Andalucia is the southernmost region of Spain and is known for its rich cultural heritage, stunning coastline, and diverse natural landscapes. The region is home to several national parks, each with its own unique flora, fauna, and geological features.
A notable national park in Andalucia is the Doñana National Park, located in the provinces of Huelva, Seville, and Cadiz. Doñana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to a diverse range of ecosystems, including marshes, dunes, and forests. The park is a crucial stopover for millions of migratory birds each year and is also home to the endangered Iberian lynx, the Spanish imperial eagle, and several other rare species. Visitors to Doñana can explore the park’s unique landscapes on foot, by bike, or by horseback, and can also take guided tours to learn more about the area’s rich cultural history.
The Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park offers a unique experience for visitors, from hiking and wildlife watching to cultural activities such as visiting historic towns and sampling local cuisine.
Overall, the national parks in Andalucia are a must-visit for anyone interested in exploring the region’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Declared a Natural Park: 1969 reclassified in 1978
In1963 WWF and the Council of Scientific Research bought land (6,794ha) and set up a research station
In 1994 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Natural Park surface area: 54,200
National Park surface area: 50,720 hectares – Total area: 77,260ha:
World Heritage and Special Bird Protection Areas: 50,720ha.
National Park and Ramsar site; buffer zone 26,540ha.
Towns and Villages
Huelva: Almonte, Hinojos, Bollullos Par del Condado, Rociana del Condado, Bonanes y Lucena del Puerto, Palos de la Frontera, Moguer, La Puebla del Río and the Isla Mayor
Sevilla: Aznalcázar, Pilas y Villamanrique de la Condesa.
Cádiz: Sanlúcar de Barrameda
Points of interest
The Doñana National and Natural Parks occupy the northern area of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. Six thousand years ago it would have been a wide estuary, but this has mostly been closed off by a long, natural sand bar. This in turn created a large saline lake which gradually collected silt leaving a huge wetland area with lagoons, marshlands and semi-permanent sand dunes.
Doñana National Park, a bastion of biodiversity in Andalusia, has recently faced controversies that have shaken the faith of its admirers. Despite decades of protection and substantial funding, concerns about the ecosystem’s health have emerged. This article delves into forum discussions on challenges within the park and presents the latest developments, including a significant agreement aimed at securing its future.
Declared a Natural Park: 1989. Park surface area: 20,132 hectares
1995 designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the Natural Park inside the biosphere reserve area of 93,930 hectares.
Biosphere Reserve towns and villages: Alozaina, Casarabonela, El Burgo, Guaro, Istán, Monda, Ojén, Parauta, Ronda, Serrato, Tolox y Yunquera
2021 declared a National Park and increased to over 23,000 hectares
In the summer of 2021 The Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park was upgraded to NATIONAL park status. It covers a huge area of approximately 300 square kilometres with its limits ranging from Marbella inland to include the villages of El Burgo, Istan, Monda, Parauta, Ronda, Tolox and across to the Sierra Bermeja close to Estepona.
Points of interest
The Sierra de las Nieves is a limestone massif clothed with evergreen oak trees and also home to the rare Abies Pinsapo or Spanish fir tree. The name “Nieves” refers to the winter snow which was once an important commodity in the area. Snow wells can still be seen on the exposed high areas. The snow would be collected by workers, deposited in the hand built, deep hollows. The snow was compacted, creating ice to be removed later in blocks and delivered the coast on mule or donkey trains to be sold.
The summit of Torrecilla is at 1919m altitude and although close to the Mediterranean coast receives higher precipitation due to an Atlantic influence. Not far from the highest point is also the “deepest” in the form of the G.E.S.M cavern “Los Hoyos del Pilar”. At 1101m deep it is the third deepest such abyss in the World. (Grupo de Exploraciones Subterráneas de Málaga = GESM)
Combinations of factors such as climate and limestone relief create habitat zones where specialized plants have adapted. The exposed reaches with little soil contain hedgehog broom (Erinacea anthyllis) together with Andalucian gorse (Ulex baeticus), a hedgehog-shaped crucifer; Hormathophylla spinosa, Spiny hare’s-ears (Bupleurum spinosum), the yellow-flowering Echinospartum boissieri, Woolly lavender (Lavandula lanata), Prostrate cherry (Prunus prostrata) and evergreen milk-vetch (Astragalus granatensis subsp andresmolinae).
Mats of common and Phoenician junipers (Juniperus communis / J. phoenicea) grow a little lower, dropping down into specimens of Yew (Taxus baccata) and huge Spanish firs (Abies pinsapo).
Other trees in the park are oak species Lusitanian oak (Quercus faginea subsp. Alpestris), Holm oak (Q. rotundifolia) and Cork oak (Q. suber) with Wild olive, Sweet chestnut, Carob, Aleppo pine, Maritime pine and planted Stone pine. Riparian vegetation contains Ash, Poplar and Willow.
Plants that are endemic to this small area of western Andalucia are Saxifraga bourgeana, Omphalodes commutata, Linaria platycalyx and Ononis reuteri. They occur in Sierra de las Nieves and neighbouring Sierra de Grazalema.
A few images of the Sierra de las Nieves national park
Birds of prey include Bonelli’s, Booted, Short-toed, and Golden eagle, Scops, Eagle and Tawny owl, Peregrine falcon, Goshawk, Buzzard and Hobby. Amongst the smaller birds are Rock thrush, Blue rock thrush, Ring ouzel, Wryneck, Hawfinch, Ortolan bunting, Wheatear, Black wheatear, Black-eared wheatear and Southern grey shrike. Crossbill, Crested tit, Tree-creepers, Gold crest and Woodpeckers are numerous in the woodlands.
Guided tours and activities close to the Sierra de la Nieves national park
The centre offers visitors the chance to learn more about the landscapes, nature, history and people so they can enjoy these nature areas to the full.
Tourist Information in Ronda (Paseo de Blas Infante close to the bullring)
The Ronda Tourist Office provides tourist information for visitors to the city of Ronda, the nearby Serrania and the Genal Valley, the province of Malaga and the rest of Andalusia. Its qualified staff will help you discover a territory full of unusual attractions, brimming with history and tradition, with numerous leisure alternatives, events, a comprehensive range of restaurants, accommodation, cultural visits, museums, wine cellars, etc.