Nature in Castile and Leon
Castile and Leon is an excellent destination for nature lovers. This large autonomous community is a mostly rural region, home to a rich Spanish landscape, National Park reserves and many indigenous animals. The exceptional diversity of mountains, rivers and the plains of the Meseta Central has produced a wide range of microclimates and ecosystems.
Although the region makes its living from the farmland, trees do cover part of the landscape. Visitors today, however, are more likely to spot a single oak or juniper on the plains of the central plateau, thanks to hundreds of years of deforestation for its agricultural industry. The slopes of the Cantabrian Mountains and Sistema Iberico, though, still boast lush beech and Pinar de Lillo (a native Pine of Leon) forests, whilst Salamanca and Valladolid are also home to olive groves.
The largest region in Spain, Castile and Leon nonetheless has little urban development and a sparse population, although there is no shortage of animal inhabitants. In the Cantabrian Mountains, brown bears might be spotted, and Burgos is the place to sight the unusual Western Capercaillie; the Iberian wolf, meanwhile, has found a home in each of the nine provinces.
Castile and Leon has a great diversity of species of fauna, some of which are particularly noted for their rarity. The Western Spanish Ibex has only two wild populations in the world, both of which are in this region along the border of Extremadura. Similarly, the Iberian Rock Lizard has adapted to life in the mountainous areas of the region. There are also two endangered species which call Castile and Leon home: the solitary Black Stork and the Spanish Imperial Eagle.
The extensive waterways provide an excellent habitat for nutrias and Pyrenean Desmans, as well as plenty of trout, carp and freshwater crabs. Deep in the river canyons, birds of prey dominate, from the Griffon Vulture to the Golden Eagle. Downstream, herons and kingfishers enjoy the vegetation of the banks.
Castile and Leon also has several National Parks which preserve the region’s natural heritage. In the Sierra de Francia, the Valley of the Batuecas is now a biosphere reserve offering a safe haven for the endangered species such as the Lynx, Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black Stork. Its biggest draw, however, lies in the ravine itself – cave paintings hint at the history and spirituality of this place. The Covadonga range – the oldest in Spain – is also a protected area, along with the soaring Picos de Europa, whose peaks rise to a dramatic 8,000 feet.
Near the source of the Duero River which bisects the region, the lakelands of Sierra de Urbion lead to glaciers, pine forests and the summit of La Muela de Urbión. This area is home to the Iberian wolf, roe deer and wild boar – as well as plenty of adventurous hikers enjoying its excellent rock climbing or water sports.