Doñana National Park

HUELVA, SEVILLE and CADIZ – The most prestigious of the wetlands within the Iberian Peninsula.

Lynx pardinus Doñana
Plegadis falcinellus Andalousie
Cervus elaphus Doñana
Epidalea calamita Doñana

Lagoons and marshes

Birdlife

Marsh horses

Stone pine forest

Atlantic dunes

Doñana is one of the largest protected natural areas in Europe and a mythical Spanish wetland, located in Andalusia, mostly in the province of Huelva but also with part of its surface lying in Seville and Cádiz. It covers more than 120,000 ha (1,200 km²) protected, of which almost half are declared a national park. Its size is greatly expanded when taking in account the wetlands associated with the Guadalquivir south of Seville.

Doñana is the transition zone between the Guadalquivir Depression and the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Cádiz): the mouth of the valley, the spillway of the great river, the area of friction between land and sea. During Antiquity, the great marshes areas that we know today corresponded to a sea gulf that was filled with sediments transported by the river and the result of erosion impulsed by Roman agriculture throughout the valley.

During the Middle Ages until its protection in 1969, Coto Doñana was a hunting area for the nobles, mainly the House of Medina Sidonia. In the nineteenth century, naturalists revealed the importance of the site for bird watching, on the one hand the Spanish Machado and Núñez and on the other the English Chapman and Buck. In the twentieth century, agricultural transformation and intensification projects that began in the post-war years, generated an international conservation campaign that culminated in the declaration of the national park.

Doñana national park

A classic image of Doñana at the end of spring: the hermitage of El Rocío and the horses grazing in the marshes (Marismas) of La Madre.

Platalea leucorodia, Plegadis falcinellus, Doñana, bird oiseaux, ornitho, birdwatching

The Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and the European spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), two extraordinary birds that are common at Doñana marshes.

Dunes, fossil dune, Asperillo, Doñana, Mazagon, sand, Atlantic Ocean

The fossil dunes of Asperillo on the coast of Huelva fascinate the traveler with their shapes and colors.

Pinus pinea, stone pines, Doñana, coast, coast, pine forest

The silhouette of the stone pines (Pinus pinea) creates a typical and very graphic landscape with its “padded” shapes.

Doñana includes all natural habitats associated with the Guadalquivir river estuary and the surrounding terrestrial environments. A wide variety of wetlands: the river and its estuary, marshes and rice paddies seasonally flooded by the main upstream rivers, small rivers and its gallery forests, countless lagoons and temporary ponds. Particularly arid terrestrial environments (due to sandy and sandstone substrates): the most important dune system in Europe, almost 100 km long, mobile dunes, coastal fossil dunes, an immense interior mantle of fossilized dunes. A huge pine forest of stone pines (Pinus pinea), wild olive trees (Olea europaea sylvestris), cork oaks (Quercus suber) with poor regeneration, and diverse scrubland.

Doñana is famous mainly for its diversity and abundance of birds. In fact, more than 300 species are visible throughout the year. The park is the wintering refuge for more than 200,000 water birds and shelter for 8-13 pairs of Iberian imperial eagles (Aquila adalberti). A mention goes to the European largest colony of white storks (Ciconia ciconia) that nests in trees. The flora is also diverse with more than 900 inventoried species. We can also cite the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus), the park’s true emblem. It is easier to observe the famous horses of the Marismeña and Retuerta races that often graze near El Rocío.

We regularly visit Doñana, such a fantastic place to look at wildlife and enjoy nice sunny days during winter. Check our Wetlands winter trip.

Note. Major threats weigh on Doñana, the most important is the excessive extraction of ground water derived, in the first place for large intensive strawberry crops that cover more than 5,000 ha (add thousands of tons of plastic tarpaulin and inputs per year) and secondly for the human consumption in coastal urbanizations. The result is a decrease in the hydroperiod of a large number of lagoons and temporary ponds. It is also worth mentioning the Aznalcollar disaster in 1998, with the dumping of mining waste in the Guadalmar, and the great forest fire of 2017 with 8,500 ha burned.

Doñana is one of the largest protected natural areas in Europe and a mythical Spanish wetland, located in Andalusia, mostly in the province of Huelva but also with part of its surface lying in Seville and Cádiz. It covers more than 120,000 ha (1,200 km²) protected, of which almost half are declared a national park. Its size is greatly expanded when taking in account the wetlands associated with the Guadalquivir south of Seville.

During the Middle Ages until its protection in 1969, Coto Doñana was a hunting area for the nobles, mainly the House of Medina Sidonia. In the nineteenth century, naturalists revealed the importance of the site for bird watching, on the one hand the Spanish Machado and Núñez and on the other the English Chapman and Buck. In the twentieth century, agricultural transformation and intensification projects that began in the post-war years, generated an international conservation campaign that culminated in the declaration of the national park.

Doñana is the transition zone between the Guadalquivir Depression and the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Cádiz): the mouth of the valley, the spillway of the great river, the area of friction between land and sea. During Antiquity, the great marshes areas that we know today corresponded to a sea gulf that was filled with sediments transported by the river and the result of erosion impulsed by Roman agriculture throughout the valley.

Doñana includes all natural habitats associated with the Guadalquivir river estuary and the surrounding terrestrial environments. A wide variety of wetlands: the river and its estuary, marshes and rice paddies seasonally flooded by the main upstream rivers, small rivers and its gallery forests, countless lagoons and temporary ponds. Particularly arid terrestrial environments (due to sandy and sandstone substrates): the most important dune system in Europe, almost 100 km long, mobile dunes, coastal fossil dunes, an immense interior mantle of fossilized dunes. A huge pine forest of stone pines (Pinus pinea), wild olive trees (Olea europaea sylvestris), cork oaks (Quercus suber) with poor regeneration, and diverse scrubland.

Doñana is famous mainly for its diversity and abundance of birds. In fact, more than 300 species are visible throughout the year. The park is the wintering refuge for more than 200,000 water birds and shelter for 8-13 pairs of Iberian imperial eagles (Aquila adalberti). A mention goes to the European largest colony of white storks (Ciconia ciconia) that nests in trees. The flora is also diverse with more than 900 inventoried species. We can also cite the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus), the park’s true emblem. It is easier to observe the famous horses of the Marismeña and Retuerta races that often graze near El Rocío.

Major threats weigh on Doñana, the most important is the excessive extraction of ground water derived, in the first place for large intensive strawberry crops that cover more than 5,000 ha (add thousands of tons of plastic tarpaulin and inputs per year) and secondly for the human consumption in coastal urbanizations. The result is a decrease in the hydroperiod of a large number of lagoons and temporary ponds.

It is also worth mentioning the Aznalcollar disaster in 1998, with the dumping of mining waste in the Guadalmar, and the great forest fire of 2017 with 8,500 ha burned.

We regularly visit Doñana, such a fantastic place to look at wildlife and enjoy nice sunny days during winter. Check our Wetlands winter trip.