Doñana Europes Iconic Nature Park
Distributed across the provinces of Huelva, Seville and Cádiz stretches one of the most emblematic national parks in both Spain and Europe. The Doñana National Park and Nature Reserve, made up of 108,086 hectares of National Park and 53,835 hectares of Nature Reserve, is a jewel coveted by nature enthusiasts, ecosystem devotees and even lovers of outdoor activities. In the following we reveal the secrets to an in-depth encounter with this vast and wonderful natural enclave.
An Ecotourist Paradise
You enjoy roaming through natural surroundings and soaking up their charms? Here you will find a variety of ecosystems to indulge in –preserves, pine groves, lagoons, marshes, wetlands, beaches and dunes will escort you on your journey through Doñana, and in them a rich variety of fauna and flora.
The park’s flora includes over 900 different species, prominent being the large-fruited juniper, cork oak, stone pine, oleander, broom, thyme, rosemary, brambleand a long list of others. Noteworthy among the fauna of Doñana, of which there are over 500 species, is the Iberian lynx, one of the most strictly protected species in the park, as well as a plethora of bird life, which we deal with below.
Birds, Birds and More Birds
While the fauna of Doñana is not limited to its bird life, birds are undoubtedly the leading lights of the park’s fauna, the lynx notwithstanding. They are also the reason most visitors come to this nature reserve. This national park is a longstanding favourite among ornithologists as a huge variety of migratory birds make a stopover at Doñana en route to warmer climes. Large numbers of birds also spend the winter in the park’s wetlands. Visiting the park in autumn or winter will bring you within sight of birds from northern Europe, while doing so in spring will afford views of those coming from Africa.
Planning Your Visit
There are various ways of touring Doñana, although you should take into account at all times that there are certain restrictions on moving about. The first thing to remember is that the nature reserve has fewer restrictions and is more accessible than the national park, to which access is more limited. The easiest and most popular means is to take an all-terrain minibus with a guide, as this is a way of seeing large areas of the park in comfort. A second option is by boat, which you get in Sanlúcar de Barrameda and which takes you along the Guadalquivir, with stops at various points along the river.
Lastly, there are other options that require more of an effort but which are bound to bring you into closer contact with nature, like hiking along the trails on foot or by bicycle. However, you are advised to first enquire at one of the visitor’s centres dotted around the park where you can get information on the various routes.
From Autumn To Spring
The best period to visit Doñana ranges from autumn – when the dry summer season comes to an end and the first migratory birds start flying in – until spring. In summer the park is rather too arid as most of the wetlands dry out during that season.
A Stopover at El Rocío
Whether or not it is time for the shrine pilgrimage, you should not fail to visit El Rocío on your Doñana route. The village is famous for its vastly popular shrine pilgrimage in honour of the Virgin Mary, which takes place at the Pentecost weekend and attracts throngs of people each year. Except when the festivity is in full swing, this village is a backwater of peace and quiet. There you should visit El Rocío shrine and take in the splendid views of the lagoon.
Book your Vueling to Jerez de la Frontera, located 35 kilometres from the Doñana National Park, and discover all the charm of this magnificent nature reserve.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUISmore info
Sanlúcar Site of the Oldest Horse Race in Spain
With the setting sun as an idyllic backdrop, the beaches of Bajo de Guía, La Calzada and Las Piletas as unique race tracks, and swimming costumes as the main attire of the onlookers, the horse races of Sanlúcar de Barrameda are a must-see classic of summer in Cádiz. This horse-racing competition, designated an International Tourist Interest Event on account of its setting, with the Guadalquivir river mouth and the Doñana National Park in the background, is also one of the oldest competitions of any kind in the country, dating back to 1845. It now draws a crowd of around 30,000 visitors each year, eager to spend a lovely evening in which the horse races are the perfect excuse for soaking up the scenery, watching thoroughbreds in action and – needless to say – betting on the winning horses.
This year will see a total of 23 races, to be held from 3 to 19 August and divided into two cycles of three days each – the first, during the first half of August, on the 3rd, 4th and 5th, and the second, in the second half of the month, on the 17th, 18th and 19th. The races are run between six thirty in the evening and half past nine at night, a time when the low tides fall on weekends in August.
Manzanilla Sherry Cellars, Nature in the National Park and Much More
In addition to the spectacular summer horse races, Sanlúcar de Barrameda has a lot to offer visitors to the city, located on the mouth of the river Guadalquivir. This seafaring resort, a witness to Columbus as he embarked on his third voyage to the Americas, as well as Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano on their first circumnavigation of the world, still harbours signs of that period of splendour related to the discovery of the New World. Indeed, the city’s heyday accounts for much of its historical legacy, as attested by the 16th-century Church of Santo Domingo and the 17th-century Church of La Merced. There are also examples of earlier constructions, notably the Church of Nuestra Señora de la O, with its spectacular Mudéjar coffered ceiling, and the 15th-century Ducal Palace of Los Medina Sidonia, the former residence of the nobility of Sanlúcar.
Sanlúcar’s importance is also enhanced by its proximity to the Doñana National Park, reached by boat from the city. This accounts for a large portion of the visitors who come here each year. The claim to fame of this priceless national park includes the fact it is one of the leading passage areas of migratory birds in Europe. Make a point of signing up for any of the host of excursions running from Sanlúcar to Doñana, which range from outings to observe the fauna and flora to bicycle tours of the area.
To offset so much nature, you always have the option to indulge in an enological tour of the manzanilla sherry cellars. Manzanilla is the wine par excellence of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where the leading wine cellars are Barbadillo, Hidalgo, Argüeso, and La Guita. By chance, the dish that best pairs with this variety of sherry is another classic of the area, the “langostinos de Sanlúcar” (Sanlúcar prawn).
Book your Vueling to Jerez de la Frontera, hardly half an hour’s drive from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and revel in these spectacular horse races.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Images by Guillén Pérez
7 Things For Your Escape To Cádiz
With its roots dating back to one of the oldest Phoenician settlements in the West, the Tacita de Plata (Little Silver Cup), as Cádiz is fondly known, is the perfect place for a short getaway. You can go on pleasant strolls, sightsee its monuments, sun yourself on its beaches and delight in their magnificent tapas based on fresh fried fish or pescaíto. Following are the seven essential things to do on a whirlwind visit of this beautiful, friendly and light-filled city.
1. Stroll Through the Streets in the Historic Centre
One of Cádiz’s main draws is its old town, which is well worth strolling through. A prominent feature are the large houses with some beautiful patios concealed inside. The city was partially destroyed in the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755, so that many of the buildings you will come across on your walk date from the 18th century. Be sure to visit the Tavira Tower, a watchtower located in the Palace of the Marquises of Recaño, where the main attraction is its famous Camera Obscura.
2. Roam the Pópulo Quarter in Search of the Past
Located between the City Hall and the Cathedral, the Pópulo quarter is the oldest in the city. Here, one of the landmarks attesting to its Roman past is theRoman Theatre.Unearthed by chance in 1981 as a result of a fire which gutted a department store, it reminds the visitor of the time when Cádiz was one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire. Other noteworthy sights include the Baroque and Neoclassical New Cathedral, the Old Cathedral– also known as the Church of Santa Cruz – the City Hall and the old city gates, notably the Arco de los Blancos and Arco de la Rosa.
3. A Tribute to “La Pepa”
Cádiz’s claim to fame is that it was the setting for the proclamation of the first Spanish Constitution, which took place on 19 March 1812. To commemorate the first centenary of the event, a monument was built in the Plaza de España.
4. Walk Through El Genovés Park
This is the city’s most important public gardens. It is located in the historic centre, right near the seaside. The park boasts over 100 species of trees and shrubs.
5. Recalling the Figure of Manuel de Falla
The composer, Manuel de Falla, was born in Cádiz, and you can visit the house he was born in, near the Cádiz Museum. You can also see his tomb in the New Cathedral and visit the Gran Teatro de Falla (Great De Falla Theatre). A noteworthy feature of the latter is its Neomudéjar facade, which forms the main backdrop for the famous Carnival of Cádiz where the various Carnival groups compete.
6. Enjoy the Beach
Make the most of a city which opens onto the sea by going to the beach and letting yourself be dazzled by its splendid views. Be sure to head for the Playa de la Caleta, the nearest beach to the historic centre and the most popular among Gaditanos, as the locals are called. A striking landmark on that beach is the Balneario de la Palma y del Real, a seaside spa. Another beach you should make a point of visiting is the Playa Victoria, regarded as the best urban beach in Europe, and that of Santa María del Mar, also known as Playade las Mujeres, with its stunning views of the city.
7. Try the Prawn Omelette
Gastronomy is another of Cádiz’s fortés. As an eminently seafaring city, fish is one of the leading lights in their cuisine, which features such dishes as fried fish – known here as pescaíto, a classic bordering on excellence– and prawn omelette, which you simply must try, too. Other traditional dishes include prawns, chocos (cuttlefish) and seasoned tuna fish. To shake off the heat, don’t hesitate to cool down on a bowl of gazpacho or salmorejo.
Book your Vueling to Jerez de la Frontera which, just 35 km away, is the nearest airport to Cádiz, and see how you succumb to the magic of this charming city.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUISmore info
Tabancos: back to their origins
In these premises they sell by the litter the well-known vinos de Jerez ( wines from Xeres) that can be also tasted in the same place along with some snack in this kind of winery or social tavern. The name of Tabancos comes from the union of estancos and estacos de Tabacos, two different places in their origin, back end XVII century. At the estancos it was common to sell products controlled by the Spanish government and at the estancos de tobacco the products that come all the way from America and they have begun to be commercialized.
In the beginning these venues were only for men. Women could only get in to buy some wine but never to taste it in the place. In some of them, they even sell their products through a little window. Fortunately, things have changed and everybody is now welcomed to the romantic Tabancos. Actually, they are now as famous as the old bodegas (wineries), Tabancos are again a meeting place, even for the younger people, who has fallen in love with them again and go there often.
Eating tapas like chacinas, chicharrones cheeses, conserves and mojama is a normal thing to do while drinking this wine of high graduation such as finos, manzanillas, amontillados, palos cortados, olorosos, moscatel or amontillados. Every tabanco has its own speciality and the best thing to do there is asking about their speciality.
Nowadays there is a route for visiting these historic premises that you'd better not miss when visiting the city. You may find all the info regarding this route at the site of Sacristia Del Caminante where is explained everything about the wines from Jerez and the route of Tabancora.
The oldest. Tabanco el Pasaje
Calle Santa María número 8
Founded in 1925, tabanco el pasaje is the eldest that still exist in Jerez. Here the land's traditions and flamenco are still alive. It was closed long ago but the lawryer Antonio Ramirez reopened it with all its personality. Its name is due to the two entrances to the place, the main one at Calle de santa Maria and the back entrance at calle Mesones.
Tabanco de La Pandilla
Calle de los Valientes 14
Opened in 1936. As tabanco el pasaje it was closed for some years but it is now open again because of two businessmen who used to be there when they were young and wanted the venue to have the original atmosphere back again. For the purpose they have recouped the old paintings and have refurbished the arks and columns very typical of the wineries in Jerez.
Calle Porvera 40
This tabanco is where it used to be the caballerias of an old bourgeois house from the 19th century. The name is because this was the only school in Jerez back in the end of the 16th century.
Calle Francos 1
Located in one of the most beautiful squares of the old distict of jerez. At Plateros they want to reestablished the old traditions but in a modern style inthe vinoteca-style. They offer wine tastings along with regional cheeses, chacinas, morcillas, chorizos or butifarras.
Tabanco Las Banderillas
Located at the neighbourhood of San Miguel, it was directed byPedro Flores, father of Lola Flores, the most important artist in Jerez.
Tabanco El Guitarrón de San Pedro
Calle Bizcocheros 16
Flamenco, wines, tapas and a good atmosphere just in the heart of Albarizuela, opposite the church of San Pedro. They offer live music, flamenco and poetry. The name comes from a guitar that the workers of theatre Villamaria gave as a gift when the works were finished.
Tabanco San Pablo de Jerez
Calle San Pablo 12
It opens at 12:00 and soo. It is full of people eager to eat their tapas such as chicharrones, spanish omelette, montaditos or snails with a glass of wine.
Makes you want to go, right? Do it! Check out our prices here!