National Parks in Spain

Spanish Nature Parks

  • Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici
  • Cabrera Archipelago
  • Cabañeros
  • Caldera de Taburiente
  • Doñana
  • Garajonay
  • Guadarrama
  • Illas Atlánticas de Galicia
  • Monfragüe
  • Ordesa y Monte Perdido
  • Picos de Europa
  • Sierra Nevada
  • Tablas de Daimiel
  • Teide
  • Timanfaya

Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park is one of the fourteen Spanish National Parks, the second in the Pyrenees and the only one in Catalonia. A wild mountain region in the Pyrenees, with peaks rising to 3,017 m (Besiberri Sud) and with nearly 200 lakes, many of them of glacial origin, the park comprises a core area of 141 km² and a buffer zone of 267 km² surrounding the park. The park has an elevation range from 1,600 to 3,000 metres and contains four major vegetation zones: lower montane, upper montane, subalpine and alpine. It has a great variety of alpine vegetation, including dark-coniferous mountain forest (fir,mountain pine) and subalpine pine forest. The fauna includes Pyrenean chamois, marmot, ermine, roe deer, among other mammals and numerous birds (Black Woodpecker, Common Crossbill, Lammergeier, Golden Eagle). The park was created in 1955 after Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, first spanish National Park in the Pyrenees in 1918. Its administrative seats are in Espot and Boí. The park is mainly located in the comarques of Pallars Sobirà andAlta Ribagorça.

Tourism

Tourist activities are regulated. Walking access is free, but is forbidden the camping, to collect any rocks, plants, flowers and mushrooms; hunting and fishing or burn fires. It’s not allowed to enter by private cars. In Espot or Boí exists a public transportation service (taxis 4×4) which allows the visitors to go to the most emblematic places: Aigüestortes plain or Sant Maurici lake. During summertime, at the Val d’Aran entrances are also a taxis service that allows a more easy way to the Colomers or Restanca shelters. At the Vall Fosca, the southern entrance of the Park, a cableway connects Sallente with estany Gento, where begin some nice day walks.

Trekking

Summertime is a good time for trekking. There are a lot of possibilities, but it’s necessary to know what some of the paths are difficult to find or requires some experience and to be in good form. The trans-pyrenean path, GR-11 marked with red and white lines, cross the park from one side to other. At the information points are hiking brochures available (also in English) where are very recommended and easy paths with some explanations. Some of them are:

  • At Boí valley, from Llebreta Lake to Llong Lake, following Sant Nicolau River. In this path a footbridge allows the handicapped people with wheels-chair visit the meanders of the Aigüestortes plain.
  • From Espot and the Sant Maurici Lake, an interesting path goes up to the waterfall and Ratera Lake. From this lake, in 15 minutes more, it’s possible to arrive to a panoramic place with the best views over the Sant Maurici Lake. A second option goes up to Amitges shelter where we can appreciate the high mountain feelings.
  • From the parking place of Clot Gran, near the Bonaigua Pass, to Gerber valley and lakes.
  • From Banhs de Tredòs, at the Val d’Aran, walk to Colomers shelter and a very spectacular tour with lakes.
  • From Estany Gento walk to Tort Lake and arrive to the Colomina shelter or Saburó Lake.

A very interesting tour for several days

Carros de foc. It’s a personal deal that completes a circular tour around some of the shelters that exist in this area. The competitive option (Sky runner) must be completed in less than 24 hours but it’s better to have at least four or five days in order to do it in a more normal way of hike.
Other mountain activities as rock climbing, alpinism, snowshoes or back-country ski are also allowed (with some regulations) in the National Park. The mountain shelters, the only places where are allowed to spend a night into the park, are very good places to stay if you like to complete higher objectives.

Caldera de Taburiente National Park

Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente is a national park on the island of La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. It contains the enormous expanse of the Caldera de Taburiente, once believed to be a huge crater, but nowadays known to be a mountain arch with a curious crater shape, which dominates the northern part of the island. It was designated as a national park in 1954.

The caldera is about 10 km across, and in places the walls tower 2000 m over the caldera floor. The highest point is the Roque de los Muchachos on the northern wall, at 2423 m altitude, which can be reached by road. The telescopes of theRoque de los Muchachos Observatory are situated very close to the summit.

During the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands in the 15th century, the caldera was the site of the last stand of the indigenous people of the archipelago, the Guanches. It proved impregnable to the invading Spaniards, and they only defeated the Guanches by luring their leader out on the pretext of holding talks. The Cumbrecita is at a lower point in the south-eastern part of the caldera’s rim, giving a good view into the Caldera. In the south-west the caldera opens to the sea, through a riverbed known as Barranco de las Augustias. The Cumbre Nueva is a ridge that starts at the caldera and continues to the south. The main flora of the national park comprises a large forest of Canary Island Pine, with important population of the endangered Canary Islands Juniper also present.

The caldera originated some 2 million years ago, with a massive shield volcano about 20 km in diameter. The caldera was not formed by an explosion of that volcano however, but by erosion starting from the volcano’s original crater. The word “caldera” means “cauldron” in Spanish. Its use for very large volcanic craters originated with the Caldera de Taburiente. Taburiente is not a Spanish word but derives from the Guanche language and means “plain, level”

Monfragüe

Monfragüe is a comarca (county, with no administrative role) of Extremadura, western Spain, which contains the most recently designated of the country’s fourteen National Parks (Spanish: Parque Nacional Monfragüe).

From 1979 the area was protected as a natural park (a lower level of protection than national park status) until national park status was granted in 2007. Since 2003 it has been recognised by UNESCO as a Biosphere reserve. The park is north of Trujillo and runs from east to west along the valley of the River Tagus. It includes a long mountainous ridge, which the river has cut through, creating on the western side an impressive rock face, the Penafalcon. On the eastern side is the Castle of Monfragüe. The River Tietar enters the park from the north-east and joins the Tagus just to the east of Penafalcon. There is only one village in the park, Villareal de San Carlos (population 28).

Biodiversity

Habitats in the park include extensive dense scrub, small oak woodlands, and numerous cliffs and rock faces. The land is mainly used for traditional, low-intensive farming. However, there were two major changes in the years 1960-70:

  • the river Tagus was dammed, affecting its course through the park;
  • parts of the park were affected by a project of planting eucalyptus. This non-indigenous species is being eradicated: commercial forestry is prohibited in Spanish national parks.

Birds

In 1988 the European Union designated Monfrague a Special Protection Area for bird-life. The area of the SPA (or ZEPA, the equivalent acronym in Spanish) extends beyond the park (where the nesting sites are concentrated) into the surrounding dehesas, which provide food for the birds. Monfrague is an outstanding site for raptors, with more than 15 regular breeding species, including the world’s largest breeding concentration of Eurasian Black Vulture, a large population of Griffon Vulture, and several pairs of Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle. The crags and cliffs on the north side of the river midway through the park draw photographers from all over Europe and the Americas. The government has built observation blinds throughout the course of the river. Other breeding birds for which the park is important are Black Stork and Eurasian Eagle Owl and there is a high density of Azure-winged Magpie. It is also one of the few locations in Europe where White-rumped Swift breed.

Other wildlife

Deer and wild boar live in the park.

Tablas de Daimiel National Park

Tablas de Daimiel National Park (Parque Nacional de las Tablas de Daimiel) is a nature reserve in south-central Spain on La Mancha plain in the province of Ciudad Real. It is a wetland in an arid part of Spain. As well as having national park status, it enjoys international recognition as a wetland on the list of the Ramsar Convention and as the core of the Biosphere reserve Mancha Húmeda. The European Union has designated it a Special Protection Area for birds (Zona de Especial Protección para las Aves in Spanish).

Tablas de Daimiel (TDNP) is the smallest of Spain’s fourteen national parks. It covers an area of 19.28 km². TDNP is a floodplain wetland created where the Gigüela river joins the Guadiana river. It is home to many bird species, some year-round residents, some migratory. The National Park takes its name from the town of Daimiel, although 70% of the park’s territory belongs to the municipality of Villarrubia de los Ojos and only 30% to Daimiel.

In recent years demand for water for agriculture in the area surrounding the park has reduced the amount of wetland. Overexploitation of water resources has caused the water-table to drop. The key aquifer (“aquifer 23”) has not been able to refill because of illegal wells and canalisation of the rivers. Various ecological groups have suggested that the national park’s designation as a biosphere reserve (within Mancha Húmeda) should be withdrawn as its eco-system has been broken. In June 2008, a UNESCO report recommended that the national park lose its biosphere status or, alternatively, that Spain be given an ultimatum to reverse the degradation. In the event, Spain was given time to reverse the degradation.

The Spanish authorities expressed confidence that the situation would improve. Among measures taken was the acquisition of farmland with water rights so that well-water could be used for the benefit of the park rather than agriculture. In May 2009 a plan was announced to reverse the decline in the wetland area using recycled water. However, some scepticism was shown by environmentalists who noted that the aquifer was not going to be replenished. It has been suggested that a long-term solution would be to reduce the water demands of agriculture by promoting crops suited to arid conditions. In the hot summer of 2009 smouldering fires of the dry peat broke out in the area. Such fires were not a new phenomenon in the region; they had affected the peatlands alongside the Guadiana in previous years, but by reappearing in the National Park, the fires represented another symptom of the wetland’s degradation. Faced with a possible fine from the EU, the Spanish government organised an emergency transfer of water from the Tagus. However, various conservation groups expressed the view that the solution should be found within the Guadiana basin. Early in 2010 the situation was improved by heavier rainfall than had been experienced for several years.

Biological patrimony

Las Tablas de Daimiel are provided with two types of water making an unusual ecosystem: the Guadiana contributes fresh water, while its tributary the Gigüela is brackish.

Flora

The fresh water of the Guadiana favors the growth of the Common Reed (Phragmites australis, Phragmites communis), and the briny water of the Gigüela favors the growth of the marshy vegetation, principally the Great Fen-sedge (Cladium mariscus). The Great Fen-sedge abounded extraordinarily, and it was one of the most extensive zones in Occidental Europe. There were groups of Bulrushes (g. Typha, Scirpus lacustris, Scirpus maritimus) and Rush (g. Juncus) in the least deep areas. Charophytes’ grasslands are one of the most characteristic formations of the National Park formed by different sorts of Chara genus (Chara hispida, Chara major, Chara canescens), also known locally as “ovas”, and were able to form an almost continuous tapestry. The only trees present are the Tamarisk (Tamarix gallica, Tamarix canariensis).

Fauna

Migratory fauna
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris), Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina), Northern Shoveler(Anas clypeata), Wigeon (Anas penelope), Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), Common Teal (Anas crecca), Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo), Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus), Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), Black-winged Stilt(Himantopus himantopus), Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis), Bearded Reedling (Panurus biarmicus)…

Resident fauna
We may find the European freshwater crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes), that it was in the past abundant and an important source of income for Daimiel’s families, today almost extinguished in these waters. After the introduction of the great predator that the Northern pike (Esox lucius) is, other autochthonous species like the Barbus (Barbus barbus), the Common carp (Cyprinus carpio), or the Chub (Leuciscus cephalus) are now endangered species. In the spring and the summer we may find amphibians and reptiles like the European tree frog (Hyla arborea), the Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda), the Common Toad (Bufo bufo), the Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra), the Grass Snake(Natrix natrix) or the water snake Natrix maura. Also we may find mammals like the European Polecat (Mustela putorius), the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), the European Otter (Lutra lutra), the Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius), as well as the ones that live in proximities of the wetlands: theEuropean Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), the Cape Hare (Lepus capensis), the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis) or the Boar (Sus scrofa).

Guadarrama National Park

Park Parque Nacional de Guadarrama

Guadarrama National is a proposed National Park in Spain. The project would protect some of the most ecologically valuable areas of the mountain range of Guadarrama (Sistema Central), located in the Community of Madrid and Castile and León (provinces of Segovia and Ávila). As proposed at the beginning of the 21st century, the Park would have been the fourth-largest in Spain. However, the project ran into difficulties in 2008, and proposals for a reduced version of the park emerged which would make it the fifth-largest. As at 2010 the park was still under discussion at regional level, and had yet to be considered by the national government.

The project aims to protect the eleven different ecosystems present in the Guadarrama mountains, including the only Iberian examples of “high Mediterranean mountain”. Altogether, in the zone which might be declared National Park there are more than 1,280 different species, of which 13 are in danger of extinction, more than 1,500 native plants and 30 different types of vegetation. The species of animals in the mountains represent 45% of the total fauna of Spain and 18% of European fauna. The vegetation features the Scots Pine, the oak, the juniper, the oak and piorno and many other species. As regards fauna, there are many mammals such as deer (red, roe and fallow), wild boar, wild goats, badgers, several mustelidaes, wild cats, foxes, hares, etc.; many species of waterfowl in the reservoirs, and great raptors like the Spanish Imperial Eagle or the Eurasian Black Vulture.

Doñana National Park

Doñana National Park is a natural reserve in Andalusia, southern Spain. The park is an area of marshes, shallow streams, and sand dunes in Las Marismas, the delta where the Guadalquivir River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It was established as a nature reserve in 1969 when the World Wildlife Fund joined with the Spanish government and purchased a section of marshes to protect it.

Doñana National Park has a biodiversity that is unique in Europe, although there are some similarities to the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue of the Camargue river delta in France, with which Doñana Park is twinned. The park features a great variety of ecosystems and shelters wildlife including thousands of European and African migratory birds, fallow deer, Spanish red deer, wild boars, European badgers, Egyptian mongooses, and endangered species such as the Spanish imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, a herd of feral dromedaries roamed the area. They may have been introduced during the Moorish Conquest of Spain in the 8th century, or they may have escaped from a herd introduced by the Marquis de Molina as beasts of burden in 1829. By the 1950s, there were only eight individuals left, and these were threatened by poachers.

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