Looking for Wildlife & Walking Holidays in Spain?

Looking for Wildlife, walking and cultural 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. On a mobile just scroll down or use the menu button.

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.

If you are on a desktop or laptop, then in the left column you will find links to some of the top INDEPENDENT activity holiday companies in Spain. On a mobile just scroll down.

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 on all pages.

Trips and tours in Spain from Viator

Spain holds a vast array of amazing places to visit and explore and very often a guide will help you get the best out of a visit to a certain area. Have a look at the organised guided trips on offer from the Viator website.

A huge thank you to everyone that uses the links on these pages to reserve a hotel, Viator guided trip 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!


Ciudad Encantada in Cuenca

  • Region: Castilla la Mancha
  • Province: Cuenca
  • Declared a Natural Site of National Interest on June 11, 1929
  • Privately run

I first stumbled across the Ciudad Encantada in Cuenca whilst on a long road trip over 20 years ago and, I remember then being totally awed by the amazing formations on this 3 km stroll through pine forest and rock. Finally, many years later in July 2022, I had the opportunity to visit again with my family. What a treat, this place is as fantastic as I remembered!

Los barcos at the Ciudad Encantada
the scale of these formations can be seen when a person is also in the picture! In this case, my kids by “Los barcos” (The boats)

90 million years ago, this area was part of the shallow, and most importantly, calm seabed of Thetis which led to the deposition of minerals and salts creating limestone and dolomite.

At the end of the Cretaceous as a result of the ground rising, the sea retreated and the limestone seabed rose to the surface. After many, many thousands of years, this has resulted in the amazing geological phenomenon caused by rain falling on the original limestone plateau that wore down the porous limestone leaving behind the more resistant dolomite Because the dolomite is not distributed evenly in the original rock structure, the erosion result is the irregularly eroded shapes that now form the Ciudad Encantada.


Find a hotel in the area

There are plenty other hotels to choose from in the area as you can see below. (Check out the options at booking.com by clicking on the map)

Booking.com

From the entrance, you follow a 3km route thats winds its way past various formations with some named as the things that they resemble (some more than others 🙂 )

Apart from the obvious rock formations don’t forget to spend some time admiring the wildlife here as well. The pine trees are fascinating, moulding themselves around the rocks and in places natural bonzai trees have grown and survived in crevices lacking soil and water.

The oficial website has current entry times and prices: https://www.ciudadencantada.es/en


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.

https://grazalemaguide.com/

Alto Tajo Natural Park

  • Region: Castilla la Mancha
  • Province: Cuenca and Guadalajara
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2000
  • Park surface area: 174,545 hectares

Points of interest

The Alto Tajo Natural Park located between the southeast of the Guadalajara province and the northeast of Cuenca is famous for its canyons and gorges formed by the river Tagus and its tributaries. (The most extensive river gorge system in the region and one of the most important in Spain, with a great geological, botanical and fauna diversity.

Alto Tajo Natural Park

Pine forests and spectacular cliff formations make for a wonderful area to explore with over 40 villages and towns within the parks boundaries. There are several Special Protection Areas for Birds (ZEPA) and Special Conservation Zones (ZEC) established in accordance with the Natura 2000 Network.

Most of the species of birds of the Iberian Peninsula reside in or migrate through the Alto Tajo Natural Park which has led to the creation of a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA).

The concentration of mammals, (predators and herbivores), reptiles, amphibians and fish are abundant throughout the park due to its massive size and wealth of habitats.

Hotels in the Alto Tajo Natural Park

Booking.com

Threats to the Alto Tajo Natural Park

This protected natural space is in an excellent degree of conservation however:

“The park has been threatened by Kaolinite mining, with the government finding it hard to regulate as it contributes to 13.5% of all the jobs in the area and because Kaolinite is considered an important mineral in the national economy as it is a raw material in many industries. Currently two mines are operational in Poveda de la Sierra which affects an area of around 100 hectares. There is also an open mine in Peñalén, where mining has been put on hold. Mining in the area began in the 1960s with an English multinational company called ECC being the sole miner for 20 years before they pulled out of the country.
The present mining companies hold a mining right for 90 years and have been reluctant to stop mining without proper compensation.

The runoffs from the mines are polluting the Tagus river, besides affecting the fauna in the river

(Wikipedia)
The Alto Tajo Natural Park is famous for its canyons and gorges formed by the river Tagus and its tributaries
The Alto Tajo Natural Park is famous for its canyons and gorges formed by the river Tagus and its tributaries

Information/Visitors Centers

This is a large protected area and as such has quite a few information centres dedicated to the natural park of Tajo Alto.

Centro de interpretación Dehesa de Corduente

Located in the northern sector of the Natural Park, 2 km from Corduente, at KM 85 of the CM-2015 road that connects this town with Zaorejas, about 10 km from the town of Molina de Aragón.

Plenty of information and excellent exhibitions covering woodlands, lagoon ecosystems, ethnography, flora, fauna, mountains and rivers.

Centro de interpretación Sequero de Orea

Located in the village of Orea, Calle Camino del Río, number 2.

The Interpretation center in Orea is dedicated to the inhabitants of the Alto Tajo, it was built by reforming the building of the old “Orea Sequero“, a forest house located in the town that had an oven to dry pinecones and extract pine nuts that later were used in the forest nurseries for reforestation of the mountains. The museum is mainly oriented to the interpretation of the ethnographic heritage and traditional uses of the Tajo Alto but there is also general information available.

Centro de interpretación del Río Tajo

Km 56 of the CM-2015 road close to ​​Zaorejas

This interpretation center focuses on the details of the Tagus River from its source and the 1000 km journey to its estuary in Portugal studying the most relevant aspects of its passage through the Natural Park including the lagoon and river ecosystems, fauna and flora.

Centro de interpretación Museo de la ganadería tradicional en el Alto Tajo

located in the town of Checa. Plaza Lorenzo Arrazola nº 1. (Next to the Town Hall).

This museum focuses on the traditional livestock farming that has been carried out in the Alto Tajo since ancient times. Also the timber extraction that has shaped the landscape that we see today.

The interpretive exhibition covers the following topics:

  • Traditional methods of cattle management: Methods that have been used to adapt livestock exploitation to the climatic, ecological and social conditions that shaped traditional livestock farming in the area.
  • Livestock and landscape: The influence that the activity has had on the natural environment, the evolution of pastures and the relationship of traditional livestock with wild animal populations.
  • Livestock infrastructures: The different constructions and traditional equipments such as farm buildings, holding pens, drinking troughs etc

Official website in Spanish
https://areasprotegidas.castillalamancha.es/rap/espacios-naturales-protegidos/enp-parque-natural/parque-natural-del-alto-tajo


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.

https://grazalemaguide.com/

Tablas de Daimiel National Park

  • Region: Castilla la Mancha
  • Province: Ciudad real
  • Nearby towns and villages: Daimiel and Torralba de Calatrava
  • Declared a National Park: 1973
  • Park surface area: 3,030 hectares

Points of interest

The Tablas de Daimiel National Park is one of the most visited in Spain with an average of almost 200,000 people registered each year. The wetland represents one of the last ecosystems of fluvial tables that are formed when rivers overflow onto areas of flat landscape.

Formed at the confluence of the Guadiana River and its tributary the Cigüela this is one of the most important aquatic ecosystems in the Iberian Peninsula and is home to a great variety of fauna and flora especially aquatic birds both resident and migratory.

Threats to the future of the Tablas de Daimiel National Park

This park has suffered greatly from both natural and human causes. The drought years of the first decade of 2000 coupled with illegal water extraction (from as early as the 1970s) caused the levels of the wetland to lower dramatically and this in turn dried out the underlying peat bogs which then caught fire. The peat bogs are an important part of the wetlands as they act as a sealant stopping the water from being absorbed into the ground. UNESCO were at the point of removing the biosphere reserve status from the area and the situation almost caused the first National park to be stripped of its title in Spain.

However, at the same time as the plan to redirect water from the river Tagus was implemeted, the drought broke, the rains came and the wetlands were saved. The expanding water extinquished the peat bog fires and the recovery of the ecosystem began.

The laws covering water extraction in the area are now more tightly regulated so hopefully the habitat will remain protected for many more years to come.

That said, in July 2022 the water covered area stands at less than 3 percent of the protected area which is below 50 hectares of the more than 3000 hectare national park. Guided visits have stopped and the information centre was closed when I visited. The drought and heat of the 2022 summer surely has some effect but I still maintain that mismanagement of the tablas de Daimiel national park over the last few decades is to blame.

The Tablas de Daimiel are formed by the waters of two rivers of different nature. The water of the Gigüela river that comes from the Cabrejas moors in the Cuenca mountain range provides brackish (salty) waters, while the Guadiana river provides fresh sweet water.

Find a hotel close to the Tablas de Daimiel National Park

Booking.com

Flora

The fresh water of the Guadiana favors the growth of reed marshes (Phragmites australis, Phragmites communis) while the brackish water of the Cigüela favors the growth of marsh vegetation, mainly the sedge swamp sawgrass (Cladium mariscus). In the shallower areas there are large groups of cattails (Typha sp), bulrush (Scirpus lacustris), saltmarsh bulrush (Scirpus maritimus ) and reeds (Juncus sp).

One of the most characteristic formations of the national park are the carophyte meadows which are made up of different species green algae (Chara hispida , Chara major , Chara canescens). The tamarix (Tamarix gallica) is the only tree species found within the wetland.

Fauna

Among the birdlife

Purple heron (Ardea purpurea), grey heron (Ardea cinerea), egret (Egretta garzetta), black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), bittern (Botaurus stellaris),red-crested pochard (Netta rufina) shoveler (Anas clypeata), wigeon (Anas penelope), northern pintail (Anas acuta), teal (Anas crecca), little grebe (Podiceps auritus), the black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis ) and stilt (Himantopus himantopus),.

Also worth mentioning are marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), common coot (Fulica atra), moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and kingfisher (Alcedo atthis).

Among the sedentary fauna it is worth mentioning the river crab (Austropotamobius pallipes). Once very abundant and an important source of food and income for the families of Daimiel it has been harvested almost to extintion in the area and is also predated on by the introduced pike (Esox lucius).

Native species such as barbel (Barbus barbus ) and the European chub (Squalius cephalus) are also endagered but present in the area.

In spring and summer you can find amphibians and reptiles such as the tree frog (Hyla arborea), common frog (Rana perezi), Iberian spiny toad (Bufo spinosus), salamander (Salamandra salamandra) and snakes like the viperine (Natrix maura) and grasssnake (Natrix natrix) .

Mammals include the polecat (Mustela putorius), fox (Vulpes vulpes), otter (Lutra lutra), water rat (Arvicola sapidus), as well as those that live nearby fields and woodlands such as rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), hares (Lepus capensis), weasels (Mustela nivalis) and Iberian wild boars (Sus scrofa).

Wild boar damaging wetland ecosystems

A recent survey (2021) studying the impact of Iberian wild boar in the Tablas de Daimiel National Park has come to the conclusion that the population causes a serious threat to the ecosystem and threatens the reproductive success of aquatic birdlife in the area.

Read more here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/wild-boar-damaging-wetland-ecosystems/

Information/Visitors Centers

Tablas de Daimiel National Park interpretation centre

On the road from the village of Daimiel to the Tablas de Daimiel

This centre has plenty of information designed to help identify the birds and plants of the park, through photographic panels with information, aquariums, exhibition of animal and plant remains, etc. There is an audio visual room with a presentation of the area and the staff will help greatly.

The Center is advertised on the official website for the natural park as open every day of the year, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in winter and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer. (However, I visited this area in July of 2022 to find no staff, locked doors and empty carparks.)

Tablas de Daimiel National Park
Tablas de Daimiel National Park Offices and information centre (July 2022)

The Molemocho Mill

The Molemocho Mill is located where the Guadiana River feeds into the wetland about 800 meters before reaching the main Visitor Center of the National Park (it is well signposted) and is well worth the visit!

This unique building is one of the oldest hydraulic flour mills in Castilla La Mancha. The exact date of its construction is unknown but Molemocho is mentioned in maps and registers as far back as 1575.

The fascinating exhibitions focus on the wetlands history and the human inhabitants of the area.


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.

https://grazalemaguide.com/

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.