If you’ve not yet visited the Doñana National Park, its 50th anniversary is the perfect excuse to do so—and throughout the year there will be various local events focusing on the past 50 years of the Park’s history, its people and all those who have contributed to the development of the area and the creation of a protected natural ecological zone.
It’s hard not to marvel at Doñana’s natural wonders, just like two local birdwatchers did half a century ago. They took their love for the area further than most when, distressed by the fact that the original beauty of this precious part of Southern Spain was being wiped out by eucalyptus and rice farming, they begged the European Union to grant it National Park status.
Today, Doñana is one of Spain’s most treasured conservation areas, having been designated as a National Park in 1969 and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. It is among the 25 best conserved areas in the world, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Green List and, along with the Sierra Nevada in Granada, is currently a Biosphere Reserve.
The Park boasts seemingly endless beauty. Its extensive marshes house birds, fallow deer and Iberian lynx, along with pine forests and coastal dunes that stretch some 540km2 across the three provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cádiz. The Park’s network of streams flows into the impressive Guadalquivir River delta and onwards to the Atlantic Ocean.
Twinned with southern France’s exotic Camargue Natural Regional Park—famed for its beautiful, roaming wild horses—the Doñana National Park was named after the VII Duke of Medina-Sidonia’s wife, Doña Ana.
Early spring, before June’s celebration of the El Rocío Annual Festival, is one of the best times to visit Doñana, and bird watchers flock to the area to spy numerous, often endangered species of gulls, herons, bee-eaters, hoopoes, vultures, ducks, geese, buzzards and much more. Perhaps the most impressive and flamboyant of sightings are the luminous pink streaks across the skies as colonies of flamingos take flight from the salt marshes.
If you want to discover one of Europe’s finest natural wonderlands at just two hours from Marbella, head over to world of dunes, marshes, pine forests and the beautiful wildlife that calls it home