The Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark is a wide mountain massif, 2,544 km2 in surface, located in the southeast of the province of Cáceres, in Spain, between the basins of the Tagus and Guadiana rivers. Its highest point is the "Risco de La Villuerca" (1601 m), and from its summit it offers a magnificent view including mountain ranges, valleys, rañas and the village of Guadalupe, on the South, with the Royal Monastery as a hallmark.
Villuercas-Ibores-Jara is a system of sierras and valleys aligned in parallel of magnificent beauty. The whole massif is the result of the action of the erosion over millions of years on a macrofolding structure resulting of the Hercynian orogeny, about three hundred million years ago, during the Carboniferous period. That great folding structure, known as synclinorium in geological terminology, was destroyed by erosion along the following Eras, during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic, and rejuvenated by fractures and rising movements of large blocks during the Alpine Orogeny, some thirty-five million years ago. Fractures (faults) can be seen in the mountain passes of the Geopark's sierras, in the Sierra de la Breña, in the valley of Guadarranque or near Castañar de Ibor under the "Cancho de las Narices". Finally, the current river network acting on this territory, so intensely folded and fractured, has modeled the landscape we see, with its characteristic geomorphology known as "Appalachian relief".
Currently, on the crests of the Villuercas, the Canchos and the quasi-vertical walls of the Armorican quartzites call our attention. They are, certainly, the most visible rocks because of their resistance to that awesome period of erosion and therefore they are the testimony of the Ordovician period, 130 million years older than the great Hercynian folding. What was folded then were materials deposited on the ocean bed near half a billion years ago. Those materials retain the traces of the trilobites that were moving forward on the sands leaving crisscrossed grooves we now call "Cruzianas". Today we can see them printed on those hard rocks in different parts of the geopark mountains, almost everywhere.
This geopark is a witness of one of the main events in the evolution of life: the origin and early radiation of animals. Some levels of the calcareous strata deposited in the Ibor-Guadalupe Anticline contain fossils of the genus Cloudina, characteristic of the Ediacaran period (635-541 million years ago). Cloudina carinata is the first animal that generates a mineralized exoskeleton, being the precursor of the widespread biomineralization of animals that occurred in the early Paleozoic, so they could colonize new environments. Certainly that resulted in a strong expansion of the marine fauna that has been collected in the fossil record as a major event of evolution known as the "Cambrian Explosion". Geopark fossil deposits speak about that event and the next one, the "Ordovician radiation", represented here by an exceptional abundance of trilobites, brachiopods, bryozoans, echinoderms, molluscs (bivalves and cephalopods), and graptolites. To know them it is better to reach the Museum of Logrosán or the Cañamero Visitors Centre and remember that to visit the Villuercas is a commitment to conservation and in no way can be collected fossils in the field.
Forty-four sites of special geological interest ("geosites") have been cataloged, such as some special geomorphologic features, mountains, faults, deep river valleys, the paleontological or mineral deposits, syncline and anticline folds, etc.. Especially notable are the aforementioned "Risco de La Villuerca" the Syncline of Santa Lucia, the Apreturas del Almonte and the Peña Amarilla Gorge, the Costanaza Mine ... Many of them are also cultural sites: shelters with cave paintings, Vetton forts, Arab castles or the Logrosán mines that speak of the mining past of the region and, today adapted for interpretative visit. Finally, the karst cave of Castañar de Ibor whose recognition as Natural Monument was due to its stunning stalactite formations of aragonite crystals. The difficulties to visit it are solved by the interpretation center also enabled as Geopark Information Centre.
One of the assets of the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark is the extraordinary richness of its natural heritage illustrated by the seven Special Protection of Birds Areas and the eight Sites of Community Importance recognized in the European Union's Habitats Directive. This natural richness and wild biodiversity has led to the visit of a growing number of ornithological tourists in recent years. These visitors are attracted by emblematic species such as cranes or the birds related to the high quartzite outcrops in the mountains: the black vultures, the Egyptian vultures, the black storks, the owls and the golden eagles.
Geoparks also appreciate the culture, anthropology, archeology and the history of the territory in the same way it does with the geological and natural value. Several cultural attractions can be visited in Villuercas - Ibores - Jara: The Royal Monastery of Guadalupe is of special importance. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1993. Besides, it should be noted the traditional Moorish architecture, the castles, the churches of Alía and Berzocana, and the traditional village festivals as the Carnival of Souls in Villar del Pedroso to highlight one of the oldest and most entrenched.
Visitors can complete their trip tasting some of the high quality products such as the Ibores goat cheese, the "Villuercas-Ibores" honey, the "Ribera de Guadiana" Cañamero wines, the meat products "Dehesa de Extremadura", the cherries, the chestnuts and the homemade pastries. Landscape, geology, vegetation, wildlife, and a rich historical and artistic heritage combine to make the visit to the Villuercas - Ibores - Jara Geopark an irresistible treat for all the senses.
Villuercas Ibores Jara Geopark
Diputación de Cáceres
c/ Pintores, 10. 10003 Caceres. Spain.
Tel: +34 927 255 535 / Fax: + 34 927 255 467
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