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Ten of the best natural parks to observe birds and wildlife in Spain

Spain has to rate as one of the best countries in in Europe for bird and wildlife watching. A destination with over 15 million hectares of protected areas and natural parks plus Spain is a strategic location on the avian migratory routes between Europe to Africa

Spain hosts huge forests and rocky mountain peaks where large birds of prey soar freely. There are wetlands where waterfowl find their home. Hundreds of nature parks and nature reserves teeming with birds and other wildlife.

If you need a bucket list for Spain then here is my top 10 for bird and wildlife watching in Spain. I have visited them all and would gladly return many times to all of them!

Just click the name of the park to find out much more information.

Cabañeros National Park, Ciudad Real (Castilla la Mancha)

The Cabañeros National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional de Cabañeros) is a NATIONAL park and is located within the two provinces of Ciudad Real andToledo
The Cabañeros National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional de Cabañeros) is a NATIONAL park and is located within the two provinces of Ciudad Real andToledo

Cabañeros is considered a Special Protection Area for Birds and is protected within the framework of the Natura 2000 Network. Famous for black vulture, griffon vulture, Iberian imperial eagle, Bonnelli’s eagle and black stork. With summer residents this park teems with birdlife.


Monfragüe National Park, Cáceres (Extremadura)

The area of Monfragüe National Park is noted for its importance as a breeding area for a selection of rare and protected birds,
The area of Monfragüe National Park is noted for its importance as a breeding area for a selection of rare and protected birds,

Monfragüe is, without a doubt, one of the best places in Spain for bird watching and especially for birds of prey. Every year this area also hosts the International Ornithological Tourism Fair, which attracts bird lovers from all over the world. Top of the list here is black stork, griffon vulture, imperial eagle, eagle owl, Egyptian vulture and short-toed eagle.


Atlantic Islands National Park (Galicia)

The Islas Atlánticas National Park are known in English as the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park.
The Islas Atlánticas National Park are known in English as the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park.

A Special Protection Area for birds. And, although there are many species, this national park can boast of being home to the largest colonies of shag and yellow-legged gull in the entire country. The park has strategically located hides.


Doñana National Park, Huelva and Seville (Andalucia)

The Doñana National and Natural Parks occupy the northern area of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean
The Doñana National and Natural Parks occupy the northern area of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean

The Doñana National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are more than 300 species listed. Some are sedentary and others migratory so the time of year greatly influences what species you will see. In spring there are organized visits and every year the International Bird Fair of Doñana is held. The ecosystems are varied between dunes and marshes and it is home to black storks, flamingos, purple herons, coots, bee-eaters and a seemingly endless number of different birds.


The Gallocanta Lagoon, Zaragoza and Teruel (Aragon)

Gallocanta laguna in Aragon, Spain
De Secretaria – http://www.xiloca.com/xilocapedia/index.php/Imagen:Atardecer_6_Gallocanta.jpg, CC BY 3.0 es, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19561884

The Gallocanta Lagoon is around 1,000 meters above sea level and is one of the most important saline lakes in Western Europe. This lake is on the migratory route for the common crane. October / November and February / March are the best times to visit this area. Guided tours of the nature reserve are also organized from the Gallocanta Lagoon Interpretation Center.


Hoces del Duratón Natural Park, Segovia (Castille y Leon)

Hoces del Rio Duratón Natural Park Parque Natural de las Hoces del Río Duratón is a natural park close to the town of Sepúlveda in the province of Segovia
Hoces del Rio Duratón Natural Park Parque Natural de las Hoces del Río Duratón is a natural park close to the town of Sepúlveda in the province of Segovia

The gorges of the Duratón river are home to one of the largest population of griffon vultures in Europe. Canoe trips here are a great way to get a bit closer to the wildlife of the area.


Ebro Delta Natural Park, Tarragona (Catalonia)

The Parque natural del Delta del Ebro holds a great importance internationally as more than 300 species of birds
The Parque natural del Delta del Ebro holds a great importance internationally as more than 300 species of birds

An absolute biological jewel and the most important wetland in Catalonia. Famous for its large and permanent colony of flamingos plus an excellent number of aquatic birds totaling more than 325 species


Marismas de Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Natural Park (Cantabria)

Marismas de Santoña, Victoria y Joyel Natural Park
Marismas de Santoña, Victoria y Joyel Natural Park

This Cantabrian natural park is considered one of the places with a huge biological diversity containing around 120 different species including grebes, cormorants, herons, loons, terns, ospreys, coots and white storks.


Lagunas de Villafáfila Nature Reserve, Zamora (Castille y Leon)

Reserva Natural de Lagunas de Villafáfila
Reserva Natural de Lagunas de Villafáfila

The best time to visit the Villafáfila Lagoons is in winter or spring. This is an area of ​​special protection for birds that make their home in the wetlands amongst the arable farmland. There are several viewpoints and hides. Grebe, white stork an cranes can be seen but the area is famous for the geese that use the area as a rest stop during their winter migration.


L’Albufera Natural Park (Valencia)

Albufera natural park - Valencia
Albufera natural park – Valencia

L’Albufera holds a great variety of aquatic birds. Its shores are protected for nesting and shelter for birds and the best months to find them are May, June, July, November, December and January. Look out for European rail, Purple galinule, common tern and black-footed tern.


Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!

http://wildsideholidays.co.uk/

El Aljibe Botanic Gardens in Alcalá de los Gazules

Part of a network of Botanic Gardens in Andalusia and aimed at preserving the local endemic flora, El Aljibe Botanic Gardens in Alcalá de los Gazules specialises in the plant-life within the Los Alcornocales Natural Park.

This is a small but very informative botanic garden covering about one hectare on the western edge of the Los Alcornocales oak forest easily accessed from the newly upgraded A381 dual carriageway. The gardens, which were begun in 2003 and inaugurated in July 2008, are well labelled with information not just about the plants but also the rock structures and terrain/habitat that support them.

These gardens are characterised by the sandstone terrain of their namesake, El Aljibe, which is the highest peak in the Los Alcornocales parkland. The vegetation is verdant due to the rainfall and fog created by its proximity to the Mediterranean sea and Atlantic ocean and by the mild winter temperatures.

Aljilbe botanic garden in Alcala de los Gazules
Informative maps in the Aljilbe botanic garden in Alcala de los Gazules

The layout of the gardens makes good use of a small area by curving the paths which are screened from each other by the trees. A water way dissects this to represent the steep v shaped ‘Canutos’ that these oak forests are famed for. The pathways of stone or wood are well laid and only gently sloped, allowing for an easy amble that demonstrates the different zones of the area.

Map boards explain the overall layout, with smaller signs giving more detailed information on particular vegetation types. (In Spanish)

Signs are very informative with scientific names allowing you to identify a plant then look it up later on Google :)
The yellow spot means that the plant is not endangered.

Most of the plants have signs which give scientific species name, inc sub-species, family, common Spanish name, its distribution and also if it is in endanger of extinction. The latter is shown in the form of a coloured spot, Red Yellow or Green.

The gardens collect plants or seeds from the local habitat concentrating on the emblematic and those most endangered to aid in their preservation.

The botanic gardens network aims to raise awareness in youngsters by holding educational fun days and also ‘introduction to botany’ days for adults.

El Aljibe’ contains around 185 trees and shrubs protected by law, some of which are included in the “Lista Roja de la Flora vascular de Andalucía”, Red list of endangered vascular plants of Andalusia. There are 300 different species of perennials and the range will continue to expand. Some of the plant species that are most noteworthy within this area are Cork Oak (Quercus suber), Pyrenean Oak (Quercus pyrenaica), Portuguese Oak (Quercus lusitanica), Canary Island Oak (Quercus canariensis), Alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus subsp baetica), Gorse species Stauracanthus boivinii, Whisk Fern (Psilotum nudum), a European Tree Fern Culcita macrocarpa and Diplazium caudatum.

Signs are very informative with scientific names allowing you to identify a plant then look it up later on Google :)
Signs are very informative with scientific names allowing you to identify a plant then look it up later on Google 🙂

The botanic gardens are fronted by the ‘Los Alcornocales visitors centre’ containing shop, restaurant and study rooms. Access is through the quadrangle behind the main building. (On my last visit the information centre, café etc were closed but I was still able to access the gardens)

Entrance Free is free

Getting to El Aljibe Botanic Gardens in Alcalá de los Gazules

Take the exit at kilometre 42 on the A-381 dual-carriageway (Jerez to Los Barrios) sign posted as Alcalá de los Gazules / Benalup-Casas Viejas.

El Aljibe Botanic Gardens inAlcalá de los Gazules is behind the natural Park information centre
El Aljibe Botanic Gardens inAlcalá de los Gazules is behind the natural Park information centre

Drive towards Benalup for 1km and the gardens are behind the “Centro de visitantes del Parque Natural de los Alcornocales” The visitors centre for the Los Alcornocales Natural Park.


The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

http://grazalemaguide.com/

Axarquía

The area of “La Axarquía” (pronounced “a shar key a”) lies in the south east corner of Malaga province where it borders with the province of Granada. The origin of the name “Axarquía” is Islamic, meaning “the territories to the east”.

Many villages are sprinkled throughout this wedge shaped area with the largest town being Velez-Malaga and arguably the most famous is Nerja, due to its stunning cave system. A man made reservoir, “Embalse de la Viñuela” lies near the centre of the open rolling hills of this irrigated agricultural area.

The cultivation of almonds, lemons, olives and grapes gives a feeling of tamed beauty to the land and the protected valleys are used to grow kiwi, cherimoya, avocado, peach, fig and mango fruit trees which thrive in the sub-tropical climate. Small amounts of sugar cane are still grown today, whereas traditionally it was a more important crop. There is a ruined 18th century sugar factory at Maro to which water was fed by the beautiful four story aqueduct called “Las Águilas”.


Find a hotel in the Axarquía

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The Axarquía area is steeped in history and prehistoric cave paintings can be admired in the well known and impressive Nerja caves. Another cave which holds details of the history of man can be found to the north of the area at Boquete de Zafarraya near Alcaucín. After the discovery of the cave in 1979, years of exploration and research have pieced together the lifestyle of the Neanderthal people who hunted and traveled through here. (The finds from this cave are still in stotage at Malaga museum awaiting display.)

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