Tag Archives: National Parks in Spain

The Picos de Europa National Park

  • Region: Asturias, Cantabria, Castilla y León
  • Province: Asturias, Cantabria, León
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1918 enlarged in 1995
  • Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve 2003
  • Z.E.P.A
  • Park surface area: 64.660 hectares

Points of interest

The Montaña de Covadonga National Park ( now The Picos de Europa National Park) was established in Asturias in 1918, the first national park in Spain. The now much larger park covers three major massifs – Western, Central and Eastern which are all part of the Cordillera Cantabria range. The dramatic Cares river canyon, which is 1,500m deep, divides the western and central parts.

The protected area encompasses these spectacular limestone mountains which are approximately 40 km in length (E-W) and 20 Km wide (N-S). They are situated just 20km inland from the Atlantic coast in northern Spain. This gives them a mixture of both Mediterranean and Temperate climatic influences. Altitudes range from 75m to 2,646m with 200 points over 2,000 metres, all given greater relief by the depth and steepness of the gorges and ravines cut by the rivers and tributaries. The highest peaks are Torre de Cerredo at 2,646m, Naranjo de Bulnes at 2,519 m and Pico Tesorero at 2,570 m. The latter is where the borders of the three provinces meet.

Continue reading The Picos de Europa National Park

Islas Atlánticas National Park

  • Region: Galicia.
  • Province: Pontevedra and La Coruña).
  • Declared a National Park: 2002.
  • Park surface area: 8,480 hectares.

The Islas Atlánticas National Park are known in English as the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park. They are located on the southern coast of Galicia and are made up of four archipelagos, Cortegada and Sálvora in the Arousa estuary, facing the Estuary of Pontevedra and the Cíes, in the Vigo estuary.

In the past they were known as a pirate haunt but today they are uninhabited and only open to the public in the summer.

Points of interest

In Ons don’t miss the mysterious “furnas”, granite sea caves cut by the waves, such as the mythical “Burato do Inferno”, which was “believed to go all the way down to hell, and on stormy nights the voices of the dead could be heard”.

There is a regular passenger transport service by sea to the Cíes from the port of Vigo, Baiona and Cangas during high season. There is the same service to Ons from Portonovo, Sanxenxo, Bueu and Marín. Services of a guide to Cortegada from Carril (Vilagarcía de Arousa). (Sálvora has no transport service by sea, and access to it is restricted.)

This national park has a controlled access with a maximum of 2,200 people daily allowed on the islands.

Find a hotel near to the Islas Atlánticas National Park



This sea-land ecosystem has a laurel forest and over 200 species of seaweed whilst he beds of kelp are also of importance in these waters. The most representative land flora can be found on cliffs and dunes. Clumps of furze abound, but among the Park rarities are the corema album, Ons broom (Cytisus insularis) and sand toadflax (Linaria arenaria), a small annual plant that can be found on the dunes.


The park’s most representative natural systems are the coastal area and the Atlantic continental platform. All the islands have areas reserved as breeding grounds for numerous colonies of birds, principally the yellow-legged seagull and the shag. In the sea, there is the possibility of sighting cetaceans like the finback whale which frequent these waters in the summer.

Information/Visitors Centers

Cambón Visitor Center

Before getting on a boat to the Cíes Islands, a visit the Atlantic Islands National Park Interpretation Centre in Vigo’s old town is well worth it. This exhibition centre was designed to learn about the Cíes Islands, Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada, with audiovisual recreations about habitat, geography and geology etc

The different exhibition areas will allow you to explore the archipelago through different formats and media: images, maps, models, projections, sounds and even sculptures.

Address: Rúa Palma 4. Casco Vello – Vigo

The Interpretation Centre is located in the historic building of Cambón, behind the Church of Santa María. It is close to the Ría Maritime Station, from where boats depart for the Cíes and other parts of the Vigo estuary.

WINTER Tuesday to Saturday: 10: 00-14: 00 and 16: 30-19: 30 / Sundays and holidays: 11: 00-14: 00
SUMMER Tuesday to Saturday: 10: 00-14: 00 and 17: 00-20 : 00 / Sundays and holidays: 11: 00-14: 00
Monday closed (including holidays)

The official website for the Islas Atlánticas National Park can be found here.

Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!


Cabañeros National Park

  • Region: Castilla la Mancha
  • Province: Ciudad Real and Toledo
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1995
  • Park surface area: 40,856 hectares

Points of interest

The Cabañeros National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional de Cabañeros) is located within the two provinces of Ciudad Real and Toledo. It is the best and largest surviving area of Iberian Mediterranean forest, with an enormous variety of plant species. It also includes sites of geological interest (Paleozoic sites known as Cámbrico y Ordovícico del Parque Nacional de Cabañeros). In addition, the territory has protection status within the framework of the Natura 2000 Network and is a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA)

Find a hotel in the Cabañeros National Park


Towns and villages in the park area

Toledo province:

  • Los Navalucillos, )Also has three hamlets: Valdeazores, Los Alares y Robledo del Buey).
  • Hontanar.

Ciudad Real province:

  • Alcoba de los Montes (Also a hamlet called Santa Quiteria).
  • Horcajo de los Montes.
  • Navas de Estena.
  • Retuerta del Bullaque (with its hamlets called Pueblonuevo del Bullaque and El Molinillo).


The national park is represented by plant communities adapted to the continental mediterranean climate with cold winters and hot and dry summers, the most abundant rainfall occurs in spring and autumn.

Four species of the genus Quercus dominate the landscape of Cabañeros. They are slow-growing trees with a wide crown, such as the holm oak , the most adapted to water scarcity, or the gall oak and cork oak , which prefer somewhat more humid areas, or the rebollo oak or melojo (found growing in the vicinity of the riverbeds or in the high areas of the park, occupying the shady areas due to its need for more water than the other three oaks.)

Most common growing amongst these trees are strawberry tree, rosemary, heather and rockrose. Herbaceous species such as Paeonia officinalis subsp. microcarpa, Paeonia broteri, Viola riviniana, Trifolium trukeante, Brachypodium sylvaticum, Festuca paniculata, Cynosurus cristatus and Vicia villosa can also be found.

In the bottoms of some valleys peat bogs have formed and are more than four thousand years old. In these areas you may find brabant myrtle, or carnivorous plants such as the flytrap or the pinguicula.

There are over a thousand vascular plants in Cabañeros National park and also 550 species of lichens (Thats a fifth of those present in the Iberian Peninsula.)


Cabañeros is characterized by its plain and mountain areas and most of the fauna lives between both environments thus benefiting from the ease of finding food in the grasslands and moving in search of shelter among the thick forests and higher ground.

In the sparsely wooded plains that makes up the grasslands it is possible to observe deer species , with large groups of females and calves in springtime and the belligerent encounters between the males during the rutting seasin during autumn. Ibex, wild boar and fox are also present in good numbers. Cabañeros is also the habitat of medium-sized carnivores such as wildcat, genet, marten, mongoose and badger.

If you are really lucky then Iberian lynx are also in the area.

Steppe birds such as little bustard and red legged partridge are here whilst raptors include Golden, Imperial and short-toed eagles as well as black and red kites. Also common and lesser kestrel can be found.

The higher and mountainous area of Cabañeros is also home to one of the black vulture , which makes its huge nests in the larger more inaccessible cork oaks. There are more than 200 pairs in the area and this is one of the largest breeding colonies in the world. It is interesting to note that due to the lack of cliff side nesting areas griffon vultures are much scarcer so the black vulture has less food competition.

Humans and Culture

The main human activities that took place in the Cabañeros area were charcoal extraction , grazing and agriculture. Other traditional activities that are still carried out are beekeeping and of course the cork harvest.

Archaeological remains can be found in the park’s area of ​​influence, from Bronze Age settlements to Roman and Visigothic ruins. There are remains of the Bronze Age in Cerro D. Rodrigo (Alcoba de los Montes), of the Palelolithic in Navalquera, Los Llanos, La Grajera and Los Rasos (Horcajo de los Montes), in Los Manantiales and Pueblonuevo del Bullaque (Retuerta del Bullaque). The Malamoneda necropolis in Hontanar stands out, corresponding to the Hispano-Roman, Visigoth, Muslim and medieval Christian stages.

Information/Visitors Centers in the area

Cabañeros National Park Visitor Center. (CM-4017, 1 Km from the village of ​​Horcajo de los Montes)

This is the largest visitor center in the park, with different rooms to discover the natural treasures of the Cabañeros National Park. The main exhibition area shows the different ecosystems of Cabañeros throughout the four seasons. There is also an exhibition displaying the culture and traditions of the region. There are also projection rooms, a library, picnic areas and free parking.

Hours are from 10 am to 6 pm from Friday, Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays.

Casa Palillos Visitor Center. (Access from the CM-403, five kilometers from Pueblo Nuevo del Bullaque, towards Santa Quiteria.)

This is an obligatory visit for wildlife enthusiasts and walkers as this centre provides complete information about footpaths plus fauna and flora visible depending on the season. Free parking, toilet services, and a picnic area.

Hours: Open every day
December-February from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
March-May from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
June-August from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sep-Oct from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Torre de Abraham Interpretation Center. (This is the visitor center next to the reservoir (Torre de Abraham)

With an exhibition on the fauna and flora of the park associated with the riverside forest, and a fantastic viewpoint over the reservoir this place is well worth the visit.

There is a recreational area with tables and swings, parking and toilet services.

The botanical footpath path follows the riverbed of the Bullaque river and is suitable for people with reduced mobility.

Hours: open every day, December-February from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., March-May from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., June-August from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sep-Oct from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Observatory of the Storks. (Located on the road from Pueblonuevo del Bullaque to Santa Quiteria, 3 km. from the Casa Palillos Visitor Center.)

From here you can see a large colony of white storks (Common cranes also during migration) plus the deer rut in autumn.

Information point in village of Navas de Estena.

Information on the park and tourist information office organised by the Navas del Estena Town Hall. Also has a historical exhibition on banditry in the area.

Hours: from Friday to Sunday and holidays (autumn and spring also open on Thursdays).
December-May from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
June-September from 9 to 19
October-November from 9 to 18.

Zoorama in Retuerta del Bullaque. (Ethnographic museum in the village of Alcoba de los Montes.)

The exhibition on the animals that live in the park is very good plus there is a very complete exhibition about the traditional way of life in the park with special emphasis on the shepherds and the charcoal burners cabins that gives the area its name. (Cabañeros = Cabins)

Hours: Weekends and bank holidays weekends.
October-March from 9 to 14 and from 15 to 18 hours
April and May from 9 to 14 and from 16 to 19
June-September from 10 to 14 and from 16 to 20.

Spains official tourism website for Cabañeros

Walking routes (Ask in one of the visitor centres for more information)

  • Plaza de los Moros, in Horcajo de los Montes.
  • Sierra de Castellar de los Bueyes, in Horcajo de los Montes.
  • Colada de Navalrincón, which links the Visitor Centers of Casa Palillos and Torre de Abraham.
  • Boquerón del Estena, in Navas de Estena.
  • Chorro Route, Chorrera Chica and Rocigalgo, in Los Navalucillos.
  • Rocigalgo Massif Route, in Los Navalucillos.
  • Choker routes (Valhondo, Valle del Alcornocal and Robledal-Alcornocal).
  • Routes of La Viñuela.

There is a bit more info over at wikipedia

Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!


Doñana National and Natural Parks

  • Region: Andalucia
  • Provinces: Sevilla, Huelva, Cadiz
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1969 reclassified in 1978
  • In1963 WWF and the Council of Scientific Research bought land (6,794ha) and set up a research station
  • In 1994 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site  
  • Natural Park surface area: 54,200
  • National Park surface area: 50,720 hectares – Total area: 77,260ha:
  • World Heritage and Special Bird Protection Areas: 50,720ha.
  • National Park and Ramsar site; buffer zone 26,540ha.

Towns and Villages

  • Huelva: Almonte, Hinojos, Bollullos Par del Condado, Rociana del Condado, Bonanes y Lucena del Puerto, Palos de la Frontera, Moguer, La Puebla del Río and the Isla Mayor
  • Sevilla: Aznalcázar, Pilas y Villamanrique de la Condesa.
  • Cádiz: Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Points of interest

The Doñana National and Natural Parks occupy the northern area of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. Six thousand years ago it would have been a wide estuary, but this has mostly been closed off by a long, natural sand bar. This in turn created a large saline lake which gradually collected silt leaving a huge wetland area with lagoons, marshlands and semi-permanent sand dunes.

Some lake areas are saline and others are supplied by freshwater streams. Pine and oak woodland plus scrub or maquis further enhance the diversity of one of the most important habitats in Europe. This accumulation of varied ecosystems is capable of sustaining an incredible assortment of wildlife.

Used as hunting grounds for royalty from the 14th century, it was made a reserve in 1963 and a national park in 1969, and it remains the largest protected area in Europe.

Find a hotel close to the Doñana National and Natural Parks



A diverse collection of around 750 species of plants exist through the different habitats. There are four main types of vegetation: marshland/aquatic, salt-tolerant, open forest and heathland.

  • Marsh land types; Glasswort (Salicornia ramosissima), Seablite (Suaeda sp) and Perennial glasswort (Arthrocnemum perenne).
  • Brackish lagoon types; Reeds (Juncus maritimus) and Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora)
  • Dunes type; European beachgrass (Ammophila Arenaria), Portuguese crowberry (Corema album), Buckthorn (Rhamnus) and Juniper (Juniperus macrocarpa).
  • Inland dunes; Wild olive (Olea europea subsp oleaster) and Ash trees (Fraxinus angustifolia).
  • Forest; introduced stone pine (Pinus pinea) and Eucalyptus sp.
  • Heath lands; Tree heather (Erica scoparia), Heather (Erica ciliaris) Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) Thyme (Thymus tomentosa), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Lavender (Lavandula stoechas).

Four national endemics occur, each a protected species, Linaria tursica and grasses, Micropyropsis tuberosa, Gaudinia hispanica and Vulpia fontquerana.


Mammals include the highly endangered Iberian Lynx (the closest to extinction of all the big cat species) Wild boar, Red deer, Fallow deer, Egyptian mongoose and European badger.

Reptiles, which are found especially in the dunes, include Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca), Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon), Lataste’s viper (Vipera latasti) and Spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus).

Common fish are carp (Cyprinus carpio) and Eel (Anguilla anguilla) plus a threatened species, the Iberian toothcarp (Aphanius iberus).

The Doñana National and Natural Parks are on the main migration routes between Europe and Africa making it a favorite with ornithologists with as many as 250 species found in the reserve each year.

This huge list includes resident Greater flamingos, Spoonbills and summer breeding Little bittern, Purple heron with wintering Black stork and Osprey to name only a few. The park is also home to one of the world’s largest colonies of the Spanish Imperial Eagle.

The best times for birdwatchers are considered to be

  • Spring; to see the influx of migrating birds arriving to breed, or rest before continuing their journey.
  • Autumn; to see the selection of migrating birds that collect to rest and feed before their crossing into Africa.
  • Winter; when the reserve is topped up by rain water and vast flocks of wildfowl – geese and ducks arrive in Doñana.
  • The summer months see the wetlands begin to dry and many of the spring visitors depart with temperatures hitting 40 degrees Celsius leaving only the summer residents. Amongst the numerous species are Griffon Vultures, Booted eagles, Red-necked nightjars, Bee-eaters and Hoopoe. Spanish Imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti), Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris), White-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) and Red-knobbed coot (Fulica cristata) are some of the rarities to look out for.

As well as the National Park of Doñana there is also a buffer zone (or pre-park area) around it, which is a designated Natural Park of Doñana (known in Spanish as Entorno de Doñana).

The National Park is under very tight protection, with public access restricted to its official visitor centres and some marked footpaths around them.

The Natural Park is less strictly protected with more open access but being a natural continuation of the National Park it is also of great importance for migratory and breeding birds, wildlife in general and tourism for the area

Research in the Park is of international scientific importance. Ornithological research has been carried out since the 1950s and studies have since been carried out on vertebrate zoology, botany, ecology, plant ecology, entomology, limnology, geography, ethnology, pesticides and diseases.

Also in the area of Doñana National and Natural Parks

Wood gathering, charcoal production, cattle-grazing, beekeeping and fish farming are traditional practices that occur within the park.

Market gardening forms a part of the agricultural land uses in the surrounding area. Rice farming covers over 38,000 hectares of former salt marsh areas with water from the Guadalquivir used for irrigation.

Intensive fruit farming (Strawberries) and illegal wells have caused issues over the years creating clashes between local farmers and ecologists

El Rocio is a small, sleepy lake side village of wide sandy streets whose focal point is the “Santuario de Nuestra Señora de el Rocio” Church. There is a religious festival at El Rocio each year coinciding with Whitsunday which brings approximately a million pilgrims from every part of Spain. There is an explosion of music, dance, traditional dress and flower adorned wagons, drawn by mule or oxen.

For the rest of the year the village remains virtually unihabited in comparison.

Information/Visitors Centers

Remember that the Doñana area is huge and has quite a few “official” interpretation centres. Most towns and villages also have their own municipal information centres. Your first resource for guides and leaflets for the area would also be your hotel reception.

La Rocina (Information Centre, walks and hides)

In the village of El Rocio, this visitor centre has a nice and accessible, easy hike with a few observation points overlooking the marshes. The path also takes you through some other ecosystems such as the scrubland.

El Acebuche (Information centre, café, walk-ways and hides)

Close to El Rocio on the road to Matalascañas this Center (OBLIGATORY VISIT IF YOU ARE IN THE AREA) offers an excellent information service to visitors. There is normally a live TV feed showing the current captive breeding area of the Iberian lynx. There is also an audiovisual room and well marked footpaths to hides and areas of marsh and scrubland.

El Acebuche is also the start point for guided visits to the National Park of Doñana in all-terrain vehicles, accompanied by guide-driver, on a route of around 70 kms. This guided route takes you through the different ecosystems of the National Park.

Palacio del Acebrón

(On the A-483 take the turning for La Rocina and El Acebrón. Once you have passed the La Rocina visitor centre continue for 6 kilomtres on the H-9021)

Once a private hunting estate the an ethnological museum inside in very interesting with lots of detail and is free to enter

José Antonio Valverde (water side café/hide and great information)

Road access not well marked and from Villamanrique de la Condesa, Puebla del Río and Isla Mayor it is about 25 km. Access is through unpaved tracks. Ask in your hotel or other visitor centre to double check opening times before you make the trip!

This Visitor Centre is located on a small hill known as Cerro del Palo, from which there is a great view of the Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra. (Not to be confused with Fuente de Piedra in the province of Malaga.) Inside there is a fantastic view from the large windows that looks out onto the lagoon. There is also an excellent exhibition of photographs of the lagoons and other wetlands of Andalusia.

Ask about guided tours for wildlife watching.

The center was named after Jose Antonio Valverde. A biologist and ecologist born in 1926 in Valladolid who was one of the pioneers of the conservation of wetlands in Andalusia. He died in Seville
In 2003.

Fábrica de hielo (Ice Factory).

At the southern point of the Guadalquivir estuary. (Av. Bajo de Guía, S/N, 11540 Sanlúcar de Barrameda)

This interpretation centre offers an overview of the area from the flora and fauna that make up the landscape to the richness of the marine ecosystem associated with the mouth of the Guadalquivir.

Dehesa Boyal near Villamanrique de la Condesa. Camino del Bujeo in front of the sports ground.

The excellent Dehesa Boyal visitors centre is in the village of Villamanrique de la Condesa. It offers visitors general information about the Natural Park of Doñana and the fauna and flora of the area and an exhibition detailing traditional uses and exploits of nearby populations such as coal production, pineapple harvesting, beekeeping, cork mining and cotton are also part of the sample.

This centre also arranges guided visits, hiking, horseriding and is a popular destination for schools for education courses. (See the website here.)

Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!