Monte Agudo, Faro and San Martiño comprise the archipelago, an unparalleled Eden with idyllic stretches of sand. Rodas beach, which connects the first two islands, was named the best beach in the world by The Guardian, with its crystalline waters and singular flora and fauna observatory.
Visiting this enclave on our own sailboat allows us not only to go where most boats never go, but also to learn about fishing for spider crabs, collecting mussels, and repairing fishing nets on the high seas.
A two-hour journey on our sailboat, navigating around the unique, wonderful paradise that is the Cíes Islands.
The forests of the humid mountains in the north – the Pyrenees and Cantabrian Mountains, shelter species as emblematic as the brown bear, the Iberian wolf or the bearded vulture; while in the Mediterranean forests, with some luck, we can catch a glimpse of the rare Iberian lynx and the Iberian imperial eagle. We can also witness, with the first autumn rains, the “bellow” spectacle, where male deer face their adversaries in combat in order to maintain their domain over the herd. Lastly, we cannot forget the wetlands, where a large variety of birds congregate to mate or spend the winter.
With its unique geographic location, only 14 kilometers away from North Africa, Spain is a bridge and meeting point for the migrating birds which annually cross the peninsula on their long, spring journeys north – on their way to raising their young – and on their return trip south at the summer’s end, to spend the winter in Africa.
A few kilometers from here, following the coast west, we find another fascinating enclave: the Doñana Natural Reserve, declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. This is the most important marsh and protected area in Spain: made up of a mosaic of ecosystems, wetlands, pine forests, Mediterranean scrub, beaches and moving dunes which house a large variety of animal species and plants. It also has the greatest population of Iberian lynx, considered the most endangered mammal in all of Europe.
At THE REAL THING, we suggest you discover this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve by traveling along its paths: from the beech and fir-tree forests that cover the lower altitudes – woods that become a watercolor of browns, ochres, greens and yellows with the onset of autumn – you continue to climb, surrounded by vertical walls of rock, until reaching alpine prairies, where, during the summer, you can see marmots or the always elusive chamois, resting next to “ibones” (glacier lakes in the language of Aragon), that empty into cliffs and waterfalls, forming intensely emerald green pools. And if you are feeling fit, you can climb even further to the peaks, covered in snow for most of the year.
Slopes and valleys densely covered by forests and scrub; highlands which lead up to fells and rocky ridges where griffon vultures and Egyptian vultures nest; and flatter areas that open onto extensive meadows and farms with Holm and cork oak trees, providing a clear example of the sustainable farming of the Mediterranean mountains… Deer, wild boar, badgers, genets, bobcats and otters are all found here, in addition to different species of amphibians and reptiles.
Monfragüe and Doñana National Park, the protected natural reserve best known for its bird watching, are unequalled on the entire continent for their wide variety and dense populations of both Rupicola and forest raptors.