Top seven must see nature reserves and parks in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
nature reserves and parks

In Spain there are incredibly beautiful nature reserves, nature parks and national parks. Many people, both Spaniards and foreigners, go there regularly. Almost a third of Spain’s nature has a protected status. It is wonderful to reconnect with nature and walk, watch birds, or see other animals.

In addition to national parks, there are many other nature reserves that enjoy some kind of protected status, such as nature parks, paraje or biosphere reserves. According to the book The Best of Nature in Spain by Lonely Planet these are the best national parks in Spain for wildlife and especially bird watching.

1 Atlantic Islands (Galicia)

Nature reserves and parks in Spain

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The Atlantic Islands National Park  – better known as Cíes Islands – includes the islands of Ons, Cíes, Sálvora and Cortegada, in the Galician provinces of A Coruña and Pontevedra. Here you will find azure blue, crystal clear waters, deserted beaches, large colonies with special bird species, volcanic rocks…  You will not only see a large number of seabirds but also rays, squid, octopuses, crabs, etc. Keep in mind that the islands cannot be visited just like that due to their protected status. Especially in high season, the number of daily visitors is limited to 2,200. Therefore, be sure to order a ticket for the crossing directly from an authorised ferry service and not through intermediary websites.

2 Monfragüe (Cáceres)

nature reserves and parks

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UNESCO has Monfragüe National Park in Extremadura declared a Biosphere Reserve in 2003. The Monfragüe Nature Park, with its cliffs and a rich animal life, is located in the province of Cáceres near the Tagus and Tiétar rivers. In this region, with a bit of luck, you can see hundreds of vultures flying over the rocky peaks. Or black storks and eagles. It is also possible to encounter deer and wild boar in the wooded areas. Plus, it’s a lovely place for stargazing. It has an incredibly diverse collection of flora and fauna, and birdwatchers flock there to see the black storks, eagles, and vultures that make their home there, temporary or otherwise.

3 Sierra Nevada National Park (Granada and Almería)

nature reserves and parks

©Else Beekman

The provinces of Granada and Almería share the Sierra Nevada National Park. It is the largest national park in Spain and home to the highest peaks on the Spanish mainland, Mount Mulhacen (3,479m) and the Veleta (3,398m). While skiing takes place in the winter, the park offers plenty of opportunity for bird watching at other times of the year. There are also wild horses and many Iberian mountain goats, especially in the high areas and in the sheepfolds near the lagoons. The area is still home to some endemic plant species that are not found anywhere else in the world. Among them is the Plantago nivalis, also known as the snow plantain. This plant is adapted to the unique conditions of the high mountains.

Thanks to its clear skies and remoteness, Sierra Nevada is an excellent spot for stargazing. The observatory on the Loma de Dilar is a testimony to the scientific value of the park in terms of astronomy.

4 Doñana (Huelva, Seville and Cádiz)

nature reserves and parks

©Else Beekman

Doñana National Park is home to a unique biodiversity in Europe, with special landscapes. The wetland is a place of passage, breeding and wintering for thousands of European and African birds, including flamingos. It is home to species that are seriously threatened with extinction, such as the Iberian imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx. The landscape is special and also includes an area with walking dunes.

The current pressure on the national park is worrying. Intensive agriculture in the area and the persistent drought caused by climate change are causing the loss of plant and animal species. Because more and more lagoons are drying up, various species of migratory birds are seeking refuge elsewhere.

Again, keep in mind that you can’t just visit the area on your own. This is only possible with recognised guide companies. Most of them are located in neighbouring Almonte and El Rocío.

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5 Tablas de Daimiel National Park (Ciudad Real)

national reserves and parks

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In the municipalities of Daimiel and Villarrubia de los Ojos is the Tablas de Daimiel National Park, a wetland that is almost unique in Europe and the last representative of the ecosystem of the Iberian Peninsula. The park has an Integrated Waterfowl Area, because these birds use the area as a wintering and breeding area.

National park Tablas de Daimiel is relatively close to Cabañeros NP (see below) and is a wetland and nature reserve. It is a resting place for many species of migratory birds. Some spend the winter here. You can book birding excursions accompanied by guides. This smallest of the Spanish national parks is located on the Ruta de Quijote (Don Quixote Route).

Tablas de Daniel has a diverse collection of flora and fauna, and birdwatchers flock there to see the black storks, eagles, and vultures that make their home there, temporary or otherwise. The beautifully preserved landscape also makes it a wonderful place for stargazing. The only town in the park is Villarreal de San Carlos, with a visitor centre and the Feria Internacional de Turismo Ornitológico de Extremadura (FIO).

6 Cabañeros National Park (Ciudad Real and Toledo)

national reserves and parks


The Cabañeros National Park is exceptional for its endangered Iberian Mediterranean fauna and fossils dating back more than 500 million years. It’s great all year round. In addition to the hiking trails, you can also explore the nearby cities of Toledo, Trujillo, Guadalupe, and their cultural heritage.

The protected area is partly located in the regions of Extremadura and in Castilla-La Mancha. It is a refuge for large birds of prey, black storks, the Iberian deer and other endangered species. That’s why it’s a must-visit for ornithologists and birdwatchers.

Cabañeros National Park gets its name from the huts (cabañeros) that were used by shepherds and charcoal burners as temporary shelter for their work in the field. These huts have a conical roof with surrounding plants and were used by the inhabitants of Montes de Toledo. The landscape varies from vast ‘rañas’ (Mediterranean grasslands) to dense forests and rugged mountains.

7 The Ebro Delta (Tarragona)

nature reserves and parks


In the southwest of the province of Tarragona lies the Ebro Delta. With an area of 320 km2, the Ebro Delta is the largest wetland area in Catalonia. The landscape is unique and varied. With vast rice fields, salt pans, lagoons and estuaries. This diversity offers a breath-taking backdrop for walks, bike rides and photography. The combination of water and land creates a serene and almost surreal atmosphere that enchants many visitors.

In Spain’s rice culture, the Ebro Delta plays a crucial role. Visitors can learn more about rice cultivation, its history, and its impact on the local cuisine. The region is known for its delicious seafood and rice dishes, such as the famous Paella.

However, the balance between nature and human exploitation has not been easy. Therefore, in 1983, the Generalitat de Catalunya approved the creation of the Ebro Delta Natural Park. The park covers the regions of Montsià and Baix Ebre. Frogs, ducks, the audouin’s gull, eagles, herons, flamingos, wild boars, badgers are some of the animal species that make their home in this delta.

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