It may not be the biggest province in Andalucía, but Malaga can justifiably boast of having more protected natural areas than most and this important heritage has grown even more with the recent classification of the Sierra de las Nieves as a national park. It is one of only three in Andalucía.
The province is also home to five natural parks, six natural beauty spots, four nature reserves and 13 natural monuments, among other places of environmental interest.
Here, we take a look at some of the main protected areas of Malaga, by type and the differences between them.
The three national parks in Andalucía are Doñana, in Huelva province, the Sierra Nevada in Granada and now the Sierra de las Nieves in Malaga, which covers nearly 23,000 hectares of stunning mountain countryside as well as 75,120 hectares of prote cted land on the periphery and another 134,140 in areas of economic influence.
Seven municipalities are in the area with the highest protection: El Burgo, Istán, Monda, Parauta, Ronda, Tolox, and Yunquera. If we look at a map of the national park we can see that much of it coincides with the Biosphere Reserveand the natural park which existed before.
A national park affords the highest level of protection possible in Spain and unlike a natural park there are many more restrictions regarding use, partly due to the area being of greater scientific importance.
The Sierra de las Nieves has already been protected as a Biosphere Reserve since 1995, and this classification covers over 90,000 hectares in 12 municipalities: Alozaina, Casarabonela, Tolox, El Burgo, Yunquera, Monda, Guaro, Istán, Ojén, Serrato, Ronda and Parauta.
Also, since 2006 and together with other protected areas in the provinces of Cadiz and Malaga it has formed part of the Intercontinental Mediterranean Reserve, which also includes hugely important enclaves in northern Morocco such as the Talassemtane natural park.
Apart from the Sierra de las Nieves, Malaga has another four natural parks although most are shared with neighbouring provinces. This is the case with the Sierra de Grazalema and Los Alcornocales, part of which are in Cadiz province, and the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama, which are also in Granada.
Nor should we forget the Montes de Malaga, one of the smallest natural parks in Spain at just under 5,000 hectares.
At the moment there is also a movement from local residents and some politicians and councils who are calling for the Sierra de Mijas-Alpujata to be classified as a natural park.
This is because they want to protect its valuable ecosystem which is under threat from urban development on the Costa del Sol and Guadalhorce Valley. If they are successful, this will become the sixth naural park in Malaga.
Thanks to its many lagoons and lakes, Malaga is one of the provinces with the most protected nature reserves.
The best-known, because of its size and its population of pink flamingos, is Fuente de Piedra, situated beside the village of the same name.
To the north is La Ratosa nature reserve, which is shared by Humilladero and Alameda, and south-west of Fuente de Piedra is the Lagunas de Campillos complex, where there are more than six wetland areas.
Finally, in the Sierra Norte area of Malaga, is the Lagunas de Archidona nature reserve. This consists of two lagoons, the Chica (meaning small) and Grande (large).
The waters and the immediate area around these reserves are all protected to preserve their important ecosystems.