Category Archives: Wildlife Holidays

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/

Blogs and news from walking and activity companies across Spain

If you are looking at this website on a laptop or desktop then in the left hand column you will see the links to some of the finest walking, wildlife and activity companies in Spain. (If you are on a mobile or tablet then just scroll down untill you come to the list of businesses.)

Pretty much all of them have a blog and also a newsletter system to keep you up to date with whats going on in their area.

Of course a website, blog or facebook page that is updated on a regular basis is a very positive sign of a professional and trustworthy company. Online presence is very important nowadays.

Follow the links and find the right company for you for your next wildlife, walking and activity holiday in Spain.

Here are a few examples. 🙂

Hike Pyrenees

Hike Pyrenees blog
Hike Pyrenees blog

The shortest hiking season ever! say Hike Pyrenees but they still managed to get a few hikes with some guests.

I really like this blog, it’s packed with usefull information and some brilliant photos.

See the information page for Hike Pyrenees here.


How about Spring Cycling in Catalonia with Creative Catalonia?

The skies are blue, the wildflowers are all shades of reds, yellows and purples, and all of these colours are offset by the amazing green of the pine trees. Who wouldn’t want to hop on a bike and go for a pedal?

Find out more about Spring Cycling holidays in Spain here.


Granada Wildlife is getting back to business!

Mick Richardson is now back in Spain after the Covid-19 lockdown and is starting to take reservations for wildlife holidays and day trips.

So once you are happy to travel again and if you would like to visit this stunning part of a fantastic country then just get in touch.

Find our more about Granada Wildlife here.


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/

Sierra de Andujar

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Jaén
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 73.976 hectares

Points of interest

The Sierra de Andujar natural park lays in the central part of the Sierra Morena and is a semi-mountainous area with peaks ranging between 500 to 1290m, the highest peak being Burcio del Pino.

The densely wooded areas maintain their natural Mediterranean vegetation. The northern edge borders with Ciudad Real, a province of Castilla la Mancha. To the west is the Cardeña y Montoro natural park, the two parks only being separated by the river Yeguas. There are two reservoirs in the eastern side of the park, Embalse del Jándula and Embalse El Encinarejo.

There are also two game hunting reserves that connect with the parks borders.

The park holds four threatened species, Pardel lynx, Wolf, Imperial eagle and Black vulture.

Flora

Holm (Quercus ilex) Gall (Q. faginea) and Cork oaks (Q. suber) with a natural thicket of Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo), Lentisc (Pistacia lentiscus), Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Wild olives (Olea europaea subsp. oleaster), Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), Thyme, Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Calamint (Calamintha nepeta) form the native undisturbed Mediterranean tapestry. The Sierra Quintana has an excellent area of Atlantic oak woodland (Quercus atlantica).

Willows, Poplars, Oleanders and Alder trees are part of the selection seen on the rivers banks. Stone pines (Pinus pinea) also form important woodlands here and edible pine kernels are still harvested in this area.

There are several unusual plants in the park to note, such as Frangula alnus subsp. baetica, Digitalis purpurea subsp. heywoodii, Coincya longirostra and Jasione crispa subsp. Mariana.


Finda a place to stay in the Sierra de Andujar

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Fauna

This is one of the few remaining habitats where the endangered Pardel lynx and Wolf can roam.

Iberian lynx
If you are very lucky you may even see an Iberian lynx In the Sierra de Andujar.

If you are really interested in seeing Iberian lynx then get in touch with Mick Richardson for Granada Wildlife.

Important species for game hunting in the area are the Wild boar, Mouflon, Red, Fallow and Roe deer. Mongoose, Remember that hunting is strictly controlled in this area and is a part of the conservation strategy for thenatural park

Wild cat and Fox are amongst the nocturnal mammals with elusive Otters on the river banks.

At the high rocky crags to the north of the park are Griffon and Egyptian vultures, Golden and Imperial eagle plus Red-billed chough. There are Azure-winged magpies and near to the water are Golden orioles, Nightingale, Purple and Grey herons.

Also in the area

  • The town of Andújar, south of the park, has a Roman bridge of 15 arches spanning the Guadalquivir river.
  • There are wonderful views from the 13thC sanctuary built on a towering crag, La Virgen de la Cabeza. There is a pilgrimage which makes its way to the sanctuary from Andújar on the last Sunday of April each year. “La Romería de la Virgen de la Cabeza” is the largest festival of Andújar with around half a million participants.

Information/Visitors Centers

The Viñas de Peñallana visitor centre is at the entrance to the Nature Park is on the J5010 Andújar-Santuario Virgen de la Cabeza road.

  • It offers visitors an introduction to the different types of landscape to be found in the area and to the numerous animal species they support.
  • The Iberian lynx is perhaps the Park’s most emblematic species. Visitors can follow its tracks to discover its habitat and learn about its behaviour and about the problems which have made it the most threatened species of feline on Earth.
  • The centre also provides information about the lifestyles and history of the Park’s human inhabitants, explaining how their respectful exploitation of the area’s natural resources has contributed towards the conservation of important environments in places like the Sierras de Andújar.

See the oficial website here.


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/

The Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalusia

The Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalusia is a section of the Betic Cordillera and runs parallel to the Mediterranean sea for around 100km.

The temperature range is dramatic with the summits under snow for many months, followed by a hot Mediterranean style summer. This creates special microclimates across the exposed rocky summits, glacial lakes, sheer sided gorges, mixed oak woods, pine woods and fast rivers with wooded banks.

Declared a National Park in 1998 and encompassing an area of 86,208 hectares it is a popular destination throughout the year. It holds an exceptional variety of animal and plant life due to the combination of altitude and its proximity to the Mediterranean sea.


Find a hotel in the area

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These mountains were formed during the Tertiary Period (65 to 1.8 million years ago), at the same point as the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and the European Alps. This mountain building event is called the Alpine Orogeny. The uplift happened as the African plate moved northwards colliding with the Eurasian plate. The Sierra Nevada mountains consist of mainly metamorphic rocks such as Gneiss and Mica schist. Many of the rocks are juxtaposed and mixed up due to intense faulting and folding during the compression of the two tectonic plates.

Continue reading The Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalusia

Sierra Norte de Sevilla

Photo – Cerro del Hierro (Author: Arturo Menor)

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Sevilla
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 177,484 hectares

Points of interest

A semi-mountainous area, set between two other natural parks, which together form an extended protected range. To the east is Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche in Huelva province. To the west is Sierra de Hornachuelos in Cordoba province.

The Sierra Norte de Sevilla shares with its neiighbouring parks endangered creatures such as the Lynx, Black stork and Imperial eagle. Evergreen oak trees dominate the terrain, interspersed with meadows or dehesas.

This sparsely populated area has two lakes and rolling hills with winding country lanes.

The Huesna river, which holds both common and rainbow trout, has a waterfall that’s been declared a National Heritage site. It is near the source of the river (nacimiento del Río Huesna) close to the village of San Nicolás del Puerto.


Find a hotel in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla

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A second National Heritage site is El Cerro del Hierro, a mine in the Roman era and further exploited until the beginning of the twentieth century. It is a combination of open mining, water filled pits and natural Karst landscape with rich mineral content.

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Finding dragonflies and damselflies in Spain

Dragonflies and damselflies in Spain are extremely beautiful insects which capture the very essence of summer as they perform their intricate aerobatics around the gleaming backdrop of rivers and pools on hot sunny days. They are reasonably easy to observe and are also important indicators of the health of our wetlands, being top insect predators both as airborne adults & aquatic larvae. Heres a few lists and places for finding dragonflies and damselflies in Spain

For those with an interest in observing and photographing these insect jewels, August is definately the best month. Many people avoid Spain during the peak of summer due to the intense heat (which may be hovering around the high 30’s and low 40’s) so, you’ll have the countryside pretty much to yourself. The scent of hot pine resin, gum cistus and the baked appearance of the area is quite different from the spring wild flower season just a few months earlier and is an experience in itself.

During a few days visit in August you should expect to see around 15 species of Dragonfly and Damselfly and in some cases you may even be rewarded with upwards of 10 species in just a single location including emperors and goldenrings along with damselflies such as the beautifull copper demoiselle and Iberian blue tails…

Continue reading Finding dragonflies and damselflies in Spain