Parque Natural de Las Breñas - Distance from Vejer: 5km.
Barbate’s cliffs and pine forests were declared a nature reserve in 1989. This park boasts one of the most spectacular cliff faces in the province, the cliffs of Caños de Meca, which reach a height of 100m above sea level. The woodland extends right up to the clifftops. Its pine trees were originally planted at the end of the last century as a reforestation project to stabilise the sand dunes and prevent their shifting inland. The forest consists principally of “umbrella pines” accompanied by sabinas, junipers, a Mediterranean brushwood and sandy soils, and is worthy of note for being one of the most diverse and well-conserved of its kind on the Andalucian coast. The inaccessibility of the cliff face and the shore below makes the cliffs a favourite nesting place for seagulls. Kestrels, owls and buzzards are some of the birds of prey most commonly seen within the reserve. The mass of pine cones and their subsequent kernel extraction provide a basic income for people from surrounding villages. Note: very few areas of interest in the park are signposted however from the eastern end of Los Caños the trails into the forest are easily identified and on the Los Caños to Barbate road there are two car parks with trail maps marked.
Parque Natural de Las Marismas - Distance from Vejer: 5km.
Bordering the Las Breñas is the vast marshland a natural wetland fed by the Barbate river. Flooding in the winter but dry through the summer this is an important area for birdlife. There is a 5km. lineal walking trail from Barbate to the foot of Vejer.
Parque Natural del Estrecho - Distance from Vejer: 30km.
Just a half hours drive from Vejer takes you to the westernmost part of this fascinating nature area which stretches from Bolonia to Algeciras along the coastline (18,000ha. of land and 9,000ha. of marine). The pine forests and giant sand dune complexes of Bolonia and Punta Paloma are a delight (especially for kids who love tumbling down them!). With great views across the Straits of Gibraltar to Africa this is one of Europe’s most important migration points. The last census counted over seven hundred thousand birds belonging to 34 different species. Special mention should be made of the white stork, honey buzzard and black kite. The Golden eagle, black stork, cinereous vulture, lanner falcon, black-shouldered kite, Egyptian vulture, marsh harrier, Montagu's harrier, Bonelli's eagle, Eleonora's flacon and peregrine falcon are just some of the species to be found there. In Bolonia the restored ruins of the Roman town of Baelo Claudio are well worth a visit. You can walk all the way along the coast here on beach and footpaths in both directions. From Bolonia there are trails to the Celemin lighthouse and Zahara and eastwards towards Tarifa. Trails are unmarked but easy to find.
Parque Natural de la Bahia de Cádiz - Distance from Vejer: 30km.
The Bay of Cadiz Natural Park is best accessed via Chiclana and Sancti Petri. The traditional salt-making activities in this area, together with the action of the sea, wind and river sediments deposited over centuries in the estuary have produced some unusual landscape shapes both inside the area and in the zones bordering on the Park. The landscape is basically made up of sandy beaches, marsh flats and salt marshes. It was declared a ‘Parque Natural’ in 1989, a ‘Special Protection Zone for Birds (ZEPA)’ in 1993 and ‘Wetland of International Importance (RAMSAR)’ in 2002. The Bay of Cadiz Natural Park has protected lagoons, drainage complexes, sand dunes and pine trees. Its location between the neighbouring Doñana National Park and the Straits of Gibraltar make it a key area in the migratory system of many water birds. The best way to visit this area is by motor boat or canoe. Drive to the old fishing village of Sancti Petri (Chiclana) and from the marina you will be able to organise a canoe trip through the wetlands guided or on your own. While there why not canoe out to the island castle of Sancti Petri just a short paddle offshore.
Alcornocales Natural Park - Distance to Benalup 22km. Distance to Alcala 41km.
The Alcornocales Natural Park is undoubtedly one of the jewels of Spain’s many protected nature reserves. Covering over 170,000 hectares this park is unique in Europe. The density of the woodland, the 1,000m peaks, the narrow valleys and ridges are what has protected this area from man’s development. The Alcornocales park is Europe’s largest continuous woodland area and coincidentally the largest oak forest on our planet. Due to the density of the woodland, the proximity of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and the height of the sierras, this nature reserve benefits from its own micro-climate. Even in the harshest of droughts the “canutos” (narrow gorges) tinkle with the sound of fresh water. These canutos conserve a sub-tropical habitat unique in Europe, a dense foliage of rhododendron, laurel, ash, birch, oak and even a rare species of carnivorous plant. Always surprising to the visitor is the denuded “Alcornoque” (cork oak) whose bark is stripped in a 7 year cycle, the two-tone trunks providing an unusual background to the landscape. On the highlands heather and pine dominate. Bright yellow broom and a spectacular array of colours light up the landscape and pink oleanders dot the pastureland in spring. Sadly bears and wolves are no longer a feature of the park’s wildlife. The last of these mammals were killed in the 1950’s. Wildlife is now protected by strict measures and red deer, roe deer and wild boar are a common sight. The park is also home to an astounding variety of smaller wildlife such as otters, polecats, foxes, mongoose and the Iberian Lynx which are occasionally seen. On the highest peaks the population of the elusive “Cabra Montes” (mountain goat) is flourishing. Overhead Griffon vultures soar on thermals. This is only one of the many birds of prey that live in the park. Protected by the remote and rugged terrain, Imperial eagles, booted eagles and Egyptian vultures soar overhead. Smaller birds of prey include peregrine falcons, sparrow hawks and kestrels. Access & walking : Almost all the walks here require permission to gain access to the higher peaks and interior forests. There are however a few good walks you can do from the various car parks along the public roads. For a great drive take the road from Alcalá de los Gazules to either Ubrique or Jimena via the Puerto de Galiz. For more information visit the AMA (Agencia de Medio Ambiente) in Alcala de los Gazules (in the square at the top of the village) for permits. Tel: 956 42 02 97.