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Gibraltar is a great base from which to enjoy some of the natural wonders of southern Spain. As the southernmost region of Spain, Andalucía is a paradise of idyllic natural beauty. With a vast network of designated national and natural parks, it’s impossible not to be swept away by the tranquility and romance of this region’s pristine shores, rolling mountains, and lush river valleys. Unfortunately, this awe-inspiring area is often overshadowed by the charm of the country’s alluring east coast – home to popular resorts like Benidorm and Barcelona – which still accounts for the lion’s share of mainland Spain’s tourism.

Whether you’re looking to enjoy the everlasting sunshine by hiking, kayaking, cycling or even on horseback, you’re sure to be spoiled for choice in Andalucía – so it’s well worth adding to your Spanish travel bucket list. Here’s a quick guide to exploring the top five natural parks of this stunning area.

Parque Natural del Estrecho
Driving time from Gibraltar: 35 minutes, 49.7 km

The Estrecho Natural Park is a protected coastline between the Bay of Getares (Algeciras) and Cape Grace (Tarifa). With a variety of landscapes from sand dunes to cork oak woodlands, the park is teeming with wildlife – most notably a huge variety of migrating birds that use the region as resting and nesting grounds. Keep an eye out for herons, storks, flamingos, blue rock thrushes, crag martins, golden eagles and many others. There are also over 400,000 swifts in this area!

As the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea just past the sandy shores, this region is a brilliant place to enjoy a whale or dolphin spotting tour. Inland, especially around Bolonia, you can visit fields of wildflowers including wild tulips and Spanish irises. Top things to do in the area include beachcombing, snorkeling and diving experiences, exploring the many idyllic beaches and wandering through the historical old town of Tarifa.

Cabo de Gata
Driving time from Gibraltar: 4 hours, 377 km

Located in the province of Almería, Cape Gata is a volcanic landscape of sharp peaks, craters and domes. The spectacular geology of this area has created one of the most picturesque vistas in Spain, where olive groves and a diverse array of fauna and flora grace the earth. This is another important region for birdlife, including the grey and purple heron, as well as thousands of flamingos.

Be sure to visit Playa de los Muertos – once voted the most beautiful beach in all of Spain. Climb the lighthouse to experience panoramic views of the black headland contrasting against the sparkling azure oceans. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, the iconic tower at Mesa de Roldán featured in a dragon-fighting scene from the series.

Sierra Nevada
Driving time from Gibraltar: 2 hours 20 minutes, 169 km

The Sierra Nevada mountain range extends about 75 km across southeastern Spain, but the section that runs through Andalucía is the Betic Cordillera. There’s a plethora of stunning hiking trails to explore here, with some peaks reaching up to 3,000 metres above sea level. For an easy, circular trail, try the Sendero Puente Árabe. Starting and finishing at a pretty bridge, the hike takes you through aromatic orange and olive groves, and into the town of Salares with its authentically Mediterranean white-washed buildings.

Sierra de Grazalema
Driving time from Gibraltar: 2 hours 30 minutes, 145 km

Nestled between the bustling cities of Cadiz and Malaga, you’ll find a small slice of paradise in the shape of the incredibly diverse Sierra de Grazalema. You’re not completely cut off from civilization here: the quaint white villages that dot the landscape only add to the region’s charm, and are well worth strolling through. However, you will find remote parts of the park where the purity of the air will make you feel like you’re in a land untouched by humans.

One word of warning to the sun-worshippers among you: Grazalema is officially the wettest region in Spain, receiving more than 2,000mm of rainfall every year. Come prepared for all climatic eventualities – we’re positive that any downpours won’t dampen your time at this incredible Iberian wonder.

Sierra de la Nieves
Driving time from Gibraltar: 1 hour 40 minutes, 100km

With its unique geological formations, diverse ecosystems, and rare species of flora and fauna, Sierra de las Nieves offers a serene escape for any adventurous and naturally curious traveller. Not only will you find breathtaking scenery at every turn, but this park also serves to educate its visitors on the importance of conservation for our planet’s natural resources.

There are around 120 bird species to discover, so birdwatching should definitely be on your itinerary here – regardless of whether a proud ornithophile or a complete amateur. Keep an eye out for the striking flocks of honey buzzards that can be seen parading above the park during migration season.

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