Looking for Wildlife & Walking Holidays in Spain?

Looking for Wildlife & Walking Holidays in Spain? Wildside Holidays publishes information pages about the Natural and National parks in Spain. Information about wildlife in Spain and where to find it. Just look in the right hand column for the Spanish regions or the top menu for the wildlife pages.

Sustainable rural and wildlife tourism in Spain is a major key to wildlife and habitat protection. There are many studies showing how wildlife tourism can impact local economies, habitats and the wildlife it contains in a very positive way.

In the left column you will find links to some of the top INDEPENDENT activity holiday companies in Spain.

If you are travelling without a walking or wildlife guiding company in Spain then we highly reccommend booking.com for your hotel and accommodation needs.

You can also reserve trains and buses using the booking box of OMIO located in the right hand column of all pages.

A huge thank you to everyone that uses the links on these pages to reserve a hotel or transport in Spain. The small commission we receive helps a lot. Thankyou!

Looking for Wildlife & Walking Holidays in Spain? Wildside Holidays is the answer!

Guided wildlife tours in the The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park

Internationally known to nature lovers, the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park is beautiful at any time of the year. As well as the stunning scenery, the mountain range is adorned by popular Andalusian White Villages which boast a combination of picturesque views, multiple footpaths, tourist information centers, museums, shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, and privately-owned rural accommodation for those seeking more seclusion. There is also the option of Guided wildlife tours in the The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.

What is the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park best known for?

Guided wildlife tours in the The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park
Grazalema poppy – Guided wildlife tours in the The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park

In a natural park of over 51,000 hectares, how do you know where to go?

Would you prefer to have someone else do the research for you?

Nature Plus – Grazalema” is a friendly nature guiding service that offers tailored 1/2 day or full day routes to individuals or small groups.

This gives you the opportunity to be specific about what you would like to see. Popular requests include; orchids, butterflies, wildflowers, birds, dragonflies, amphibians & reptiles. Also figuring importantly on wish lists are; general nature, mixed habitats & impressive views.

Guided wildlife tours in the The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park
Spanish ibex – Guided wildlife tours in the The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park

A major benefit is that you are not being urged to constantly catch up with a large, noisy group. You can relax, take photos and you’ll get to see so much more and at a gentle pace. You’ll also be able to ask questions as we go, as your guide is close by.

Sue Eatock is originally from the UK and has lived in Grazalema since 2005, where she has specialized in the fauna and flora of the area. This is a hobby that has turned into a business, so her passion for the local nature shines through.

Why have a guide at all?

With a guide, you will experience so much more, without having to put in hours of research, carry maps, or worry about the most suitable route.

As an example, let’s imagine for a moment that you would love to see the endemic Grazalema poppy (Papaver rupifragum). Where should you look for it, which month, and what time of day is best? This is when a local guide is a huge asset, taking you to exactly the right place.

If you are exploring the area over a few days, one day out with a guide will show you what to look for, where, and help you to identify what you are seeing.

Guided wildlife tours in the The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park
Guided wildlife tours in the The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park

Find out more about Sue and what Nature plus – Grazalema can do to help you get the best out of a visit to the Sierra de Grazalema here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/nature-plus-grazalema/

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.


Aesculapian Snake (Elaphe longissima or Zamenis longissimus) Culebra de esculapio

  • Non-Venomous
  • Scientific: Elaphe longissima (Laurenti, 1768) or Zamenis longissimus.
  • English: Aesculapian Snake.
  • Spanish: Culebra de Esculapio.
  • Basque: Eskulapioren sugea.
  • Catalan: Serp d’Esculapi.
  • Family: Colubridae.
  • Distribution: northeastern Spain (mainly areas in or bordering Pyrenees), northern and central France, southern Switzerland, northern and central Italy, western Sardinia, and practically entire Balkans and central eastern Europe from eastern Austria and Slovakia southwards and eastwards, as far as Moldova

The Aesculapian Snake is a species of Elaphe, a genus of snakes traditionally found in Eurasia, northern Africa and North America, although some authorities have now split the genus into smaller groups. Some also consider Elaphe longissima to be a species of Zamenis instead, but the traditional species name looks set to be around for a while yet.

A number of former subspecies of this snake are now considered full species in their own right but none of these occur in Spain.

The Aesculapian Snake was first described by Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti in 1768 as Natrix longissima, later it was also known as Coluber longissimus and for the most part of its history as Elaphe longissima. The current scientific name of the species based on revisions of the large genus Elaphe is Zamenis longissimus. Zamenis is from Greek word for angry, irritable or fierce. Longissimus comes from Latin and means “longest”; the snake is one of the longest over its range.

The common name of this snake arises from its association with the Greco-Roman god of healing, Aesculapius (Greek Asclepius), around whose temples in the ancient world the species was encouraged.

The traditional sign of medicine even today is two snakes entwined around a staff.

(Aesculapian snakes are among those carried in procession in Italy in honour of Saint Dominic of Sora during the Festival of Saint Dominic Abbot (also known as the “Festival of the Serpari”) in the village of Cocullo, which takes place on the first Thursday of May. Nowadays after the festival the snakes are returned to their place of capture and released).


This is a medium-sized colubrid snake with a total maximum length of about 200cm but averaging 140-160cm. Males are the larger of the sexes. The snout is somewhat flattened and the rostral scale does not protrude backwards between the two internasal scales. In coloration the adult Aesculapian Snake is less variable than many other species, being a light brown with small white dots. Although coloration is said to be more variable in general for this snake, one Spanish source describes only the light brown and fairly pattern-free coloration: however, darker or black (melanistic) individuals may occur, as do albino specimens. Some authorities also cite very subtle, slightly darker longitudinal lines that are harder to distinguish than those on the Ladder Snake. The belly is yellowish or whitish. The young are greyish brown with a row of dark spots on the back and a yellow area on either side of the head, giving them the appearance of small Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix), but unlike the latter, their scales are smooth rather than keeled.

E. longissima can be distinguished from Zamensis scalaris by its flatter snout, the rostral scale on the end of the snout which does not jut backwards between the internasals, and its rather calmer behaviour. The number of ventral and subcaudal scales on the Aesculapian Snake is also on average higher than on the Ladder Snake. The young of the two species are very easy to tell apart given the Ladder Snake’s juvenile patterning.

Scalation details

The rostral does not project between the internasals. There is one preocular (sometimes divided) and 2-3 postoculars and 8-9 supralabials, of which the 4th and 5th touch the eye. The temporals are arranged in a 2 x 3 or pattern. The dorsal scales are smooth and arranged in 23 (occasionally 21) rows at midbody. The ventral scales number 211-250 and there are 60-91 pairs of subcaudal scales.

Range and habitat

The range of this species is very large compared with many other European snakes, being found from Spain to the Caucasus. In Spain it is found in Santander, the Basque Country, Navarre, Huesca, Lérida, Barcelona and Gerona. In the Basque Country it lives in deciduous woods and meadows between pine woods and oak groves, while in Catalonia it can be found in beech and oak areas. Generally it likes the sun (in the northernmost parts of its range it is normally found on southerly-facing, exposed slopes) but avoids excessive heat, and in the south may be found in more humid places than elsewhere. Most of its habitats are dry and in addition to the usual places (dry stone walls, sunny woods, ruins, etc) may include paths and tracks (when sunning itself) and sometimes haystacks (perhaps due to the known propensity of haystacks to produce internal heat due to bacterial fermentation).

Habits and prey

The prey of the Aesculapian Snake is typical of that of most rat snakes, consisting of small mammals from mice and voles up to the size of squirrels, birds and lizards. The young normally start off with small lizards. It seems to have an unusually high metabolism for a snake, since in summer it may eat as frequently as every 3 days.

The Aesculapian Snake is normally a diurnal (active by day) and crepuscular (active at dawn/dusk) creature. It is less aggressive and more calm than the Ladder Snake, Elaphe [Rhinechis] scalaris, but this is relative: the Aesculapian Snake will still hold its ground, making chewing movements with its jaws, and will bite and/or empty its foul-smelling cloacal glands if further harassed. Its movements have been described as “deliberate”. Although not an arboreal snake it is a good climber of trees.


courtship takes place in Iberia in May-June. In June-July a clutch of 5-15 (usually no more than 15) eggs is laid. These hatch in September. The young are about 23-25cm long on hatching. Unusually, the mother may remain with them for a few days. Males mature sexually at a length of about 50cm, females at a length of 65cm (the latter taking about five years). One authority quotes records of 25-30 years longevity.

In Spain the Aesculapian Snake takes its winter rest from October to March: elsewhere this period may last up to 6 months, depending on climate. The period of greatest activity is May to July.

The wide range of the Aesculapian Snake would appear to make it reasonably secure, and it is not listed in the IUCN “Red List” of Endangered Species. Threats to this snake would no doubt include those which apply generally to snakes, namely loss of habitat, pollution and natural predators such as birds of prey or mustelid mammals.

Thanks to wikipedia for the image at the top of this page…. (Above image by FelixReimann – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, )

If anyone has any images of this species and would like to publish them on this page I would be most grateful. 🙂

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.


Iberia Nature Forum

Well, the Iberia Nature Forum continues to (re) grow and it’s great to see a few people taking some time away from the major social networks to add their input to a fully searchable forum (Where your posts don’t get lost) about the wildlife and natural history of Spain.

Black Vulture - aegypius monachus
Black Vulture – aegypius monachus

The photo above is of a black vulture with news appearing on various channels today of this species nesting in Aragón for the first time in 100 years….. 🙂

Some great photos

Spring is in the air and its great to see some excellent images uploaded to the forum by Susanne…

Rules about dogs in natural parks?

An interesting question and topic about rules and regulations for dogs out and about in natural parks which we can’t seem to get to the bottom of…..

Diclofenac has killed Spanish vultures

Such a shame to see that the diclofenac topic rears its ugly head again with the news that vultures are dying in Spain due to diclofenac poisoining. (Diclofenac was approved in Spain and other European nations in recent years because farmers, drug companies and regulators argued that cattle carcasses were disposed of differently in Europe than in India. This meant vultures would not be able to eat meat tainted with diclofenac.)….

Anyone seen a slow worm?

And on a lighter note, have you ever seen a slow worm in Spain and how far south was it?…..

Take care, have a great winter and hope to see you soon on the Iberia Nature Forum!

Esparto grass – Stipa tenacissima – esparto

In Spain, ‘esparto‘ is the common name of a grass which until well into the twentieth century had a huge importance in the economy of many towns in Spain. Making products from esparto has deep historical roots, noting that the Romans favoured this plant for its strength and versatility. It is a fine, durable and flexible grass of up to 60cm in height, native to uncultivated, dry and stony areas in central and Southern Spain and also North Africa. Its scientific name is Macrochloa tenacissima (syn. Stipa tenacissima).

Esparto grass - Stipa tenacissima - esparto
Esparto grass – Stipa tenacissima – esparto

The Spanish esparto quality exceeds that of other Mediterranean countries because it contains a higher percentage of cellulose and the fibre is much finer. The plant is referred to generally as espartera or atocha and was first used to make twine and rope for ship’s rigging, in agriculture and basketry. Areas naturally covered in tussocks of this grass are called espartales, atochares or albardinales.

During the many years of mastering skills in crafting this natural product people have added new uses, developed various styles of weaving and plaiting, each given its own name.

Esparto grass - Stipa tenacissima - esparto
Products made from esparto

Older generations of many villages still preserve the tradition of weaving objects from esparto. Historically they used this local product as there were no other choices, and from necessity they had to create shoes from it to work in the fields, holders to carry their water and lunch, baskets to collect the harvest, rugs for their floors and blinds for their windows.

We rely on them now to pass on their memories to another generation so preserving the art of weaving such versatile, and now more ornamental products, teaching others how to use the purpose made tools and to share their vocabulary and wisdom.

  • El capazo a wide circular basket to carry and store logs for the long winter evenings.
  • Los tizneros on which to place the hot cooking pots fresh from the fire.
  • Las soguillas sandals whose soles of esparto are formed by a spiral of twisted cord, then sewn into place and lined with fabric to form a shoe.
  • Garrafas forradas de pleitas de esparto bottles surrounded in woven plaits of esparto, often with handles, to protect the glass, make it easier to carry and act as insulation to the wine or water within.
  • Los serones the panniers used to carry goods on donkeys and mules.
  • La pleita a wide, plaited band of esparto – braided in groups of at least three, the greater thewidth the greater the number of strands of grass needed to make la pleita. This band could later be used to create a basket cesta, or be used as a mould to shape cheese – quesera.
Esparto chees molds
Esparto cheese molds

Initial plant growth of this grass is very slow but after its third year it is more profuse and the best stems form after it is five years old. (The quality and quantity only declining after the plant is fifty years old.) The stems are collected from June to August when the grass has matured after the spring growth period. It can be collected by hand using a bar, around which a handful of stems are wrapped and then pulled free. If harvested at the wrong time this could rip the plant’s root system and damage future growth. Pulling with a bar can damage the tips of the grass, a slower but better method is to grasp only a few strands by hand, pulling them quickly upwards. The pulled grass stems are cleaned and sorted, discarding any broken or short strands, then bundled and tied.

Esparto grass - Stipa tenacissima - esparto
La pleita, a wide, plaited band of esparto – braided in groups of at least three
  • Green Esparto: is dried in the shade to preserve its colour.
  • Golden Esparto: is dried in the sun.
  • Cured Esparto: the bundles are sun dried before being soaked in large water containers for several weeks, then dried again and beaten to soften the fibres.

Esparto grass – Stipa tenacissima – esparto – Spanish esparto grass, the british Paper industry and the businessman William Mac Murry

There was a close relationship between Spanish esparto and the paper industry in the late nineteenth century, but a prominent part was also an English businessman known as William Mac Murray who is attributed a great influence in our country to be a manufacturer of wire utensils in Scotland and his company was very successful in supplying the paper industry of the whole world continuous wire mesh for paper machines. He would also become a paper manufacturer, papermaker and owner of some newspapers. In 1847 he moved to the southeast of England where he had four pulp mills. Much of the paper was made with esparto from southeastern Spain, where McMurray leased large farms for its collection, built factories where to transform it and exported it to Great Britain in its own steamboats; Due to the shortage of rags to make paper in the middle of century XIX was solved in Great Britain with the introduction of esparto as raw material.

Esparto grass in London for paper production
Esparto grass in London for paper production

The first patent to manufacture paper and paperboard with esparto was registered in England in 1839. Several paper manufacturers experimented with specific methods to obtain pulp.

From 1865 a good part of this paper was made with imported esparto from the farms that William McMurray controlled in Spain, that it climbed in barges by the river Thames from the docks of London and was unloaded in a dock Or dock at the mouth of the Wandle River, which was also owned by McMurray and became known as the McMurray Canal.

Read more here….. https://www.artesaniaconesparto.com/gb/blog/papel-de-esparto-y-mr-mcmurray-b39.html

Today, esparto products have been relegated more to items of ornamentation. Sadly the decline in its use has been steady since being replaced by rubber, plastic and synthetic fibres.

However, UBEDÍES ARTESANÍA is a family run business and has been devoted to manufacturing esparto crafts for four generations.

Located in the Renaissance city of Úbeda, Spain, declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Ubedíes Artesanía recovers old time products and handcraft making and their products are completely eco-friendly,


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.


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