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Cádiz province

Cádiz province

This vast park covers 167,767ha from Tarifa in the south to the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park in the north. It is named after its handsome and beautifully kept cork tree grove, the largest in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the most important ones in the world.

Designated a Unesco Biosphere reserve in 1977, the Sierra de Grazalema was declared the first natural park in Andalucia in 1984 and is one of Spain's most ecologically outstanding areas. The 51,695 ha park is famous for its spectacularly rugged limestone landscape of cliffs, gullies, caves and gorges.

The Parque Nacional de Doñana is one of Europe's most important wetland reserves and a major site for migrating birds. It is an immense area; the parque itself and surrounding parque natural or Entorno de Doñana (a protected buffer zone) amount to over 1,300 sq km in the provinces of Huelva, Sevilla and Cádiz.

Part of the Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park, this 170ha protected area of saltmarsh is interesting for its rich birdlife. Sancti Petri was a fishing village but is now largely abandoned, overtaken in importance in its new incarnation, the modern tourist complex of Nuevo Sancti Petri. This area around the saltmarsh is somewhat built up, with golf courses and hotels to the south.

Andalucia is filled with fascinating cultural events throughout the year. Whilst many of these festivals take place on the date indicated each year, others move slightly in relation to the day of the week or the religious calendar or occasionally weather.

These are small walls in the intertidal zone close to the beach at Rota, which cover 110ha and are exposed at low tide. They have been used for collecting shellfish and fish since Roman times and continued to be in use until the 1950s.

The Duna de Bolonia, covering around 131m², is protected for its geological interest. It is located at the village of Bolonia, on the headland of Punta Camarinal, exposed to the ferocious easterly levante winds. At its highest point, the dune measures around 30m.

Situated within the Bahía de Cadiz Natural Park near San Fernando is this sandy punta (headland) of 74.5ha, created by the sea, wind and sedimentation processes at work in the Guadalete river estuary. On and around the spit are a similar flora and fauna to that found elsewhere in the park. Historically, the headland was of military-strategic importance and there are still remains of the Sancti-Petri castle.

The Tómbola de Trafalgar is a site of geological interest, with a small island joined to the mainland by a sandy tombolo, or bank of sand. The island is called the Cabo de Trafalgar, and its name became a household word after the famous 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.

This 210ha reserve has two lakes, the Laguna de Las Canteras and the Laguna El Tejón, both of which are prone to drying up in summer. Take the A381 from Jerez de la Frontera. The reserve is situated some 18km from Jerez on the right-hand side of this road.

This is the most important reserve of the lagunas (lagoons) close to the Bahía de Cádiz. Like the other lakes in the area (the Complejo Endorreico de Chiclana, Complejo Endorreico de Espera, Complejo Endorreico de Puerto Real, Complejo Endorreico de El Puerto de Santa María and Las Lagunas de Las Canteras y El Tejón), the freshwater Laguna de Medina is an important site for overwintering waterfowl and as a breeding ground for birds such as the white-headed duck and purple gallinule.

The Peñón de Zaframagón is an impressive 600m-high limestone outcrop or crag (peñón) with sheer cliffs located to the north of the Sierra de Lijar close to the Seville/Cadiz provincial border. There are many natural springs in the 448ha reserve. Apart from its geological importance, the reserve is home to one of Andalucía's most significant colonies of Griffon vultures.

Inland near El Puerto de Santa María are a series of three freshwater lakes: Salada, Chica and Juncosa. Salada is the largest, covering an area of 36ha. They are fed mainly by rainwater, which means that in times of drought they can dry out and leave a bed of crusted salt, although the Salada is the least likely to dry out completely. The whole reserve (including a core area of 63ha of the lakes) covers an area of 291ha.

This 839ha reserve is made up of three lakes, Taraje, San Antonio and Comisario, which are fed by rainwater and a nearby waterworks. From Puerto Real near Cadiz take the CA2012 towards Paterna de Rivera. The reserve is around 12km from Puerto Real, on the left-hand side of the road. At Km 9 on the CA2012 there is a track through pine trees.

Situated close to the Seville/Cadiz provincial border is the 438ha Complejo Endorreico de Espera Natural Reserve, with three lakes: Hondilla, Salada de Zorrilla and Dulce de Zorrilla. This is a significant site for waterfowl, since four out of the 15 aquatic bird species that are increasingly rare in Spain breed or overwinter here. These four are the red-knobbed coot and three types of duck: white-headed, marbled and ferrunginous.

Within this 567ha reserve are two lakes, Laguna de Montellano and Laguna de Jeli, which together make up a core protected area of 49ha. Montellano lake is situated on impermeable clay and Jeli on impermeable loam.

Just west of Tarifa is this magnificent 3km-long beach, the Playa de los Lances, 226ha of which is protected. The fine white sands are backed by a low ridge of dunes and the marshlands of the Jara and Vega rivers. These rivers run parallel to the beach and have created two lagoons, the Jeli and Montellano.

The 58ha Marismas del Río Palmones Natural Area is one of the last remaining patches of what used to be extensive marshlands (marismas) in the Bahía de Algerciras, the bay between Algeciras and Gibraltar. From the early 1970s onwards, increasing industrial and housing development encroached upon the marismas of the Palmones and Guadarranque rivers.

Within the Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park is this 525ha protected area, noted for its important wetlands which are a site for migrating birds. It also has saltpans. Like the park area, the birdlife is outstanding for its wintering waterfowl and seabirds. The best times to visit are in winter and during migration times.

The smallest natural area in Andalucia with a mere 27ha, the Guadiaro river estuary is nevertheless an important wetland site, since it is one of the few left on the Costa del Sol. It is also the only wetland site for 100km between the estuaries of the Guadalhorce river near Malaga and the Palmones river just north of Algeciras.