All the activity options in Doñana
not to get bored
Different levels of protection are applied in the Doñana Natural Site depending on the area; they set, among others, the access restrictions for visitors.
In the National Park, where the priorities are the conservation of species and ecosystems and research, the options for the visitors are reduced to the visitor centres, all located in the periphery of the Park, with their self guided walking trails, and the 4WD tours offered by the authorized companies, the only way to see the restricted areas of the Park open to the public.
In the Natural Park, where the idea is to combine conservation and research activities with the use of natural resources and educational activities, there are many more options for visitors. In addition to the visitor centers, there are a number of hiking and cycling trails of different lengths that run through forests, dunes and marshes, and other activities offered by different companies such as horse riding tours, drawn-horse vehicle tours or camel tours.
The following offers very useful information on how to organize your visit to Doñana.
Official tours to the National Park
If you want to visit the National Park there are 3 kinds of organized tours; remember that they all require a reservation in advance. Park itself does not offer tours for the general public. Therefore, all tours are organized through private companies with a concession or authorization from the Park administration to carry out their activities.
This itinerary takes you from El Rocío to the José Antonio Valverde Visitor Center along the traditional pilgrim’s path called Raya Real, passing through Coto del Rey Pine Forest, Matasgordas Cork Oak Woods and Hinojos Marshes. This is the only tour to the National Park that offers possibilities to observe the Iberian lynx and the only one that goes into the marshes and offers good options to get of a long list of birds.
This is the only tour to the National Park that will offer you some chances to see the Iberian lynx and will take you into the marshes and it is particularly good for birdwatching.
This is one of the routes that we offer in Discovering Doñana. Depending on your interests you can choose from a private tailor made tour, or a shared one for a maximum of 10 people. The usual duration of our half day tours is 5 hours so we’ll be able to make as many stops as need and enjoy the scenery and wildlife of Doñana without time restrictions. In addition we normally complement the tour with other interesting places in the Aznalcázar Marshes such as Lucio del Lobo and Caracoles State and other nearby areas like Entremuros or the Hato Blanco Rice Fields, that offer good opportunities for birds and some mammals like the fallow deer. Quality binoculars are offered for each participant if needed.
For bird watching and nature photography lovers we offer full day tours, of about 10 hours, in which we include the Isla Mayor Rice Fields and other nearby areas of ornithological interest like Dehesa de Abajo.
There are other two companies authorized by the National Park that offer tours along this route, mainly to people with general interests. Visits last normally for about 4 hours with a couple of stops along the route and a long one at the visitor centre, and are carried out in 8, 15 or 25 passenger vehicles. They offer binoculars included in the price although we recommend you to bring your own if you have them.
Tours in 4WD vehicles along this route are carried out by the concessionaire company Cooperativa Marismas del Rocío and leave from El Acebuche Visitors Center, some 3 kms north of Matalascañas.
They use large 21-seater 4WD minibuses to take you to see some of the most important ecosystems in the Park, mainly areas of “cotos” (pine forests and scrubland), beaches and dunes, and include areas the locally called “vera” along the edges of marshes. It is the only way to see the famous mobile dunes of Doñana, which are one of the main attractions of the tour.
The route covers a total of about 70 kms and runs along the 32 km of beaches between Matalascañas and Sanlúcar de Barrameda and then runs along the mouth of the Guadalquivir River to go later into an area of pine forests. Then they stop at La Plancha Village, an old abandoned forestry village, and keep going along the “vera” to go later through the mobile dunes before returning to the beach. The itinerary may be changed depending on the tides.
The tours last for about 3 hours and a half, too little for the long distance covered. Binoculars are not included in the price but you can hire them before starting the tour. In high season pickups are also organized from Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Check more details on www.donanavisitas.es
It consists on a boat tour of about 3 hours and a half and covers about 13 km up and down the Guadalquivir River and is organized by company Buque Real Fernando. Tours depart from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, from a small pier on the left banks of the River.
The ship, with a capacity for 100 passengers, will take you upstream to the ancient forestry village of La Plancha, in the National Park, on the right banks of the River where they will offer you to go for a short walk through their restored thatch huts to see try and imagine what living here was like. A walking trail will also take you to some viewpoints over the Llanos de Velásquez, where hopefully you will see some red deer and wild boars.
Back to the boat, they will take you to the ornithological hides at Salinas de Monte Algaida, in the Natural Park, again on the left bank of the river, traditional salt pans where flamingos, spoonbills and other shore birds abound.
Finally the ship will go back the same way downriver to Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Binoculars are not included in the price but you can hire them on board.
Check details on: www.donanavisitas.com
Walking and biking trails
The Park offers 9 walking and biking trails of different lengths and features and 3 bike paths. They are all self guided and open to everyone.
Most short distance walking trails are located in the Natural Park, which is divided into 4 different sections within 3 provinces: Seville, Huelva and Cadiz. There are a total of 6 short trails.
This is a 5.5 km long and medium difficulty circular walking trail. It begins at the kilometric point 46 on the local road H – 492 from Matalascañas to Huelva. There is a small parking area next to a metallic gate that will have to close behind you. The sandy track will take you first to a seasonal lagoon called Laguna del Jaral, which usually looks just like a clearing in the pines, and then continues to the top of the Asperillo Dunes, offering spectacular views of both the Atlantic Ocean to the south as a ” green sea” of pine in the Abalario area to the south.
Then the trail offers a view over a small but beautiful mobile dune next to the attractive sandstone cliffs of Playas de Castilla. You are not suppose to leave the signposted track so enjoy the views of the dunes and the sea in the background before continuing. Then the track will take you down to the edge of the cliffs offering great views of the long stretch of sandy beaches where you may find some flocks of gulls resting or terns fishing.
This trail also stands out for the species of plants adapted to this harsh habitat and the variety of species of small birds like Dartford warbler, woodlark and thekla lark. It is also a good place to look for footprints of reptiles, amphibians and mammals that live here.
This is a low difficulty boardwalk path with a length of around 1.2 km that will take you from the kilometric point 39.7 of the road A-494 to the beach. There is a controlled parking area at the beginning. In summer you will find a beach bar.
As we move through the dunes, we find species that have adapted to survive in this tough habitat, among which corema album, which is only found in the peninsular Atlantic coast stands out.
You will reach the 112 meters over the sea level and we’ll have excellent views over an endless landscape of sandy beaches. Once down on the beach you will also see the impressive Asperillo sandstone cliffs with gullies and ruts made by water erosion.
This is also an easy boardwalk path with a length of abou 1.3 km long going around the Ribetehilos Lagoons and its string of smaller ponds sewn by a thread of water, with the typical riparian vegetation of peatlands. It is especially recommended in the rainy season when the lagoons are flooded. The signposting of the access from the road H – 492 have recently been improved.
The landscape of the lagoons contrasts sharply with the surroundings’ consisting o in a pine forest reforestation with a thick undergrowth on sandy soils. Cork oaks, strawberry trees and brooms are replacing in these wetter soils the eucalyptus with which the area was reforestated in the 30s and 40s.
Along this route you will find information boards on different topics like gum tree and pine tree plantations, recollection of peat, carnivorous plants (pinguicola lusitanica), strawberry tree and its fruits, little dwarf palms and their exploitation, geological substrates, the colour of the sands and the landscape restoration.
Circular walking and bike trail, around 5.6 km long, which runs around El Arrayán Recreation Area, located on the local road connecting Hinojos with El Rocío.
It goes most of the time through an umbrella pine reforestation, accompanied by mastic trees, different kinds of rockroses, rosemary, lavender, brooms and other typical species of Mediterranean Forest. A section of the path goes next to La Major Stream with vegetation adapted to more humid soils with species like cork oak, heather and strawberry tree.
In the area abound a very good variety of small forest birds, azure-winged magpies, some birds of prey like booted eagle and live mammals such as mongoose, badger or red fox.
It is a walking and biking trail of about 5.6 km that goes through La Algaida Pine Forests and by Los Desamparados Saltpans.
The route starts with a stop in the bird observatory at El Tarelo Lagoon, artificially dug to extract sand for kitchen gardens in the area, but that today support a good variety of water birds among which the red-knobbed coot and the white headed duck stand out.
Then the trail continues through areas of forest pine with abundant Mediterranean vegetation with junipers, mastic trees, rockroses, black hawthorns, flax-leaved daphne and honeysuckle. Then we will approach the contact area of the forest sands with the marsh clays, which has been transformed here into saltpans.
Later, the grounds undulate and the trail leads to an area of fossil dunes where we will have good views of the pine forests in the National Park. We will pass through the so-called Cerro del Águila (eagle hill) due to a pair of short-toed eagles that nested here.
There are three long-distance trails with public access in the Donana National Park. All they run through sandy soils and, except the one along the beach, you may find flooded or muddy spots along the route. They have no toilet facilities or potable water, so you should bring everything you think you will need.
This route goes along the last section of the traditional pilgrim’s route locally called Camino de Moguer, which connects this area of Huelva province around the village of Moguer with El Rocío.
It is a sandy track of about 12 km that go through places of great beauty and high natural value within the strip of land associated with the La Rocina Stream and included in the National Park.
The route runs through areas of umbrella pine and cork oak, crossing several streams to reach the old forestry village of Cabezudos.
This is the most famous pilgrims’ route, called “Raya Real”, used each year for many thousands pilgrims coming from Seville and a good part of Andalusia to bring them to the village of El Rocío.
There are about 15 km of sandy track from Puente del Ajolí, east of El Rocío, to the local road to Villamanrique, via Palacio del Rey. About 6 km of it are within the boundaries of the National Park and the other 9 in the Natural Park.
The National Park protection area extends 1 mile offshore, so the beach is included in it. There are about 32 km of beaches of fine white sand from Matalascañas to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, on the Cádiz coast, that are considered as one of the last virgin beaches in Spain. Some old wooden fishing huts and the ruins of several ancient watchtowers are the only constructions.
Nevertheless it may sometimes appear as a very busy place due to the presence of a number of professional shellfish collectors and the vehicles of the Park rangers and the 4×4 tours to the south of the National Park. It may also look dirty, due to the large amount of trash that the Guadalquivir River and the Atlantic Ocean bring back to us every day with the tides.
Walking at high tide on the dry sand is really hard, but at low tide is much easier on wet sand. As a whole it is a long and demanding route. If you still dare, you it will be good to know that there is a ferry to cross over to the other side of the Guadalquivir River to the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. From there it is not difficult to continue your journey along the coast of Cádiz province.
Website of the ferry company
2016 price list
It is only allowed to walk along the coast but not to leave the beach and go into the dunes.
This is a low difficulty linear trail of about 17 km. It runs parallel to the A-494 that connects Huelva with Matalascañas. You will enjoy a beautiful reforested umbrella pine forests and the fossil Asperillo Dunes, covered by natural vegetation. It is a good route for watch bird like thekla lark, sardinian warbler, dartford warbler, woodlark, serin, azured-winged magpie, bee-eater and woodchat shrike.
Along this route you will find the accesses to the footpaths of Laguna del Jaral and Cuesta Maneli.
A cyclist itinerary of about 65 km that will take you through the transformed and natural marshes on bumpy gravel tracks. A good place to start would be Venta del Cruce, an off road restaurant at the intersection of roads SE–659 and SE-666 south of La Puebla del Río.
It is a good route for bird watching, so you can easily spend a full day exploring the area. The end point of the route is the José Antonio Valverde Visitor Center, where you will find toilets and bar for a drink.
This green corridor about 24 km long, accessible on foot or by bicycle, linking the Ermita de Montemayor, in the vicinity of the town of Moguer with the Doñana National Park, next to the entrance to Doñana Camping Site, where it links with the Asperillo bike trail and later with the Cuesta Maneli walking path, creating a medium length bike route through an area of high ecological and cultural values.
The route runs through areas of umbrella pine reforestation and temporary lagoons with patches of cork oak and scrub with a wide variety of plant species and forest birds. Red deer, wild boar, red fox and mongooses also live in the area.
We remind you certain rules that should be followed:
Respect animals and plants
do not disturb the environ
Do not driver motor vehicles
Pets are not allowed
interfere with wildlife
Camp only if permitted
by the Park
Do not start any fire
of any kind
Respect Nature silence
no needless loud sounds
Stay on the marked paths
do not leave them
Keep countryside clean
use trash bins
There are several companies that offering horse tours. From rides on horseback through the forests, beaches and dunes of Doñana for the more adventurous to tranquil horse rides and through the streets of El Rocío or traditional pilgrim roads.
Doñana a Caballo offers horseback riding horse and horse-drawn vehicles through the streets of El Rocío, the pine forests of Coto de Rey and the Real Raya.
Hípica El Pasodoble offers horseback riding through the pine forests, dunes and beaches near Matalascañas in the Doñana Natural Park.
Arte Andaluz organizes excursions on horseback through the pine forests, dunes and beaches near Mazagón in the Doñana Natural Park.
A ride on an authentic African camel, enjoying extraordinary views through pine forests and dunes; an unforgettable experience and aimed at all audiences, both adults and children and also for people with a disability or handicap.
For golf lovers, the company Doñana Golf offers an 18 hole course. The spacious tees, its fairways and the large greens allow such versatility that the player will feel as if playing on different course every day. It is an easy walk tour that will force the player to use every club in the bag.