El Hondo Natural Park

  • Region: Valencian Community
  • Province: Alicante
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1988
  • Park surface area: 2,387 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Elche, Crevillente, San Felipe Neri

Points of interest

El Hondo Natural Park (Parc Natural del Fondo in Valencian) is formed by a number of lagoons with the two largest manmade (Levante at 450 hectares and Poniente at 650 hectares).

Fed by the waters of the rivers Segura and Vinalopó, the protecetd area is included in the Ramsar convention list of protected wetlands and as a Special Protection Area under the European Union Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds.

Various aquatic species exist in the lagoons such as eel, grey mullet, fresh water shrimp and the endemic Spanish toothcarp. However, most people visit this area to observe the birdlife with species recorded such as marbled duck, white-headed duck (two of the largest worldwide populations). Herons are also present in good numbers during the breeding season particularly purple heron, night heron and squacco heron. Other species present are avocet, black-winged stilt, collared pratincole, crested coot, European penduline tit, moustached warbler, osprey and marsh harrier.

The area was made even more popular to birdwatchers due to an Estonia-born greater spotted eagle wearing a transmitter wintering in the park and its surroundings in 2008 and 2009.

Find a hotel close to El Fondo Natural Park

Booking.com

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Visitantes del Parc Natural El Fondo

Finca El Rincón
Azarbe de Afuera s/n
03158 San Felipe Neri – Crevillent

The visitor center of the El Hondo Natural Park is located in the municipality of Crevillent, very close to the hamlet of San Felipe Neri. The center offers visitors a loan service for optical equipment, has a good collection of field guides and a wildlife library

The official website for the El Fondo Natural Park is here: https://parquesnaturales.gva.es/es/web/pn-el-fondo/centro-visitantes



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.

Hoces de Cabriel Natural Park

  • Region: Valencian Community
  • Province: Valencia
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2005
  • Included in the Valle del Cabriel Biosphere Reserve: 2019
  • Park surface area: 31,446 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Requena , Venta del Moro , Villargordo del Cabriel , Minglanilla , Villalpardo, Villarta

Points of interest

The largest protected area in the Valencian Community, the Hoces del Cabriel Natural Park (in Valencian Parc Natural de les Gorges del Cabriol) can be found where the Cabriel river acts as the natural boundary between the regions of Castilla la Mancha and the Valencian Community. On the Castilla la Mancha side the area is known as the Hoces de Cabriel Nature Reserve. However, both now are also a part of the Valle del Cabriel Biosphere Reserve which was declared by UNESCO in 2019

The biosphere reserve includes the entire 220 kilometres of the rivers length and encompasses 52 towns in Albacete, Cuenca, Teruel and Valencia and includes;

  • 11 places of community importance – Lugares de Importancia Comunitaria (LIC)
  • 5 zones of speceial conservation – Zona Especial de Conservación (ZEC)
  • 9 zones of special bird protection – Zona de Especial Protección para las Aves (ZEPA)
  • 6 micro reserves – Microreservas
  • 2 natural monuments – Monumentos Naturales
  • 2 natural parks – Parques Naturales
  • 1 nature reserve – Reserva Natural

Find a hotel close to the Hoces de Cabriel Natural Park

Booking.com

Places to explore for the best wildlife spotting

  • Close to Villargordo del Cabriel : La Rambla de Canalejas and the Barranco de Moluengo.
  • Close to Venta del Moro : El Barranco del Moro, Peñon Hundido, Barranco de Lombardo, Barranco del Tollo Guisopo and Rambla del Boquerón.
  • Close to Requena : Rambla Carretera, Salinas del Saladar, Rambla la Albosa, Rambla de la Alcantarilla, Rambla de los Duques, Rambla de los Morenos, Rambla Caballero and Salinas de Hórtola.

Flora

The most important habitats in the area are associated with the fluvial environment and the surrounding cliffs (Hoces and Cuchillos). The Cabriel river valley is a well preserved riparian woodland made up of poplar, willow and tamarix. The forested areas are rich in Mediterranean species such as rosemary, mastic tree, strawberry tree, box and juniper whilst closer to the water, reed beds also provide an important habitat in the area.

The rocky walls that surround the river are covered with formations of Allepo pine (Pinus halepensis) with occasional presence of holm oak (Quercus ilex Rotundifolia) and Valencian oaks (Quercus faginea).

As areas of special botanical interest look out for and ask in the information centres about;

  • The stone pine and holm oaks from Campo Arcís.
  • The Quejigos de Hórtola. (Ancient pollarded oak trees)
  • The Pino de los Dos Hermanos in Villargordo del Cabriel. ( A stunning pine tree)

Fauna

The Hoces del Cabriel Natural Park presents an exceptional interest regarding the fauna; both for the habitats of the cliffs and for the habitats associated with the river, both with numerous species cataloged of interest.

Raptors such as Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraetus fasciatus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and long- eared owl (Asio otus) are in the area and their presence has led to the declaration of Hoces del Cabriel as an SPA (Special Protection Area for Birds) within the NATURA 2000 NETWORK .

The Cabriel River is also one of the best river reserves in the Valencian Community and holds a healthy population of european otter (Lutra lutra) along with the autochthonous European freshwater crayfish (Austrapotamobius pallipes) and populations of Chondrostoma arrigonis (a species of cyprinid fish endemic to Spain and only found in the Júcar River basin.)

Amphibians and reptiles present include Spanish painted frog (Discoglossus jeanneae), Iberian ribbed newt (Pleurodeles waltl), Mediterranean pond terrapin (Mauremys leprosa) and Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus).

Mammals include European polecat (Mustela putorius), European otter (Lutra lutra) and Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica)

Walking routes.

There are six color coded routes in the park

  • Ruta amarilla: Villargordo del Cabriel – Vadocañas
  • Ruta naranja: Peñas Blancas
  • Ruta roja: Los Isidros – Caballeros
  • Ruta azul: Venta del Moro – Puente de Vadocañas
  • Ruta verde: Casas del Río – Caballeros
  • Ruta morada: Ruta Geológica. Los Cuchillos-Barranco Moluengo

On this link https://parquesnaturales.gva.es/es/web/pn-hoces-del-cabriel/rutas-del-parque-natural You will find maps and the GPX download area for the routes

Paleontological site “el Puente de la Vía”

The paleontological site “el Puente de la Vía“, located in the municipality of Venta del Moro, has an immense wealth of mammals and fossil plants from the terminal Miocene (approximately 6 million years Important fossil finds here include the oldest giant camels in Europe (Paracamellus Aguirrei), antelopes (Tragoportax Ventiensis), ancestors of bulls (Parabos Soriae), hippos , giant elephant and saber tooth tigers.

The site is located 1.5 km. from Venta del Moro on the Casas de Pradas road

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Información Hoces de Cabriel Natural Park

The main information center and the management office of the Hoces del Cabriel Natural Park are located on Calle Sindicato Agrícola s in the village of Venta del Moro. Here you will find an exhibition centred around the Cabriel River and its unique ecosystem that makes up the protected area including flora, fauna and geology

The official website for the Hoces de Cabriel Natural Park is: https://parquesnaturales.gva.es/es/web/pn-hoces-del-cabriel/centro-de-interpretacion

All the towns and villages in the area have information centres that can supply you with information about the biosphere reserve.

Official website for the Biosphere reserve is here: https://www.reservabiosferavalledelcabriel.com


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.

Sierra Helada Natural Park

  • Region: Valencian Community
  • Province: Alicante
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2005
  • Park surface area: 5,655 hectares (almost 90% marine environment)
  • Towns and villages: Benidorm, l`Alfás del Pí and Altea

Points of interest

The Sierra Helada Natural Park (Serra Gelada) and its coastal environment is located within the Marina Baixa region between the bays of Benidorm and Alfàs-Alteao. It was the first combined land and maritime park to be declared in the Valencian Community as a singular example of a coastal mountainous ecosystem formed by an impressive relief that rises abruptly on its coastline with cliffs of over 300 metres.

The famous “hanging dunes” are rock formations eroded by the sea that were once sand dunes that are now fossilized.

Tthere are also many beautiful coves and bays which are virtually inaccessible by foot and need to be accessed by boat or kayak

Find a hotel close to the Sierra Helada Natural Park

Booking.com

Flora

The Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) makes up the woodland areas and oak woodlands are rare so “maquis” scrubland occupies most of the surface area with the most frequent species being Pistacia (Pistacia lentiscus), juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus), white and broom heather (Erica arborea and E. scoparia), Cistus such as (Cistus monspeliensis, C. salviifolius, C. albidus), and gorse (Calicotome spinosa).

In the higher more humid areas there are a number of endemic plants such as Hippocrepis Valentina and the Valencian rock violet, as well as the Mediterranean fan palm (Chaemorops humilis), the only palm species to grow wild in Europe. Plants such as Silene hifacensis, Asperula paui subsp. dianensis, Biscutella montana, Teucrium hifacense and Limonium parvibracteatum occuby the cliffside habitat.

In the marine environment, the Posidonia and Cymodocea meadows are worth highlighting along with submerged caves, marine reefs (such as la Losa) and other coastal habitats.

Micro reserves in the Sierra Helada natural Park

Micro-reserve of flora Serra Gelada – Sud

This micro-reservoir is located on the fossil dunes themselves hanging from the Sierra Helada. Look out for Corema album, Juniperus oxycedrus subsp. macrocarpa and Juniperetum macrocarpae

Micro-reserve of Flora Illa Mintjana

This protected area covers the entire surface area of ​​the Illa Mitjana located in front of the Sierra Helada cliff. The priority species are Salsola oppositifolia and Silene hifacensis, Limonium spp. and Helichrysetum decumbentis.

Fauna

Among terrestrial fauna, seabirds are well represented and the area can be considered the second most important for this group of birds in the Valencian Community after the Columbretes archipelago. The nesting species of greatest interest are European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) and shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), although raptors such as the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) are also present in good numbers. Other non-nesting species of interest that can be observed in the marine environment of the Natural Park are grey shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii) and Mediterranean shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus).

In the Marine environment fish such as sea bream (Diplodus sargus), common dentex (Dentex dentex), brown meagre or corb (Sciaena umbra), conger eel (Conger conger), moray eel (Muraena helena), pearly razorfish (Xyrichtys novacula), as well as species such as the Mediterranean lobster (Palinurus elephas), white gorgonian coral (Eunicella singularis) and red thorny oyster (Spondylus gaederopus),

In addition, the waters of the park are home to one of the few families of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that live permanently in the Valencian territory.

Information / Visitors Centers

Faro de l’Albir Interpretation Center

The Faro de l’Albir Interpretation Center is located in the old lighthouse and currently houses two exhibition rooms that reflect both the environmental aspects of the natural park and the history of the lighthouse. (Follow the signs to the lighthouse and free car park and then walk along the well kept path)

The official website for the Sierra Helada Natural Park can be found here: https://parquesnaturales.gva.es/es/web/pn-serra-gelada


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.

Macizo Penyagolosa Natural Park

  • Region: Valencian Community
  • Province: Castellón
  • Declared a Natural Park:
  • Park surface area: 1094 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Vistabella del Maestrat, Xodos, Villahermosa del Río

Points of interest

The Impressive and imposing summit of Penyagolosa at 1,814 metres with its immense panorama of the Castellón region and neighboring lands of Aragón is known as the “magical mountain”, an emblem of Castellón and is one of the references of Valencian natural and cultural heritage. The peak of the Macizo Penyagolosa Natural Park can be seen from all over La Plana and even from inland regions such as Alto Palancia.

You can reach the foot of Penyagolosa from different points but the entrance through Vistabella del Maestrat is the best known. There is also good access from the town of Xodos or from Villahermosa del Río.

In addition to some excellent short-distance trails inside the Natural Park, the long distance GR7 crosses this area and the GR33 Sender de la lluna Plena which begins on the coast, in Castellón and ends here in Sant Joan de Penyagolosa.

Find a hotel close to the Macizo Penyagolosa Natural Park

Booking.com

Flora

The great biodiversity prevailing in the Penyagolosa massif is caused by the different calcareous and siliceous substrates and by the combination of continental and Mediterranean climates. The vegetation that develops in the natural park varies depending on the altitude and geology.

In the lower elevations the black pine (Pinus nigra) grows, in the sunny and with siliceous substrate we find the maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) and in the shady and highlands the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) predominates. It is also frequent to observe formations of sessile juniper (Juniperus thurifera), Valencian oak (Quercus faginea), yew (Taxus baccata) and interesting formations of Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica). Several tree species have been cataloged and protected in the Park and are classed as “Árboles Monumentos

  • Pi Gros de les Quatre Forques. Black pine (Pinus nigra Arnold) about 200 years old, located at the entrance to the Planás camping area.
  • Pi Roig de Manuel Calduch i Almela. Scots pine. (Pinus sylvestris) its age is estimated at about 100 years and it is located close to the hermitage of Sant Joan de Penyagolosa, one hundred meters from the forest track that goes up to the Peak.
  • Pi Gros de les Cinc Branques. Black pine. (Pinus nigra Arnold) is estimated to be about 200 years old and it is located within the Sant Joan pine forest that rises to the Vela I recreational area.
  • Teix del Barranc de la Teixera. Yew (Taxus baccata L.) is close to 1,000 years and it is found in the ravine of the same name.

Fauna

Birds of prey such as golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraetus fasciatus) and eagle owl (Bubo bubo) are present ans also look out for crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) and red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax).

Among the mammals, the presence of wildcat (Felis silvestris), Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica), genet (Genetta genetta), badger (Meles meles) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) is important.

The largest Valencian population of the troglodyte bat (Miniopterus schreibersii) can also be found

The rock lizard (Podarcis muralis) has an important population here and shares its territory with other reptiles and amphibians such as Iberian water frog (Rana perezi), Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita), Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra), Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis hispanica), Bedriaga’s Skink (Chalcides bedriagai), Viperine Snake (Natrix maura), Lataste’s Viper (Vipera latastei) and Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus).

Among the invertebrate fauna, look out for the Spanish moon moth (Graellsia isabellae) and Apollo butterfly (Parnassius apollo)

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Interpretación “La Casa Forestal”

The interpretation center of the Natural Park has plenty of information about natural resources, botany, birds, geology, and heritage. It is easy to find and located close to the hermitage of Sant Joan de Penyagolosa in Vistabella del Maestrat

The official website for the Macizo Penyagolosa Natural Park is here: https://parquesnaturales.gva.es/es/web/pn-penyagolosa/centro-de-visitantes


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.

Salinas de Santa Pola Natural Park

  • Region: Valencian Community
  • Province: Alicante
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1994
  • Park surface area: 2,470 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Elche, Santa Pola

Points of interest

The Salinas de Santa Pola Natural Park (Salines de Santa Pola in Valencian) is located in the Bajo Vinalopó region in the south of the province of Alicante and this wildlife habitat is a excellent example of human industry and nature symbiosis since its formation is due to the development of the extraction activity of the Bras del Port maritime salt pans that began to produce salt by solar evaporation of sea water in the early 1900’s.

In turn this salt producing activity has created an artificial wetland habitat that has become a mecca for birdwatchers during recent years.

The salt pans that are still in operation today are Bras del Port and BonMatí and this consists of circulating the sea water through a circuit of ponds to obtain a progressive concentration of salts by natural evaporation. The great biological interest of Mediterranean salt flats is that the circulation of water does not stop during winter. The ponds, which occupy a large area, remain flooded throughout the year so that the ecosystem, of extraordinary importance, is maintained. The birds feed on the fish and invertebrates that penetrate the salt flats, while the salt production benefits from the mineral wealth contributed by the bird droppings.

At the entrance to the lagoon is the Tamarit Tower which was built in 1552 within the framework of the coastal watchtowers system implemented by Felipe II for the defense of Elche. Once in complete ruin the tower has now been restored.

Finda a hotel close to the Salinas de Santa Pola Natural Park

Booking.com

Flora

Due to the different environments of the park there is a varied vegetation dominated in the areas with higher salinity by species of the Amaranthaceae family such as Sarcocornia fruticosa and Arthrocnemum macrostachyum. In the littoral dunes it is possible to find formations of Crucianellion maritimae, Peripocla angustifolia and Osyris quadripartita whilst around the salt flats, Juncus subulatus, Juncus maritimus and Limonium santapolense (an endemic to the area) are common.

Fauna

Undoubtedly, one of the star species of the park is the flamingo, which reaches a peak of around 8,000 specimens during the breeding season and there is an overall abundance of birdlife such as avocet, stilt, little tern, shelduck, marbled teal, kentish plover, shoveler, heron, grebe, coot and moorhen. Raptors present in good numbers are marsh harrier, montagu’s harrier and kestrel.

Amphibians and reptiles within the area are Iberian water frog (Rana perezi), Iberian spiny toad (Bufo spinosus), Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis hispanica), Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus), Spanish sand racer (Psammodromus algirus), Ocellated lizard (Timon lepida), Viperine snake (Natrix maura), Ladder snake (Elaphe scalaris), Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) and Horseshoe whip snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis).

Also noteworthy is the presence of the fartet, an endemic fish from the Spanish Mediterranean region.

Walk of the yellow route: “El Pinet”

3.8 km. Estimated time: 2 h. 15 m. (Not suitable for cycling).

This short walk is highly recommended as it takes you through all of the main habitats and eco systems of salt flats, salt and fresh water lagoons and dunes along with some pine and eucalyptus woodlands.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Visitantes Salinas de Santa Pola Parque Natural

The visitor centre for the Salinas de Santa Pola Natural Park is located in the same building as the salt museum in the town of Santa Pola (Avenida Zaragoza, 45).

Here you will find information about the wildlife of the area and also interesting history regarding salt extraction in the area.

The official website for the Salinas de Santa Pola Natural Park is here: https://parquesnaturales.gva.es/va/web/pn-salines-de-santa-pola


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.

Sierra de Irta Natural Park

  • Region: Valencian Community
  • Province: Castellón
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2002 (Also declared a Marine Reserve of fishing interest.)
  • Park surface area: 7743 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Alcalá de Chivert, Peñíscola, Santa Magdalena de Pulpis

Points of interest

The Sierra de Irta Natural Park (in Valencian Parc Natural de la Serra d’Irta) is located in the Baix Maestrat region at the northern end of the province of Castellón. It was declared a Natural Park and Marine Natural Reserve in order to also conserve the maritime strip bordering the coast of the Sierra de Irta and is a fine example of the Valencian coastal marine environment.

This protected area constitutes one of the most beautiful landscapes on the Valencian coast and represents one of the last mountain ranges that remain undeveloped on the Mediterranean coast and along with the Campanilles peak at 572 metres, the cliff of Torre Badum and 12 km of coastline there are numerous cliffs and coves in an area that, historically, was scarcely populated.

Find a hotel close to the Sierra de Irta Natural Park

Booking.com

Flora

“Maquis” scrubland occupies most of the surface area with the most frequent species being Pistacia (Pistacia lentiscus), juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus), white and broom heather (Erica arborea and E. scoparia), Cistus such as (Cistus monspeliensis, C. salviifolius, C. albidus), and gorse (Calicotome spinosa).

The geranium of Irta , an endemism of the mountains, is also apparently noteworthy (but I have failed to find a scientific name for this plant nor ever seen one! 🙂

Fauna

Marine bird life includes yellow-footed gull (Larus cachinnans), Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis) and Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii). Bonelli’s eagle, peregrine falcon, Eleonor’s falcon and the Eurasian eagle owl have breeding populations present along with ravens, Eurasian scops owl, tawny owl and the little owl.

The Mediterranean tortoise (Testudo hermanni). is present in the area following a reintroduction project that started in 2005 and over 1000 individuals have been released to date.

Other places to visit

The Sierra de Irta Natural Park is rich in heritage and it is worth highlighting the castles of Alcalá de Chivert and Santa Magdalena de Pulpis which belonged to the Order of the Temple Knights. (Also there is the remains of an Iberian settlement from the 7th century BC next to the castle of Alcalá de Chivert).

There is a network of watchtowers that were designed to protect the area from maritime incursions, the most important of which are the Ebrí tower and the Badum tower.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Interpretación del Parque Natural de la Serra d’Irta y Reserva Natural Marina d’Irta

The Interpretation Center of the Serra d’Irta Natural Park and Marina d’Irta Natural Reserve is located at kilometer 1.5 of the CV-141 (entrance road to the town of Peñíscola from the N-340).

There are two rooms filled with information about the natural, cultural and landscape values ​​of the protected area.

There is also an audiovisual film about the Natural Park and its main places of interest.

The official website for the Parque Natural de la Serra d’Irta y Reserva Natural Marina d’Irta is here: https://parquesnaturales.gva.es/es/web/pn-serra-d-irta/centro-de-visitantes


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.