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Spanning three Andalusian provinces and 542 sq km (209 sq miles), Doñana is one of Spain’s largest and most unspoilt natural parks. Read on for our pick of the best walks in this beautiful protected area.
This relaxed, 3.5-km (2.2-mile) stroll begins near the La Rocina Visitor Centre, close to the curious town of El Rocio. Extending along a walkway of wooden boards, it takes you through aromatic pine forests and along the La Rocina stream, providing plenty of opportunities for birdwatching on the way. It’s particularly beautiful at dusk, when you can watch the sun set over the marshes.
For a trek through Doñana’s jungle, head to the Visitor Centre at Acebrón, on the park’s most northerly tip. This undemanding, 1.5-km (0.9-mile) walk takes you through humming riparian forests of umbrella pine and cork oak, where you’ll have the chance to spot local insects and reptiles, as well as admire a rich variety of fauna. This is also one of the best family treks in Doñana.
For a longer walk, head to the Wild-West style El Rocio, from where you can enjoy a section of the pilgrim’s route that leads to Moguer (or do it the other way around, so you end up in El Rocio). It runs for 12 km (7.5 miles), passing through the eerie village of Cabezudos, which was founded by a Dutch forestry company in the 1920s. Inhabited until the 1980s, its decaying buildings now stand abandoned.
Starting at the Jaral lagoon, this is a 5.5-km (3.4-mile) trek on Doñana’s rugged Atlantic coast. It takes you through the impressive Aasperillo sand dunes, from where you can enjoy views of both the ocean and the Abalario umbrella pine forest, before culminating on the unspoilt Castilla beach. As you go, keep your eyes open for local residents such as finches and warblers.
This 15-km (9.3-mile) trail is a part of the most-trodden pilgrims’ paths to El Rocio. It starts just outside of El Rocio, on the Ajoli bridge, where you pick up the sandy track that leads to the town of Villamanrique de la Condesa. Thick forests of pine and cork provide shade along much of the route, with deer, boar and Iberian lynx amongst the fauna you might spot.
This short (1.2-km (0.75-mile)) easy-going walk offers fantastic views of the El Asperillo dune range – one of the biggest concentration of dunes in southern Spain – from the highest viewpoint in Doñana, at an altitude of 112 metres (367 feet). From there, descend onto the beach at Matalascañas – a popular weekend spot for sun-seeking Sevillanos – and enjoy some down time before embarking on the leisurely stroll back.
This undemanding boardwalk leads you around the edge of the Ribetehido lake, on Doñana’s northern extremity. Weaving effortlessly amongst the flat, peaty marshland, you’ll be able to watch out for some of the elusive amphibians that call this region home, such as the sharp-ribbed salamander or the Iberian newt.