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15 beautiful national parks in Spain

Celebrate the country’s natural splendor with these spectacular images

  • Spain’s 15 national parks – 10 on the mainland, four in the Canary Islands and one in the Balearic Islands – showcase the incredible diversity of the country’s landscape, from snowy mountains and grassy plains, to sparkling beaches.
    1Spain’s 15 breathtaking national parks Spain’s 15 national parks – 10 on the mainland, four in the Canary Islands and one in the Balearic Islands – showcase the incredible diversity of the country’s landscape, from snowy mountains and grassy plains, to sparkling beaches.
  • The Picos de Europa was Spain’s first national park, initially called the National Park of the mountains of Cavadonga when it was established in July 1918. One of the country’s most popular natural attractions, it is situated in the Cantabria mountain range, between Asturias, León and Cantabria and has been extended from less than 17,000 hectares to 67,127. It has the biggest limestone formation on Europe’s Atlantic coast and among its cliffs you can find the ibex, while in its forests you may come across wolves, roebuck and occasionally bears, watched from above by griffon vultures and golden eagles.
    2Peaks of Europe (Asturias, León and Cantabria) The Picos de Europa was Spain’s first national park, initially called the National Park of the mountains of Cavadonga when it was established in July 1918. One of the country’s most popular natural attractions, it is situated in the Cantabria mountain range, between Asturias, León and Cantabria and has been extended from less than 17,000 hectares to 67,127. It has the biggest limestone formation on Europe’s Atlantic coast and among its cliffs you can find the ibex, while in its forests you may come across wolves, roebuck and occasionally bears, watched from above by griffon vultures and golden eagles.
  • Declared a national park in August 1918 and a world heritage site in 1997, Ordesa y Monte Perdido is a landscape of contrasts located in the Sobrarbe region of the Pyrenees. Its high ground is arid and snowy, while below in the valleys there are forests, meadows, waterfalls and gullies. Towering over the park is the Monte Perdido massif at 3,355m with its Tres Sorores peaks (three sisters), which give way to the Ordesa valleys of Pinetam Añisclo and Escuaín.
    3Ordesa y Monte Perdido (the Aragonese Pyrenees) Declared a national park in August 1918 and a world heritage site in 1997, Ordesa y Monte Perdido is a landscape of contrasts located in the Sobrarbe region of the Pyrenees. Its high ground is arid and snowy, while below in the valleys there are forests, meadows, waterfalls and gullies. Towering over the park is the Monte Perdido massif at 3,355m with its Tres Sorores peaks (three sisters), which give way to the Ordesa valleys of Pinetam Añisclo and Escuaín.
  • The biggest and oldest national park in the Canary Islands and a world heritage site since 2007, this is not only the most visited of Spain’s national parks, it is also one of the most popular in Europe. Cañadas del Teide rears up from the center of the island and is one of the planet’s most spectacular examples of a volcanic ecosystem. Lava formations and caves create an extraordinary mix of colors and shapes. It boasts flora endemic to the area and a number of invertebrates.
    4Cañadas del Teide (Tenerife, Canary Islands) The biggest and oldest national park in the Canary Islands and a world heritage site since 2007, this is not only the most visited of Spain’s national parks, it is also one of the most popular in Europe. Cañadas del Teide rears up from the center of the island and is one of the planet’s most spectacular examples of a volcanic ecosystem. Lava formations and caves create an extraordinary mix of colors and shapes. It boasts flora endemic to the area and a number of invertebrates.
  • At the center of the island of La Palma is a mountain that looks curiously like a pot with a summit that measures eight kilometers across with drops of up to 2,000m. Deep ravines and a network of mountain streams cross the Caldera de Taburiente, which is surrounded by forests of Canarian pine. This protected expanse of nature covers more than 4,600 hectares and is rich in plants and wildlife, with many endemic species.
    5Caldera de Taburiente (La Palma, Canary Islands) At the center of the island of La Palma is a mountain that looks curiously like a pot with a summit that measures eight kilometers across with drops of up to 2,000m. Deep ravines and a network of mountain streams cross the Caldera de Taburiente, which is surrounded by forests of Canarian pine. This protected expanse of nature covers more than 4,600 hectares and is rich in plants and wildlife, with many endemic species.
  • Aigüestortes means ‘tortured waters’ in Catalan and refers to the high mountain streams of this natural wonderland. Meanwhile, San Mauricio, the most famous lake in the Pyrenees and former glacier found at 1,910m, has a small dam. The park stretches across various regions, and its forests are thick with black and silver pines, fir trees, birch and beech.
    6Aigüestortes y Lago de San Mauricio (Catalonian Pyrenees) Aigüestortes means ‘tortured waters’ in Catalan and refers to the high mountain streams of this natural wonderland. Meanwhile, San Mauricio, the most famous lake in the Pyrenees and former glacier found at 1,910m, has a small dam. The park stretches across various regions, and its forests are thick with black and silver pines, fir trees, birch and beech.
  • Doñana consists of a maze of waterways that wind through the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cadiz. Besides the pines, virginal white sand beaches, spectacular cliffs and a complex of lakes that offers thousands of birds shelter, there are the incredible shifting dunes between Matalascañas and the mouth of the Guadalquivir, as well as the fossilized dune, Asperillo, more than 30m tall.
    7Doñana (Huelva, Seville and Cádiz, Andalusia) Doñana consists of a maze of waterways that wind through the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cadiz. Besides the pines, virginal white sand beaches, spectacular cliffs and a complex of lakes that offers thousands of birds shelter, there are the incredible shifting dunes between Matalascañas and the mouth of the Guadalquivir, as well as the fossilized dune, Asperillo, more than 30m tall.
  • With just 3,000 hectares, Tablas de Daimiel is the smallest national park in Spain. This is the last water table on the central plain of the peninsula, which has been formed by floods from the River Guadiana and the River Cigüela. Practically unique in Europe, these wetlands have canopies of vegetation that are heaven for water birds.
    8Tablas de Daimiel (Ciudad Real, Castilla-La Mancha) With just 3,000 hectares, Tablas de Daimiel is the smallest national park in Spain. This is the last water table on the central plain of the peninsula, which has been formed by floods from the River Guadiana and the River Cigüela. Practically unique in Europe, these wetlands have canopies of vegetation that are heaven for water birds.
  • It might look like the dead terrain of the moon, but according to the legend, Timanfaya’s soil is reborn. One of the few famous geological national parks in Spain, it is an example of recent volcanic activity; eruptions in 1730, 1736 and 1824 are responsible for its features produced by more than 25 volcanoes. The park has been colonized by lichens, which paint the red and black volcanic ash white, yellow and green.
    9Timanfaya (Lanzarote, Canary Islands) It might look like the dead terrain of the moon, but according to the legend, Timanfaya’s soil is reborn. One of the few famous geological national parks in Spain, it is an example of recent volcanic activity; eruptions in 1730, 1736 and 1824 are responsible for its features produced by more than 25 volcanoes. The park has been colonized by lichens, which paint the red and black volcanic ash white, yellow and green.
  • The mist from the coast gathers on the top of the island, creating a humid environment for the thick forests that thrive here in a tertiary ecosystem that no longer exists in the rest of Europe. A UNESCO world heritage site, the national park occupies 11% of the island and is home to endemic species as well as spectacular geological formations, such as Los Roques. Its name comes from a Romeo and Juliet-style legend in which two youngsters called Gara and Jonay killed themselves for love.
    10Garajonay (La Gomera, Canary Islands) The mist from the coast gathers on the top of the island, creating a humid environment for the thick forests that thrive here in a tertiary ecosystem that no longer exists in the rest of Europe. A UNESCO world heritage site, the national park occupies 11% of the island and is home to endemic species as well as spectacular geological formations, such as Los Roques. Its name comes from a Romeo and Juliet-style legend in which two youngsters called Gara and Jonay killed themselves for love.
  • This shoreline national park belongs to Palma de Mallorca and consists of a mass of small islands that have managed to conserve their Mediterranean ecosystem. With endemic flora such as Balearic astragalus, this park is home to colonies of seabirds – it has been denominated a ZEPA (Special Protection Zone for Birds) and has one of the best-conserved seabeds on the coast.
    11Archipiélago de Cabrera (Balearic Islands) This shoreline national park belongs to Palma de Mallorca and consists of a mass of small islands that have managed to conserve their Mediterranean ecosystem. With endemic flora such as Balearic astragalus, this park is home to colonies of seabirds – it has been denominated a ZEPA (Special Protection Zone for Birds) and has one of the best-conserved seabeds on the coast.
  • In June 1987, the Ministry of Defense bought the Cabañeros finca in the heart of the Montes de Toledo for firing practice. However, due to local protests, it was turned into a natural park, becoming a national park later in 1995. Covering 16,000 hectares, it is now a refuge for birds of prey, black storks and various birds on the brink of extinction.
    12Cabañeros (Ciudad Real and Toledo, Castilla-La Mancha) In June 1987, the Ministry of Defense bought the Cabañeros finca in the heart of the Montes de Toledo for firing practice. However, due to local protests, it was turned into a natural park, becoming a national park later in 1995. Covering 16,000 hectares, it is now a refuge for birds of prey, black storks and various birds on the brink of extinction.
  • With 85,883 hectares, this is the biggest national park in Spain and one of the most popular. A medium and high mountain wilderness, it has 2,000 species of flora, 66 of which are indigenous to the area, as well as a variety of wildlife. One of the park’s most spectacular features is the 3,479m-high Mulhacén – Spain’s highest mountain.
    13Sierra Nevada (Granada and Almería, Andalusia) With 85,883 hectares, this is the biggest national park in Spain and one of the most popular. A medium and high mountain wilderness, it has 2,000 species of flora, 66 of which are indigenous to the area, as well as a variety of wildlife. One of the park’s most spectacular features is the 3,479m-high Mulhacén – Spain’s highest mountain.
  • This national park consists of a chain of islands that emerge from the ocean between the rivers of Arousa and Vigo. The seabed harbors ecological treasures guarded by ancient shipwrecks. Dunes, cliffs and beaches provide diverse habitats that nurture all forms of life, from 200 species of seaweed to desert plants, and a variety of fish and sea birds.
    14Islas Atlánticas de Galicia (Pontevedra and A Coruña, Galicia) This national park consists of a chain of islands that emerge from the ocean between the rivers of Arousa and Vigo. The seabed harbors ecological treasures guarded by ancient shipwrecks. Dunes, cliffs and beaches provide diverse habitats that nurture all forms of life, from 200 species of seaweed to desert plants, and a variety of fish and sea birds.
  • A paradise for birdwatchers, Monfragüe was declared a national park in 1979 after years struggling to ensure that the eucalyptus plantations didn’t destroy the brushwood and the indigenous Mediterranean forests. With its rocks and rivers, it is perfect territory for black storks and Golden Eagles.
    15Monfragüe (Cáceres, Extremadura) A paradise for birdwatchers, Monfragüe was declared a national park in 1979 after years struggling to ensure that the eucalyptus plantations didn’t destroy the brushwood and the indigenous Mediterranean forests. With its rocks and rivers, it is perfect territory for black storks and Golden Eagles.
  • Stretching over 33,960 hectares, the Sierra de Guadarrama between Madrid and Segovia was declared a national park in 2013. Featuring lakes and rivers, pine forests and waterfalls, it is another example of the natural ecosystems of the Mediterranean mountains where wolves, Golden Eagles and black storks thrive.
    16Sierra de Guadarrama Stretching over 33,960 hectares, the Sierra de Guadarrama between Madrid and Segovia was declared a national park in 2013. Featuring lakes and rivers, pine forests and waterfalls, it is another example of the natural ecosystems of the Mediterranean mountains where wolves, Golden Eagles and black storks thrive.