Category Archives: National Parks of Spain

16 stunning national parks in Spain to visit.

Now that the Sierra de las Nieves has been decalared a National Park, there are 16 stunning national parks in Spain to visit. Ten are in the Iberian Peninsula, four are in the Canary Islands and one is in the Balearic Islands. National parks are different to natural parks in that the area they cover is predominantly wilderness with less human impact in their history and evolution. Natural parks on the other hand are areas of outstanding natural beauty and biodiversity that have also been shaped in someway by human occupation, agriculture etc.

It goes without saying that they are obvious destinations for wildlife enthusiasts like myself but until one visits one or all of these parks it is hard to imagine the incredibly biodiversity of these areas located on the iberian peninsular and Spanish islands.

I hope this article is of use and please share with your friends and family. Any and all comments are always welcome!

Click the green links below to read more in depth information about the National Parks in Spain

Continue reading 16 stunning national parks in Spain to visit.

Ten of the best natural parks to observe birds and wildlife in Spain

Spain has to rate as one of the best countries in in Europe for bird and wildlife watching. A destination with over 15 million hectares of protected areas and natural parks plus Spain is a strategic location on the avian migratory routes between Europe to Africa

Spain hosts huge forests and rocky mountain peaks where large birds of prey soar freely. There are wetlands where waterfowl find their home. Hundreds of nature parks and nature reserves teeming with birds and other wildlife.

If you need a bucket list for Spain then here is my top 10 for bird and wildlife watching in Spain. I have visited them all and would gladly return many times to all of them!

Just click the name of the park to find out much more information.

Cabañeros National Park, Ciudad Real (Castilla la Mancha)

The Cabañeros National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional de Cabañeros) is a NATIONAL park and is located within the two provinces of Ciudad Real andToledo
The Cabañeros National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional de Cabañeros) is a NATIONAL park and is located within the two provinces of Ciudad Real andToledo

Cabañeros is considered a Special Protection Area for Birds and is protected within the framework of the Natura 2000 Network. Famous for black vulture, griffon vulture, Iberian imperial eagle, Bonnelli’s eagle and black stork. With summer residents this park teems with birdlife.


Monfragüe National Park, Cáceres (Extremadura)

The area of Monfragüe National Park is noted for its importance as a breeding area for a selection of rare and protected birds,
The area of Monfragüe National Park is noted for its importance as a breeding area for a selection of rare and protected birds,

Monfragüe is, without a doubt, one of the best places in Spain for bird watching and especially for birds of prey. Every year this area also hosts the International Ornithological Tourism Fair, which attracts bird lovers from all over the world. Top of the list here is black stork, griffon vulture, imperial eagle, eagle owl, Egyptian vulture and short-toed eagle.


Atlantic Islands National Park (Galicia)

The Islas Atlánticas National Park are known in English as the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park.
The Islas Atlánticas National Park are known in English as the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park.

A Special Protection Area for birds. And, although there are many species, this national park can boast of being home to the largest colonies of shag and yellow-legged gull in the entire country. The park has strategically located hides.


Doñana National Park, Huelva and Seville (Andalucia)

The Doñana National and Natural Parks occupy the northern area of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean
The Doñana National and Natural Parks occupy the northern area of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean

The Doñana National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are more than 300 species listed. Some are sedentary and others migratory so the time of year greatly influences what species you will see. In spring there are organized visits and every year the International Bird Fair of Doñana is held. The ecosystems are varied between dunes and marshes and it is home to black storks, flamingos, purple herons, coots, bee-eaters and a seemingly endless number of different birds.


The Gallocanta Lagoon, Zaragoza and Teruel (Aragon)

Gallocanta laguna in Aragon, Spain
De Secretaria – http://www.xiloca.com/xilocapedia/index.php/Imagen:Atardecer_6_Gallocanta.jpg, CC BY 3.0 es, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19561884

The Gallocanta Lagoon is around 1,000 meters above sea level and is one of the most important saline lakes in Western Europe. This lake is on the migratory route for the common crane. October / November and February / March are the best times to visit this area. Guided tours of the nature reserve are also organized from the Gallocanta Lagoon Interpretation Center.


Hoces del Duratón Natural Park, Segovia (Castille y Leon)

Hoces del Rio Duratón Natural Park Parque Natural de las Hoces del Río Duratón is a natural park close to the town of Sepúlveda in the province of Segovia
Hoces del Rio Duratón Natural Park Parque Natural de las Hoces del Río Duratón is a natural park close to the town of Sepúlveda in the province of Segovia

The gorges of the Duratón river are home to one of the largest population of griffon vultures in Europe. Canoe trips here are a great way to get a bit closer to the wildlife of the area.


Ebro Delta Natural Park, Tarragona (Catalonia)

The Parque natural del Delta del Ebro holds a great importance internationally as more than 300 species of birds
The Parque natural del Delta del Ebro holds a great importance internationally as more than 300 species of birds

An absolute biological jewel and the most important wetland in Catalonia. Famous for its large and permanent colony of flamingos plus an excellent number of aquatic birds totaling more than 325 species


Marismas de Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Natural Park (Cantabria)

Marismas de Santoña, Victoria y Joyel Natural Park
Marismas de Santoña, Victoria y Joyel Natural Park

This Cantabrian natural park is considered one of the places with a huge biological diversity containing around 120 different species including grebes, cormorants, herons, loons, terns, ospreys, coots and white storks.


Lagunas de Villafáfila Nature Reserve, Zamora (Castille y Leon)

Reserva Natural de Lagunas de Villafáfila
Reserva Natural de Lagunas de Villafáfila

The best time to visit the Villafáfila Lagoons is in winter or spring. This is an area of ​​special protection for birds that make their home in the wetlands amongst the arable farmland. There are several viewpoints and hides. Grebe, white stork an cranes can be seen but the area is famous for the geese that use the area as a rest stop during their winter migration.


L’Albufera Natural Park (Valencia)

Albufera natural park - Valencia
Albufera natural park – Valencia

L’Albufera holds a great variety of aquatic birds. Its shores are protected for nesting and shelter for birds and the best months to find them are May, June, July, November, December and January. Look out for European rail, Purple galinule, common tern and black-footed tern.


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Islas Atlánticas National Park

  • Region: Galicia.
  • Province: Pontevedra and La Coruña).
  • Declared a National Park: 2002.
  • Park surface area: 8,480 hectares.

The Islas Atlánticas National Park are known in English as the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park. They are located on the southern coast of Galicia and are made up of four archipelagos, Cortegada and Sálvora in the Arousa estuary, facing the Estuary of Pontevedra and the Cíes, in the Vigo estuary.

In the past they were known as a pirate haunt but today they are uninhabited and only open to the public in the summer.

Points of interest

In Ons don’t miss the mysterious “furnas”, granite sea caves cut by the waves, such as the mythical “Burato do Inferno”, which was “believed to go all the way down to hell, and on stormy nights the voices of the dead could be heard”.

There is a regular passenger transport service by sea to the Cíes from the port of Vigo, Baiona and Cangas during high season. There is the same service to Ons from Portonovo, Sanxenxo, Bueu and Marín. Services of a guide to Cortegada from Carril (Vilagarcía de Arousa). (Sálvora has no transport service by sea, and access to it is restricted.)

This national park has a controlled access with a maximum of 2,200 people daily allowed on the islands.

Find a hotel near to the Islas Atlánticas National Park

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Flora:

This sea-land ecosystem has a laurel forest and over 200 species of seaweed whilst he beds of kelp are also of importance in these waters. The most representative land flora can be found on cliffs and dunes. Clumps of furze abound, but among the Park rarities are the corema album, Ons broom (Cytisus insularis) and sand toadflax (Linaria arenaria), a small annual plant that can be found on the dunes.

Fauna:

The park’s most representative natural systems are the coastal area and the Atlantic continental platform. All the islands have areas reserved as breeding grounds for numerous colonies of birds, principally the yellow-legged seagull and the shag. In the sea, there is the possibility of sighting cetaceans like the finback whale which frequent these waters in the summer.

Information/Visitors Centers

Cambón Visitor Center

Before getting on a boat to the Cíes Islands, a visit the Atlantic Islands National Park Interpretation Centre in Vigo’s old town is well worth it. This exhibition centre was designed to learn about the Cíes Islands, Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada, with audiovisual recreations about habitat, geography and geology etc

The different exhibition areas will allow you to explore the archipelago through different formats and media: images, maps, models, projections, sounds and even sculptures.

Address: Rúa Palma 4. Casco Vello – Vigo

The Interpretation Centre is located in the historic building of Cambón, behind the Church of Santa María. It is close to the Ría Maritime Station, from where boats depart for the Cíes and other parts of the Vigo estuary.

WINTER Tuesday to Saturday: 10: 00-14: 00 and 16: 30-19: 30 / Sundays and holidays: 11: 00-14: 00
SUMMER Tuesday to Saturday: 10: 00-14: 00 and 17: 00-20 : 00 / Sundays and holidays: 11: 00-14: 00
Monday closed (including holidays)

The official website for the Islas Atlánticas National Park can be found here.
https://www.turismo.gal/que-visitar/destacados/parque-nacional-das-illas-atlanticas-de-galicia?langId=en_US


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Cabañeros National Park

  • Region: Castilla la Mancha
  • Province: Ciudad Real and Toledo
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1995
  • Park surface area: 40,856 hectares

Points of interest

The Cabañeros National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional de Cabañeros) is located within the two provinces of Ciudad Real and Toledo. It is the best and largest surviving area of Iberian Mediterranean forest, with an enormous variety of plant species. It also includes sites of geological interest (Paleozoic sites known as Cámbrico y Ordovícico del Parque Nacional de Cabañeros). In addition, the territory has protection status within the framework of the Natura 2000 Network and is a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA)

Find a hotel in the Cabañeros National Park

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Towns and villages in the park area

Toledo province:

  • Los Navalucillos, )Also has three hamlets: Valdeazores, Los Alares y Robledo del Buey).
  • Hontanar.

Ciudad Real province:

  • Alcoba de los Montes (Also a hamlet called Santa Quiteria).
  • Horcajo de los Montes.
  • Navas de Estena.
  • Retuerta del Bullaque (with its hamlets called Pueblonuevo del Bullaque and El Molinillo).

Flora:

The national park is represented by plant communities adapted to the continental mediterranean climate with cold winters and hot and dry summers, the most abundant rainfall occurs in spring and autumn.

Four species of the genus Quercus dominate the landscape of Cabañeros. They are slow-growing trees with a wide crown, such as the holm oak , the most adapted to water scarcity, or the gall oak and cork oak , which prefer somewhat more humid areas, or the rebollo oak or melojo (found growing in the vicinity of the riverbeds or in the high areas of the park, occupying the shady areas due to its need for more water than the other three oaks.)

Most common growing amongst these trees are strawberry tree, rosemary, heather and rockrose. Herbaceous species such as Paeonia officinalis subsp. microcarpa, Paeonia broteri, Viola riviniana, Trifolium trukeante, Brachypodium sylvaticum, Festuca paniculata, Cynosurus cristatus and Vicia villosa can also be found.

In the bottoms of some valleys peat bogs have formed and are more than four thousand years old. In these areas you may find brabant myrtle, or carnivorous plants such as the flytrap or the pinguicula.

There are over a thousand vascular plants in Cabañeros National park and also 550 species of lichens (Thats a fifth of those present in the Iberian Peninsula.)

Fauna:

Cabañeros is characterized by its plain and mountain areas and most of the fauna lives between both environments thus benefiting from the ease of finding food in the grasslands and moving in search of shelter among the thick forests and higher ground.

In the sparsely wooded plains that makes up the grasslands it is possible to observe deer species , with large groups of females and calves in springtime and the belligerent encounters between the males during the rutting seasin during autumn. Ibex, wild boar and fox are also present in good numbers. Cabañeros is also the habitat of medium-sized carnivores such as wildcat, genet, marten, mongoose and badger.

If you are really lucky then Iberian lynx are also in the area.

Steppe birds such as little bustard and red legged partridge are here whilst raptors include Golden, Imperial and short-toed eagles as well as black and red kites. Also common and lesser kestrel can be found.

The higher and mountainous area of Cabañeros is also home to one of the black vulture , which makes its huge nests in the larger more inaccessible cork oaks. There are more than 200 pairs in the area and this is one of the largest breeding colonies in the world. It is interesting to note that due to the lack of cliff side nesting areas griffon vultures are much scarcer so the black vulture has less food competition.

Humans and Culture

The main human activities that took place in the Cabañeros area were charcoal extraction , grazing and agriculture. Other traditional activities that are still carried out are beekeeping and of course the cork harvest.

Archaeological remains can be found in the park’s area of ​​influence, from Bronze Age settlements to Roman and Visigothic ruins. There are remains of the Bronze Age in Cerro D. Rodrigo (Alcoba de los Montes), of the Palelolithic in Navalquera, Los Llanos, La Grajera and Los Rasos (Horcajo de los Montes), in Los Manantiales and Pueblonuevo del Bullaque (Retuerta del Bullaque). The Malamoneda necropolis in Hontanar stands out, corresponding to the Hispano-Roman, Visigoth, Muslim and medieval Christian stages.

Information/Visitors Centers in the area

Cabañeros National Park Visitor Center. (CM-4017, 1 Km from the village of ​​Horcajo de los Montes)

This is the largest visitor center in the park, with different rooms to discover the natural treasures of the Cabañeros National Park. The main exhibition area shows the different ecosystems of Cabañeros throughout the four seasons. There is also an exhibition displaying the culture and traditions of the region. There are also projection rooms, a library, picnic areas and free parking.

Hours are from 10 am to 6 pm from Friday, Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays.


Casa Palillos Visitor Center. (Access from the CM-403, five kilometers from Pueblo Nuevo del Bullaque, towards Santa Quiteria.)

This is an obligatory visit for wildlife enthusiasts and walkers as this centre provides complete information about footpaths plus fauna and flora visible depending on the season. Free parking, toilet services, and a picnic area.

Hours: Open every day
December-February from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
March-May from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
June-August from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sep-Oct from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.


Torre de Abraham Interpretation Center. (This is the visitor center next to the reservoir (Torre de Abraham)

With an exhibition on the fauna and flora of the park associated with the riverside forest, and a fantastic viewpoint over the reservoir this place is well worth the visit.

There is a recreational area with tables and swings, parking and toilet services.

The botanical footpath path follows the riverbed of the Bullaque river and is suitable for people with reduced mobility.

Hours: open every day, December-February from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., March-May from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., June-August from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sep-Oct from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.


Observatory of the Storks. (Located on the road from Pueblonuevo del Bullaque to Santa Quiteria, 3 km. from the Casa Palillos Visitor Center.)

From here you can see a large colony of white storks (Common cranes also during migration) plus the deer rut in autumn.


Information point in village of Navas de Estena.

Information on the park and tourist information office organised by the Navas del Estena Town Hall. Also has a historical exhibition on banditry in the area.

Hours: from Friday to Sunday and holidays (autumn and spring also open on Thursdays).
December-May from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
June-September from 9 to 19
October-November from 9 to 18.


Zoorama in Retuerta del Bullaque. (Ethnographic museum in the village of Alcoba de los Montes.)

The exhibition on the animals that live in the park is very good plus there is a very complete exhibition about the traditional way of life in the park with special emphasis on the shepherds and the charcoal burners cabins that gives the area its name. (Cabañeros = Cabins)

Hours: Weekends and bank holidays weekends.
October-March from 9 to 14 and from 15 to 18 hours
April and May from 9 to 14 and from 16 to 19
June-September from 10 to 14 and from 16 to 20.


Spains official tourism website for Cabañeros
https://www.spain.info/en/nature/cabaneros-national-park/

Walking routes (Ask in one of the visitor centres for more information)

  • Plaza de los Moros, in Horcajo de los Montes.
  • Sierra de Castellar de los Bueyes, in Horcajo de los Montes.
  • Colada de Navalrincón, which links the Visitor Centers of Casa Palillos and Torre de Abraham.
  • Boquerón del Estena, in Navas de Estena.
  • Chorro Route, Chorrera Chica and Rocigalgo, in Los Navalucillos.
  • Rocigalgo Massif Route, in Los Navalucillos.
  • Choker routes (Valhondo, Valle del Alcornocal and Robledal-Alcornocal).
  • Routes of La Viñuela.

There is a bit more info over at wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caba%C3%B1eros_National_Park


Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!

http://wildsideholidays.co.uk/

Monfragüe National Park

  • Region: Extremadura
  • Province: Cáceres
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1979
  • Upgraded to National Park: 2006
  • Park surface area: 18.852 hectares
  • Z.E.P.A (1988) Special Bird Protection Zone
  • Biosphere Reserve 2003

Points of interest

The area of Monfragüe National Park is noted for its importance as a breeding area for a selection of rare and protected birds, Black vulture, Black stork, Imperial eagle and Bonelli’s eagle.

Add to that the worlds most endangered wild cat, the Lynx which also resides here and one can see why it was upgraded from a natural to a national park.

The park altitudes range between 450 – 750m, covering an area 30km long and 7km wide. The habitat types are oak woods, scrub land, rocky out crops, river and reservoir plus dehesa.

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The Picos de Europa National Park

  • Region: Asturias, Cantabria, Castilla y León
  • Province: Asturias, Cantabria, León
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1918 enlarged in 1995
  • Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve 2003
  • Z.E.P.A
  • Park surface area: 64.660 hectares

Points of interest

The Montaña de Covadonga National Park ( now The Picos de Europa National Park) was established in Asturias in 1918, the first national park in Spain. The now much larger park covers three major massifs – Western, Central and Eastern which are all part of the Cordillera Cantabria range. The dramatic Cares river canyon, which is 1,500m deep, divides the western and central parts.

The protected area encompasses these spectacular limestone mountains which are approximately 40 km in length (E-W) and 20 Km wide (N-S). They are situated just 20km inland from the Atlantic coast in northern Spain. This gives them a mixture of both Mediterranean and Temperate climatic influences. Altitudes range from 75m to 2,646m with 200 points over 2,000 metres, all given greater relief by the depth and steepness of the gorges and ravines cut by the rivers and tributaries. The highest peaks are Torre de Cerredo at 2,646m, Naranjo de Bulnes at 2,519 m and Pico Tesorero at 2,570 m. The latter is where the borders of the three provinces meet.

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