HomeAway travel expert
UK holidaymakers, in general, need only the tiniest amount of encouragement to jet off to Spain for a break; you only need to look to the hordes descending on the coastline year after year. Away from the sun-drenched, Sangria-soaked resorts, though, you can get to grips with another side to this astonishingly beautiful country. The 15 officially designated National Parks of Spain collectively offer everything imaginable to those who cherish the wonders of the great outdoors, be your preference climbing, swimming or simply absorbing the unique natural pleasures that each have in their armoury.
If this sounds like your idea of heaven, all that’s left to do is choose. Will you opt for the pastoral plains of Cabaneros, the coastal delights of the Cabrera Archipelago or the rugged mountains of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici? Not an easy decision by any means, but our guide to the best should help narrow down your destination.
Top five National Parks in Spain
Certainly not your typical Balearic Island experience, the Cabrera Archipelago National Park is a world away from the chaos of Ibiza and Magaluf. The island has remained relatively unchanged throughout the centuries – due to a comparatively remote location – but it’s close enough to Majorca that you can sample it easily enough. The area is abundant with colonies of rare seabirds, and the hiking opportunities in and around the magnificently preserved coast are also plentiful. Be sure to check out the prominent 14th-century castle on your way past.
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Guadarrama is the most recent addition to Spain’s list of National Parks, having finally gained recognition in 2013. It is, quite frankly, staggering that it took so long. Extending over the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, the hiking trails have, luckily, been sparsely troubled by humankind over the years. Instead, the glacial cirques and granite rock fields that form this dramatic landscape are populated by an array of flora and fauna such as wild boar, mountain goats and the mighty imperial eagle.
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Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici
If the majority of Catalonians ever have their way, they’ll no longer be considered as part of Spain – and one of the greatest losses to the country as a whole would be this incredible National Park. The name translates from Catalan to “winding waters”, which is exactly what you’ll find cascading through the snow-capped mountains. As well as the multitude of hiking opportunities available, mountain biking is also a popular pastime here, albeit on the slightly less treacherous terrain.
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Situated at the very heart of Spain, Cabaneros may be described as something of a black sheep among the National Parks of the country. The landscape is significantly greener and flatter than most of its peers, but no less spectacular for it. One of the best ways to get an overview of the area to tour the terrain in a 4x4, allowing you to get your bearings before exploring the surroundings on foot. This is also an optimum place to test your skills at archery, kayaking, rock climbing or paintball, each outdoor pursuit made more pleasurable thanks to the almost perpetual Mediterranean climate.
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Tucked away on the southern coast of Spain is another of its famously picturesque mountain ranges – namely the Sierra Nevada. Aside from the mountains themselves, the area as a whole forms the largest National Park in the country, attracting more thrill seekers than the others due to its daunting summits. Despite the typically soaring climates, the altitude makes skiing a viable option for most of the year; but even if the snow has abandoned the slopes, you could always indulge in a spot of gentle paragliding.
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Cabaneros © Sporras
Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici © horrapics
Guadarrama © M. Martin Vicente
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