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Donana National Park

Doñana Parque Nacional, on the west coast of Andalucía, Spain, is one of the most important wetlands in Europe. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the beautiful park is a complex combination of landscapes forming a paradise for both wildlife and nature lovers alike.

Situated between the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cádiz on the Costa de la Luz, the Doñana natural park is a labyrinth of land and water. Comprising of coastal beaches, mobile dunes, forests and marshes, the attraction is a must-see in Andalusia.

Here's our round-up of everything you need to know before visiting the Donana National Park.

Der Nationalpark Coto de Doñana in Andalusien bietet von Wäldern über Feuchtgebiete bis hin zu Wanderdünen auch eine einzigartige Flora und Fauna

The History of the Parque Nacional de Doñana

The origins of Coto de Doñana go back to ancient times. Once upon a time, around 2800 years ago, the Phoenicians made this landscape their home. Thereafter, the Coto de Doñana was mainly used as a hunting ground. However, after the publication of a scientific paper by Antonio Machado y Nunez in 1854, which named the birds that live in Doñana Park, the ecological value of the creatures that live here was universally recognised.

As a result, more efforts were made to make today's Coto de Doñana National Park a protected area. In 1963 the Government of Spain and WWF bought part of the area that became the first Doñana Reserve. Since then, this reserve has continued to expand: the biosphere reserve is now home to five threatened bird species, as well as the most endangered wildcat in the world, the Iberian lynx.

Despite its enormous ecological importance, disasters such as the Aznalcóllar catastrophe in April 1998, when a mine dam burst, dumping toxic mud into the Guadiamar River, have the international conservation efforts at risk.

Accommodations Near Doñana National Park

Key Details about the Doñana National Park

Today, the Coto de Doñana site covers an area of ​​255,000 hectares. Yes, hectares. Officially, it covers 543 km², of which 135 km² are protected.

The Coto de Doñana National Park is located in one of the southernmost points of Europe, and the location is ideal for animals, especially migratory birds. The wetlands contain abundant fresh water that provides a habitat for both flora and fauna.

The vegetation includes some endangered species and more than 875 indigenous plants. The following species deserve a special mention:

  • Vulpia fontquerana

  • Juniperus macrocarpa (Large-fruited juniper)

  • Tursica linaria

  • Hydrocharis morsus-ranae (European frogbit)

  • Micropyropsis tuberosa

  • Thorella verticillatinundata

The climate is typical of the Mediterranean. Dry summers are followed by a rainy winter. This means that from June to September there is hardly any rain, and rivers and lakes are losing more and more water. The subtropical high pressure area prevails in this region at this time, which can cause harsh weather conditions.

In terms of wildlife, too, the marshland of Doñana National Park is teeming with life. More than 440 different fish, amphibians, bird species, reptiles and mammals use this habitat temporarily or permanently for themselves. To name just a few examples:

  • Spanish imperial eagle

  • Moorish tortoise

  • Western lizard snake

  • Iberian lynx

  • Wild boar

  • Lesser spotted genet (European genet)

  • Caballo de las Retuertas de Doñana (Retuerta's horse)

Dromedaries once also roamed through this region. They were probably introduced by the Moors. However, they were very popular with poachers, which is why only three of them remained by the 1960s. When Andalusia served as the backdrop for the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, more were released into this national park.

Donana Park - How to Visit & Get There

The Doñana National Park is located in Andalusia, in southern Spain and extends over the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cadiz. The local tours tend to start at El Rocío, Almonte, Huelva or Sanlucar de Barrameda.

Since this is a heavily protected park, visitors' access to Doñana National Park is limited beyond the beaches, trails and lagoons around the visitor centres found throughout. A trip into the larger park must be arranged with official guides, but these four-wheel-drive vehicle jaunts or boat trips are worth the extra effort. In peak season it pays to book these excursions well ahead.

You can book the following on the Doñana Reservas website (in Spanish):

  • Classic Tour (3 to 4 hours, €33 per person, €18 children under 10)

  • Private Tour (~4 hrs, 65€ per person)

  • Group Tour (3 to 4 hrs)

  • Birdwatching Private Tour and Photography (~4 hrs, 65€ per person)

  • Combined North and South Tour (€56.50 per person)

Alternatively, you can also book a tour trip via GetYourGuide from one of the larger Andalusian cities such as Seville, where the transport is included.

What to Expect During Your Doñana National Park Tour

The Doñana National Park land is divided into several areas: North, East, South and West. The North (Preparque Norte-Pinares de Hinojos) is akin to a Mediterranean forest, which consists largely of pine trees. But here, you'll also find swamp areas and scrubland. In the Pinar del Pinto, birds of prey in particular can be observed.

  • El Centro de Visitantes El Acebuche

  • Palacio del Acebron

  • Museo Mundo Marino Matalascanas

  • Centro de Visitantes Fabrica de Hielo

  • Centro de Visitantes Bajo de Guia

The East (Preparque Este–Brazo de la Torre-Entremuros) is a wetland that attracts millions of birds. There is usually plenty of fresh water, even in the summer months.

The coastal region of the Doñana National Park extends to the southwest. This part is called Abalario–Asperillo and contains the famous shifting dunes, wetlands, lagoons and forests of pine and eucalyptus. This is where you have the greatest chance of encountering the Iberian lynx, an endangered wild cat species endemic to the Iberian Peninsula.

To the southeast is Pinar de la Algaida–Marismas de Bonanza. This area is characterized by a large pine forest, dunes and wetlands. Unlike the other areas, it is still being hit by the tide, so you can often find flamingos here. Not far from here is the former sanctuary of Astarte and the Roman well of Caveros.


Can you drive through Donana National Park?

A journey through Doñana Park is largely only possible with a guided tour. There are some areas that are freely accessible, but large parts are not as they are protected. A trip into the larger park must be arranged with official guides. You can also join one of the tours from one of the larger cities in Andalucia that include transport to the park.

Where are the Donana flamingos?

You'll find the Doñana flamingos to the southeast of Doñana National Park (Pinar de la Algaida–Marismas de Bonanza). The area is one of the only areas of the park still hit by the tide, which is why flamingos feel well at home in the saltwater.

Which coast does Doñana National Park belong to?

Doñana National Park is a national park on the South-Western coast of Spain, called Costa de la Luz, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. It covers 543 km², of which 135 km² is protected.


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