The L’Albera Mountain Range extends along the eastern section of the Pyrenees, from the Pertús mountain pass to the Mediterranean. This is an area of outstanding natural and scenic interest, with zones of very old, varied and luxurious vegetation, ancient constructions and human relics.
The L'Albera Mountain Range extends along the eastern section of the Pyrenees, from the Pertús mountain pass to the Mediterranean. This is an area of outstanding natural and scenic interest, with zones of very old, varied and luxurious vegetation, ancient constructions and human relics.
It separates the two plains of El Rosselló and El Empordà. The highest peaks are Neulós Mount (1,257 metres), Los Pastors Mount (1,167 metres), Los Quatre Termes Mount (1,156 metres) and the Sallafort Peak (992 metres).
Within the mountain range there are various protected areas: the western area from Requesens-Baussitges, and the eastern area from Sant Quirze de Colera-Balmeta, separated by the zone of the Banyuls Pass.
The former presents a rich and varied vegetation, with forests of oak, cork oak, holm oak and chestnut, and some very significant beech forests, as these are the most eastern to be found on the Iberian peninsula.
The other zone has typically Mediterranean characteristics with scarce vegetation, mainly due to the devastating forest fires that have ravaged the zone in recent decades, plus shrubs and scrub. It is here where two protected animal species in danger of extinction live: the Mediterranean tortoise and the Albera cow, of which only 400 still exist in the world.
The zone has the greatest number of megalithic monuments in Catalonia, with numerous dolmens and menhirs, such as La Murtra and the Pedra Gentil. There is also a great legacy of Romanesque art, with many parish churches and hermitages, and the monumental Sant Quirze de Colera Benedictine Monastery, a jewel in the Catalan Romanesque heritage crown, currently being restored.
In the municipality of La Jonquera, to the south of the Neulós Mount, Requesens Castle rises high above the treetops. This castle was restored at the end of the 19th century in a romantic architectural style which gave it the whimsical and mythical style to be seen today.
In 1986 the L'Albera Natural Area of National Interest was created, with two partial nature reserves, one created to preserve the flora (particularly the beech forests) and the other to protect the Mediterranean tortoise. Later, in 1987, a new partial reserve was created, that of Sant Quirze, also to protect the tortoise. The headquarters of the Natural Area is situated in the town of Espolla, and in La Jonquera there is an information centre.
The L'Albera Tortoise Reproduction Centre, with its Mare de Déu del Camp Sanctuary in Garriguella and the Requesens Farmhouse, from where guided visits to the castle can be made, also form part of the L'Albera Natural Area of National Interest.
Extremely strong gusts of wind from the north - the Tramontana - are common in this zone, which makes it highly valued by wind energy companies. There are around ten wind farms in the planning stages at the moment, some of which have not been approved mainly due to popular rejection.
Both the natural landscape as well as the reserves are included in the so-called L'Albera Massif Natural Area of National Interest, extending over approximately 10,000 hectares. This crosses the districts of La Jonquera, Espolla, Rabós, Vilamaniscle, Garriguella, Llançà, Colera and Portbou.