10 natural and national parks to reconnect with nature in Catalonia and Spain

The network of natural and national parks helps preserve a unique and much-needed heritage

5 min
Aigüestortes National Park

BarcelonaWhen the pandemic allowed us to leave home, many people headed to the mountains and rivers with the aim of breathing fresh air. After months locked up at home, it was necessary to reconnect with the natural environment, rediscover the sensations and emotions that contact with the blue and green of nature awakens. All correct if it were not for the fact that many go to natural spaces without a minimum awareness of where they are going and how to behave.

In Catalonia, we are lucky to have a very valuable natural heritage, but we must not forget that it is in our hands to preserve and protect it in order to enjoy it. With this objective, administratively protected natural spaces are found: terrestrial and marine areas of special environmental importance due to their representativeness, uniqueness, fragility, or interest of their natural elements or systems. The network of protected natural spaces in Catalonia consists of 165 spaces of special ecological value and, in these spaces, the so-called special protection natural spaces have a higher level of protection. They are national parks, natural parks, natural sites of national interest and nature reserves.

Marc Vilahur Chiaraviglio, general director of Environmental Policies and Natural Environment of the department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, explains that these distinctions have been granted "when their importance in the field of biodiversity has been detected and determined according to the degree of protection": "Natural parks are the most important, due to their biodiversity and the uniqueness of their ecosystem. The fact that they are declared protected natural spaces means that a series of restrictions are established to guarantee the minimum impact on nature. It's biodiversity and that there is effective control of this impact".

They are territories, as Vilahur points out, "that have species of conservation interest, protected species of both fauna and flora and habitats of community interest, or spaces with especially unique wetlands or that present a very characteristic ecosystem, for example. We must keep in mind that as a society we need nature to develop our human activity, and the fact of having a series of spaces in which we preserve biodiversity guarantees the well-being of our society. The general director of Environmental Policies and Natural Environment also points out that "natural values are elements increasingly appreciated by citizens": "It is true that we are increasingly urban, but we also need more contact with nature and we must also be able to offer ourselves tools for dynamizing the territory.”

Respect them to preserve them.

To preserve these spaces, the different administrations carry out actions, such as environmental restorations or improving the quality of these ecosystems. Now, in the preservation of these natural spaces, citizens must also play a fundamental role. The Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, in this sense, is promoting a campaign that aims to "relearn how to relate to nature to know how to do it without spoiling it, preserving it and adding value to it," says Marc Vilahur. The main tool of the campaign is the website, where information is collected about these spaces and advice is given on how to access the natural environment responsibly. Each space has its own casuistry and before going we will do well to know if it is an environment where there is extensive livestock farming, if there is special protection of forest spaces, if there is threatened fauna or if access is restricted to preserve the space.

Having noted this, go to the website and start planning your next getaway responsibly. For now, we have some ideas for you:


Aigüestortes and Estany de Sant Maurici National Park (Catalonia).

It is the only national park in Catalonia and we can find peaks of more than 3,000 meters, as well as rivers, ravines and waterfalls. But its most defining feature are the more than 200 lakes and ponds, where different animal and plant species live. In addition, its night sky is Starlight certified.

Lake San Mauricio in the Aigüestortes National Park

Cap de Creus Natural Park (Catalonia)

Straddling the sea and the land, it is a space of great beauty with a unique geological configuration with structures and outcrops that form a unique complex in the world. The effect of the Tramuntana has caused capricious forms of erosion to appear and has transformed its landscape, making it one of the most spectacular in the country.

Panoramic view of Cape Creus

Alt Pirineu Natural Park (Catalonia)

The largest protected natural area in Catalonia, with an area of almost 80,000 hectares. Under the highest peak of the Catalan Pyrenees, the Pica d'Estats (3,143 m), is a reserve of the Pyrenean natural and cultural heritage. It stands out for the extensive pastures maintained by the action of livestock and for the presence of such emblematic animals as the capercaillie, the bearded vulture and the brown bone.


Sierra del Montsant Natural Park (Catalonia)

A unique landscape characterized by the imprint of human activity and an abrupt geography of cliffs, ravines and gorges. It offers a rich natural and cultural heritage linked to the spiritual values of the mountain.

The landscape of Montsant

Ebro Delta Natural Park (Catalonia)

The most extensive aquatic habitat in Catalonia. The uniqueness of the Delta is expressed in its physical, geographical and natural reality, as well as in its particular traditions, culture, gastronomy, architectural and historical heritage.

The lighthouse on Fangar beach in the Ebro Delta Natural Park

Atlantic Islands (Galicia)

This national natural park includes the archipelagos of Cíes and Ons and the islands of Cortegada and Sálvora. Throughout its entire length there is a large laurel forest, more than 200 species of algae and different types of mollusks, corals and anemones. In addition, yellow-legged gulls, brown cormorants and common antbirds reside. No vehicles circulate through the Atlantic islands and access is controlled with a maximum of 2,200 visitors per day.

One of the beaches of the Cíes islands

Daimiel boards (Castilla-La Mancha)

This wetland, located in Ciudad Real, is unique in the world because it is the last representative of the ecosystem called river boards, which is produced by the overflowing of the Guadiana and Cigüela rivers, favored by the lack of slope. All of this has served to create a natural space of impressive beauty in which a different bird fauna survives that uses these areas as a hibernation and nesting area.


Timanfaya (Canary Islands)

This national park located on the island of Lanzarote is the only one of a geological nature because it arose as a result of the volcanic eruptions that took place on the island between 1720 and 1736, and also in 1824. Unlike other parks, there is no vegetation in this one. and the landscape is characterized by the roughness of the shapes, the different colors it reflects and the image of the volcanoes. In the park we can find more than 25 volcanoes, such as the Foc mountains, the Rajada mountain and the Caldera del Corazoncillo.

One of the places in the Timanfaya park

Monfragüe (Extremadura)

Located in the province of Cáceres, it is one of the most important bird watching points in Spain because we can find, among many other species, the imperial eagle, the black stork, the black vulture and large colonies of griffon vultures. In addition, it is one of the places that best conserves the forest and Mediterranean scrub.


Ordesa and Monte Perdido (Aragon)

A superb corner of the Pyrenees, with more than 15,000 hectares, dominated by the Monte Perdido massif (3,355 m), with the peaks of the Tres Sorores, from which the valleys of Ordesa, Pineta, Añisclo and Escuaín derive. A landscape of great contrasts: the extreme aridity of the high areas contrasts with the green valleys covered by forests and meadows, where water forms waterfalls and crosses canyons and ravines.

Protected natural spaces in Catalonia

The network of protected natural spaces in Catalonia consists of 165 spaces of special ecological value protected by the Plan for Spaces of Natural Interest (PEIN), with an area equivalent to 30% of the Catalan territory. Within these spaces, the so-called special protection natural spaces have a higher level of protection. They include national parks, natural parks, natural sites of national interest and nature reserves. Among these are natural spaces of high value such as the natural parks of the Aiguamolls del Empordà, the Cadí-Moixeró, the Montgrí, the Medes and Baix Ter islands, the Montserrat and the Montseny, as well as the Natural Spaces of the Llobregat Delta, the Natural Site of National Interest of the Pedraforca Massif and the Partial Nature Reserve of Mas de Melons. You can consult the complete network at .

Network of national parks in Spain

Spain is one of the pioneering countries in Europe in its commitment to the protection of nature. The first National Parks Law was approved in 1916. The purpose of national parks is to ensure their conservation, enable their public use and improve scientific knowledge of their natural and cultural values, as well as promote a conservationist social conscience. Spanish national parks have international recognition for their state of conservation, planning and integrated management of natural resources (Natura 2000 Network, Biosphere Reserve, RAMSAR, European Charter for Sustainable Tourism, ISO 14001, EMAS...). The network is made up of sixteen parks: Aigüestortes and Estany de Sant Maurici, Cabrera Archipelago, Cabañeros, Picos de Europa, Caldera de Taburiente, Doñana, Garajonay, Atlantic Islands, Monfragüe, Ordesa and Monte Perdido, Sierra de Guadarrama, Sierra de las Nieves , Sierra Nevada, Tablas de Daimiel, Teide and Timanfaya.