Deciding on my Top 10 NATURAL Attractions in Spain proved even more complicated than creating the previous list of Top Historical Attractions in Spain. Whilst I’ve visited just about everywhere of historical note I still haven’t seen all the country’s natural beauty spots. You might be surprised to hear that Spain is Europe’s second most mountainous country after Switzerland. It has nearly 5000km of coastline and almost 10% of the national territory is designated as some type of national park in what is a very ecologically conscious nation.
These are my top 10 natural places to see. They are in no particular order:
Picos de Europa Mountains
These mountains stretch along the coasts of Asturias and Cantabria in northern Spain. The scenery is stunning which attracts many hikers and the wildlife is a major attraction which includes many birds of prey and a population of around 60 bears which exist in isolated areas to the south. Beaches along the northern coastline are spectacular in places and there’s nothing like swimming there whilst looking back at the mountains.
Serra de Tramuntana Mountains
Mallorca is best known for its package tourism yet there are few places I’ve ever visited in the world with so much beauty in such a small area. My favourite part of the island is to drive from Pollensa in the northwest through the Serra de Tramuntana mountains to Port d’Andratx in the southwest. Try to go off season when the roads are quiet and stop off at small mountain villages en route.
Where do I begin? The Pyrenees stretch 430km from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean taking in the Spanish regions of Navarra, Aragon and Catalonia. There is no end of activities for the summer months and Spain’s best skiing is in these mountains. A good base for getting around from is Jaca and an essential place to visit for its unbelievable beauty is the national park of Ordesa.
Sierra de Grazalema
High above the Costa del Sol is the popular old town of Ronda which attracts many day trippers. If you get the chance you should stay in Ronda and take a day out to the Sierra de Grazalema which is yet another area of stunning natural beauty. If you’re driving to Seville from Malaga take this route and visit a few of the White Villages (Pueblos Blancos) on your way to Jerez de la Frontera.
Sierra de los Gredos
Just west of Madrid is the Sierra de los Gredos which offers more magnificent scenery and attracts many walkers to its ideal terrain. The original Parador is located here and there’s another fabulous one at Jarandilla de la Vera to the west which provides great access to ancient Monastery of Yuste and to the Valley of Jerte in Extremadura. This is one of Spain’s truly magical sights when the cherry trees are in blossom.
Costa do Morte
The Coast of Death stretches along the wild Galician coast to Cabo Finisterre. It is so named because of the number of shipwrecks that have washed up here after losing their battle against the Atlantic Ocean. Small fishing villages are dotted along the coast and it’s in this area that you’ll discover some of Spain’s finest seafood and white wines.
Mount Teide National Park
The highest point in Spain is actually on the island of Tenerife. Mount Teide (3718m) is accessible by cable car and on a clear day you can see the other islands of La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro from the top. The national park attracts four million visitors a year who come to wander along the many tracks through the park’s fascinating volcanic landscape. It’s quite a contrast to all the green scenery listed above.
Sierra de Guadarrama
North of Madrid these mountains are popular with Madrileños at the weekend but little know amongst foreigners. We used to live (and got married) in Miraflores de la Sierra so I have a soft spot for the region. It’s a great area for walking and there are ski resorts around Navacerrada. For the less active just head for one of the village restaurants for fine roast meat dishes. If you’re driving between Madrid and Segovia this is a longer but much more scenic route than taking the main El Escorial road.
The Alpujarras are the mountains lying south of the Sierra Nevada range near Granada. Driving the winding roads between villages with their flat roofed houses makes you feel you’re in the land that time forgot. Quaint villages including Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira have attracted many north Europeans settlers. Chris Stewart’s bestselling novel “Driving Over Lemons” is set here.
Doñana National Park
Spread across the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cadiz, Doñana National Park is a unique habitat that attracts a vast number of resident and migrating birds and is home to the rare Iberian Lynx. Half day trips into the park depart from Sanlucar de Barrameda early in the morning returning in time for a superb seafood lunch at Bajo de Guia which overlooks the park.
9 thoughts on “Top 10 Natural Tourist Attractions in Spain”
Can I add a few to the mix? If you are going to Lanzarote there are at least four sights you must see:
The volcano Timanfaya is amazing and like being on the moon. The lava has formed a lunar landscape which has to be seen to be believed.
Secondly, El Golfo is a natural pool of green water – not the alga infected stuff we get but coloured by the rock underneath it. If you are going, be quick because it is disappearing and like many natural resources, will be gone too soon.
For the surfers, or just for a day out, Famara has to be seen. Lots of natural sand dunes and a real natural lanscape. The sand often drifts across the road and is a bit like driving in snow. The dunes are spectacular and the wind is very refreshing in the hot dusty climate.
Finally (although there are more wonderful things on Lanzarote!), Mirador del Rio looks over to La Graciosa and is a spectacular sight. There is a visitor centre which is, of course, not natural, but just sitting on the wall looking over to an unspoilt island is a brilliant experience.
This is a great selection of Lanzarote sights. I haven’t been there for 25 years so I guess it’s changed a lot and your tips have just made it the new favourite for this coming winter’s holiday 🙂
As someone else pointed out – El Torcal is my absolute favourite alongside El Chorro.
A much under-appreciated part of Andalucia is the province of Huelva. Lacking the spectacular tourist cities and destinations of its provincial neighbours, Cadiz and Seville, Huelva does not receive the attention that perhaps it deserves.
For all the right reasons it is a favourite destination for Spanish and Portuguese holidaymakers seeking sun and sand, authentic cuisine and a largely unspoilt coast. One third of Huelva’s area is either national park or protected status.
My contribution to the Top Ten Natural places would be the Sierra de Aracena National Park. Rising to over 3,000 feet at its highest, the park contains some real jewels. The spectacular caves beneath Aracena town, the mines of Rio Tinto that are steeped in history stretching back thousands of years, the sympathetically preserved townships of Alajar, Almonaster la Real, Castaño del Robledo and Fuenteheridos to mention just a few of the attractions to be found.
In Jabugo town you can enjoy the famous Iberico ham and find out why it is the centre of production. A well-conceived choice of trails allow the Sierra to be explored whether riding, walking or by bike. I’m prejudiced I know but I like to enjoy the vista with glass in hand and a full stomach! Not easy to do at some of the other areas that you have nominated.
Thanks Andrew … This is a great addition to my suggetsions. I’ve often stopped off in the region on trips between Seville and Lisbon.
Can anyone tell me how to get to El Chorro by public transport from Malaga? if not to it how close can i get then walk the extra distance.
Thanking you Alan J.
There’s one train a day to El Chorro from Malaga Maria Zambrano departing at 10.05am and arriving at 10.43am. The return leaves El Chorro at 6.03pm and gets back in Malaga at 6.47pm.
Just to be sure of train times go to the RENFE Website and click on “Find All Stations”.
You can then select your departure and destination stations.
I love the public transport tips I came back from Torrox Costa on the third and cannot wait to get back on the 27th of this month for another month. People can get so dismissive about this area but the Spanish people are so warm even towards mad old bats who accost them on the bus and at bus stops. I know there is a bus from Torrox Costa to Cordoba and I know it is quicker to go to Malaga and thence by train but how about a pleasant little place on the way typically Spanish but with at least one eating place please?
I do not suppose there is any way you can get a list of stopping places on the bus routes I LOVE Spanish public transport I was very much amused on my last visit to Maria Zambrano in Malaga to hear an English lady comment to her friend “you know, they have trains at the end of the shopping centre!”
As a car traveller I don’t know what to recommend between Torrox and Cordoba regarding bus routes. I’m sure you’ll find timetables and stops somewhere online. Just type the name of the bus company into Google.
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