- Region: Valencian Community
- Province: Castellón
- Declared a Natural Park: 1989
- Park surface area: 3,293 hectares
- Towns and villages: Benicasim, Borriol, Cabanes, Castellón de la Plana, Puebla Tornesa
Points of interest
The Desert de les Palmes Natural Park (Parque Natural del Desierto de las Palmas) is located in the southeastern area of the province of Castellón and has suffered several damaging fires over the last few decades (last major fire 1992) leaving it relatively lacking in wild forested areas but it is in a in a steady process of regeneration
The name of the park can be misleading and one could be forgiven for thinking that this is a dry desert area but in fact the name is due to the presence of the religious Carmelite order that named its spritual retreats “Holy Deserts” whilst the the second part of the name is due to the abundance of the European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), which is the only endemic palm tree in Europe.
There are a series of important ruins such as the Castle of Montornés and that of Miravet and the Hermitage of Les Santes. The presence of the Carmelite order has endowed the park with two important monuments: The old monastery now in ruins from the 17th-18th centuries and the new monastery dating from the 18th century. Also noteworthy (but outside the park limits) is the presence of Castell Vell and the hermitage of La Magdalena
Find a hotel in the Desert de les Palmes Natural Park
Typical Mediterranean trees and shrubs can be found with species such as maritime pine (Pinus pinaster), aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), Viburnum (Viburnum tinus), heather (Erica arborea), juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus), European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), grey-leaved cistus (Cistus albidus) and Montpellier cistus (Cistus monspeliensis).
Mammals include Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Genet (Genetta genetta) plus the extremely elusive Wild cat (Felix sylvestris).
The skies above the high exposed areas may have Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus), Booted eagle (Aquila pennata), Short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus), Red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) with the Eagle owl (Bubo bubo) more often only heard.
Tawny Owl (Strix aluco), Jay (Garrulus glandarius) and Common crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) may be seen around the pine woods. The rocky areas are home to Blue rock thrush (Montícola solitarius).
Amongst the reptiles and amphibians are Iberian water frog (Rana perezi), Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita), Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra), Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis hispanica), Bedriaga’s Skink (Chalcides bedriagai), Viperine Snake (Natrix maura), Lataste’s Viper (Vipera latastei) and Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus).
Centro de Información “La Bartola” (Carretera de la Magdalena al Desert , km 8, CV- 147, Benicassim)
Divided into four themed rooms of fauna, flora, a film presentation, local human habitation and farming practices, this centre is well worth a visit to learn about the wildlife of the area. There are also well informed staff who can assist with walking routes and the top places to see in the area.
The official website for the Desert de les Palmes Natural Park is here: https://parquesnaturales.gva.es/es/web/pn-desert-de-les-palmes