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!

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Sierra Cazorla Segura y Las Villas

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Jaen
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1986
  • Park surface area: 209,920 hectares

Points of interest

The Sierra Cazorla, Segura y las Villas offers a great array of very well conserved ecosystems, each of high natural value with many endemics. Spectacular landscapes including waterfalls, deep valleys and lakes make this park unique. The important Guadalquivir and Segura rivers both begin in the park. Large pine forests clothe this limestone mountain range whose highest point is Pico Empanada at 2,107m. It is a very accessible park with many old donkey routes crisscrossing the mountains.

Flora

Too many to name and a botanists dream destination. Boasting more than 2000 different plant species, of which 34 are unique in the world such as Viola cazorlensis. This territory holds a 5th of the variety of plant species to be found within the Iberian peninsular.

A visit to the botanical gardens at Torre de Vinagre is pretty much obligatory.

Fauna

Historically this zone has constituted a refuge for the wild fauna. There are 280 species of vertebrates (11 of which are fish, 12 amphibians, 21 reptiles 185 birds, and 51 of mammals). One reptile unique to the park is the Valverde lizard. (Algyroides marchi)

Spanish ibex, Red deer, Fallow deer, Mouflon, Wild boar and Red squirrel are well represented.

Griffon vulture is plentiful and the Bearded vulture has been re-introduced recently.


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Also in the area

The area has held onto its historic roots and the village of Segura de la Sierra is dominated by its Mudejar castle. The church of Our Lady of Collado dates from the 15th century also there are Arab baths.

The village of Hornos de Segura has marvellous views, it retains its old city walls and the Puerta de la Villa or old city gate plus the castle and church which have led to the denomination of this town as an “Historic Artistic Site”.


The Sierra de Cazorla in Andalucia has the stunning Parador de Cazorla.
Located at the heart of the Cazorla Nature Reserve, in stunning natural surroundings, the Parador de Cazorla
Located at the heart of the Cazorla Nature Reserve, in stunning natural surroundings, the Parador de Cazorla

Click here to reserve your room over at booking.com.

Located at the heart of the Cazorla Nature Reserve, in stunning natural surroundings, the Parador de Cazorla is perfect accommodation for a rural getaway in the north east of Andalusia.


Information/Visitors Centers

Cazorla, information centre

In the town of Cazorla you will find a well equippped information centre. probably the best place to start if you are in the area.


Torre del Vinagre

The main park visitor centre is at Km. 45 of the A-319 road between the villages of Cazorla and Hornos de Segura, one of the main access routes into the park.

The Torre del Vinagre visitor centre should be an obligatory visit and there is a huge amount of information about Spain’s largest Nature Park. Its outstanding location in the Guadalquivir valley makes it possible to enjoy one of the most emblematic sectors of this natural area.

The Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas encompass five types of environment, each with its own scenic attraction, and this information centre helps visitors to discover all their secrets. The different landscapes comprised of rocky environments, with a whole universe of shapes and colours; water environments, based around water as the source of life, richness and diversity; pine groves, the predominant woodland in the Sierra; the craggy relief of the high peaks – a wilderness that is nevertheless full of life; and lastly the human landscapes, where Man has transformed the land he has occupied since times immemorial.

The exhibition presents the inhabitants of these five landscapes, and there is a room in which visitors can view live images of deer and other local wildlife. These species, among others, are crucial to the hunting activity for which the area is famous, and the Torre del Vinagre centre describes their evolution in great detail.

Opposite the Torre de Vinagre Visitor centre you will also find the excellent Botanical gardens .


Fluvial Río Borosa

To get to this visitor centre follow the signposts along the A-319 CazorlaHornos de Segura road to the Torre del Vinagre visitor centre at Km. 45. From there, turn off towards the River Borosa and the Loma de Mariángela ridge. The facility is 1,5 kilometres further on.

The Río Borosa Visitor Centre is in one of the most emblematic parts of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park, on the bank of the river from which it takes its name and which is the Guadalquivir’s first sizeable tributary. Next to the centre there is a fish farm and a path called the Río Borosa trail which follows the course of the river and enables visitors to familiarise themselves with the area.

The location is the ideal setting for visitors to discover the importance of water and the river ecosystems which exist in this protected area. But apart from shaping the landscape, water has also been used by Man since ancient times to transport wood, this area’s main natural resource. In the Río Borosa visitor centre we can see how logs were floated down river from the timber yards to the railway stations lower down the mountain, from where they were distributed throughout Spain.

Common and rainbow trout, barbel and nase constitute the diet for a wide variety of the small mammals and fish-eating birds which inhabit this environment. Between them they represent a huge food chain which is also covered in the display at the visitor centre.


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Torre de Vinagre Botanical Gardens

The Torre de Vinagre Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botánico Torre del Vinagre) is located on the Tranco reservoir road (A – 319) at km. 48, Coto Ríos (Santiago-Pontones) and is opposite the main visitor centre for the Sierra de Cazorla, Seguras y las Villas natural park.

The Sierra de Cazorla, Seguras y las Villas natural park is a botanists dream destination boasting more than 2000 different plant species, of which 34 are unique in the world such as Viola cazorlensis. This territory holds an impressive 5th of the variety of plant species to be found within the Iberian peninsular.

Viola cazorlensis in the Torre de Vinagre Botanical Gardens
Viola cazorlensis in the Torre de Vinagre Botanical Gardens

The garden contains an important collection of most of the woody plant species of the area including many endemics and representing over 300 species which are grouped into different plant classifications. Well laid out with various paths and excellent labelling in Spanish and scientific identification, it is well worth a visit for both general nature lovers and also dedicated botanists.

The official website for the town of Cazorla has an entry for the Torre de Vinagre Botanical Gardens here: https://cazorla.es/turismo/torre-vinagre-botanical-garden/

Address: Jardin Botánico Torre del Vinagre – Santiago-Pontones – Carretera A-319 (Cazorla-El Tranco), km. 48,5

Read about the Sierra de Cazorla, Seguras y las Villas natural park


Iberia Nature Forum

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trapdoor spiders – Amblyocarenum walckenaeri and Ummidia aedificatoria

Some trapdoor spiders in Spain (Araña trampera) are often mistaken for the Andalucian funnel web spider.

Firstly though, the wafer trapdoor spider – Amblyocarenum walckenaeri (and the similar Ummidia aedificatoria) can be easily differentiated from the Andalucian funnel web spider by the lack of spinerets (or very short spinerets) and a rather rounded and brownish abdomen. (see above image)

The taxonomy of this spider can be a bit confusing though it seems that the correct scientific name is Amblyocarenum walckenaeri (Lucas, 1846), it is also known as Cyrtauchenius walckenaeri so a search for either name will result in images of this Iberian endemic spider. It seems that few studies have been made on this, or other, close species and it is logical to assume there eventually will be more species and subspecies discovered in the future.

If disturbed trapdoor spiders, understandably, can be quite defensive putting themselves in an attack position with front legs raised but despite this, they are harmless to humans.

They feed on crickets, grasshoppers and other insects that they capture from their cover of their nest and an example of their hunting technique can be seen in the below video of a captive trapdoor spider. (Amblyocarenum walckenaeri)


Ummidia aedificatoria

To confuse us a bit more there is another very similar trap door spider called Ummidia aedificatoria seen in the below image. On closer inspection the adomen is almost always a light brown and white or pale marks show at the leg segments. There also may be 4 yellowish dots on the underside of the abdomen.

Ummidia aedificatoria
Ummidia aedificatoria

It seems that the geographical range of Ummidia aedificatoria is also restricted to the Andalucian coastline and was once thought to have been accidentally introduced from the Americas. However, some recent studies have found 3 other Mediterranean species casting doubt on this theory.

Ummidia aedificatoria - Notice the white markings at the segments
Ummidia aedificatoria – Notice the white/grey markings at the segments close to the body.

Oh and if you are in the South of Portugal then you might also find another similar species Ummidia algarve. 🙂

Oh and then there is the smaller Iberesia machadoi plus in 2019 a new Iberian trapdoor spider, Iberesia valdemoriana and the first records of I. brauni and I. barbara in the Iberian Peninsula were published.

Iberesia machadoi or similar
Iberesia machadoi or similar

List of trap door spider species In Iberia (Including islands)

The spider family Nemesiidae ( funnel-web trapdoor spiders) contains quite a few species. This is the accepted list for the Iberian Peninsula (Including the islands).

Amblyocarenum
  • Amblyocarenum walckenaeri
Iberesia
  • Iberesia arturica
  • Iberesia barbara
  • Iberesia brauni
  • Iberesia castillana
  • Iberesia machadoi
  • Iberesia valdemoriana
Nemesia
  • Nemesia angustata
  • Nemesia athiasi
  • Nemesia bacelarae
  • Nemesia bacelarae
  • Nemesia berlandi
  • Nemesia bristowei (Majorca)
  • Nemesia crassimana
  • Nemesia dorthesi
  • Nemesia dubia
  • Nemesia hispanica
  • Nemesia ibiza (Ibiza)
  • Nemesia macrocephala occidentalis
  • Nemesia randa (Majorca)
  • Nemesia raripila
  • Nemesia santeugenia (Majorca)
  • Nemesia santeulalia (Ibiza)
  • Nemesia seldeni (Majorca)
  • Nemesia simoni
  • Nemesia uncinata
  • Nemesia ungoliant
  • Nemesia valenciae
Also present but in the family of Halonoproctidae (burrowing or trap door spiders)
Ummidia
  • Ummidia aedificatoria
  • Ummidia algarve
  • Ummidia picea

Any spider experts reading this are most welcome to help out on this article with some more specific information and images! 🙂 Comments are open and very welcome!

See information about the similar Andalucian funnel web spider here.


Iberia Nature Forum

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Impressive summer insects on the wing

There are many impressive flying insects on the wing during the summer months. Some due to their colours or intricate design and others are just large.

In this last category fall the Carpenter bee, the Hornet, the thread wasted and the Mammoth wasps.

Many people flap their arm in fear at these airborne creatures whereas standing still and observing them may be better practice, they are generally docile and quite attractive if viewed calmly. (Unless you are poking the hornets nest of course!)

The first Hornet activity this year out in the garden was in early spring. Several were actively hunting for bees which I would presume to be the newly hatched queens as all but the breeding hornets are vegetarian. They flew around the almond trees with heavily scented blossom and plucked honey bees out of the air.

They took the fresh prey to a nearby branch (gory bit – dissected and dropped the head) and devoured their meal. Hornets create a new hive each year from scratch, starting with a single queen.

Just click the Insect image title to read more about each insect over at the Grazalema Guide website.


Carpenter bees

Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea) Abeja azul de la maderaCarpenter Bees (Xylocopa violacea) Abeja azul de la madera
Do not be alarmed by their size of up to 23mm, they are not aggressive and will simply go about their business of collecting nectar from flowers

imagine a bumble bee, double its size, paint it jet black in your mind’s eye and give it iridescent blue / violet wings. They are large, noisy, weigh down flowers with their bulk but can deftly avoid humans with their lumbered flight. If they enter the house it is usually to search for a suitable nest hole. They are solitary creatures and gained their common name due to their ability to make nest holes in dead would. Although they can do this they take the easier option of ready made holes in wood, metal, brick etc whenever possible.


The Mammoth wasp

Mammoth Wasp – (Megascolia (Regiscolia / maculata flavifrons) – Avispa parasita de cuatro puntas
They hold no danger to humans despite their size and black / yellow warning colours. They feed eagerly on flower nectar and this is the best time to view them.

A long black insect with two yellow stripes on the abdomen and a yellow face if female. This has a complicated lifecycle as the Mammoth wasp parasitizes a beetle larva. At the moment there are 6 or more flying around each large rotten tree stump in the garden. They all seem to be males and are probably waiting for the females to emerge. Later in the summer, when they have settled down they are much easier to observe feeding off flowers, with alliums being a favourite.


Thread-waisted wasp

Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)Thread-waisted Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex)
Sceliphron spirifex are solitary wasps and are not aggressive, they do not sting unless mishandled. The sexes look very similar with the female being larger and with a visible sting.

Wasp like with yellow / black colours these creatures are also people friendly. They search out shaded, protected places to create their mud nests and the back of a picture frame seems an ideal choice. They carefully roll up a tiny ball of mud outside, fly with it into the house, deposit it, shape it and return with more tirelessly throughout the day. They produce a hollow tube and next to this they make another and another fanning the wet mud with their wings to assist the drying process.


Bees and wasps may receive bad press and cause unnecessary concern to many, especially as some of the species of Iberia can be rather large.

Hornets

Hornets behave in a social manner, creating a nesting colony which thrives and dies in just one year life cycle.
Hornets behave in a social manner, creating a nesting colony which thrives and dies in just one year life cycle.

Hornets were once common throughout Europe but are suffering decline due to the misconception that such a large wasp type creature would have a very dangerous sting. The fact is, they are no worse than a normal wasp sting, will again avoid human closeness and they have a fascinating life cycle.


We must not forget that this group are important pollinators of our crops. Also some wasps feed on caterpillars that may otherwise be a garden pest and flies do a necessary job of clearing up decaying matter.

Altogether they aid the biodiversity that is delicately balanced to a level beyond our perception.


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

http://grazalemaguide.com/

Eleven Bonellis eagle chicks reared in 2021

Fantastic to see that the GREFA projects working with the AQUILA a-LIFE project have announced that they have hatched and reared 11 chicks this year (2021) in the two breeding centres. The birds have already been moved to various temporary holding sites across Europe for release in the future.

Eleven Bonellis eagle chicks reared in 2021
Bonellis eagle (Aquila fasciata) in its assisted release area – https://aquila-a-life.org/index.php/en/

AQUILA a-LIFE wants to contribute to increasing the extent of the presence of the Bonelli’s eagle in the western Mediterranean and to reverse its regressive population trend, to help restore the ecosystems where it once lived. The project aims to work towards the recovery of the species over a large geographic (Europe) area at the meta-population scale (not at the scale of small local populations).

Full article in Spanish here: https://aquila-a-life.org/index.php/es/area-de-prensa/noticias/394-los-dos-centros-de-cria-de-aquila-a-life-han-aportado-once-aguilas-de-bonelli-en-2021

GREFA (Grupo de Rehabilitación de la Fauna Autóctona y su Hábitat)

GREFA (Group for the Rehabilitation of Native Fauna and its Habitat) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that was founded in 1981 as an association for the study and conservation of nature. Since its creation, GREFA has maintained constant growth both in the development of its activities and projects and in means and resources.

https://grefa.org/ (In Spanish)

Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park

  • Region: La Rioja
  • Province: Rioja media
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1995
  • Park surface area: 23,640 hectares
  • Towns and Villages: Villoslada de Cameros and Lumbreras de Camos

Points of interest

The only designated natural park in the region of La Rioja, the Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park is located on the northern slope of the mountains of the Iberian System about 50 kilometres from Logroño. It is also part of the Sierras de Demanda, Urbión, Cebollera and Cameros special protection areas for birdlife (Zonas de Especial Protección para las Aves (ZEPA)

The backdrop of the Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park is its smooth, rounded mountain terrain coupled with dense forests alternating with clearings in the higher areas to make room for pastures and mountain thickets.

Autumn in particular is a perfect time to visit this area as the mosaic of leaves is a fantastic sight with a whole range of warm colors from yellow to ocher and red that reveals the rich tree diversity that is camouflaged by the lush greenery of spring and summer.

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Flora

La Rioja, in general and over a very long time, has suffered somewhat from the degradation of it’s forests and woodlands (basically holm oaks) caused mainly by logging and sheep (over) grazing.

However, there still remains a long list of plantilfe such as Brachypodium retusum, Helichrysum italicum, Helichrysum stoechas, Lavandula latifolia, Lavandula stoechas, Lonicera etrusca, Pistacia lentiscus, Pistacia terebinthus, Quercus coccifera, Retama sphaerocarpa, Rosmarinus officinalis, Salsola vermiculata, Santolina chamaecyparissus and Thymus mastichina.

The richest riverside forests are those of the Ebro river (Reserva Natural de los Sotos del Ebro). As the riverside forests are humid and fertile, they have been largely occupied by agriculture but wild areas still remain with Cornus sanguinea, Crataegus monogyna, Euonymus europaeus, Fraxinus angustifolia, Humulus lupulus, Populus alba, Populus nigra and Rubus ulmifolius, Sambucus ebulus, Ulmus minor, Urtica dioica and Vitis sylvestris.

There are two types of holm oak groves in La Rioja according to the type of soil. The first is limestone, in which, for example, boxwood and strawberry trees appear (Montes Obarenes and Sierra de Toloño) and the siliceous soils in which heather, acidophilic rockrose and butcher’s broom appear, for example (Valle de Ocón, Monte de Ausejo, Sierra de Yerga, Carrascal de Villarroya, and Sierra de Alcarama). Here we can find Arbutus unedo, Quercus ilex spp. rotundifolia, Viburnum tinus, Rhamnus alaternus, Cistus albidus, Cistus laurifolius, Cistus salviifolius, Rhamnus licioides, Juniperus phoenicea and Juniperus oxycedrus.

Fauna

The Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park also enjoys a rich fauna in which birds of prey such as the goshawk, honey buzzard, booted and short-toed eagle, common buzzard, tawny owl and long-eared owl are present. Also keep an eye open for grey partridge.

Amongst the mammal population to look out for there are fox, wild boar, red deer, red squirrel, wild cat, otter and the Pyrenean desman.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro del Parque Natural Sierra Cebollera

Located in the village of Villoslada de Cameros, at the crossroads between the roads to Montenegro and the Hermitage of Lomos de Orios. There is an excellent exhibition entitled “Sierra de Cebollera: Atlantic refuge in a Mediterranean world” which looks at the most unique environmental values ​​of the Park, its fauna, flora and human impact on the area.

Opening times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Closed Mondays). Friday, Saturday and holidays: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m and from 5 to 7 p.m

Centro de Interpretación o de la Trashumancia

The Transhumance interpretation centre in the village of Lumbreros de Camos is located between the Shrine of Our Lady of the Light and the Venta de Piqueras bar/restaurant. The exhibition seeks to give an overview of the livestock activity of grazing rotation (Trashumancia) which has generated its own grazing culture in the Sierra de Cameros.

Other interpretation centres to visit in La Rioja

Centro de Interpretación de los Sotos del Ebro (Pza. de España, 1, in the town of Alfaro)

Permanent exhibition and projection covering the nature reserve of the Riverbanks of the Ebro, the stork colony and the history of Alfaro (Reserva Natural de los Sotos de Alfaro)

Centro de Interpretación del Alto Valle del Cidacos (Amancio González, 2 in the town of Arnedillo)

There are 5 themes covered in this interpretation center with information panels and audiovisual displays: Biosphere, Water, Cultural Heritage, Industrialization, Fiesta and local Traditions (The Biosphere Reserve of La Rioja is a large area that occupies almost a quarter of the southeastern part of the region).

Centro de Interpretación y Observación del Buitre Leonado “El Mirador del Buitre” (Close to the village of Arnedillo)

Located in an old disused quarry this interpretation centre allows visitors to get up close to vultures and eagles. There is an excellent exhibition covering fauna and flora and wifi cameras pointing at various nesting sites (with special attention to booted eagle and griffon vulture). It also offers the chance to observe the different habitats of the area through telescopes and binoculars. You must reserve your visit at the Tourist Information Office of Arnedillo. (Cost 2 euros per person)

Rancho de esquileo de Brieva

In the village of Brieva de Cameros all you need to learn about sheep rearing and associated cultural traditions.

Centro de Interpretación Castillo de la Luna

In the town of Cornago, the museum about the castle is well worth the visit.


Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Take a trip on the Wildside! Discover the wildlife and nature of Spain, its Natural and National Parks and find the top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain.