While Spain’s southern region of Andalucia is primarily celebrated for its spectacular beaches and white-washed towns, it also plays host to an impressive array of wildlife. Large amounts of the region are covered in mountainous and forested landscapes, including two national parks, Sierra Nevada and Doñana National Park. These habitats are home to species like wild boar, mountain goats, Iberian lynx, and deer.
In addition to this, Andalucia boasts protected wetlands that play a crucial role in the ecosystem. These wetlands serve as resting points for migratory birds journeying between Africa and Northern Europe. And let’s not forget the sparkling waters lapping the shores of Andalucia; here, you can spot dolphins, whales, and orcas. While organised tours for dolphin and whale watching are available, there are also areas where you can simply stand on the shore and watch dolphins play nearby. This post is your guide to the best places to see wildlife in Andalucia.
Iberian Lynx in Doñana National Park
One of the most unique species you can spot in Andalucia is the Iberian Lynx, an endangered predator found in Doñana National Park, belonging to the Huelva, Seville, and Cadiz provinces. Due to the protection of the animals in the area, they can only be seen on organized tours. This is very much worth it, though, as you’ll be searching for one of the most impressive animals on the planet. This medium-sized cat species is dotted with pointy ears and mainly feeds on rabbits.
Other wildlife to see in Doñana National Park:
Doñana National Park is one of the best places to see wildlife in Andalucia in general. Other species you can expect to see on a wildlife tour are the endangered Spanish Imperial Eagle, deer, and wild boar. There is also a number of migratory birds that pass through Doñana.
Dolphin watching in Nerja
Nerja on the Costa del Sol is a hotspot for dolphins. Since you can often see dolphins near the beach, dolphin watching has become one of the best things to do in Nerja. Although, seeing them from the shore often means they’re far away.
To have the chance of seeing them up close, there are organised boat trips that will take you dolphin watching. And though it’s never guaranteed that you’ll see wildlife, there is a big chance of coming across them in this area. If you do not see any dolphins on your tour, rest assured that cruising on the Nerja shoreline is well worth it nonetheless.
Other ways to see wildlife in Nerja:
Nerja is also a hotspot for snorkelling and scuba diving in Andalucia, with incredible marine life and many exclusive species in the area. To explore the magnificent shore, your best bet is to join a Nerja kayak tour. The coastline is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, sea caves, and unique biodiversity. If you travel to Nerja in the winter, head up to the mountains for some of the most spectacular hiking in the region — you might even spot mountain goats, especially around sunrise and sunset.
Note: When choosing a whale or dolphin-watching tour, please do your research to ensure that the operator you choose is ethical and puts the well-being of marine life first. There are many boat tours that sadly chase wildlife or get too close.
Flamingos in Cabo de Gata
Cabo de Gata Nature Reserve on the coast of Almeria is a unique volcanic area of pristine coastlines, desert sands, and wetlands. The latter is where you can see flamingos wading, right next to Cabo de Gata Beach. It’s a popular place for bird watchers as a multitude of wading bird species reside here, and there are several bird-watching huts placed along the lagoons. Make sure you bring your binoculars and a zoom lens if you want to get a close-up shot of these beautiful creatures.
Other places to see flamingos in Andalucia:
Cabo de Gata is not the only place to see flamingos in Andalucia. Other popular spots are Marismas del Odiel Nature Reserve in Huelva, Fuente de Piedra in inland Malaga, and Punta Entinas-Sabinar Nature Reserve, where you can also find one of the most untouched beaches in Almeria.
Mountain Goats in El Torcal de Antequera
El Torcal de Antequera is home to one of the most unique karst landscapes in Europe, showcasing magnificent rock formations formed over millions of years since the area was immersed under the Tyrrhenian Sea. It also happens to be one of the best places to see wild mountain goats up close.
There are 3 trails in the area and 2 of them are easy, though on uneven terrain. The shortest takes 45 minutes to complete and the longest takes 2 hours. While there is no guarantee that you’ll see mountain goats, this part of Andalucia gives you the best chance. You can often see them grazing close to the trail. It’s important that you do not feed them or try to touch them as these are wild animals that must be respected. Stay as quiet as possible when watching them so as not to scare them.
Other places to see mountain goats in Andalucia:
Mountain goats are very common in Andalucia and if you are an avid hiker, you’re likely to see them roaming around on any mountainous hike, especially at dusk and dawn. Places they are most frequently spotted are Sierra de Mijas, Montes de Malaga, Sierra de Almijara, Sierra Nevada and Axarquía.
Whale watching in the Strait of Gibraltar
The Strait of Gibraltar is the best place to go whale watching in Andalucia. It’s the permanent home of about 250 Pilot Whales, but sightseeing is most likely during March and April. There are many other whale species that migrate through this area as well. For example, in July and August, during the tuna season, you can see orcas as they cross the strait.
The Strait of Gibraltar is a hotspot for dolphin watching, too. On a whale-watching tour, you are near guaranteed to see dolphins, while there is a slightly lower chance of actually spotting the whales. Boat tours typically leave from Tarifa or La Linea, or if you visit Gibraltar on a day trip, you can take a boat tour from there.
Other wildlife to see nearby:
Gibraltar is a small British territory in the Strait of Gibraltar and the only place to see wild monkeys in Europe. Note that you need a passport to cross the border and you might need a visa for the UK.
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