Natural Parks and other protected areas in Spain

by Robert Bovington

My article on National Parks highlighted the fact that Spain has a great variety of landscapes and that it is good at protecting its natural spaces – so much so, that it was one of the first countries to establish national parks.
At present, Spain has 15 national parks but there are many hundreds of natural areas that have been afforded protection. National parks are afforded the highest level of protection followed by natural parks. There are also natural monuments, special protection areas, nature reserves, protected landscapes, biotopes, nature enclaves, wildlife reserves, marine reserves, rural parks, natural landscapes of national interest and sites of scientific interest.
There are also biosphere reserves. UNESCO award biosphere reserve status to those areas with great biodiversity and which demonstrate a balanced relationship between the ecosystem and the people living and working there. Not all national parks have biosphere status yet some natural parks do. At the time of writing, there are thirty-three biosphere reserves in Spain, yet only five natural parks have that status – Picos, Ordesa, Sierra Nevada, Doñana and the Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote.
Natural parks are pretty special but there are too many to list here. Every autonomous community has a number of protected areas with Catalonia, Andalucía and the Canaries being the most prolific with several hundreds between them.
In Andalucía there are around 150 protected areas including 23 natural parks. Three of my favourites are the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park and the Sierra de las Nieves. All three are biosphere reserves.
The Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park is located a few miles east of Almería. It is an area of unspoilt beaches with secluded coves and is Andalucía’s largest protected coastal area.


Monsul beach in the Cabo de Gata

The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park is a vast area of rugged limestone mountains. It is located in Cádiz province, a few miles west of Ronda. Grazalema is the rainiest place in Spain that, undoubtedly, accounts for the verdant vegetation there. The griffon vulture is one of the species of wildlife that lives in the park.



The Sierra de las Nieves is located between Marbella and Ronda. It is a spectacular landscape of limestone mountains where mountain goat, roe deer, wildcat and fox roam and where eagle, vulture and falcon soar. Flora includes pine, chestnut, holm oak, cork oak and the native Spanish fir (pinsapo).

Sierra de las Nieves



About Robert Bovington

Robert Bovington is an English writer of travel books. These include “Spanish Matters” and “Spanish Impressions” Robert Bovington was born in Brighton, East Sussex, the son of Leonard and Audrey Bovington. He is the first-born and has eight siblings – six brothers and two sisters. Having worked for many years in both the telecommunications industry and the teaching profession, Robert wanted to take on new challenges. He and Diane decided to relocate to Spain and, in 2003, the couple moved to Roquetas de Mar in sunny Andalucía. However, lazing on the beach was not Robert's idea of fun - he wanted to explore his new homeland. It didn't stop there! He was so impressed with Spain, its countryside, its historic cities and its culture that it inspired him to write about his experiences. Robert Bovington has been married to Diane for over thirty years. They have no children. However, Robert’s short marriage to Helene resulted in twin daughters Carole and Sheila. The author is also a grandfather and great grandfather. Robert met Diane when both belonged to the Crescent Operatic Society. Music is one of the author’s great passions. At primary school he sang in a choir in a concert of Bach and Handel. Another of his interests is football and for many years he supported Brighton & Hove Albion home and away. His favourite premiership team is Arsenal. Other interests include information technology, writing and ten-pin bowling.
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