The Sierra de Guadarrama is a sub-range of the Sistema Central mountain ranges at the centre of the Iberian peninsula in Spain. The range runs for south west to north east and stretches around 80 km (~50 mi) in total, separating Madrid, the capital city, from the Castilla y Leon plains and the old Roman city of Segovia.
The highest peak is Peñalara, standing 2,428 m (7,966 ft) above sea level. The mountains are formed of granite, but have undergone significant erosion; and many have flattened summits, or ‘cuerdas’.
The area is important in terms of biodiversity: seventy nine of the 97 bird species in this area hold protected status, and endangered species found in this region include the Spanish Imperial Eagle, a globally threatened species, and the Eurasian wolf.
The area is also rich in history: throughout time, the mountain range has provided a natural barrier during countless armed conflicts and the landscape holds reminders of these, from medieval walled cities created during the times of Reconquest to trenches and gun emplacements from the Spanish Civil War.
Sierra de Guadarrama’s location, close to highly populated areas in Madrid and Segovia – means it is a much-visited area, popular with tourists and climbers alike. The south slope of Penalara holds the Penalara Natural Park, the only area of the range holding this status and preserved due to its exceptional beauty for its glacial cirques, moraines and lakes. Hiking and mountain climbing in authorized areas are the main attractions for visitors, as well as skiing in winter, and it attracts around 130,000 people a year.
La Pedriza is another area prized by mountain climbers. On the southern slopes of Sierra de Guadarrama, it is one of the largest granite ranges in Europe and holds over 1,000 rock climbing routes of all difficulties.