Donana Nature Park, Malaga, Spain

Elvis Elvis

Though strictly speaking this is not the Costa del Sol, but the Donana Nature Park is such an important natural reserve for southern Spain … in fact, is a Unesco World Heritage Site and rural tourism has become so popular now that I hope you don’t mind me including this excursion in the list.

The park covers more than 280.000 hectares and is a land of great contrasts … pine woods, coastal lagoons, and beaches … shifting dunes, rice fields plus riverbank forests … all of which attract annually more than 500.000 water fowl who take advantage of the easy food available around the forests and marshlands and who come to nest and go about their reproductive duties (!)

Donana is also home to over thirty species of animals … deer, wild boar, otters, mongoose (mongeese?) badgers and the famous Iberian Lynx

The trip up to Donana takes about four hours from the coast so it is not a day trip. You’ll need two or three days to really appreciate the park. But it is an easy motorway drive … Malaga to Seville … and then follow the signs to Matalascañas

I suggest Matalascañas as a stopover as there is a wider choice of hotels here (there is also a campsite) … and the beach is a dream, truly one of the last natural, unspoilt, white sandy beaches of Spain … and which actually forms part of the southern border of Donana Park.

Donana Nature Park, Malaga, Spain

The main visitors centre, Acebuche, is also only minutes away. From the Acebuche Hacienda you can book a guided tour or you can start your first solo adventure into Doñana … along the 5 km. board-walk which takes you over lagoons and through the pine forest … I hope you brought your water and binoculars … and if it’s summer, mosquito repellent !

There are a good number of well-signed, walking trails inviting visitors to view the different eco-systems of the park. Please take advantage of the picnic areas also so that you can spend the whole day bird-watching and exploring the many contrasts of Doñana.

Eating out is always an important part of the holiday break and here you won’t be disappointed. The local food is a reflection of the area … rice, eels, red crab, sea bass, turbot and shellfish … try the local shrimp and clams … quite delicious !

In summer you won’t want to move from the chiringuitos (beach restaurants) But, if you’re visiting in winter try Almonte, El Rocio town or one of the traditional taverns in Bollullos, which is famous for its pork dishes.

Throughout the year the local dishes will change, as will the seasonal landscape of the park … and this is one of the joys of visiting this glorious nature reserve … for you’ll never see the same Donana twice !