Category Archives: Natural Parks in Spain

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

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.

Read more about birdwatching holidays in Spain here: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/birds-and-birdwatching-in-spain/

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.

So, there you have my ten of the best natural parks to observe birds and wildlife in Spain


Ronda Today

Everything you need to know before you visit Ronda “The city of dreams” in Andalucia. https://www.rondatoday.com/

Visit Cádiz

Planning on visiting Cádiz? Tourist information. Monuments. Hotels. Activities. City guides: https://visitingcadiz.com/

The Caminito del Rey

Find tickets for the Caminito del Rey: https://www.caminodelrey.es/

Wildside Holidays – Spain

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.

Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum! https://iberianatureforum.com/

Discover Wildlife Watching in Spain: A Journey into Nature’s Heart

Discover wildlife watching in Spain and embark on an extraordinary adventure, where the wonders of wildlife await you. Delve into the heart of nature as you witness the splendor of our most cherished creatures in their natural habitats: the majestic brown bear, the regal Spanish imperial eagle, the awe-inspiring lammergeier, the elusive Iberian lynx, and the enigmatic Iberian wolf. Immerse yourself in magical experiences set amidst accessible landscapes and uncover the secrets of many successful conservation programs, dedicated to preserving these precious species.

Aiming for the Return of the Iberian Lynx in Aragón
Iberian lynx
Wildlife watching in Spain

In Spain, birdwatching becomes a thrilling pursuit, with the country’s strategic location between Africa and Europe attracting millions of migratory birds and boasting numerous globally unique species. Prepare to be captivated by the wealth of biodiversity that spans across the nation. With over 1,500 protected areas—comprising a quarter of the country—Spain offers unparalleled opportunities for exploration. Dive into the depths surrounded by fields of posidonia oceanica seagrass, sail alongside playful dolphins and majestic whales, and gaze upon the stars from breathtaking vantage points. The options are as diverse as they are enchanting.

Black Vulture - aegypius monachus - Birds and Birdwatching in Spain
Black Vulture – aegypius monachus

Journey through Spain’s national and natural parks and embark on an unforgettable odyssey. From the dramatic alpine landscapes to the lush Mediterranean forests, each park offers a unique experience tailored to every adventurer. Discover the beauty and magic of lakes, valleys, and mountains beyond your wildest dreams. Recognized by UNESCO for its abundance of biosphere reserves and geoparks, Spain stands as a beacon of environmental preservation and sustainable development. Within its borders you’ll find numerous Protected Natural Areas that adhere to the principles of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (ECST), ensuring a harmonious coexistence with nature.

The Natural Park of the Sierra de Grazalema - Walking and Wildlife Holidays in Spain
The Natural Park of the Sierra de Grazalema has also been declared a Biosphere Reserve, this is due to the diverse geography with high limestone mountains and deep gorges such as Garganta Verde
Continue reading Discover Wildlife Watching in Spain: A Journey into Nature’s Heart

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.

A few images of the Sierra de las Nieves national park

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.

Guided tours and activities close to the Sierra de la Nieves national park

Also in the area

The Sierra de las Nieves national park

Some nice sceneries in this video showing the protected area

Information/Visitors Centers

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.

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


Ronda Today

Everything you need to know before you visit Ronda “The city of dreams” in Andalucia. https://www.rondatoday.com/

Visit Cádiz

Planning on visiting Cádiz? Tourist information. Monuments. Hotels. Activities. City guides: https://visitingcadiz.com/

The Caminito del Rey

Find tickets for the Caminito del Rey: https://www.caminodelrey.es/

Wildside Holidays – Spain

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.

Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum! https://iberianatureforum.com/

Tajo International

  • Region: Extremadura
  • Province: Cáceres
  • Declared a Natural Park: 2006
  • Park surface area: 25.088 hectares
  • ZEPA 2000. Tajo Internacional y Riberos

Points of interest

The Tajo International natural park is a relatively recently registered park in Extremadura which was initially partly covered by an area of special protection for birds ZEPA in 2000.

The area is predominantly waterways with steep banks and therefore a haven for wildlife. Two birds in particular that need this tranquility are the Black vulture and Black stork, both of which are endangered species in Spain.

Mediterranean woodland covers the hills with rich vegetation along the water courses.

Continue reading Tajo International