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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Global Geoparks in Spain

THIS PAGE IS CURRENTLY BEING DEVELOPED PLEASE CHECK BACK TO SEE THE REGULAR UPDATES.

What is a global geopark? (from the Unesco website)

UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.

A UNESCO Global Geopark uses its geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society, such as using our earth’s resources sustainably, mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing natural disasters-related risks. By raising awareness of the importance of the area’s geological heritage in history and society today,

UNESCO Global Geoparks give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen their identification with the area. The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs and high quality training courses is stimulated as new sources of revenue are generated through geotourism, while the geological resources of the area are protected.

While a UNESCO Global Geopark must demonstrate geological heritage of international significance, the purpose of a UNESCO Global Geopark is to explore, develop and celebrate the links between that geological heritage and all other aspects of the area’s natural, cultural and intangible heritages. It is about reconnecting human society at all levels to the planet we all call home and to celebrate how our planet and its 4,600 million year long history has shaped every aspect of our lives and our societies. (Read more here https://en.unesco.org/global-geoparks)

Global geoparks in Spain

Andalucia
Cabo de Gata-Níjar natural park (Almeria)

Cabo de Gata is located in the southeast of the province of Almería. Its coastline is marked by cliffs, coves and beaches. This space was also declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1997 and includes the Cabo Gata-Níjar Natural Park and surrounding areas. Read more: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/cabo-de-gata-nijar

Sierras Subbéticas natural park (Cordoba)

The Sierras Subbéticas Global Geopark is noted for its stunning karstic landscape with Massive limestone and dolostone outcrop in the higher terrains. The karst landscape holds a great variety of elements such as poljes, great dolines and a dense subteranean network of around 900 recorded caves and abysses. The area is also famous for the abundance of ammonite fossils. Read More: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/sierra-subbetica/

Sierra Norte de Sevilla natural park (Seville)

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. Read More: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/sierra-norte-de-sevilla/

Granada global geopark (Granada)

The Granada global geopark extends over the depressions called the Hoya de Guadix and the Hoya de Baza and is surrounded by some of the highest mountains of the Iberian Peninsula such as the Sierra de la Sagra (2381 m), the Sierra Mágina (2187 m), the Sierra de Arana-Huétor (1940 m), the Sierra Nevada (3484 m), the Sierra de Baza-Filabres (2271 m), the Sierra de las Estancias-Cúllar (1471 m) and the Sierra de Orce-María (1612 m). Read more: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/granada-global-geopark/

Aragón.
Maestrazgo global geopark

The Maestrazgo global geopark lies between Zaragoza and Teruel in a very mountainous region at the eastern end of the Iberian System. Famous for dinosaur footprints and fossils. Read more: https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/maestrazgo-global-geopark

Sobrarbe global geopark

Castilla y León

Las Loras global geopark

(Global Geosite, in the valley of the Luna River) https://wildsideholidays.co.uk/los-valles-de-omana-y-luna-biosphere-reserve/

Castilla la Mancha

Molina-Alto Tajo global geopark

Cataluña

Origens global geopark
Cataluña Central global geopark

Extremadura

Villuercas-Ibores-Jara global geopark en Extremadura.

Galicia

Montañas do Caurel global geopark

Islas Canarias.

El Hierro global geopark
Lanzarote y Archipiélago Chinijo global geopark

País Vasco

Costa Vasca global geopark

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Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve

  • Region: Morroco and Spain (Andalucia (Cádiz and Málaga))
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2006
  • Protected area: Almost 900,000 hectares (terrestrial) and 17.976,82 hectares (marine)
  • Towns and villages: 108 (63 in Cádiz and Málaga and 45 in Tetuán, Larache, Tánger and Chefchauen).

Points of interest

The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve runs between southern Europe and North Africa and is dominated by a string of mountain ranges forming an open arch to the Mediterranean Sea (the Strait of Gibraltar) which in turn divides the mountain range known as the Bético-Rifeño system into two sections.

The uniqueness of this natural and socio-cultural crossroads makes this the first intercontinental biosphere reserve declared by UNESCO which was jointly proposed by the Ministry of the Environment of the Junta de Andalucía and the High Commissioner for Water and Forests of the Kingdom of Morocco.

Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve
The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve is located in sourthern Spain and northern Morocco

In Spain

Containing some of the most outstanding natural spaces in the eastern part of the province of Cádiz and the western part of Malaga, It is also the first of its kind to feature a sea within its boundaries.

It also includes two previously declared Biosphere Reserves in Andalusia: the Sierra de Grazalema natural park and the Sierra de las Nieves national park. The Alcornocales and the Estrecho Nature Reserves; the natural spaces of Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja, Sierra Crestellina, Desfiladero de los Gaitanes and Playas de los Lances beaches; and the natural monuments of the Duna de Bolonia sand dunes, Pinsapo de las Escaleretas fir forest and the Cañón de las Buitreras.

The reserve presents a rich and varied fauna, with some threatened or endangered species and the role of the Strait of Gibraltar stands out as a vitally important flyway for European and African migrating and resident birds.

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In Morocco

The Moroccan section of the intercontinental biosphere reserve is located in the region of Djbala on the Tingitane Peninsula, adjacent to the Strait of Gibraltar. It is bordered by the Gharb plain and the hills of Hafs to the west, the Rif Central to the east, the Mediterranean coastline to the north, and the western Prerif to the south.

The region is very mountainous and marked by two major crests: the Numidian chain and the mid-ocean limestone ridge. Extensive depressions are found in the crests, including the Chefchaouen furrow, which covers the central portion of the region.

The highest peak is Jebel Lakraa with a height of 2,159 metres. Included in the reserve are the Talassemtane National Park and sites such as Koudiet Taifour, Lagune de Smir, Jbel Bouhachem and Jbel Moussa.

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Talassemtane National Park

The Talassemtane national park was created in 2004 in order to conserve the last of Morocco’s threatened fir forests and also contains other plant species endemic to this Spanish/Maghrebi biodiversity hotspot such as the endangered Atlas cedar and Andalusian Belladonna Atropa baetica. (over 1380 plant species have been recorded here, 47 of which are endemic to Morocco).

The Intercontinental del Mediterraneo biosphere reserve is located in sourthern Spain and northern Morocco
The water falls of akchour in the National park of Talassemtane

The park’s proximity to the tourist destination of Chefchaouen makes it a popular hiking destination with walks such as the Bridge of God and the villages of El Kalaá and Akchour. The park’s elevation ranges from 350 meters to 1,050 meters.

The AllTrails website has some good advice on walking and hiking in this area: https://www.alltrails.com/parks/morocco/tangier-tetouan/talassemtane-national-park

Further reading


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Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve

  • Region: Galicia (la Coruña)
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2013
  • Protected area: 114.359,57 hectares (terrestrial) and 2.866,45 hectares (marine)
  • Main Towns: Abegondo, Aranga, Arteixo, Bergondo, Betanzos, Cambre, Carral, Coirós, Culleredo, Curtis, Irixoa, Miño, Oleiros, Oza- Cesuras, Paderne, Sada y Sobrado.

Points of interest

Located on the Cantabrian-Atlantic coast of Galicia, the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve is a mix of sea and mountain landscapes with cliffs, islands, coastal plains, beaches, dunes, estuaries, marshes and lagoons and includes 109 km of Atlantic coastline. There is a great natural wealth and biodiversity in this area that has coexisted with traditional and cultural practices of fishing and livestock farming.

In the mountainous area, the courses of the Mandeo and Mero rivers flow and intermingle amongst a variety of landscapes and riverside woodlands of alder and oak where paleotropical ferns, considered to be true living fossils can be found.

The core zones of the Costa de Dexo, Costa da Morte, Betanzos-Mandeo and the Abegondo-Cecebre’s reservoir play an important role in terms of conservation of the area and were already included in the Red Natura 2000 project. The Costa de Dexo in ​​the municipality of Oleiros runs along the marine strip between the Mera lighthouse and the port of Lorbé and includes all the islands and islets near the coast. This coastal strip is one of the few well-preserved natural spaces on the entire Costa Ártabra and is protected as a national natural monument. Other important coastal areas are the Costa de la Muerte and Betanzos-Mandeo.

The Costa de Dexo, part of the natura 2000 network and a protected national monument
The Costa de Dexo, part of the natura 2000 network and a protected national monument

The Camino de Santiago passes through the entire area via the Camino Inglés and the Camino Norte whilst the important Roman road “Per Loca Marítima” historically connected Astorga to Oporto.

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This short video gives an excellent overview of the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve and I realy like the music that goes along with it! 🙂


Information / visitor centres

Centro de interpretación Chelo

The main interpretation centre for the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve is easy to find located in the town of Chelo. There are permenent exhibitions covering the fauna and flora of the area along with ethnographic, cultural and historical information.

Museo Aula do Ma

The “Costa de Dexo” Natural Monument occupies the north coast of Oleiros town and the old lighthouse keeper’s house is home to the museum and interpretation centre “Aula do Mar

The Crendes and Piadela bird observatories.

The Abegondo-Cecebre reservoir, formed by the union of the Mero and Barcés rivers, was built between 1975-76 to cover the supply of drinking water to the municipalities of La Coruña, Arteixo, Bergondo, Cambre, Culleredo, Oleiros and Sada. Since March 2014, it has been part of the network of protected areas of the European Union (Red Natura 2000) as a Special Conservation Area (ZEC) and, within the Biosphere Reserve, it is one of those that form the core area. The reservoir attracts birds such as osprey, black kite, great crested grebe, great egret, green sandpiper, grey wagtail, Iberian chiffchaff along with various ducks, gulls and great cormorant all of which can be viewed from the Crendes and Piadela Bird observatories.

The official website for the Mariñas Coruñesas y Tierras de Mandeo biosphere reserve: http://marinasbetanzos.gal/en/


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Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve

  • Region: Castilla y León (León)
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2006
  • Protected area: Almost 57,000 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Candín, Peranzanes, Vega de Espinareda, Villafranca del Bierz, Balouta, Burbia, La Bustarga, Campo del Agua, Cariseda, Cela, Chano, Espinareda de Ancares, El Espino, Faro, Fresnedelo, Guímara, Landoiro, Lumeras, Moreda, Paradaseca, Paradiña, Penoselo, Pereda de Ancares, Pobladura de Somoza, Porcarizas, Prado de Paradiñas, Puente de Rey, San Martín de Moreda, San Pedro de Olleros, Sésamo, Sorbeira, Suárbol, Suertes, Tejedo de Ancares, Tejeira, Trascastro, Valle de Finolledo, Valtuille de Abajo, Valtuille de Arriba, Vega de Espinareda, Veguellina, Vilela, Villarbón, Villar de Acero, Villar de Otero, Villasumil.

Points of interest

Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve is located on the western limit of the Cantabrian mountains, on the border with Galicia and Asturias and includes the valleys of the rivers Cúa (Valle de Fornela), Ancares (Valle de Ancares) and Burbia. It borders with Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes, Navia y Becerrea biosphere reserve in the neighbouring province of Galicia (lugo).

This is a natural landscape of mountains sculpted by glacial and fluvial morphology with extensive heaths, chestnut groves and woodlands of oak, holly, yew and strawberry tree. traditional livestock farming coexist with iconic wildlife such as Iberian wolf, Cantabrian brown bear, chamois, roe deer, mountain goat, eagles, vultures and capercaille.

The chestnut (el castaño) is the symbol of the Ancares and has a natural, economic and cultural influence on the ecological habitats creating a refuge and feeding many wild species as well as providing work and income to many families in the area.

Other areas within the limits of this biosphere:

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Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve is impressive not only for its ecological value, but also for the traditional culture that survives in its towns, villages, landscapes and lifestyles. With a history that gives the surroundings a special character, it is also home to places as diverse as Peña Piñera archaeological site, with its bronze age rock paintings; Chano Iron Age hill fort settlement; La Leitosa Roman gold mine; and traditional architecture featuring raised granaries and pallozas (circular houses with thatched roofs where people and animals both lived) that can be visited in towns such as Balouta, Campo del Agua and Pereda de Ancares.

Information and visitor centres

There are various tourist information centres in the area but the four main places to visit to get the best out of a visit to Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve are :

  • The Interpretation centre in the village of Castro de Chano (Valle de Fornela).
  • The tourist office in Vega de Espinar.
  • The town of Villafranca del Bierzo has information points and monuments open to the public
  • The tourist office run by the town hall in Candín (Valle de Ancares).

The official website for Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve: http://www.ancaresleoneses.es/


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Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes – Navia y Becerrea biosphere reserve

  • Region: Galicia (Lugo)
  • Declared a biosphere reserve: 2006
  • protected area: Almost 54,000 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Cervantes, Navia de Suarna, Becerreá, Paradela, Quiezán, A Pobra, Rao, Son, Murias, San Román, Donis, San Pedro, Vilanova, Doiras, Cela, Noceda, Pintinidoira, Campa da Braña.

Points of Interest

Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes – Navia y Becerrea biosphere reserve is a unique mosaic of natural habitats. It is an Atlantic area of ​​high and medium mountains in which the presence of important forest and woodlands stand out dominated by oaks, birch and chestnut accompanied by hazelnuts, holm oaks, rowan, maples, yews and holly. Scrub areas are also widely represented, in which dry heaths and mountain meadows play an important role in the conservation of biodiversity. It borders with Los Ancares Leoneses biosphere reserve in neighbouring Castilla y León.

This variety of habitats existing in the area is home to an abundant diversity of flora and fauna. In terms of flora, endangered species such as Lycopodiella inundata or Zygodon conoideus stand out, as well as taxa of community interest such as Festuca elegans, Festuca summilusitanica, Narcissus pseudonarcissus subsp. nobilis or Narcissus asturiensis.

In the fauna groups, among the invertebrates, the presence of the crayfish (Austropotambius pallipes) stands out.

This is Cantabrian brown bear (Ursus arctos) and Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) territory and the very rare (almost extinct) capercaille (Tetrao urogallus) is also present in small numbers.

Other areas within the limits of this biosphere:
  • Place of Community Importance (SCI): Os Ancares-Courel, Cruzul-Agüeira.
  • Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA): Ancares.
  • Special Protection Area for Natural Values ​​(ZEPVN): Os Ancares-Courel, Cruzul-Agüeira, Ancares.
  • National Hunting Reserve.
  • Brown Bear Protection Zone.

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Information / visitor centres

Centro de Interpretación y Gestión de la Reserva Nacional de Caza dos Ancares (Campa da Braña)

the official website for Los Ancares Lucenses y Montes de Cervantes, Navia y Becerrea biosphere reserve: http://osancareslucenses.deputacionlugo.org/es/


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