Mountains and wetlands, beaches and forests, volcanoes, lava and lakes. Spain's 15 National Parks are distinctive for their variety, but above all, for their stunning ecological wealth. Nature takes centre stage in these unique areas, some of which have the UNESCO World Heritage designation. Would you like to get to know them better?

Stretching from the Pyrenees to the Canary Islands, Spain's National Parks are well worth discovering. They cover a total of more than 325,000 hectares of land and have an immense natural and cultural value, all but untouched by man over the centuries, and enjoy special state protection. These areas all share some common features, such as their spectacular landscapes, although each National Park has its own special character which makes it unique and distinctive. Here we suggest a trip where you'll find a wide range of activities to suit all tastes and ages. Take good note. And don't forget your camera!

High-mountain National Parks

From hiking, mountain traverses and guided routes, to fishing, mountain biking, adventure sports and even skiing. A long list of ideas in landscapes dominated by water, intense green and, in winter, the snow.

In the Picos de Europa mountains, a last refuge for endangered species such as the brown bear and the capercaillie, you can explore itineraries such as the one that takes you across the El Cares gorge. Routes to waterfalls, rivers and canyons are in abundant supply in the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park which, with close to 200 lakes and ponds, is the largest area of lakes in the Pyrenees. In this mountain range you'll also find the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, crowned by the peak of Monte Perdido, at 3,355 metres above sea level. Did you know that this area has the UNESCO World Heritage designation? Its contrasting landscapes will take your breath away. An excellent way to enjoy it is by exploring its tracks and trails: a real paradise for nature lovers. Further south, in Andalusia, you'll see the unmistakable silhouette of the Sierra Nevada mountains just a few kilometres from the city of Granada. Here you can see the highest peaks on the Iberian peninsula, Mulhacén (3,482 metres) and Veleta (3,398 metres). If you like skiing, then you're in luck, as these mountains are home to the Sierra Nevada ski resort, the southernmost of its kind in Europe.

Bird watching

Spain is one of the European countries with the most 'IBAs' (Important Bird Areas), with over 400 protected areas. Spain also has six National Parks that are privileged observatories from which to see these animals up close. Major colonies of sea birds make their nests in the Islas Atlánticas National Park and in the Cabrera Archipelago, the largest land and sea-based National Park in Spain. This biodiversity is particularly important in Doñana, which also has the UNESCO World Heritage designation: it is the only place in Europe that contains a habitat for numerous migratory birds and other animals such as the Iberian lynx, an endangered species. Come and visit the Tablas de Daimiel or the Cabañeros National Parks, both of which are in the Castile-La Mancha region, and explore their wetlands and forests, criss-crossed by numerous trails that are easy for walking, and where you can see a host of birdlife species. The same is true of the Monfragüe National Park in Extremadura, home to the world's largest colony of black vultures.

Contrasts in the Canary Islands

Contrasts take on their maximum splendour in the National Parks of the Canary Islands. Head back into prehistory in the laurisilva forests of Garajonay, a UNESCO World Heritage area. The volcanoes, craters and solidified lava in Timanfaya will make you think you have touched down on the moon. Enjoy the most rugged, untamed countryside at the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, with its almost sheer canyons and cliffs that soar to altitudes of over 2,000 metres. You can also see Spain's highest peak, the Teide, an imposing volcano that towers 3,718 metres above sea level, and one of the world's most spectacular geological monuments.

Remember that each National Park has its own itineraries and regulations for visiting. Whichever you choose, we can assure you they are well worth discovering.

More information: -National Parks Network (in Spanish only)

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