Ways to discover Doñana National Park
Who has not heard of the Doñana National Park … halfway between Huelva, Seville and Cádiz, Doñana is currently a beautiful mosaic of landscapes that contains a unique biodiversity in Europe. Doñana is made up of the National Park and the Natural Park of the same name which presumes of the different ecosystems that compose it: the dunes, endless beaches, the forest, the scrub, and some extensive marshes full of life. To visit the Doñana Park is to enjoy a labyrinth of land and water that gives shape to marshes, lagoons and pipes, preserves and pine forests, veins, dunes, beaches and spectacular cliffs. We tell you some things to see and do in the Doñana Park.
1. Ecotourism from Sanlúcar de Barrameda
Among all the excursions to Doñana that you can choose, the more affordable option and also the one that has more attractions for nature lovers is crossing the pine forest of Algaida, one of the lesser known places of the countryside. In Tarelo lagoon, which has great ornithological interest, you can enjoy one of the most important colonies of the common duck in Andalusia and observe numerous waterfowl.
This walk is highly recommended to enjoy the beauty of Cadiz, dune landscapes and pine forests. It is a very attractive place for locals, and the tourists visiting Sanlúcar who are also looking for something more than the quality of the prawns in Bajo de Guia.
2. El Rocío
You cannot leave Doñana National Park without visiting the famous village of El Rocio. Extremely famous for the massive Pilgrimage of El Rocio, this architectural complex is well worth a stop on your way. The first thing that catches our attention are its dirt roads. This is because the asphalt has not reached any corner of this imperturbable population.
It is worth walking through the streets in search of the best postcard and, of course, enter the Ermita del Rocío. Recently built in the 60s, this temple houses one of the world’s most venerated carvings, the Virgen del Rocio. The festival around the Virgin, held during the weekend of Pentecost Sunday, gathers more than one million people every year. This route is partly shared with the reserve of Doñana.
3. Cruise aboard Real Fernando ship
To visit both the Natural Park and the National Park using most of the same route, there is the option of making the crossing from Sanlúcar de Barrameda in the ship Real Fernando, making two interesting stops on a journey that takes about three hours approximately.
Along the way you will observe birds such as flamingos and herons, which are easily seen from the boat.
4. Approaching Asperillo
Doñana holds surprises until the end of the visit. An example of this is the Asperillo Cliff, located in the coastal border. The place is a show of contrasts, with a range of ochre and red colours, which change according to the time of day.
This 30-metre sandy cliff really impresses due to its many kilometres in length, the highest in Europe of its type, partly Natural Monument, which dominates the coastal landscape. Besides the obvious scenic value, it has a great geological and ecological importance. You can discover it by taking the well marked paths such as Cuesta Maneli, where you can also find out about the evolution of dunes through the different ecosystems, leading to the cliff itself.
5. Saca de yeguas
For more than 500 years, farmers in Almonte come to the village with mares and foals used for working throughout the day in Doñana National Park, to celebrate the annual Cattle Fair. This event is known as Saca de Yeguas. Every June 26th you will be able to attend the traditional parade where mares are grouped and guided by their carer.
6. Enjoy its beaches
Among different types of landscapes we find in Doñana we have dunes, marshes and pine forests, but also 27 kilometres of completely unspoilt beaches. If you delay the walk until dusk, you will contemplate the spectacular sunset from this important and well-known nature reserve.
7. Moving dunes
The moving dunes are part of this spectacular scenery. They form on the beach where the wind pushes the sand from the coast inland, forming mountains of sand that will grow and continue moving to meet the marsh. Although the presence of dunes is permanent on the coast of Huelva and Cádiz, the most impressive ones are located between the town of Matalascañas and the mouth of Guadalquivir river.
8. Curiosities you must know about Doñana
Where does the name Doñana come from?
It was in the 16th century when Doña Ana Magdalena Gómez de Silva and Mendoza decided to reside in what at that time was just a forest and in together her husband, Don Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, seventh Duke of Medina Sidonia, built what todays is the Doñana Palace.
The landscape of the pestles
In 1797, the famous painter Francisco de Goya resided as a guest of the Duchess of Alba, at that time Doña Cayetana de Silva, in the Doñana Palace. During his stay the painter took several portraits of the widow, so it is said that it was here that the painter made his two Majas
Lawrence de Doñana
The dunes of Doñana were the setting chosen by the cameras of David Lean to recreate the desert in the film Lawrence of Arabia.
‘Astarté del Rocío’
Astarte is the Tartessian goddess of fertility. This goddess is associated with both the waters and the moon. Some historians maintain that there was a temple dedicated to this goddess where today is the Hermitage of the Virgen del Rocío is located. All this is reinforced by the fact that this Virgin, besides considering her the Mother of the Marshes, is called the White Dove and Astarte was also represented by a white dove.
The ‘panda’ that was born in Doñana
After the salvation of Doñana during Franco’s dictatorship (the dictator intended to turn the park into a eucalyptus field, but ended up giving up), an organization was created to raise funds and create a scientific reserve here, in this way the World Wide Found was born. World for Nature). The funny thing about this is that despite being born in this park, the logo of the organization is not an Iberian lynx, but a panda.
WHERE TO STAY
Fuerte El Rompido Hotel is one of the most beautiful hotels in the area due to its spectacular location on a hill that dominates the natural area of Río Piedras and also offers a perfect place to enjoy the prawn route. Besides, it also features aesthetic Andalusian architecture that harmonizes with its surroundings and its good cuisine based on seafood. An ideal place to rest and to practice sports surrounded by nature.