The 6 natural parks in Cadiz, Spain to hike
There are 6 natural parks in Cadiz province. Each is unique in its own way. If you are interested in getting to know which areas to visit and what types of habitats you will find, keep reading. From a subtropical forest, laurisilva, to cork oak, and saltmarshes.
Cadiz province has more than a third of its surface protected, the highest percentage of the provinces in Andalusia. Los Alcornocales is one of the largest natural parks in Spain with 174000 hectares. On the other hand you have the smallest natural park in Andalusia, La breña natural park.
Thoughout this blog post I will be explaining each natural park with some hikes to these. If you are interested in doing a hiking tour in one of these parks go to the bottom section. Contact me if you are looking to join a guided hiking tour through Los Alcornocales, El estrecho or la Breña natural parks.
Los Alcornocales natural park
The cork oak forest in Los Alcornocales natural park is the largest cork oak forest in Spain and one of the largest in the world. This park shares borders between Malaga and Cadiz. If you are interested in learning more about cork, please click here. In this natural park you will find the only place in continental Europe with a subtropical forest, laurisilva. It has been recognized as a natural park since 1989 and it is part of the Mediterranean intercontinental biosphere reserve, which goes from Malaga to Morocco.
Laurisilva is a forest found in wet or cloudy areas, usually in valleys or surrounding creeks where temperatures do not drop below 8-9ºC . The species that compose this subtropical forest in Europe are rhododendron, bay laurel, holly, ferns, alder, laurustine and more.
If you are interested in hiking in this natural park please click here. We do guided hiking tours through some of these hikes. Below are just a few of the views that you will see during the hikes in los Alcornocales natural park.
Grazalema natural park
Grazalema natural park shares borders with Seville, Malaga and Cadiz. This park is also part of the Mediterranean intercontinental biosphere reserve, which goes from Malaga to Morocco. The almost 52.000 ha park in Cadiz has spectacular rugged limestone landscape of cliffs, gullies, caves and gorges. By far the most impressive gorge is Garganta Verde, with its exceptional griffon vulture colony and rocky walls that tower vertically for 400m. Andalucia’s largest cave system is also here, the Hundidero-Gato with its biggest cavern measuring 4km long.
Grazalema region is well known for being the rainiest place in Spain, with an annual rainfall of 2,200mm, which means that the 1,300 Mediterranean plant species that have been registered here some of them endemic to this natural park can flourish perfectly. There is an incredibly rare Spanish fir forst, a relic from the Tertiary period called pinsapar. The highest peak in Cadiz province you will find it in Grazalema natural park.
El Estrecho natural park
This park is the last one from Cadiz to be part of the Mediterranean intercontinental biosphere reserve, which goes from Malaga to Morocco. It has the designation of natural park since 2003. The closest point to Morocco is here, where we are only at 14km from Africa.
This natural park has 18.931 ha, 9.684 landbased and 9.326 marines. The park contains two separate seas, which meet at the Strait of Gibraltar: on the western side of the park is the Atlantic Ocean and to the west, the Mediterranean. The park’s maritime area is exceptional for its biodiversity, with over 1,900 species of marine flora and fauna recorded. This coastline is famous for its strong winds, the levante (Mediterranean) and poniente (from the Atlantic), making it a world famous windsurfing site.
The park has an impressive range of variety of habitats; a total of 18 range from mobile sand dunes, cork oak woodland and offshore submerged sand banks. If you are a birder you must come and explore this paradise, as part of the major migration routes for birds from Africa to Europe crosses through this natural park.
You also find lots of historic remains, such as Baelo Claudia near Bolonia, silla del papa, necropolis of Los Algarbes, and more. There are around 30 caves in the park, many with rock paintings, and also several defensive watchtowers along the coast.
Bahia de Cadiz parque natural
It has over 10500 hectares. Bahia de Cadiz natural park centres on a large area of wetland in the central part of the province’s Atlantic coast. Despite high levels of population and development, certain areas are still intact, such as the Sancti Petri Marshes and Trocadero Island, both designated natural areas within the park. There are many Phoenician and Roman remains around these areas.
Here you can see lots of birds resting and using these wetlands as corridors. Its position between the Doñana and Estrecho Nature Parks make it a privilege setting to observe the birds that migrate between Europe and Africa. You can see flamingos throughout the year. Fish farmers use these wetlands for sustainably fishing by using the Roman method “Pesca de Estero”. There is a TED talk about this sustainable way of fishing, click here (4:40mins onwards).
Even though fish farmers use the bahia de cadiz natural park, as well as for salt, and more, there are also hikes that you can do.
Doñana/ Donana parque natural within Cadiz province.
Doñana is a national park and natural park shared between Huelva, Cadiz and Seville. Same as before, here you can see lots of birds resting and using these wetlands as corridors. These wetlands are also used for sustainably fishing by using the Roman method “Pesca de Estero”. In the TED talk from before the chef Dan Barber talks about the sustainable way of fishing Estero in Donana natural park, click here (4:40mins onwards).
A great diversity of ecosystems are located there and it is very close to the Doñana National Park, considered the largest ecological reserve in Europe. Donana natural park has a total area of 53,709 hectares, of which 3,400 belong to Cadiz province. You can find incredible pinforests, dune systems and saltmarshes.
La Breña y marismas de Barbate natural park
The smallest natural park in Andalusia of 5000 hectares 3920 terrestrial hectares and 1150 marine hectares. La Brena natural park has 5 Ecosystems, dune, cliff, sea, pine forest and marshes. It has the largest pine forest in Cadiz province,and one of the highest cliffs in Andalusia, about 100m high. This natural park is within the municipalities of the beautiful white town of Vejer de la Frontera and Barbate.
Originally there were dunes that were advancing and at the end of the 19th century-beginning of the 20th they planted pine trees to stabilize the Dunes and prevent them from advancing to the municipalities. The soil is sedimentary rocks, mostly fossilized dunes. La Brena natural park has been designated natural park since 1989. LIC and ZEPA.
Here you can find protected species like chameleons usually on broom spp. or in the protected Mediterranean coastal juniper. This Mediterranean juniper is protected due to the habitat loss for developments in coastal areas. In la Brena natural park you can also find on of the most endangered birds in the world, the northern bald ibis. Best way to see this bird is in “la barca de Vejer”.
If you want to join a hiking tour in Cadiz province and learn about local plants and culture, keep reading.
Full day tours in Los Alcornocales natural park and Cadiz province
If you enjoyed this blog with the hikes in Los Alcornocales natural park and are looking for hiking tours surrounded by nature in Cadiz province, then keep reading. I offer tours in the natural park of “Los Alcornocales”, “La Breña” and “El Estrecho”. I also focus on agrotourism and cultural tours including: Visits to the almadraba in a private boat; private sherry and Andalusian wine tastings; olive mill tours; Iberian ham tours; and white town tours in Cadiz province.
Guided hiking tours in Cadiz province
Cadiz province is one of the most biodiverse provinces in mainland Spain. Habitats range from dense forest reminiscent of cloud forest to Mediterranean forest, dune systems, and more. Moreover, seduce yourselves with views of magical landscapes in Cadiz and the Strait of Gibraltar. Cadiz has over a third of its surface protected, while its climate and sunlight hours are similar to Canary Islands.
Join my new hiking tour in los alcornocales natural park, where we will head to the heart of the natural park, to places where you cannot access without the permit of landowners. These places are very pristine areas with beautiful landscapes and with possibility to see roe deer, wildcats, common genet, Griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures and more.
On the other hand in our guided nature tours you will discover more about coastal Cadiz and learn about why our gastronomy is so rich. It is related to our climate, our location, our history, and to the many culinary, medicinal and traditional use of Mediterranean plants found within Cadiz province. You will find many of these plants in your supermarket in lotions, herbal teas, and to flavour your food or even eat them as part of your main plate.
I will lead you in these hiking trails to get the most out of these hiking tours in Cadiz province. Furthermore, I will also explain the habitats that we find and some the landmarks of the hikes. I will help you identify Mediterranean plants and explain the traditional, culinary or medicinal use that it had in the region.