Although Spain is home to a limited number of National Parks, they really have a great impact on our geography. These parks are home to the beauty of some of the most spectacular and interesting landscapes in Europe, and are distinguished by their ecological wealth. National Parks in our country range from lush green pastures, blue channels, and dense forests, to snow-capped mountains and arid and alpine regions. They are home to desolate volcanic deserts, tropical islands, and underwater havens for marine life.
Many of the National Parks are committed to sustainable conservation and tourism, and some have even won awards and designations for their efforts. Flora and fauna are abundant no matter which park you venture into, and several have some of the best raptor-watching opportunities in the world. These are the largest National Parks in Spain.
1. Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada National Park is the largest in Spain at 85,883 hectares and is home to some of the highest mountains in Europe. As such, one of the most attractive aspects of this park is its incredible natural diversity. Located mainly in the province of Granada and Eastern Andalusia, the lower part of the park is made up of lush valleys, forests and rivers. However, the trails leading upward give way to alpine forests and arid mountain peaks. On a clear day, views of the Mediterranean Sea and Morocco are visible from the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Plants that thrive in these rugged alpine conditions include the Sierra Nevada violet, juniper, and barberry species.
2. Picos de Europa
The Picos de Europa are the second largest National Park in the country with 67,127 hectares and are home to one of the most incredible landscapes in the world. The park, located between Cantabria, Catilla and León and Asturias, is named after its three different mountain ranges: the central, western and eastern mountain ranges. All of which are crossed by river-filled gorges. In the age of navigation, its size was the first hint of land for men at sea. The park is home to well-marked and easily navigable trails, which have proven to be the best way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of these surroundings. From the park you can see many viewpoints of the sea, since it is only 20 kilometers away. The Grasslands, lush beech and oak forests, sharp cliffs, waterways, high peaks and deep ravines characterize the park.
Doñana is mostly in the province of Huelva and became a National Park in 1969 and its 542 square kilometers are made up of marshes, lagoons, forests and sand dunes. Its spectacular aquifers and a complex of lakes that offer refuge for thousands of birds stand out, being one of the few large European estuaries that is not marked by development or agriculture, and half of Europe’s bird species can be see here at one time or another. More than half a million birds spend their winters in the park each year. You can also explore the 38 kilometers of virgin beaches and sail inland to enjoy the flamingos and see the Iberian lynx, the imperial eagle, the marbled teal and the white-headed duck.
At 40,856 hectares, it is often called the «Spanish Serengeti» for its abundance of animals. It is a haven for deer, Iberian lynx, wild boars, foxes, otters, and a number of bird species, including the rare black stork, the endangered Spanish imperial eagle, the colorful bee-eaters and the Eurasian black vulture. . During mating season, it is not uncommon to see male deer closing their horns and fighting for female attention. The landscape is one of the few remaining examples of unspoiled Mediterranean forest, which is made up of lush vegetation. This huge park between Ciudad Real and Toledo is shaped like a savanna, with interspersed mountain ranges that offer impressive views of the park from their peaks.
The 339 square kilometers that make up the Sierra de Guadarrama Between Segovia, Madrid and Ávila they make up the youngest National Park in Spain and it is a lifesaver during the summer for residents of cities who seek cooler temperatures among their high mountain wetlands, lakes, rivers, pine and oak forests and waterfalls. If you enjoy the rock formations, you can look for the granite landform in La Pedriza, the Seven Peaks and the geomorphology of the glaciers in the Peñalara Massif, which is the highest peak in the park and reaches 2,428 meters. Perfect for hiking, biking and climbing; in winter you can snowboard, cross country ski, try Nordic skiing or rent snowshoes and even a sled. Wildlife includes wolves, golden eagles, and black storks. You will also find many herds of cattle and sheep that use traditional transhumant routes.