Category Archives: Biospheres (MAB) in Spain

Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve

  • Region: Morroco and Spain (Andalucia (Cádiz and Málaga))
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2006
  • Protected area: Almost 900,000 hectares (terrestrial) and 17.976,82 hectares (marine)
  • Towns and villages: 108 (63 in Cádiz and Málaga and 45 in Tetuán, Larache, Tánger and Chefchauen).

Points of interest

The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve runs between southern Europe and North Africa and is dominated by a string of mountain ranges forming an open arch to the Mediterranean Sea (the Strait of Gibraltar) which in turn divides the mountain range known as the Bético-Rifeño system into two sections.

The uniqueness of this natural and socio-cultural crossroads makes this the first intercontinental biosphere reserve declared by UNESCO which was jointly proposed by the Ministry of the Environment of the Junta de Andalucía and the High Commissioner for Water and Forests of the Kingdom of Morocco.

Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve
The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve is located in sourthern Spain and northern Morocco

In Spain

Containing some of the most outstanding natural spaces in the eastern part of the province of Cádiz and the western part of Malaga, It is also the first of its kind to feature a sea within its boundaries.

It also includes two previously declared Biosphere Reserves in Andalusia: the Sierra de Grazalema natural park and the Sierra de las Nieves national park. The Alcornocales and the Estrecho Nature Reserves; the natural spaces of Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja, Sierra Crestellina, Desfiladero de los Gaitanes and Playas de los Lances beaches; and the natural monuments of the Duna de Bolonia sand dunes, Pinsapo de las Escaleretas fir forest and the Cañón de las Buitreras.

The reserve presents a rich and varied fauna, with some threatened or endangered species and the role of the Strait of Gibraltar stands out as a vitally important flyway for European and African migrating and resident birds.

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In Morocco

The Moroccan section of the intercontinental biosphere reserve is located in the region of Djbala on the Tingitane Peninsula, adjacent to the Strait of Gibraltar. It is bordered by the Gharb plain and the hills of Hafs to the west, the Rif Central to the east, the Mediterranean coastline to the north, and the western Prerif to the south.

The region is very mountainous and marked by two major crests: the Numidian chain and the mid-ocean limestone ridge. Extensive depressions are found in the crests, including the Chefchaouen furrow, which covers the central portion of the region.

The highest peak is Jebel Lakraa with a height of 2,159 metres. Included in the reserve are the Talassemtane National Park and sites such as Koudiet Taifour, Lagune de Smir, Jbel Bouhachem and Jbel Moussa.

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Talassemtane National Park

The Talassemtane national park was created in 2004 in order to conserve the last of Morocco’s threatened fir forests and also contains other plant species endemic to this Spanish/Maghrebi biodiversity hotspot such as the endangered Atlas cedar and Andalusian Belladonna Atropa baetica. (over 1380 plant species have been recorded here, 47 of which are endemic to Morocco).

The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve is located in sourthern Spain and northern Morocco
The water falls of akchour in the National park of Talassemtane

The park’s proximity to the tourist destination of Chefchaouen makes it a popular hiking destination with walks such as the Bridge of God and the villages of El Kalaá and Akchour. The park’s elevation ranges from 350 meters to 1,050 meters.

The AllTrails website has some good advice on walking and hiking in this area: https://www.alltrails.com/parks/morocco/tangier-tetouan/talassemtane-national-park

Further reading


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Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve

  • Region: Galicia (la Coruña)
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2013
  • Protected area: 114.359,57 hectares (terrestrial) and 2.866,45 hectares (marine)
  • Main Towns: Abegondo, Aranga, Arteixo, Bergondo, Betanzos, Cambre, Carral, Coirós, Culleredo, Curtis, Irixoa, Miño, Oleiros, Oza- Cesuras, Paderne, Sada y Sobrado.

Points of interest

Located on the Cantabrian-Atlantic coast of Galicia, the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve is a mix of sea and mountain landscapes with cliffs, islands, coastal plains, beaches, dunes, estuaries, marshes and lagoons and includes 109 km of Atlantic coastline. There is a great natural wealth and biodiversity in this area that has coexisted with traditional and cultural practices of fishing and livestock farming.

In the mountainous area, the courses of the Mandeo and Mero rivers flow and intermingle amongst a variety of landscapes and riverside woodlands of alder and oak where paleotropical ferns, considered to be true living fossils can be found.

The core zones of the Costa de Dexo, Costa da Morte, Betanzos-Mandeo and the Abegondo-Cecebre’s reservoir play an important role in terms of conservation of the area and were already included in the Red Natura 2000 project. The Costa de Dexo in ​​the municipality of Oleiros runs along the marine strip between the Mera lighthouse and the port of Lorbé and includes all the islands and islets near the coast. This coastal strip is one of the few well-preserved natural spaces on the entire Costa Ártabra and is protected as a national natural monument. Other important coastal areas are the Costa de la Muerte and Betanzos-Mandeo.

The Costa de Dexo, part of the natura 2000 network and a protected national monument
The Costa de Dexo, part of the natura 2000 network and a protected national monument

The Camino de Santiago passes through the entire area via the Camino Inglés and the Camino Norte whilst the important Roman road “Per Loca Marítima” historically connected Astorga to Oporto.

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This short video gives an excellent overview of the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve and I realy like the music that goes along with it! 🙂


Information / visitor centres

Centro de interpretación Chelo

The main interpretation centre for the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve is easy to find located in the town of Chelo. There are permenent exhibitions covering the fauna and flora of the area along with ethnographic, cultural and historical information.

Museo Aula do Ma

The “Costa de Dexo” Natural Monument occupies the north coast of Oleiros town and the old lighthouse keeper’s house is home to the museum and interpretation centre “Aula do Mar

The Crendes and Piadela bird observatories.

The Abegondo-Cecebre reservoir, formed by the union of the Mero and Barcés rivers, was built between 1975-76 to cover the supply of drinking water to the municipalities of La Coruña, Arteixo, Bergondo, Cambre, Culleredo, Oleiros and Sada. Since March 2014, it has been part of the network of protected areas of the European Union (Red Natura 2000) as a Special Conservation Area (ZEC) and, within the Biosphere Reserve, it is one of those that form the core area. The reservoir attracts birds such as osprey, black kite, great crested grebe, great egret, green sandpiper, grey wagtail, Iberian chiffchaff along with various ducks, gulls and great cormorant all of which can be viewed from the Crendes and Piadela Bird observatories.

The official website for the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve: http://marinasbetanzos.gal/en/


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Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve

  • Region: Castilla y León (León)
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2006
  • Protected area: Almost 57,000 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Candín, Peranzanes, Vega de Espinareda, Villafranca del Bierz, Balouta, Burbia, La Bustarga, Campo del Agua, Cariseda, Cela, Chano, Espinareda de Ancares, El Espino, Faro, Fresnedelo, Guímara, Landoiro, Lumeras, Moreda, Paradaseca, Paradiña, Penoselo, Pereda de Ancares, Pobladura de Somoza, Porcarizas, Prado de Paradiñas, Puente de Rey, San Martín de Moreda, San Pedro de Olleros, Sésamo, Sorbeira, Suárbol, Suertes, Tejedo de Ancares, Tejeira, Trascastro, Valle de Finolledo, Valtuille de Abajo, Valtuille de Arriba, Vega de Espinareda, Veguellina, Vilela, Villarbón, Villar de Acero, Villar de Otero, Villasumil.

Points of interest

Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve is located on the western limit of the Cantabrian mountains, on the border with Galicia and Asturias and includes the valleys of the rivers Cúa (Valle de Fornela), Ancares (Valle de Ancares) and Burbia. It borders with Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes, Navia y Becerrea biosphere reserve in the neighbouring province of Galicia (lugo).

This is a natural landscape of mountains sculpted by glacial and fluvial morphology with extensive heaths, chestnut groves and woodlands of oak, holly, yew and strawberry tree. traditional livestock farming coexist with iconic wildlife such as Iberian wolf, Cantabrian brown bear, chamois, roe deer, mountain goat, eagles, vultures and capercaille.

The chestnut (el castaño) is the symbol of the Ancares and has a natural, economic and cultural influence on the ecological habitats creating a refuge and feeding many wild species as well as providing work and income to many families in the area.

Other areas within the limits of this biosphere:

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Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve is impressive not only for its ecological value, but also for the traditional culture that survives in its towns, villages, landscapes and lifestyles. With a history that gives the surroundings a special character, it is also home to places as diverse as Peña Piñera archaeological site, with its bronze age rock paintings; Chano Iron Age hill fort settlement; La Leitosa Roman gold mine; and traditional architecture featuring raised granaries and pallozas (circular houses with thatched roofs where people and animals both lived) that can be visited in towns such as Balouta, Campo del Agua and Pereda de Ancares.

Information and visitor centres

There are various tourist information centres in the area but the four main places to visit to get the best out of a visit to Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve are :

  • The Interpretation centre in the village of Castro de Chano (Valle de Fornela).
  • The tourist office in Vega de Espinar.
  • The town of Villafranca del Bierzo has information points and monuments open to the public
  • The tourist office run by the town hall in Candín (Valle de Ancares).

The official website for Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve: http://www.ancaresleoneses.es/


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Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes – Navia y Becerrea biosphere reserve

  • Region: Galicia (Lugo)
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2006
  • protected area: Almost 54,000 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Cervantes, Navia de Suarna, Becerreá, Paradela, Quiezán, A Pobra, Rao, Son, Murias, San Román, Donis, San Pedro, Vilanova, Doiras, Cela, Noceda, Pintinidoira, Campa da Braña.

Points of Interest

Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes – Navia y Becerrea biosphere reserve is a unique mosaic of natural habitats. It is an Atlantic area of ​​high and medium mountains in which the presence of important forest and woodlands stand out dominated by oaks, birch and chestnut accompanied by hazelnuts, holm oaks, rowan, maples, yews and holly. Scrub areas are also widely represented, in which dry heaths and mountain meadows play an important role in the conservation of biodiversity. It borders with Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve in neighbouring Castilla y León.

This variety of habitats existing in the area is home to an abundant diversity of flora and fauna. In terms of flora, endangered species such as Lycopodiella inundata or Zygodon conoideus stand out, as well as taxa of community interest such as Festuca elegans, Festuca summilusitanica, Narcissus pseudonarcissus subsp. nobilis or Narcissus asturiensis.

In the fauna groups, among the invertebrates, the presence of the crayfish (Austropotambius pallipes) stands out.

This is Cantabrian brown bear (Ursus arctos) and Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) territory and the very rare (almost extinct) capercaille (Tetrao urogallus) is also present in small numbers.

Other areas within the limits of this biosphere:
  • Place of Community Importance (SCI): Os Ancares-Courel, Cruzul-Agüeira.
  • Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA): Ancares.
  • Special Protection Area for Natural Values ​​(ZEPVN): Os Ancares-Courel, Cruzul-Agüeira, Ancares.
  • National Hunting Reserve.
  • Brown Bear Protection Zone.

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Information / visitor centres

Centro de Interpretación y Gestión de la Reserva Nacional de Caza dos Ancares (Campa da Braña)

the official website for Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes, Navia y Becerrea biosphere reserve: http://osancareslucenses.deputacionlugo.org/es/


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Los Valles de Omaña y Luna biosphere reserve

  • Region: Castilla y León (León)
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2005
  • Protected area: 81,000 hectares
  • Main towns and villages: Los Barrios de Luna, Murias de Paredes, Riello, Sena de Luna, Soto y Amío, Valdesamario

Points of interest

Los Valles de Omaña y Luna biosphere reserve, at some point in the future, will join with the Alto Bernesga, Los Ancares Leoneses, Babia, Valled de Laciana, Los Argüellos and Picos de Europa to form the Castilla y León side of the “Great Cantabrian Biosphere Reserve”. This is a project in developement which hopes to turn the entire Cantabrian mountain chain into one enormous protected area. It aims to provide a permanent connection between the eastern and western populations of the Cantabrian brown bear and protection and conservation for many iconic Iberian wildlife species. There is also a deep emphasis on protecting and developing human culture and traditions of the area in harmony with the environment.

In the reserve area there are 86 towns and villages which have traditionally been dedicated to activities related to agriculture and livestock farming. During last century however, mining activities also provided employment and shaped the landscape that can be seen today.

In recent years there has been a decline in both coal mining and livestock farming coupled with a depopulation so the designation of this area as a biosphere reserve is expected to re-develop agriculture and livestock farming along with sustainable tourism.

Forming a part of the Cantabrian mountains this is a popular area for people interested in not only wildlife but also earth sciences such as geology and paleontology. Geological interest points, as well as the Global Geosite, in the valley of the Luna River are well worth the visit.

  • The Trilobite Deposit and Paleozoic Series in Los Barrios de Luna.
  • The Angular mismatch between Precambrian and Cambrian in Irede de Luna and Portilla de Luna.
  • The Arcos de Agua and Peña Cefera Glacier-Periglacial Complex in Murias de Paredes.
  • The Boeza Glacier Valley in Murias de Paredes and Igueña.
  • The Limestone faults in Mallo de Luna.
  • The River Capture and Glacio-Lacustrine Deposit in Puerto de La Magdalena.
  • The Carboniferous Continental Deposit in Valdesmario.

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Fauna and flora

The valleys of Omaña and Luna include numerous species of flora, many of them endemic. There are birch and Pyrenean oak forests also riverside woodlands of alder, willow and poplar that together with the traditional fields and pastures are arranged in mosaic with the high mountain landscapes.

The reserve is also inhabited by numerous species of fauna, some of which have their southern distribution limit in the region, such as the Cantabrian brown bear and the Capercaille. Other species of interest are the Iberian hare and endemic Iberian species such as the Pyrenean desman.

Hiking and walking.

There are some fantastic walking routes here that are well maintained and marked. They vary in difficulty: baja (low), media (medium) and alta (difficult) and are available on this website (in Spanish): https://omanayluna.com/que-hacer-rutas

Video (In Spanish) with some fantastic scenery


Infromation / visitor centres

Centro de interpretación Reserva de la Biosfera Valles de Omaña y Luna

Located in the “Casona”, the palace of the Counts of Luna (18th century), in the village of Murias de Paredes, This is the official interpretation centre for Los Valles de Omaña y Luna biosphere reserve. The centre has videos and exhibitions covering the natural history and cultural aspects of the area. In order to visit it is recommended to email the office first (turismoaytomuriasdeparedes@gmail.com or tecnicos@omanayluna.com)

Museo del pastor (Barrios de Luna)

This is a museum in the village of Barrios de Luna dedicated to rural life and livestock farming. There are fascinating collections showing what life was like in the past for those working with animals in the area.

Centro de interpretación: “La explosión de vida en el cámbrico” (Miñera de Luna)

The Barrios de Luna constitute an enclave of geological interest at an international level. Since the 1950s, geologists and paleontologists from all over the world have come to Luna to study the valuable information stored in its rocks, which has allowed us to know different aspects of the evolution of the planet and the Cantabrian mountain range.

There are panels and showcases in which various aspects of the local geology are explained, with special attention to the explosion of life that occurred in the Cambrian. This centre in the village of Miñera de Luna also holds a remarkable collection of fossils.

Colección etnográfica (Sena de Luna)

Located in the old blacksmiths forge in the village of Sena de Luna this is an impressive collection of photographs donated by the local people giving an insight into the cultural past of the population living here generation after generation.

The official website for the Los Valles de Omaña y Luna biosphere reserve: https://omanayluna.com/


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Transfronteriza Meseta Ibérica biosphere reserve

  • Region: Castilla y León (Salamanca and Zamora) and Trasmontero in Portugal
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2015
  • Protected area: 1.132.606 hectares, (475.608,57 hectares in Spain)
  • Main towns and villages: ZAMORA (Alcañices, Argañín, Asturianos, Bermillo de Sayago, Cobreros, Fariza, Fermoselle, Ferreras de Abajo, Ferreras de Arriba, Ferreruela, Figueruela de Arriba, Fonfría, Galende, Gamones, Hermisende, Lubián, Luelmo, Mahide, Manzanal de Arriba, Moral de Sayago, Moralina, Muelas del Pan, Muga de Sayago, Otero de Bodas Palacios de Sanabria, Pedralba de la Pradería, Pereruela, Pías; Pino del Oro, Porto, Puebla de Sanabria, Rábano de Aliste, Requejo, Riofrío de Aliste, Robleda-Cervantes, San Vicente de la Cabeza, San Vitero, Tábara, Torregamones, Trabazos, Trefacio, Villadepera, Villalcampo, Villar del Buey, Villardeciervos, Villardiegua de la Ribera, Villaseco del Pan, Viñas de Aliste). SALAMANCA (Ahigal de los Aceiteros, Aldeadávila de la Ribera, Almendra, Barruecopardo, Bermellar, La Bouza, Cabeza del Caballo, Cerezal de Peñahorcada, La Fregeneda, Hinojosa de Duero, Lumbrales, Masueco, Mieza, La Peña, Pereña de la Ribera, Puerto Seguro, La Redonda, Saldeana, San Felices de los Gallegos, Saucelle, Sobradillo, Trabanca, Villar de Ciervo, Villar de la Yegua, Villarino de los Aires, Vilvestre, La Zarza de Pumareda).

Points of interest

The largest biosphere in Europe, at over a million hectares, the vast Transfronteriza Meseta Ibérica biosphere reserve covers a grand variety of ecosystems and habitats extending over a territory that includes north western Portugal and the provinces of Salamanca and Zamora.

From the Sierra de Culebra and Montesinho mountains to the gorges of the Duero and Túa rivers, it is a territory with dazzling landscapes and unique natural values which includes five natural parks and many other protected areas.

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My favorite protected areas to visit in the Transfronteriza Meseta Ibérica biosphere reserve

Parque natural de Arribes del Duero

The steep gorges of the Arribes del Duero Natural Park are formed by the river Duero which is also the national boundary between Spain and Portugal. The protected area continues into the Portuguese side where it is called the International Douro Natural Park. In 2015, the two parks were declared a transboundary biosphere reserve by Unesco under the name of the Meseta Ibérica. Read more here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/arribes-del-duero-natural-park/

Parque natural del Lago de Sanabria y alrededores

The stunning Lago de Sanabria Natural Park has been extended into the Parque natural Lago de Sanabria y sierras Segundera y de Porto. At almost 200 hectares and a depth of 50 odd metres the lake, that gives its name to the park, is the largest natural lake in the Iberian Peninsula of glacial origin. Read more here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/lago-de-sanabria-natural-park/

The Villafáfila Lagoons

Depending on the season of the year, different birds can be observed But many people visit this area just for views of the Great bustard (Otis otis). There is an excellent information centre for the Lagunas de Villafáfila with audiovisual exhibitions, walkways, observation points etc and the place is staffed by very knowledgable guides. Well worth a visit! Read more here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/reserva-natural-lagunas-de-villafafila/

The Sierra de la Culebra

On the Portuguese side the area of the Sierra de la Culebra range is included in the Montesinho Natural Park. This area has become famous over recent years for wolf watching holidays hosts the highest density of wild wolves in Spain.

Life-long naturalists, John and Margaret Hallowell are the husband and wife team behind the Wild Wolf Experience and through organising independent wolf watching and wildlife tours in Spain they are able to share their knowledge of the mammals and birdlife of the country. Watching for Wolves operates throughout the year and is based in the Sierra de la Culebra Read more here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/wild-wolf-experience/

Information / visitor centres

This video is in Spanish but is pretty visual and shows the amazing diversity of the biosphere in general


Allmost all of the towns and villages have tourist information centres of one kind or another and the natural parks mentioned above have their own interpretation centres so information is fairly easy to find.

The official interpretation centre for the Transfronteriza Meseta Ibérica biosphere reserve is under construction in the village of Villardeciervos and is due to open in 2022 with exhibitions and a wolf museum.

However, The village already has an excellent tourist information centre with well informed staff. https://turismovillardeciervos.com/

The official website for the Transfronteriza Meseta Ibérica biosphere reserve (in Spanish and Portuguese): https://www.biosfera-mesetaiberica.com/es