Tag Archives: Madrid

Regional Park of the Guadarrama River

  • Region: Madrid
  • Declared a Regional Park: 1999
  • Park surface area: 22,116 hectares
  • Towns and villages: El Álamo, Arroyomolinos, Batres, Boadilla del Monte, Brunete, Colmenarejo, Galapagar, Majadahonda, Moraleja de Enmedio, Móstoles, Navalcarnero, Las Rozas de Madrid, Serranillos del Valle, Sevilla la Nueva, Torrelodones, Valdemorillo, Villanueva de la Cañada, Villanueva del Pardillo and Villaviciosa de Odón.

Points of interest

The Regional Park of the Guadarrama River (Curso Medio del Río Guadarrama y su Entorno) is located to the west of Madrid. It is a 50 km long and narrow strip encompassing the banks of the Guadarrama River.

In its northern part, the strip widens to integrate part of the course of the Aulencia River (the main tributary of the Guadarrama). The Valmayor reservoir, filled by the Aulencia river, is also included within this protected natural space.

The Regional Park protects approximately 38% of the course of the Guadarrama, whose total length is 131.8 km. The demographic and human population pressure, derived from the existence of numerous large towns in the vicinity (some on the very edge of the river) constitutes the main threat to this protected natural space and almost 90 percent of this regional park is privately owned.

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There are five major types of habitats and ecosystems such as groves and riverbanks, holm oak woodland, low scrub and grasslands, pines and and arable farmed cropland. In the holm oaks and pastures, there are nesting and wintering birds, among which the Iberian imperial eagle stands out, one of the most endangered bird species in the world. Short – toed eagle, booted eagle, goshawk, black vulture, eagle owl and black stork have important populations in the area as do great bustard, little bustard and curlew.

The southern end of the Regional Park of the Guadarrama River is of least environmental interest in the Park, given its severe degradation by human habitation. The exception is located in the municipality of Batres, which has two enclaves of great ecological value, the Cárcava del Arenal and the Monte de Batre with species such as imperial eagle, golden eagle, Bonelli ‘s eagle and black vulture present.

Information/Visitors Centers

There doesn’t seem to be a specific Interpretation or information centre for the Curso Medio del Río Guadarrama y su Entorno though many of the towns and villages have tourist offices that can help you.

However, if you are in Madrid province then I would advise a visit to the National park of Guadarrama

Peñalara Visitors Center in Rascafría (Madrid)
Ctra. M-604, Km 42. Puerto de los Cotos. Rascafría

Valle de la Fuenfría Visitors Center in Cercedilla (Madrid)
Ctra. de las Dehesas, km 2 Cercedilla

La Pedriza Visitors Center in Manzanares El Real (Madrid)
Camino de la Pedriza, s/n Manzanares El Real

Valle de El Paular Visitors Center in Rascafría (Madrid)
Ctra. M-604 km 27,6 Rascafría

Valsaín Visitors Center (Boca del Asno) – La Granja de San Ildefonso (Segovia)
Ctra CL- 601 km 14,3 Valsaín

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Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park

  • Region: Madrid
  • Declared a Regional Park: 1985
  • Declared a Biosphere reserve: 1993
  • Park surface area: 42,583 hectares
  • Towns and Villages: Alcobendas, Becerril de la Sierra, Cercedilla, Collado-Villalba, Colmenar Viejo, El Boalo, Galapagar, Hoyo de Manzanares, Las Rozas, Madrid, Manzanares El Real, Miraflores de la Sierra, Moralzarzal, Navacerrada, Rascafría, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Soto del Real, Torrelodones and Tres Cantos.
Points of interest

The Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park (Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares) is one the largest protected natural areas in the Community of Madrid and now comes under the protection of the Guadarrama National Park.

It contains a valuable ecological landscape, is located in the northwest of the region and extends around the upper reaches of the Manzanares river on the southern slopes of the Guadarrama mountain range. There are numerous ecosystems and habitats such as pine and oak woodlands and various wetlands such as the two large reservoirs of Santillana and El Pardo

Monte de Viñuelas, which is located to the east of the park is also a Special Protection Zone for Birds (ZEPA ).

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The remarkable variety of ecosystems, together with the excellent state of conservation creates a great biodiversity regarding the flora so the area is a botanists delight.

There are around 1,400 different plant species recorded within the park. Trees include evergreen and deciduous Oaks (Quercus ilex), (Quercus pyrenaica), Poplar (Populus alba, P.tremula, P. nigra), Alder (Alnus glutinosa), Birch (Betula alba), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), Stone pine (Pinus pinea) and Mountain ash (Sorbus acuparia).

Most well known are the low growing brooms (Cytisus purgans) that cover the slopes with fragrant yellow flowers in spring. There is an extensive range of gorse and brooms that inhabit these mountains such as Echinospartum barnadesii, Adenocarpus hispanica, Adenocarpus complicates, Genista falcate and Cytisus scoparius. Some hold special habitats such as the flat growing Genista carpetana that creeps over rocks, in oak leaf litter are Genista cinerea, Cytisus scoparius, Cytisus multiflorus or close to pines Genista florida.

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) grows in woodland clearings and Dog rose (Rosa canina) grows under the pine trees with herbs such as oregano, thyme and rosemary in open areas.

Singular trees

Within the Park there are several arboreal specimens included within the category of Singular Trees Ask in one of the visitor centres about…

  • The juniper in the Cerro de Valviejo
  • The Arizona cypress in Viñuelas
  • The Scots pine in Cadena
  • The poplar in Caño Viejo
  • The cork oak from Las Casiruelas


Mammals of the park include Beech marten, Wild cat, Otter, Pyrenean muskrat, Ávila snow vole, Pygmy shrew, Long-tailed shrew and Cabrera’s vole,

Raptors that can be seen are Golden eagle, Booted eagle, Short-toed eagle, Imperial eagle, Egyptian vulture, Goshawk, Griffon vulture, Black vulture, Montagu’s harrier, Sparrowhawk, Red and Black Kite, Hobby and Tawny Owl.

Other birds noted are White stork, Black stork, Black redstart, Rock thrush, Bluethroat, Alpine hedge sparrow, Ortolan Bunting, Stonechat, Citril Finch, Rock Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Turtledove, Water Pipit, Dipper, Yellow Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Iberian green woodpecker, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Wood Lark, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Dartford Warbler and Whitethroat.

Amphibians and reptiles include common Spade foot (Pelobates fuscus), Midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans), and European tree frog (Hyla arborea), Schreiber’s green lizard (Lacerta schreiberi), Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus), Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis hispanica), Ocellated lizard (Timon lepida), Lataste’s viper (Vipera latastei) and European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis).

Information/Visitors Centers

The Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park has two visitor centers that are now managed by the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park

Centro de attención de visitantes “La Pedriza”

The Center is located in the La Pedriza area, next to the asphalt track that connects with the Collado de Quebrantaherraduras with Canto Cochino, in the municipality of Manzanares El Real and two kilometers from the town. It is accessed from the M-608 road that connects Collado Villalba and Venturada, by the detour at kilometer 25,700. The center is located approximately 1.3 km on the La Pedriza road and about 200 meters before the access barrier.

The main building is the headquarters of the environmental education area of the Guadarramma National Park and has a permanent exhibition “Journey to the Sierra de Guadarrama“, with displays detailing the high peaks to the valleys of the Sierra, the fauna and flora encountered. In the outdoor enclosure, nine thematic areas show different natural aspects of the Sierra de Guadarrama.

The Visitor Information Point is a building located just after passing the barrier at the entrance to La Pedriza, it has brochures, route maps of the area and recommendations for the visit etc. It also has an exhibition area with temporary exhibitions.

Centro de attención de visitantes Valle de la Fuenfria

Located in Cercedilla, in the heart of the Fuenfría Valley. From the AP-6 / Madrid-A Coruña, exit 47 towards M-600 / El Escorial / Guadarrama towards Guadarrama and then the M-614 / Navacerrada-Guadarrama, once in Guadarrama take the M-622 to Cercedilla, and continue by the Ctra. de las Dehesas until Km 2.

The Center is surrounded by magnificent Scots pine forests, a unique enclave of the Sierra de Guadarrama, in the heart of the Fuenfría Valley. In this natural environment of great environmental value there is a wide network of trails and footpaths that run through the valley.

The permanent exhibition consists of a series of interpretive panels and an audiovisual on the Fuenfría valley and throughout the year there are several temporary exhibitions.

Outside there is a botanic garden with examples of local and endemic plantlife.

The official website for the Guadarrama National Park is here: https://www.parquenacionalsierraguadarrama.es/en/

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Reserva del Regajal-Mar de Ontígola

With an area of ​​almost 630 hectares, the El Regajal-Mar de Ontígola Nature Reserve (Reserva del Regajal-Mar de Ontígola) habitat brings together a characteristic fauna of the Mediterranean-sub-desert mountains, with species such as hare, rabbit, wild boar, tawny owl, partridge and blackbird being very common. The gypsum hills with endemic flora species and unique vegetation and are populated with species such as kermes oak and rosemary are well preserved.

The Natural Reserve of El Regajal-Mar de Ontígola is one of the most unknown natural spaces in the Community of Madrid, despite having a great wealth of fauna . This is due to the fact that most of its 630 hectares are on private farms. (The one of El Regajal stands out, which has its own vineyards and winery attached to the designation of origin of Vinos de Madrid.)

However, the main wildlife interest here lies in its butterfly populations for which it has been internationally recognized as one of the most important butterfly reserves in Spain. Over 100 of the 230 odd species of lepidoptera of Spain have been recorded here which is interesting not only for their number but also for the rarity of some of them. In 1979 entomologists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ranked El Regajal as the fifth world priority in conservation due to the importance of its butterflies.

The site is included within the Special Conservation Zone (ZEC) of Las Vegas, slopes and moors of the southeast of Madrid, which, in turn, is listed as a Site of Community Interest (SCI) and attached to the Natura 2000 Network of the European Union. Due to the importance of its avifauna, it is also part of the Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA) of the Carrizales and Sotos de Aranjuez.

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An interesting history.

The origins of the Sea of ​​Ontígola go back to 1552, when Felipe II (1527-1598), while still a prince, signed an instruction in which he urged Diego López de Medrano, governor of the administration of the territory of Aranjuez to build “a very large lagoon in the Ontígola stream, and another two or three small ones in the one towards Ciruelos in order to atract birdlife“. (Presumably ducks for eating?)

The works began at the end of 1560 under the direction of Juan Bautista de Toledo (1515-1567) and the master builders Juan de Castro and Francisco Sánchez participated as well as the Dutch dyke experts Adrian van der Müller and Pierre Jasen. The project was completed in 1572.

Although the reservoir was conceived for the irrigation of different orchards and gardens, it also developed a rather gruesome recreational reputation whereby in the 17th and 18th centuries sailing was practiced and tournaments, parties and games were held. One particular “game” consisted of hunting animals, preferably fighting bulls, which were thrown into the lagoon from the cliffs and once in the water killed in the most dramatic way possible..

In 1625, Felipe IV (1605-1665) commissioned the architect Juan Gómez de Mora (1586-1648) to build an artificial island, on which a gazebo, a jetty and a firing point were set up. Seventy years later, in 1695, a small bullring was also built in the vicinity of Mar de Ontígola

In the 18th century, various hydraulic infrastructures were built, aimed at optimizing the flow of the reservoir. In 1734 the so-called Mar Chico was created, a settling pond linked to the Mar de Ontígola, from which a water conduit came to the island’s garden and during the reign of Carlos IV (1748-1819) a new canal was made that reached the garden of the Prince.

The Regajal-Mar de Ontígola is on the Red List of Heritage in Danger due to its poor state of conservation. Regarding the dam, both the retaining wall and the spillways are covered with earth and weeds, which causes the water to overflow from the crown, with the consequent degradation of the structure. Likewise, the accumulation of sludge and the proliferation of invasive plants, mainly reeds , has caused a notable decrease in the storage capacity of the reservoir.

Of course the dilemma is clean and repair or just let nature have its way. Time will tell.

Current threats and future

This enclave so privileged from the point of view of biodiversity, whose conservation depends on the Community of Madrid, is, however, threatened. So much so that in the last 25 years up to seven species of diurnal butterflies have disappeared , according to studies by the three researchers José González Granados, Carlos Gómez de Aizopurúa and José Luis Viejo Montesinos, who have been studying the wildlife here for many years.

In 2001 these naturalists embarked on a project, together with the Community of Madrid, which consisted in the creation of a butterfly farm for the breeding and study of autochthonous species but In 2011 the project failed and what was once the largest butterfly farm in Spain has been closed. In 2013, the Aranjuez City Council requested a grant from the European Life program to be able reopen but as of 2021 still no sign of it reopening…….

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The Fauna Refuge of San Juan Lagoon

The Fauna Refuge of San Juan Lagoon (Refugio de fauna de la Laguna de San Juan) covers an area of 40 hectares and is found along the lower course of the River Tajuña. It is an important wetland area close to the town of Chinchón and one of the largest bird reserves in the Community of Madrid.

It became a protected area in1991 and is devoted to preserving, restoring and improving the fauna and flora for biological, scientific and educational purposes.

Surrounded by reeds, rushes and cane as well as other species It is perhaps the best example of the marshy ecosystem in the province of Madrid and an ideal habitat for water fowl. Over 43 species of vertebrates have been catalogued, of which around half are birds. Some make their home here all through the year whilst others are wintering or make sporadic visits during migration periods.

There is a small hide and a few information panels explaining some of the wildlife present in the area (Mostly birdlife)

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In fact Chinchón is a great place to base yourself if you don’t want to be in the main city of Madrid but still have easy access to the Natural Park areas around Madrid Province.

The official website for the town of Chinchón is here: http://www.ciudad-chinchon.com/turismo/en/conoce-chinchon/bienvenida.php

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