Karst en Yesos de Sorbas Natural Area

Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park

The Karst en Yesos de Sorbas Natural Area has a dramatic landscape.  It has a lunar type appearance due to its semi-arid desert climate and eroded rocks. The area covers over 2,000ha.  Its karst landscape is considered one of the finest examples of its kind in the world.  The Aguas river flows through the area, giving it a slash of verdant green, and helping to create steep ravines. The area is also home to natural springs, which have a huge importance due to their location within the desert.  The karst landscape is made up of Gypsum which is highly toxic for most plants. 

Sorbas has a visitor centre which can provide maps, books and details of the walks within the area.  There is a walk along the Los Molinos del Rio Aguas river which is particularly worth following as it allows the walker to see experience the disparity between the desert and the green of the river’s plant life.


Sorbas is home to a large amount of Cubist architecture.  Its location alone – on the edge of a gorge makes it worth visiting!  Erosion of the limestone has left a huge amount of caves which are the area's main visitor attraction.

The underground caverns of Cuevas de Sorbas are bursting stalagtites, stalagmites and pillars and cover an area of about 50km. The most noteworthy of the caves are the Cueva del Agua (Cave of Water), which at 8km-long is the largest gypsum cave in Spain.

Animals found on the cliffs include crag martins, bee-eaters and black wheateaters.  Spectacled warblers are resident in the more arid parts. Birds of prey Bonelli's eagles and common kestrels can also been seen here.  The Karst en Yesos de Sorbas Natural Area is home to the endangered spur-thighed tortoise – this is one of the few remaining places they are still found.

The caverns and caves are inhabited by cats.  Other mammals seen here are foxes and badgers.  Due to its arid climate it is also an idea habitat for Spanish sand lizards and occellated lizards, along with geckos and snakes.

The Karst en Yesos de Sorbas Natural Area can be divided into three distinct types of vegetation zones: subdesert steppe, gypsum outcrops and river valley. The gypsophyte species of plant (which thrives on gypsum) is profuse – most plants find gypsum extremely toxic.  The natural area is home to many different gypsophyte species including six which are endangered.  This includes the rare white-petalled narcisus tortifolium and the chaenorrhinum grandiflorum.  The Agus river provides an ideal habitat for reeds, rushes and bulrushes, with its banks being home to some trees including oleanders, willows and ash trees.


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