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The Magnificent National Parks of Andalucia

Apr 1, 2008
Besides great sunshine, delicious cuisine and a rich monumental heritage, Andalucia also offers its visitors ample opportunities to revel in its diverse flora and fauna that abound in its two magnificent national parks, 23 natural parks and 31 assorted natural reserves. The two national parks; the Parque Nacional de Donana and the Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada are designated as such because of their vast range of geological and climatic diversity that has given rise to unique ecosystems comprising of desert areas, woods, mountains, dunes and wetlands. With minimum man-made alterations, both parks possess great scientific, ecological and educational importance.

Parque Nacional de Donana

Declared a national park way back in 1969, Parque Nacional de Donana or The Donana National Park in Andalucia is one of Europe's most important ecological systems. Of special importance are the wetlands and the marshes that are an important breeding and resting place for migratory and local birds.

This 507 kilometre park is situated mainly in the south eastern part of the Huelva province of Andalucia, with a small portion falling in the Sevilla province.

The Donna National Park has three predominating landscape forms - the marshlands or the marisma, the dry desert like heath with its fixed dunes or coto, and the area near the coastline with its moving dunes or the dunas moviles.

The vegetation that can be seen in the park is determined by its different ecosystems, depending on whether it is dunes, fresh water and lakes or sandy grounds. Rich in flora and fauna, the Donna National Park is home to a large number of unique species, including the Lynx pardina. This exotic carnivore is endemic to the Iberian-Peninsula and has been adopted as the emblem of the Park.

Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada

Designated as a national park in 1999, the Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada is the second national park in Andalucia. Almost eight percent of this mountainous National Park lies in the province of Granada and the rest in Almeria.

The snow-covered Mulhacen (3,482 m) and Veleta (3,392 m) two of the highest peaks of the Iberian Peninsula, lie in the middle of the majestic Sierra Nevada National Park. The extraordinary landscape of this area is a result of the erosion resulting from the melting of the glaciers on these mountain ranges as well as the forests and different areas of natural vegetation. While part of the mountainous zone is quite dry and arid, the rest, especially the wooded middle and the upper mountain regions of the park are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. In fact, more than twenty five per cent of the total species of plants found in Spain can be found in the Sierra Nevada National Park. Apart from this, the park is home to more than sixty plant species that are found only here and nowhere else. One of them is the spectacular Sierra Nevada violet.

The goose vulture, the falcon, the golden eagle are the main predatory birds found here while other feathered species like the great tit, the coal tit, the tomtit, the jaybird, the green woodpecker, larks and finches can also be found in abundance. The wooded region of the park is home to weasels, foxes, civets and badgers. The mountain goat is one of the most characteristic species found in the park.

Special vehicles are available for going up into the mountains while the more adventurous can join a trek on foot to reach the higher regions.

Both National Parks provide tourist facilities, including Visitor Information Centres, marked footpaths, paid camping sites, recreation areas with water and firewood, mountain bike tracks, marked footpaths, viewpoints, observatories and free camping sites.
About the Author
Sandra Lightowler is the owner of Ask Olive the leading online information and Business Directory for Andalucia Spain.
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