Category Archives: Natural Parks in Andalucia

Sierra Norte de Sevilla

Photo – Cerro del Hierro (Author: Arturo Menor)

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Sevilla
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 177,484 hectares
  • Declared a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2011
  • Towns and villages: Alanís, Almadén de la Plata, Cazalla de la Sierra, Constantina, Guadalcanal, El Real de la Jara, El Pedroso, La Puebla de los Infantes, Las Navas de la Concepción, San Nicolás del Puerto

Points of interest

A semi-mountainous area, set between two other natural parks, which together form an extended protected range. To the east is Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche in Huelva province. To the west is Sierra de Hornachuelos in Cordoba province.

The Sierra Norte de Sevilla shares with its neighbouring parks endangered creatures such as the Iberian Lynx, Black stork and Imperial eagle.

Evergreen oak trees dominate the terrain, interspersed with meadows or dehesas.

This sparsely populated area has two large man made lakes and rolling hills with winding country lanes.

The Huesna river, which holds both common and rainbow trout, has a waterfall that has been declared a National Heritage site. It is near the source of the river (nacimiento del Río Huesna) close to the village of San Nicolás del Puerto.


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A second National Heritage site is El Cerro del Hierro, a mine in the Roman era and further exploited until the beginning of the twentieth century. It is a combination of open mining, water filled pits and natural Karst landscape with rich mineral content.

Flora

A small enclave of Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica) is the only one of its type in the province. Gall oaks (Q. faginea) are growing in the shady, humid areas. The Mediterranean climate favours Cork (Quercus suber) and Holm oak trees (Q. ilex). There are also Stone pines and groves of Sweet chestnut trees. The thickets are of Rockrose (Cistus sp), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), Wild cherry (Prunus avium), Fig (Ficus carica) Laurustinus (Viburnum tinus) and Turpentine tree (Pistacia terebinthus).

River banks are densely wooded and consist of Alder, Ash, Elm, Poplar, diverse species of Willows and Southern nettle tree.

Fauna

Red deer and Wild boar are the larger mammals, small and elusive carnivores are Genet, Fox, Badger, Mongoose, Wild cat, Pole cat and Otter. Amongst the raptors are Short-toed, Imperial and Bonelli’s eagles and Griffon and Black vultures, Red kite and Eagle owl.

Look out for the majestic Black stork. Azure-winged magpies, Bee-eaters, Golden orioles and Hawfinches are some of the colourful birds to look out for.

The large Ocellated lizard can sometimes be spotted sunbathing on a rock or fallen tree.

The Sierra Norte de Sevilla Global Geopark

The Sierra Norte de Sevilla Global Geopark is located at the north of the province of Seville in the Sierra Morena and. The geopark includes ten towns and villages within its limits: Alanís, Almadén de la Plata, Cazalla de la Sierra, Constantina, Guadalcanal, Las Navas de la Concepción, El Pedroso, La Puebla de los Infantes, El Real de la Jara and San Nicolás del Puerto

The geopark’s varied geological, archaeological and mining history has resulted in the recognition of many sites of geological interest including:

  • Karst and mine complex at El Cerro del Hierro natural monument: a spectacular paleo-karst which originated from Middle-Upper Cambrian erosion of Lower Cambrian limestone.
  • Los Covachos Cave in Almadén de la Plata is 300m long and drops by 26m with various galleries divided between two levels, containing over 1000 inscriptions.
  • La Sima abyss in Constantina.
  • Syncline, with Ordovician to Devonian sedimentary rocks and an abundance of pelagic fossil species.
  • A site containing the highest concentration of impressions of Lower Cambrian jellyfish recorded in the Iberian Peninsula.
  • The crag-land landscapes in the Geopark’s abundant igneous rock outcrops.
  • The Beja-Acebuches amphibolites interpreted as the remains of an ancient ocean floor, and a suture between tectonic plates.
  • Permian and the Triassic rocks which represent the filling of post-orogenic continental basins.
  • Cueva Santiago in Cazalla de la Sierra is a complex cave system with artifacts from Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures (before the Bronze Age, between about 4500 and 3500 BC).
  • The waterfalls and travertine deposits in the Hueznar River.
  • Guadalcanal is a former mining settlement, with medieval walls, Mudéjar churches and a castle.

Since the area was declared a global geopark, interpretation panels have been placed at visitor centers and and various information points in the area. (see information centres below)

Also in the area: (Ask about them in a visitor centre for more information)

  • There is a beautifully restored Carthusian Monastery near Cazalla de la Sierra, visitors can admire the architecture and view the Contemporary art which is on permanent display.
  • La Travesia Necropolis dating from the Bronze Age has been recognized for its archaeological value and is located in Almadén de la Plata.
  • There are numerous dolmens (megalithic tombs).

Information/Visitors Centers (The National Park has two visitor centres.)

Centro de Información El Robledo

Address: Ctra. Constantina-El Pedroso km. 1, 41450 Constantina. Sevilla

The El Robledo visitor centre is situated in the heart of the Sierra Norte Natural Park, 1,4 kilometres from Constantina. It is a quiet place with the sounds of riverine forests. During the summer months,aromatic plants typically found in monte mediterráneo woodland fill the air with their strong scents.

The El Robledo botanical garden, adjacent to the visitor centre. Is well worth a visit and holds a large collection of the plants to be found in the area.

Cortijo El Berrocal

Address: Camino Rural Almadén de la Plata-Los Melonares, km 5,5. 41240 – Almadén de la Plata (Sevilla)

The visitor centre is located in the public forest of Las Navas-Berrocal, a place of great scenic beauty where visitors can admire plant formations typical of the Sevillian highlands: holm oak and cork oak pastureland, riverine vegetation and Mediterranean forest with mastic, rockrose and strawberry trees.


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Sierra Subbética

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Córdoba
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1988
  • Park surface area: 32,056 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Cabra, Carcabuey, Doña Mencía, Iznájar, Luque, Priego, Rute and Zuheros

Points of interest

Set in the middle of Andalucia, the Sierra Subbética is a limestone semi-mountainous area with rolling hills and a high point of 1.570 metres named la Tiñosa. The main economy for the area comes from olive oil, therefore much of the area has intensive olive grove plantations.

The villages and towns in the Sierra Subbética are a delight to explore.

If you have an interest in fossils then this area should be on your bucket list for Andalucia as it is also a UNESCO global geopark and also part of the “Fossil route”

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Flora

Holm oak (Quercus ilex) woods have a shrubby companion mixture of lentisc, wild olive, retama and peonies. Hawthorn, spurge laurel, gorse and purple phlomis occupy the open areas exposed to the sun. Gall oaks (Quercus faginea) are to be found on the northern slopes in more humid parts along with laurustinus, kermes oak, buckthorn, smilax and strawberry trees.

The highest regions which are exposed to the elements contain the hedgehog zone or low, compact spiny plants including Alyssum spinosum and hedgehog broom (Erinacea anthyllis).

River banks hold poplar, willow, hawthorn, tamarisk, southern nettle tree and brambles.

Fauna

Raptors to be seen around the park are golden, short toed, booted, bonelli’s and imperial eagles, goshawk, sparrowhawk, kestrel, lesser kestrel, eagle owl, priffon vulture and Peregrine falcon.

On high rocky outcrops look for alpine accentor, blue rock thrush and rock thrush, whereas near water you may find dipper, kingfisher, various warblers and daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii).

Mammals include wild boar, spanish ibex, stone marten, fox, rabbit, hedgehog and wild cat.

The Sierra Subbetica has the most southerly population of the Miller’s water shrew (Neomys anomalus.) These red-toothed shrews add fish, amphibians, and crustaceans to their diet of worms and insects. They are adapted to their aquatic life by having long, stiff hairs on the rear feet that add surface area, increase traction, and trap air bubbles that enable them to scamper over the water surface and help them to swim.

At the rivers and streams the viperine snake and terrapin can be found and in drier areas watch out for the Lataste viper.

Sierras Subbéticas Global Geopark

The Route of the Ammonites of Las Sierras Subbéticas Geopark.

The limestone, which has been shaped by water for thousands of years, presents a fascinating karstic landscape with a great diversity of geological elements: poljes, karrens, sinkholes, chasms and more than 800 caves.

The rocks of the Sierras Subbéticas mountain ranges date back over 200 million years. Key chapters of the complex history of the Tethys Sea were recorded within the sediments, most notably ammonites, an ancient animal with a spiral shell that, due to the abundance and variety of their fossils, are an indisputable symbol of the Sierras Subbéticas Geopark

The Santa Rita Visitor Centre is part of the Route of the Ammonites in the Sierras Subbéticas Geopark (see below).

Also in the Sierra Subbética

  • Cuevas de las Murciélagos – The Bat Cave, near Zuheros was first recorded in 1868, but not explored until 1938.It contains impressive stalagmites and stalactites with underground lakes and caverns. Importantly it also holds unique rock paintings. Neolithic burial remains discovered in the cave show evidence of human occupation of the caves dating from over 35,000 years ago. Some of the finds from the cave are housed in the archaeological museum in Zuheros.
  • Almedinilla village also has a museum, set in an old watermill. The village has the remains of a Roman villa complex. Many historical remains have been discovered in the area from the Bronze age, Iberian, Phoenician and Roman eras.
  • The village of Cabra became one of the first Christian strongholds in the Roman province of Betica.

Information/Visitors Centers

Dedicated to the Cueva de los Murciélagos Natural Monument, the Cueva de los Murciélagos Ecomuseum is well worth a visit
Address – Zuheros – Carretera CO-6210, km. 4, 14870 .


In Cabra, the Santa Rita Visitor Centre displays the geological phenomena responsible for the unique physiognomy of the Sierras Subbéticas mountain range. It consists of a journey into the depths of the earth, showing the various formations caused by water modelling the limestone rock.

There are numerous interactive features displaying the natural and cultural heritage of the Sierras Subbéticas mountain range. An important part of the facilities are dedicated to geological resources and the Geopark. Visitors are greeted by a giant sculpture of an ammonite, a symbol of the importance given to geological heritage in this region.

“Address: Cabra – on the A-339 at km. 11


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Cabo de Gata-Níjar

  • Region: Andalucia.
  • Province: Almeria.
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1987.
  • Park surface area: 49.000 (34,000 terrestrial and 15,000 marine).
  • In 1997 it was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
  • In 2015 it was declared a global geosite.

Points of interest

Cabo de Gata-Níjar is an arid part of the Iberian Peninsular that is molded from volcanic rock giving rise to a demanding habitat for both plants and animals. Domed rock formations adorn the beaches and abrupt cliffs form tiny coves. The deficiencies in the soil have created an area of low growing, drought resistant vegetation.

This combination has lead to limited numbers of inhabitants who could survive off the salt works or fishing, allowing the area to remain relatively untouched to developement untill the tourism boom of the 80’s and 90’s.

The 300 hectares of salt pans are used by numerous species of birds resting on their migrational route as well the breeding and resident species.


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Flora

Dwarf fan palm is well adapted to the harsh demands. Wild olive trees, lentisc and kermes oaks are common vegetation in the scrub zones.

A pink flowered snap dragon (antirrhinum charidemi) is endemic to the park and dianthus (dianthus charidemi) can only found in a few localized area.
Some of the highly specialized plants are;

Verbascum charidemi, Teucrium charidemi, Androcymbium europaeum, Helianthemum alypoides, Linaria nigricans, Sideritis osteoxylla, Ulex canescens.

Saltwort, common reeds and glasswort grow in sandy, saline areas.

Fauna

Grey and purple heron, cranes, storks, black-winged stilts, oystercatchers and avocets can all be observed at the salinas (salt flats separated from the sea by a sand bar), as well as thousands of flamingos.

There are many migratory transitions here as ducks over winter and spring and autumn brings thousands of birds resting during migration.

Sea birds include yellow-legged gulls, razorbills, shags, terns, cory’s and balearic shearwaters.

The rare Dupont’s lark (Chersophilus duponti) lives on the steppe where there are also little bustards.

Italian wall lizards (Podarcis sicula) are the most unusual of the 15 or so reptiles. Others include ocellated lizards (Timon lepidus / Lacerta lepida), grass snakes (Natrix natrix) and Lataste’s viper (Vipera latasti).

The marine reserve protects the Mediterranean moray (Muraena helena), garfish (Belone belone), cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), and flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans) as well as a multitude of crustaceans, molluscs and fish.

The Cabo de Gata-Níjar UNESCO Global Geopark

The geodiversity of Cabo de Gata-Níjar UNESCO Global Geopark is mostly associated with the volcanic range of Cabo de Gata, the most complex and extensive volcanic deposit in the Iberian Peninsula of ca. 16 to 8 million years old. The volcanic complex is classified as intermediate type (andesites and dacites).

The emerged part is comprised of just 5% of the total complex, the rest can be found below the Alboran Sea, following the Carboneras Fault. It is also worth mentioning the scattered Tortonian and Messinian reefs deposits with excellent examples of Tyrrhenian fossilized beaches, and the Quaternary alluvial and coastal plain with a Wetland of International Importance known as Las Salinas.

The exceptional weathering conditions of the territory and the sub-desert dwarf vegetation allow the visitor to enjoy the geological landscape: domes, lava flows, columnar jointing, alluvial fans, coastal cliffs, dykes and fossilized reefs constructions. Inside the UNESCO Global Geopark, 39 geological sites of cultural, scientific and didactic interest have been identified, most of them also included in the Andalusian Inventory of Geological Sites.

The official UNESCO website: https://en.unesco.org/global-geoparks/cabo-de-gata-nijar

Also in the area

You can visit a cave called Cueva Ambrosio and the fort on top of the hill named Cerro de las Canteras.
You can visit a cave called Cueva Ambrosio and the fort on top of the hill named Cerro de las Canteras.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Visitantes los Amoladeras

Los Amoladeras, between Retamar and San Miguel de Cabo de Gata on the AL822 at Km 7. (Approaching on the Murcia bound carriageway of the N-344 from Almería, turn off at the El Alquián exit and continue as far as the Retamar quarter. From there take the AL-3115 towards the village of Pujaire. The entrance to the visitor centre is at Km. 7, just after the intersection with La Rambla de Las Amoladeras)

The exhibitions at the Las Amoladeras visitor centre cover the fauna, flora, geological and cultural aspects of the area. Also, the existence of human settlements in the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Nature Park since the Neolithic period.

The different civilizations which subsequently colonized the area throughout history left their mark on the terrain, and this is reflected in the tour of the centre, which takes in traditional activities and crafts inherited from Arab culture, such as esparto, jarapa rugs and pottery.


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Sierra de las Nieves

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Málaga
  • 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)

Flora

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.

Fauna

The Spanish ibex is the most emblematic of the sierra (Capra pyrenaica hispanica), there are roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) Wild boar, Wild cat and Stone martin and introduced Mouflon.

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.

Also in the area

Information/Visitors Centers

Palace of Mondragón” Museum in Ronda town. Read more here at Ronda Today


Infomation centre Cortes de la Frontera (In the village of Cortes de la Frontera, Calle Jacaranda, 1)

The visitor centre in Cortes de la Frontera acts as a gateway to the nature reserves of Los Alcornocales, Sierra de Grazalema and Sierra de las Nieves.

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.


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Doñana National and Natural Parks

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Provinces: Sevilla, Huelva, Cadiz
  • 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.

Some lake areas are saline and others are supplied by freshwater streams. Pine and oak woodland plus scrub or maquis further enhance the diversity of one of the most important habitats in Europe. This accumulation of varied ecosystems is capable of sustaining an incredible assortment of wildlife.

Used as hunting grounds for royalty from the 14th century, it was made a reserve in 1963 and a national park in 1969, and it remains the largest protected area in Europe.

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Flora

A diverse collection of around 750 species of plants exist through the different habitats. There are four main types of vegetation: marshland/aquatic, salt-tolerant, open forest and heathland.

  • Marsh land types; Glasswort (Salicornia ramosissima), Seablite (Suaeda sp) and Perennial glasswort (Arthrocnemum perenne).
  • Brackish lagoon types; Reeds (Juncus maritimus) and Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora)
  • Dunes type; European beachgrass (Ammophila Arenaria), Portuguese crowberry (Corema album), Buckthorn (Rhamnus) and Juniper (Juniperus macrocarpa).
  • Inland dunes; Wild olive (Olea europea subsp oleaster) and Ash trees (Fraxinus angustifolia).
  • Forest; introduced stone pine (Pinus pinea) and Eucalyptus sp.
  • Heath lands; Tree heather (Erica scoparia), Heather (Erica ciliaris) Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) Thyme (Thymus tomentosa), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Lavender (Lavandula stoechas).

Four national endemics occur, each a protected species, Linaria tursica and grasses, Micropyropsis tuberosa, Gaudinia hispanica and Vulpia fontquerana.

Fauna

Mammals include the highly endangered Iberian Lynx (the closest to extinction of all the big cat species) Wild boar, Red deer, Fallow deer, Egyptian mongoose and European badger.

Reptiles, which are found especially in the dunes, include Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca), Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon), Lataste’s viper (Vipera latasti) and Spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus).

Common fish are carp (Cyprinus carpio) and Eel (Anguilla anguilla) plus a threatened species, the Iberian toothcarp (Aphanius iberus).

The Doñana National and Natural Parks are on the main migration routes between Europe and Africa making it a favorite with ornithologists with as many as 250 species found in the reserve each year.

This huge list includes resident Greater flamingos, Spoonbills and summer breeding Little bittern, Purple heron with wintering Black stork and Osprey to name only a few. The park is also home to one of the world’s largest colonies of the Spanish Imperial Eagle.

The best times for birdwatchers are considered to be

  • Spring; to see the influx of migrating birds arriving to breed, or rest before continuing their journey.
  • Autumn; to see the selection of migrating birds that collect to rest and feed before their crossing into Africa.
  • Winter; when the reserve is topped up by rain water and vast flocks of wildfowl – geese and ducks arrive in Doñana.
  • The summer months see the wetlands begin to dry and many of the spring visitors depart with temperatures hitting 40 degrees Celsius leaving only the summer residents. Amongst the numerous species are Griffon Vultures, Booted eagles, Red-necked nightjars, Bee-eaters and Hoopoe. Spanish Imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti), Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris), White-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) and Red-knobbed coot (Fulica cristata) are some of the rarities to look out for.

As well as the National Park of Doñana there is also a buffer zone (or pre-park area) around it, which is a designated Natural Park of Doñana (known in Spanish as Entorno de Doñana).

The National Park is under very tight protection, with public access restricted to its official visitor centres and some marked footpaths around them.

The Natural Park is less strictly protected with more open access but being a natural continuation of the National Park it is also of great importance for migratory and breeding birds, wildlife in general and tourism for the area

Research in the Park is of international scientific importance. Ornithological research has been carried out since the 1950s and studies have since been carried out on vertebrate zoology, botany, ecology, plant ecology, entomology, limnology, geography, ethnology, pesticides and diseases.

Also in the area of Doñana National and Natural Parks

Wood gathering, charcoal production, cattle-grazing, beekeeping and fish farming are traditional practices that occur within the park.

Market gardening forms a part of the agricultural land uses in the surrounding area. Rice farming covers over 38,000 hectares of former salt marsh areas with water from the Guadalquivir used for irrigation.

Intensive fruit farming (Strawberries) and illegal wells have caused issues over the years creating clashes between local farmers and ecologists

El Rocio is a small, sleepy lake side village of wide sandy streets whose focal point is the “Santuario de Nuestra Señora de el Rocio” Church. There is a religious festival at El Rocio each year coinciding with Whitsunday which brings approximately a million pilgrims from every part of Spain. There is an explosion of music, dance, traditional dress and flower adorned wagons, drawn by mule or oxen.

For the rest of the year the village remains virtually unihabited in comparison.

Information/Visitors Centers

Remember that the Doñana area is huge and has quite a few “official” interpretation centres. Most towns and villages also have their own municipal information centres. Your first resource for guides and leaflets for the area would also be your hotel reception.

La Rocina (Information Centre, walks and hides)

In the village of El Rocio, this visitor centre has a nice and accessible, easy hike with a few observation points overlooking the marshes. The path also takes you through some other ecosystems such as the scrubland.

El Acebuche (Information centre, café, walk-ways and hides)

Close to El Rocio on the road to Matalascañas this Center (OBLIGATORY VISIT IF YOU ARE IN THE AREA) offers an excellent information service to visitors. There is normally a live TV feed showing the current captive breeding area of the Iberian lynx. There is also an audiovisual room and well marked footpaths to hides and areas of marsh and scrubland.

El Acebuche is also the start point for guided visits to the National Park of Doñana in all-terrain vehicles, accompanied by guide-driver, on a route of around 70 kms. This guided route takes you through the different ecosystems of the National Park.

Palacio del Acebrón

(On the A-483 take the turning for La Rocina and El Acebrón. Once you have passed the La Rocina visitor centre continue for 6 kilomtres on the H-9021)

Once a private hunting estate the an ethnological museum inside in very interesting with lots of detail and is free to enter

José Antonio Valverde (water side café/hide and great information)

Road access not well marked and from Villamanrique de la Condesa, Puebla del Río and Isla Mayor it is about 25 km. Access is through unpaved tracks. Ask in your hotel or other visitor centre to double check opening times before you make the trip!

This Visitor Centre is located on a small hill known as Cerro del Palo, from which there is a great view of the Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra. (Not to be confused with Fuente de Piedra in the province of Malaga.) Inside there is a fantastic view from the large windows that looks out onto the lagoon. There is also an excellent exhibition of photographs of the lagoons and other wetlands of Andalusia.

Ask about guided tours for wildlife watching.

The center was named after Jose Antonio Valverde. A biologist and ecologist born in 1926 in Valladolid who was one of the pioneers of the conservation of wetlands in Andalusia. He died in Seville
In 2003.

Fábrica de hielo (Ice Factory).

At the southern point of the Guadalquivir estuary. (Av. Bajo de Guía, S/N, 11540 Sanlúcar de Barrameda)

This interpretation centre offers an overview of the area from the flora and fauna that make up the landscape to the richness of the marine ecosystem associated with the mouth of the Guadalquivir.

Dehesa Boyal near Villamanrique de la Condesa. Camino del Bujeo in front of the sports ground.

The excellent Dehesa Boyal visitors centre is in the village of Villamanrique de la Condesa. It offers visitors general information about the Natural Park of Doñana and the fauna and flora of the area and an exhibition detailing traditional uses and exploits of nearby populations such as coal production, pineapple harvesting, beekeeping, cork mining and cotton are also part of the sample.

This centre also arranges guided visits, hiking, horseriding and is a popular destination for schools for education courses. (See the website here.)


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Bahía de Cádiz

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Province: Cádiz
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 10,522 hectares
  • Towns and Villages: San Fernando, Chiclana de la Frontera, Puerto Real, Puerto de Santa María and Cádiz

Points of interest

This 5km bay area (Bahía de Cádiz) is a wintering ground and summer breeding area to 200 different aquatic bird species.

This Atlantic tidal area consists of sandy beaches, river estuary, marshlands, salt pans, dunes and rocky inlets.

Extensive pine groves once covered a large part of this area.

The tidal marsh of Sancti Petri, which is situated in Chiclana de la Frontera, to the south of the Bay of Cádiz and which forms a part of this natural park, is an area of high scenic value, given that is one of the few marshes that has not been altered by its use as a salt mine. In addition, the condition of the island and the existence of a large stone pine forest (Pinar del Coto de la Isleta) at higher grounds clearly contributes to an image of what the natural landscape of the Bay of Cádiz must have been like many years ago.

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Flora

Flora in the Bahía de Cádiz is made up of plants that have adapted to living in sand with saline atmospheres and tidal flow. Cord grass, glasswort or maritime purslane, among others, have an important presence, whilst in the transition of the marshland into dry land there are grasses such as rostraria and barren brome.

On the intertidal plains, rich in nutrients, there are submerged meadows of gracilaria and algae, such as ulva linza and the sea lettuce. These seafloors, rich in food, half way between The Strait and the Doñana marshes, play an important role in the migratory movements of birds, enabling many birds to winter on the coast

In the area and endemic to Andalucia are Armeria gaditana, Taraxacum gaditanum and Hymenostemma pseudoanthemis, the latter two are recorded as vulnerable on the list of endangered plants.

Enclaves of Stone pine, (Pinus pinea) including a woodland of 6 hectares at Sancti Petri. Edible pine nuts are collected from this species. These forests are a sanctuary for birds such as blackbirds, robins, owls and kestrels, as well as for chameleons, amphibians and mammals like the European hedgehog and the dormouse.

Fauna

There are a great amount of aquatic birds like grebes, cormorants, gulls and gannets. White stork, herons and avocets nest here. Flamingo and osprey can also be observed. Invertebrates such as shrimps, crabs, clams, cockles along with the fish sole, sea bream, grey mullet and sea bass are abundant. It is an important breeding ground for many commercial species of fish and crustaceans.

Also in the area

Phoenician and Roman remains. Numerous galleons sunk off the coasts.

The site is surrounded by urban centres of around 400,000 inhabitants and the Cádiz port. This of course creates urban, tourism and leisure environmental pressures on the protected area.

Information/Visitors Centers

Parque Natural Bahía de Cádiz visitor centre. (Calle Buen Pastor, carretera de Campo Soto (opposite camposoto beach))

The Visitor Centre of the Bay of Cadiz Nature Reserve is in San Fernando (Cádiz). The recently built facilities, a model with regards to sustainability, are located at the Salina of La Leocadia, opposite the camposoto beach. The ideal place for a visit to this Nature Reserve, as its facilities offer you diverse information on the area and the activities possible there.


Wildside Holidays – Spain

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http://wildsideholidays.co.uk/