blue Broom and the Blackberry Juniper.
During the spring the Almond blossom is spectacular and is well worth a visit.
There are numerous vertebrates to be found on Sierra Espuña including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Insects include about 500 different species of butterflies.
Amphibians include the Runner Toad, the Pintojo Toad and there is also a colony of the Betic Midwife Toad.
Reptiles to be found include the Ocellated Lizard, the Snout Viper and the Bastard Snake.
Birds are probably the most popular vertebrates to be found in the Sierra Espuña and there is a fantastic variety to be seen. Chickadees and Crossbills live in the forest areas. Azores and Hawks can be seen during the day and at night the nocturnal Tawny Owl and the Eagle Owl can be seen and heard when they ‘sing’. Finches and Thrushes can be seen on the edges of the pine forest and hedgerows.
Mammals such as Barbary Sheep were introduced to the Sierra Espuña and its population has grown rapidly. Squirrels, Dormice,
Wild Boar, Martens, Genets, Badgers and Wildcats can all be found in this beautiful mountain area and the Mountain Goat has also reappeared.
Ricardo Codorníu Visitor Centre
This Visitors and Management Centre is an old mansion located in the heart of Sierra Espuña. There is a Reception and Environmental Information Area, a Projection Room and an Exhibition Room. This is well worth a visit to learn about the history of the area and staff are on hand to help explain the different routes and viewing points.
Next to the Visitor Centre is the area known as Huerta Espuña. It is one of the most historic places in the park, where the first experimental crops were carried out to study the viability of the plants in this environment and for reforestation. The orchards were used for projects of recovery of protected wild flora in the area.
At the end of the 16th century, the first wells to store snow were built in Sierra Espuña. This was distributed in the form of ice to hospitals, cities and towns around Murcia. In the space of about 120 years, almost all of these ‘refrigerators’ were built, storing up to 25,000 metric tons of ice. These Snow Wells appear scattered hidden among the undergrowth.
Umbria of Mula
This is one of the lesser known areas of Sierra Espuña. It has a great landscape and is of ecological interest. The dry agricultural landscapes and large areas of pine forests are mixed, which favour birds of prey. The Barranco de la Hoz is one of the most beautiful areas, along with La Hoya del Alpurchil. There are shady places such as the Sepultura and the Forest, the Piedra de Almirez, Perona and the Rambla de Malvariche, making this beautiful area of great importance for the ecological balance of Sierra Espuña.
Ravines of Gebas
These are one of the most spectacular landscapes of Sierra Espuña. It is part of the protected natural spaces of the Region of Murcia and was declared a Protected Landscape in 1995. Its desert-type space is like a spectacular lunar landscape or bad-lands and is formed by gullies, canyons and ravines. This area can be seen from Gebas, where there is a viewpoint.
Sierra Espuña has numerous places where rocks offer you the possibility of finding simple, short routes, to very complex routes with high technical difficulties. It is essential to check the regulations of this sport at the local Tourist Offices or the Information Centre as in some areas you can climb without authorization, but you must have insurance and/or be federated. In most places permission must be requested.
Walking & Cycling
There are many beautiful walks in the Sierra Espuña. Some are undertaken by organised groups such as WARM (Walkers Around Rural Murcia). This group is based in NW Murcia and can be contacted on Warm2005@gmail.com. Alhama Tourist Office has details of walks in the area.
This activity is mainly focused on the Pliego area where there are chasms of limestone. There are caves and chasms throughout the Sierra Espuña, but these cannot be visited. Again more information at the Information Centre. To visit any of these local caves, it is necessary to contact the Club Pliego Espuña, who are in charge of regulating access.
The Sierra Espuña Regional Hunting Reserve covers a huge area. It is dedicated to hunting larger game, especially wild boar. To hunt in the Regional Game Reserve, participation in the annual lottery must be requested, which will result in a list of participants for the different modalities. You must also be in possession of all the necessary documentation to comply with the regional legislation on hunting.