PROTECTED NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS IN ANDALUCIA
Nearly a fifth of Andalucia is protected, the largest proportion of an autonomous region in Spain, reflecting the unspoilt nature of its countryside and the high ecological importance of its territory.
The environment department, the Consejería de Medio Ambiente, of the regional Andalucian government is in charge of overseeing the protected areas and has an office in each provincial capital which you can contact about obtaining permits to visit areas with restricted access or for free camping. Alternatively, national and natural parks also have a local headquarters, called the Oficina del Parque, based in the protected area that can also give advice.
These are locations of outstanding importance for their wildlife and geology, with ecosystems that have been little altered by human activity. They have the highest degree of protection, sometimes with restricted access to certain areas within them.
There are two national parks in Andalucia: Doñana and Sierra Nevada. Access to the practically all of the Doñana National Park is strictly by guided tour only; trips run from the main visitors’ centre in El Acebuche and the tourist office in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cadiz province. However, between El Rocío and Villamanrique de la Condesa there is a drovers’ track (vía pecuaria) called the Raya Real, which gives access to the northern part of the park by non-motorised transport (horses, bicycles or on foot) only.
The entire Sierra Nevada National Park is open to the public, but many routes are for those on foot or bicycle only. Roads and tracks closed off by a chain or other barrier must only be used by hikers or cyclists and not motor vehicles. Cyclists are allowed to use all but the most narrow footpaths.