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Doñana Parque Nacional in Andalucia

By Nick Nutter | 18 Nov 2018
Coastal Donana El Rocio town Azure winged magpies Acebuche El Rocia marismas

Doñana is a complex mosaic of landscapes forming a paradise for birds in the most important wetlands in Europe. Situated between the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cádiz, Doñana is now a labyrinth of land and water that shapes the marshes, spectacular lakes and channels, reserves and pine forests, streams and banks, dunes, beaches and cliffs. Bonanza, Gallega, Ribetehilos and El Lucio del Cangrejo are good examples of the lagoons that dominate this area, providing shelter for thousands of birds.

Among the varied landscapes that form part of Doñana are the moving dune systems that run between Matalascañas and the mouth of the Guadalquivir, over 25 kilometres of unspoilt beach and white sand. Or the 30 metres tall fossil dunes of the Asperillo, and, on the beach, the cliffs with the same name, made of orange and ochre sandstone due to the rich iron oxide waters that flow through the chorritos.

The lagoons are dominated by plants adapted to this habitat, such as reeds and rush. Further inland you will find other species more related to banks and river channels. Cork trees grow alongside strawberry plants and palm trees. The blood-red willow, an endemic of the Tertiary period, makes up amazing forests next to the royal fern, ash, white poplar, sarsaparillas and honeysuckle. The combination of very different ecosystems is the main reason that Doñana is a true paradise for birds. It has over 120 species.

The humid, fertile, lower ground gives way to higher and dryer land. Magnificent forests of stone pine, such as Coto del Rey, El Abalario or the Pinar de La Algaida, share their habitat with the black mountains - myrtle, mastic, Moorish rock rose, rosemary, thyme, lavender, and the white and yellow rock roses. This is where two of the most valued species live, the Iberian lynx and the Imperial eagle, as well as other mammals, reptiles and birds.

Stabilizing the coastal dunes are plants that can handle a dryer and windier atmosphere, with the sand and salt, which include juniper, savins and marram grass.

The extensive network of trails is an excellent way to discover this protected area, either hiking or on bike. These allow you to access excellent riverbank forests along the Acebrón path, bird watch following the route of La Rocina, which has observatories for this purpose, or follow pleasant cycling routes, such as the one that crosses the Matalascañas and another that starts in the forest village of Cabazudos. Meanwhile, birdwatching possibilities, with or without a guide, are outstanding.

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