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Spain enjoys some of the richest and most exciting birding in all of Europe. It sits on a migratory pathway and with a wide variety of habitats, it is a top European birding destination. On this tour, our field days occur in scenic landscapes that include hilltop villages, historic churches, and shady groves.

We carefully crafted this tour with a good pace in mind. Spend several days each in three fabulous birding regions: Extremadura, Andalusia, and Castilla-La Mancha. Breeding birds are on territory as wildflowers come into bloom and paint the natural landscape. In addition to birding and natural history, we make time to experience the many cultural, architectural, and culinary delights that the lovely country of Spain has to offer.

Our spring Spain birding and nature tour begins in the mountains of Sierra de Gredos, a landscape of bottle-green pines, granite peaks, and alpine meadows. We then continue southward to the rolling grassland steppes and cork-oak forests of Extremadura, known for harboring the largest number and variety of nesting raptors in all of Europe. Then, we visit the wetlands of Doñana National Park, one of the largest and most important wetlands on the continent, in the region of Andalusia in southern Spain. On the last leg of our journey, we visit the Sierra Morena for the possibility of seeing Iberian Lynx, and to see the bird-rich lagoons of Castilla-La Mancha.

Tour Highlights

  • Traverse through the unspoiled countryside of Extremadura, exploring the threatened grassland steppes in search of iconic species like Great and Little Bustard, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoo, and six species of lark
  • Witness the beauty of the granitic Sierra de Gredos while looking for Spanish Ibex, Ortolan Bunting, Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, and more
  • Explore one of the largest and most important wetlands in Europe, Doñana National Park, and experience its rich diversity of water birds, including Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Squacco Heron, and Collared Pratincole
  • Immerse in the exquisite Romanesque and Moorish architecture of historic Sevilla
  • Discover the great diversity of raptors (up to 20 are possible!) that Spain has to offer, with highlights including Cinereous and Egyptian Vulture, Spanish and Booted Eagle, and Montagu’s and Eurasian Marsh-Harrier
  • Enjoy the rich dance and folkloric music traditions of southern Spain with an evening Flamenco performance
  • Watch for the one-of-a-kind Bearded Reedling in the marshes of La Mancha, home to the famous windmills that inspired Miguel de Cervantes’s work Don Quixote

Trip Itinerary

Sun., Apr. 25: Arrivals


Welcome to Spain! After arriving at the international airport in Madrid either yesterday or in the early morning today, you join the group on a transfer to our accommodations in Navarredonda de Gredos. The area has a distinctly alpine feel, and we should see our first common species along the way: White Stork, Common Swift, Black Kite, and more
Accommodations at Navarredonda de Gredos (D)

Mon., Apr. 26 : Sierra de Gredos


Set high in the mountains, our hotel offers lovely views of distant snowy peaks and lush pinelands. This morning, we drive up to “La Plataforma” of the Sierra de Gredos Natural Reserve. Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Rock Bunting, and Water Pipit are common breeders in the alpine meadows found in the higher reaches of the park. By hiking slowly, we also hope to see less common denizens such as Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, Ortolan Bunting, and Spanish Ibex. Areas of extensive broom even hold an endemic subspecies of the lovely Bluethroat. In the late morning, we should also see our first Eurasian Griffon soaring overhead.

After a delicious lunch, we walk along a nearby pineland trail that hosts a large variety of classic European woodland species: European Pied Flycatcher, Eurasian Jay, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Eurasian Blackcap, and more. Many of these species either do not occur or are much less common further south, reaching the southern limit of their distribution here.
Accomodations at Navarredonda de Gredos (B,L,D)

Tues., Apr. 27: Sierra de Gredos


Today we continue to explore the Sierra de Gredos in the early morning, perhaps in search of Citril Finch or White-throated Dipper—or just studying and admiring the various non-avian delights the area has to offer such as the Ocellated Lizard that live on the rock mason walls of the area or the alpine wildflower displays.

After lunch, we make the relatively short drive south to the Arrocampo Reservoir to see waterbirds. Created to supply cooling water to a nuclear power station, this large body of water with its many bays, inlets, and marshes provides excellent habitat for myriad water birds such as Purple Heron, Savi’s Warbler, Western Swamphen, and Eurasian Marsh-Harrier. To make viewing easier, there are several hides we can use at different locations.
Accommodations at Trujillo (B,L,D)

Wed., Apr. 28: Monfragüe National Park


The landscape in and around Monfragüe National Park features a park-like woodland of cork and evergreen oaks (called dehesa), a result of centuries of traditional, low-intensive farming. Ruins and rocky cliffs dot the park, while rivers and reservoirs irrigate it. All these features result in a rich and varied animal life, making Monfragüe probably the best location for birding in Extremadura—a region known for harboring the largest collection of raptors in both number and diversity in all of Europe!

We enjoy this 70-square mile park and all it has to offer over the course of the day, from its ancient castle to its high concentration of Eurasian Griffon Vultures, one of the largest in all of Europe. We are also on the lookout for Spanish and Bonelli’s Eagles, Cinereous and Egyptian Vultures, Black Stork, Rock Bunting, Woodchat Shrike, and many more in this picturesque and birdy area. We also have a good chance to observe and photograph the regionally endemic Iberian Magpie. Incredibly, this bird’s closest relatives are found in East Asia!
Accommodations at Trujillo (B,L,D)

Thurs., Apr. 29: Plains of Trujillo & Cáceres


Lying between the two historic towns of Trujillo and Cáceres, the Llanos de Cáceres y Trujillo have been declared Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAB) because of their high ornithological value. Traditional farmers herd their sheep to graze in these grasslands, as they have done for hundreds of years, for the production of cheese and wool. Due to this sustainable land use, many bird species that are rare elsewhere manage to thrive here. Raptors continue to play a prominent part of our birding as we explore the steppes: Montagu’s Harrier, Short-toed Snake-Eagle, Red Kite, and more. By scanning the fields in the early morning, we hope to also see the statuesque Great Bustard, colorful European Roller, and elusive Great Spotted Cuckoo.

After lunch, there is time to explore the central square of Trujillo, featuring many churches, museums, and a prominent castle. There is great potential for interesting birding even here—Pallid Swift, Lesser Kestrel, Black Redstart, and White Stork are all possible around the ancient buildings. As the day cools off, we head out again into the steppes to enjoy any birds we may have missed in the early morning.
Accommodations at Trujillo (B,L,D)

Fri., Apr. 30 : Trujillo to Doñana


We watch the sunrise this morning atop Trujillo’s most prominent castle, allowing us to enjoy magnificent views of the town and plains that stretch out beyond it as far as the eye can see. Eurasian Jackdaw nest in old crags of the castle, while European Goldfinch and Serin feed in the weedy patches around its base. Even here in the middle of town, there is so much bird life! After breakfast, we continue southwards to Zorita and the steppes beyond it in search of Bonelli’s Eagle, Great Bustard, European Roller, and more. We enjoy a picnic lunch at Magacela Castle, the ancient remains of a Roman fortress and home to several birds that enjoy the rocky outcrop—Red-billed Chough, Blue Rock-Thrush, Black Wheatear, and Black-eared Wheatear.

Afterwards, we begin our scenic drive south from Extremadura and into Andalusia, the southernmost autonomous community in Spain. The landscape becomes progressively more tropical, with more palms, stone pines, and subtropical flowering trees. We arrive at Hotel Ardea Purpurea in the late afternoon just before an exquisite dinner.
Accommodations at Hotel Ardea Purpurea at Villamanrique de la Condesa (B,L,D)

Sat., May 1 : Doñana National Park


Doñana National Park, one of the largest and most important wetlands in Europe, encompasses thousands of acres of marshes (marismas) at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. This park has over 127 breeding species including many that are globally threatened such as White-headed Duck, Spanish Eagle, and Marbled Teal. Over the next few days, we have an opportunity to visit many of the habitats in this area to sample the high diversity of species.

On our first morning, we visit the wetlands that flank the Caño del Guadiamar. This productive area is home to hundreds of herons, egrets, spoonbills, storks, grebes, terns, and more! The reeds and tamarisks are full of both singing Eurasian Reed-Warbler and Great Reed-Warbler. By around noon, we reach Dehesa Abajo. This portion of the park features a good example of the primitive original forest that once blanketed large parts of Andalusia, Spain. This woodland attracts numbers of European Bee-eater. Surrounding wetlands attract large numbers of Red-crested and Common Pochard, Greater Flamingo, Great Crested Grebe, and more. We search through these large rafts of waterfowl for less common ones such as Marbled Teal, White-headed Duck, and Red-knobbed Coot.

An optional night walk may produce some exciting nocturnal species: Eurasian Scops-Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, and Red-necked Nightjar.
Accommodations at Hotel Ardea Purpurea at Villamanrique de la Condesa (B,L,D)

Sun., May 2: Doñana National Park


We dedicate our second morning here to visit a restricted area of Doñana National Park. Here, we find two important ecosystems: the Mediterranean woodland and wetlands. Our goal in the pine and cork oak woods is Iberian Lynx, one of the most endangered wild cat species in the world. The population is in decline due to sharp declines in rabbit populations (it preys exclusively on European Rabbit), as well as fragmentation of habitat. Doñana is one of the two last strongholds for this species.

Afterwards, we drive to La Rocina Visitor Center of Doñana, which features forests of stone pine (the main source for pine nuts used in pesto!), lush ponds, and Mediterranean scrub. We enjoy a variety of songbirds in this forest mosaic, including Eurasian Golden Oriole, Iberian Magpie, Savi’s Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Dartford Warbler, and others.

After a sumptuous seaside lunch, we stop along the way to the lodge at the Bird Center of SEO/Birdlife in El Rocío (Spain’s strangest town) to walk along the edge of the wild lagoons and marshes of Doñana National Park. This is one of the best birding spots in the region. A nice visitor center and several trails allow us to explore the surrounding area and sample the birdlife in both the woodlands and marshes: Greater Flamingo, Pied Avocet, Eurasian Reed-Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Little Ringed Plover, and others. This is also an opportunity to visit the Hermitage of El Rocío, the destination site for an annual pilgrimage that brings together roughly a million people each year to venerate the Virgin of El Rocío.

In the evening, we attend a flamenco show. This professionalized art-form has clear traces of both Spanish and Arabic folk melodies. The dance itself is known for its emotional intensity and rhythmic stamping of the feet.
Accommodations at Hotel Ardea Purpurea at Villamanrique de la Condesa (B,L,D)

Mon., May 3: Odiel Marshes


Today, we visit the Odiel Marshes Nature Reserve. Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1983, this protected area is a paradise for birds with its salt pans, lakes, sandbanks, tidal channels, and rivers. Eurasian Spoonbill, the emblem of the reserve and the species responsible for the area’s protected status, is featured among the many other bird species we hope to see here.

Along the coast, we search for two rare gulls typical of the Mediterranean region: Slender-billed and Audouin’s. The Odiel Marshes are also an important area for charismatic European shorebirds, and we hope to see a nice sampling: Kentish Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Stint, Common Redshank, and more.

At some point during the day today, we have the option to visit the place where Christopher Columbus organized his voyages of discovery to the Americas—a monastery where Columbus sought the aid of Franciscan brothers in advancing his idea.
Accommodations at Hotel Ardea Purpurea at Villamanrique de la Condesa (B,L,D)

Tues., May 4: Doñana to Almagro


Today, we head out early to visit several birding locals just south of Seville on our way to Córdoba. Our first stop is the Laguna La Mejorada at Los Palacios y Villafranca. In the early morning, a large variety of normally shy birds perch out on open branches and sing, including both Common Nightingale and Western Olivaceous Warbler. This small site also functions as a migrant trap, attracting increasingly uncommon migrants such as European Turtle-Dove. Nearby, we visit a stretch of vineyards in search of Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin.

Further south, we spend time at the Salinas de Bonanza to observe large numbers of Greater Flamingo, Pied Avocet, Slender-billed Gull, and a rich supporting cast of migratory shorebirds. Nearby, the town of Chipiona has one of the few colonies of Little Swift in all of Europe.

After lunch, we drive to Almagro with a cultural stop in the heart of Córdoba. This ancient city was originally a Roman settlement, exchanging hands multiple times over the course of its history. The historic center of Córdoba, home to many notable pieces of Moorish architecture, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. By the afternoon, we arrive in Almagro in the region of Castilla-La Mancha.
Accommodations at Hotel Retiro del Maestro at Almagro (B,L,D)

Wed., May 5: Calatrava Steppes | Navaseca | Alcazar de San Juan Lagoons


The region of Castilla-La Mancha features gently rolling grasslands dotted by vineyards and olive groves. Occasionally, shallow lagoons interrupt the landscape—some fringed with reeds, while others are barren and saline—where waterbirds nest in large numbers.

We dedicate the morning to the Calatrava Steppes for both Little Bustard and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, while also looking for other species of open country such as various larks (Greater Short-toed, Thekla, Crested). Afterwards, we visit the Navaseca Lagoon, which is home to a large concentration of nesting waterfowl, flamingos, and gulls, including the endangered White-headed Duck. Secretive waterbirds are often hiding amongst the reeds, so it pays to inspect the shore carefully for Water Rail and Little Bittern. Other birds that inhabit the lagoon include Eurasian and Great Reed-Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, and Zitting Cisticola.
Accommodations at Hotel Retiro del Maestro at Almagro (B,L,D)

Thurs., May 6 : Tablas de Daimiel National Park | Calatrava Castle


We visit two major areas today in Castilla-La Mancha: Tablas de Daimiel National Park and Calatrava Castle.
Tablas de Daimiel National Park, our first point of exploration for the day, is a critically important remnant of floodplain wetland in the arid interior of Spain. Large numbers of breeding and migratory birds pass through this oasis. Despite being Spain’s smallest national park, it boasts over 80 species of breeding birds! Several new bird species we hope to see here today include Bearded Reedling, Eurasian Penduline-Tit, Moustached Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, and Reed Bunting. The Bearded Reedling is especially interesting, being the sole member of a unique songbird family with no close living relatives.

The Calatrava New Castle, the largest medieval castle in all of Spain, is part of the stunning Sierra Morena, a ridge of mountains traversed with rocky gorges and cloaked in Holm Oak forest. A host of interesting species occur in this beautiful and unspoilt place: Eurasian Golden Oriole, Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting, Black Wheatear, Rock Bunting, and Great Spotted Cuckoo are just some of the few. This ancient watch tower offers sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and countryside. We enjoy the castle until close to sunset to soak in the panorama.
Accommodations at Hotel Retiro del Maestro at Almagro (B,L,D)

Fri., May 7: Departures


On our way back to Madrid, we make sure to pass by the Campo de Criptana to enjoy the windmills featured so famously in Miguel de Cervates’s work Don Quixote. We say farewell at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Baraja International Airport, full of memories of an incredible wildlife and cultural experience in Spain. Please schedule departures after noon (B)

  • Bulls of Guisando, Spain Birding Tour, Spain Nature Tour, Spain, Naturalist Journeys
  • European Greenfinch, Spain Birding Tour, Spain Nature Tour, Spain, Naturalist Journeys
  • Iberian Ibex, Spain Birding Tour, Spain Nature Tour, Spain, Naturalist Journeys
  • Lizard, Spain Birding Tour, Spain Nature Tour, Spain, Naturalist Journeys
  • Seafood, Andalusia, Spain Birding Tour, Spain Nature Tour, Spain, Naturalist Journeys
  • Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Spain Birding Tour, Spain Nature Tour, Spain, Naturalist Journeys
  • White Stork, Spain Birding Tour, Spain Nature Tour, Spain, Naturalist Journeys
  • White-headed Duck, Spain Birding Tour, Spain Nature Tour, Spain, Naturalist Journeys

Cost of the Journey

Cost of the journey is $4890 DBL / $5450 SGL per person from Madrid, Spain, based on double occupancy and includes: airport transfers, accommodations for 12 nights, meals as specified in the itinerary, professional guide services, local guides, local park and reserve entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses.

It does not include roundtrip airfare to or from Madrid, or items of a personal nature such as: laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, or gratuities for porterage or personal services.

Travel Details

Please plan to arrive at Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD) on the morning of April 25, 2021, or a day ahead of time (at your own expense). We can recommend a hotel if you plan to come in a day early. Please plan your flights home in the afternoon on May 7. Please check your flight times with us before you book and finalize your plans.


Photo credits: All photos courtesy of by Pieter Verheij Photography, Spanish Nature unless noted otherwise. Griffon Vultures; Greater Flamingo; Fox; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Booted Eagle; White Stork; Lesser Kestrel; Eurasian Spoonbill; European Roller; Azure-winged Magpie; Greater Flamingo; European Bee-eater; European Roller; Hoopoe; Purple Heron; Crossbill; Spanish Imperial Eagle; Great-crested Grebe by Greg Smith; Black Vulture; Black-eared Wheatear; Spanish Imperial Eagles; Hawfinch by Gerard Gorman; Pin-tailed Sandgrouse; Greater Flamingos; Fox; Eurasian Spoonbill; Chaffinch; Bulls of Guisando by Carlos Sanchez; European Greenfinch by Carlos Sanchez; Iberian Ibex by Carlos Sanchez; Lizard by Carlos Sanchez; Seafood in Andalusia by Carlos Sanchez; Tortoiseshell Butterfly by Carlos Sanchez; White Stork by Carlos Sanchez; White-headed Duck by Carlos Sanchez.

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