Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park

Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park

  • Region: Castilla la Mancha
  • Province: Albacete and Ciudad Real
  • Towns and villages: Argamasilla de Alba, Ruidera, Alhambra, Ossa de Montiel and Villahermosa.
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1979
  • Park surface area: 3,772 hectares
Points of interest

The Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park acts as a buffer zone to the Tablas de Daimiel National Park and It consists of a complex lagoon system made up of fifteen lagoons, which over 30 kilometers constitute the Alto Guadiana valley and in its highest part the source of the Guadiana river.

A lot of activities are available in the area such as hiking, diving, kayaking, paddle surfing, sailing, etc. There are bathing areas during the summer, and good places for sport fishing (See below)

In the lagoons, the marshy vegetation that is usually found consists of great fen-sedge (Cladium Mariscus), a species classified as vulnerable in Castilla la Mancha. Reeds (phragmites australis), and southern cattail (thypa dominguensis, Thypha latifolia) and lakeshore bulrush (Scirpus lacustris) are also present

The marsh vegetation provides shelter and nesting place for a multitude of animal species that live in this natural park. However, in some lagoons, the marsh vegetation has been removed in order to create false beaches for human summer visitors. That said there seems to be a good balance of wildlife protection and human enjoyment of the countryside here in this natural park.

Bordering the Ruidera lagoons, and at the bottom of the valleys and cliffs, near streams and sources, a humid microclimate of great biological interest is created. There are small woodlands formed mainly of deciduous trees These groves do not represent the original vegetation of the area, but rather are a mosaic of repopulated species, mainly black poplars (Populus nigra) and white poplar (Populus alba) along with fig trees (ficus carica), elm , willows, ash , brambles, and other species of shrubs, as well various species of fruit trees.

Find a hotel close to the Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park
Cervantes and Don Quixote – The Cueva de Montesinos.

One of the most extravagant and enigmatic episodes of Don Quixote is when he enters what is known as “Cueva de Montesinos”, but not before always invoking his beloved Dulcinea del Toboso, whom he asks for her protection, “… She is his mistress and through her the virtues of the gentleman are strengthened … ”. Illuminated with a torch and sword in hand he enters the cave, tied to a rope a hundred fathoms long. Discovering, although in dreams, a wonderful alabaster world where he contemplates the wonders that the cave contains.

The Montesinos Cave is located on the road from Ruidera to Ossa de Montiel and is well signposted. (Ask about a guided visit in the information centre – see below)


This wetland is of special interest as a nesting area and a rest area for passage migrants. Aquatic birds, such as the Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Lesser Grebe (Tallibaptus nigricollis), as well as anatidae such as red-crested pochard (Netta rufina), common pochard (Aythya ferina) and Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). In winter Tufted duck (Aythya fuligula) are present.

Among the reedbeds great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus) are numerous and kingfisher (Alcedo Athis) are usually found on the banks of streams. Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) breeding in the secluded areas of the lagoons along with little bittern (Ixobrichus minutus). Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) makes an appearance during autumn and winter.

Among the raptors Marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) nests in the marsh vegetation and hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) is present during the winter months. In the mountains around the park you can see the Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus), Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus), Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), Goshawk (Accipiter gentiles), Little Owl (Asió otus), Scops owl (Otus scops) and Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo), with several pairs that use the park to nest and feed.

This diversity birds that populate the Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park, makes it an exceptional place for bird watching.

Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park
This area comprises 15 lagoons covering a total surface area of 3,772 hectares. Additionally, there is an additional 1,800 hectares designated as a wildlife refuge. These combined areas extend for 30 kilometers, forming the Alto Guadiana valley. At its highest point within the valley, you can find the birthplace of the Guadiana River

The mammals that we can find in this protected area are found in the groves, areas of scrubland and holm oaks. Common species of these environments is Wildcat (Felis sylvestris), Fox (Vulpes vulpes), and wild boar (Sus scrofa). Other common species are Common Shrew (Crocidura russula), Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaens), Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Otter(Lutra lutra).

With many cavities and caves in the area nine species of bats have been recorded such as the southern long-eared bat (plecotus austriacus), shreibers bat (Miniopterus schreibersi), and the large horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrum-equinum) that form important colonies inside the caves such as the well-known “Cueva de Montesinos

Amphibians and reptiles

Amphibians are present including the marbled newt (Triturus marmoratus), the common toad (Bufo bufo), natterjack toad(Bufo calamita) as well as the southern tree frog (Hyla meridionales), and the common frog (Rana perezi).

Among the scrub formations and paths, it is fairly easy to spot Red-tailed Lizard, Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida), Iberian Skink (Chalcides bedrigai), Southern Smooth Snake (Coronela girondica), Ladder snake (Elaphe scalaris), Montpeliers Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) and European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis).


the Ruidera lagoons boast an interesting community of freshwater fish in the Upper Guadiana with species like barbel, chub, carp, pike and black-bass.

Fishing is allowed in various areas of the park but you need to ask in the information centre about permits and where you may and may not fish.

Information/Visitors Centers

Located close to Ruidera on the N-430 next to the junction with the road that runs parallel to the lagoons, The natural park information centre has all the information you need about the lagoons, walking routes, areas for swimmingand fishing permits.

There are exhibitions covering the fauna and flora of the lagoons as well as cultural history of the area and there is a small botanical garden with many species of plants that are present in the area.

Also available is a downloadable app from the Google Play Store. In both English and Spanish languages this guide has the most up to date information on the Lagunas de Ruidera Natural Park. The app includes, maps guides, audio information and information on walking routes in the area.

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