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Spain's Sierra de Guara - Land of the Lammergeier

Tour Code: ESP13

A 8-day holiday of gentle walks focusing on the birds, plants and butterflies of the little-known Sierra de Guara, the most thinly populated and under-developed region of Spain's Pyrenean foothills - a land of gorges, cliffs and canyons beloved of the Lammergeier.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1375 SRS: £140


The Sierra de Guara, protected by the high Pyrenees, is remote and peaceful, a land where gorges and canyons are home to breeding Griffon Vulture, Peregrine, and Golden and Bonelli’s Eagles. For the first part of the holiday we’ll focus on the plant and birdlife of the arid maquis-like vegetation, gorges and slopes of the sierra’s southern slopes from our base in the 8th century Moorish citadel of Alquezar. We’ll then transfer to the remote village of Nocito for the second part of the tour – a perfect base for exploring the

  • Explore limestone cliffs, canyons & gorges for Lammergeier
  • Haven for birds of prey such as Honey Buzzard & Short-toed Eagle
  • Explore the back streets of Alquezar for Hoopoe & Spotless Starling
  • Blue Rock-thrush, warblers, shrikes & Rock Bunting in maquis shrub
  • Look for Wild Boar, Polecat & Pine Marten at night around Nocito
  • The most thinly populated region of Spain’s Pyrenean foothills
  • Enjoy a peace & solitude rarely found elsewhere in Europe
  • Led by an expert naturalist guide

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A comfortable family hotel in Alquézar and a simple, newly renovated gas-powered hotel in the very isolated village of Nocito. All rooms have private facilities.

Lammergeier  (John Willsher)

Lammergeier (John Willsher)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Zaragoza and transfer Alquézar

Day 2/4 Sierra de Guara (southern slopes), from Alquézar

Day 5/7 Sierra de Guara (northern slopes), from Nocito

Day 8 Fly London

On a recent autumn visit to this littleknown sierra in the foothills of the central Pyrenees, we initially explored by car for a full day, almost circuiting the Guara using the back roads between the villages of Alquezar and Bara. During over 12 hours on these roads we encountered not a single other vehicle — an astonishing achievement in today’s age, especially within Europe! However, as any map of Spain will indicate, the Sierra de Guara, protected as a parque natural since 1990, is one of Spain’s quieter regions and, although it does become a haven for canyoning and climbing enthusiasts during the summer months, we hope to find plenty of peace and quiet, and an abundance of birds and plants, as we explore its valleys, gorges and upland mountainsides during the course of this exciting holiday.

The Sierra de Guara is not a high range — Tozal de Guara, at 2,077 metres, being its highest summit — but, being protected by the high Pyrenees just to the north, its southern slopes, in particular, receive little precipitation and are consequently very dry. At lower altitudes it offers a pretty patchwork of rolling oak woods, almond orchards, olive groves and small, irregular wheat fields, traditionally farmed. Attractive limestone villages and their splendid churches ride the flanks of the sierra; their populations, like virtually all in rural Spain, are dwindling today and allowing nature back in. Above them lies a rugged land, clothed in stunted oak forest and maquis scrub and characterised by numerous spectacular gorges, canyons, cliffs and pinnacles fashioned from limestone and conglomerate. This is a land beloved of birds of prey. Griffon Vultures are numerous, whilst other resident breeding birds include Lammergeier, Golden Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Red Kite and Peregrine, and these are joined in summer by Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Honey Buzzard and Hobby.

On this 2-centre holiday, we will explore each day on a series of gentle walks, breaking each day with a traditional Naturetrek picnic lunch! It is the southern slopes of the sierra that we will focus on during the first part of this holiday, and during it we will be based in the magical fortress town of Alquezar, built around a spectacular 8th century Moorish citadel which sits on a pinnacle above the gorge of the Rio Vero. This quaint and ancient town, with its narrow streets, sits like an eagle’s eyrie on a shoulder of the sierra and is a perfect centre from which to explore on foot the surrounding valleys, gorges and higher slopes ... and from which to watch for passing birds of prey. The fortifications at Alquezar are typical of many forts built in this area, to the south of the Pyrenees, by the Moors or Christians as they wrestled for control over these northern limits of Muslim Spain throughout the Middle Ages. Today, like many of the deserted villages, they now provide a home for Hoopoes, Black Redstarts, Spotless Starlings and Rock Sparrows.

The maquis-like vegetation of the southern slopes is dominated by dense, low, evergreen oak scrub, mixed with junipers, pines, Strawberry Trees and Rosemary. It is a habitat favoured by such birds as Blue Rock Thrush, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes, Melodious, Subalpine and Bonelli’s Warblers, and Cirl, Ortolan and Rock Buntings. Overhead, Alpine Swift, Crag Martins and abundant birds of prey are to be seen whilst, lower down, gorges and rivers lined with poplars support breeding Bee-eaters and Golden Orioles, and little fields hold Crested Larks, Thekla Larks and Tawny Pipits.

The northern slopes of the Sierra de Guara are very much damper, sustaining heavy winter snowfall. Consequently the vegetation they support is quite different from that of the arid southern slopes. The extensive oak forest and scrub here is largely deciduous, containing also Beech and maple, whilst the higher slopes are awash with rose and bramble cover. To explore this area during the second phase of our holiday, we will base ourselves in the village of Nocito. This remote and isolated village, situated towards the end of a long track, boasts fewer than 10 inhabitants and is an hour’s drive from the nearest shops! From it, we will explore almost entirely on foot, though we may include a night drive to look for the Wild Boar, Polecat and Pine Marten that may sometimes be seen on the road after dark. We will also enjoy a peace, solitude and magnificent night sky that is not easily found elsewhere in Europe.

Bara (Byron Palacios)Belchite (Byron Palacios)Alquezar (Byron Palacios)Alquezar (Byron Palacios)Sierra de Guara hotelSierra de Guara hotelSierra de Guara hotel bedroomSierra de Guara hotel dining areaWestern Bonelli's Warbler (Byron Palacios)Spanish FestoonNaturetrek clients in the Sierra de GuaraThekla Lark (Byron Palacios)Subalpine Warbler (Byron Palacios)Sierra de Guara sceneryWatching Griffon Vultures and LammergeiersEgyptian Vulture (Byron Palacios)Griffon Vultures (Byron Palacios)Naturetrek clients and Griffon Vultures (Byron Palacios)Griffon and Egyptian Vultures (Byron Palacios)Lecina (Byron Palacios)Black Redstart chicksBlack Redstart (Byron Palacios)Western Bonelli's Warbler (Byron Palacios)Melodius Warbler (Byron Palacios)Red Kite (Byron Palacios)Hoope (Byron Palacios)Orchis militaris (Byron Palacios)Broadleaf Helliborine (Byron Palacios)Marsh Fritillary (Byron Palacios)LammergeierSpectacled Warbler (Byron Palacios)The group and the vultures! (Byron Palacios)The vultures! (Byron Palacios)Village of Nocito & Tozal de Guara (2,077m) (Byron Palacios)Lammergeier
P.D.
Lincolnshire
Enjoyed all aspects of the holiday - the leader, the itinerary, the group, the accommodation, the food and the weather!
Mr & Mrs C
West Midlands
Good small (5) group with great leader. Nice accommodation - interesting food and wine.
R.E.
Derbyshire
An excellent, well organised trip. Byron was the perfect leader with a wide appreciation of the natural and local history.
A.E.
Derbyshire
Byron has an infectious enthusiasm for the natural world. He is a thoughtful, effective and well organised leader. He has an amazing repertoire of bird song! He was additionally very knowledgeable about local history. Byron was careful to consider the specific interests of all group participants.
E.M.
Cheshire
Please convey my huge thanks to both Byron and Laura for their expertise, organisation, hard work and good humour on the May fifth trip to Spain's Sierra de Guara region. They were superb throughout and it was a pleasure to be in their company.
C.W.
Worcestershire
The 2 trip leaders, Byron and Laura, were excellent both in their professional abilities and in the care they took of us during the holiday. Thanks to them the list of birds that I saw for the first time during this holiday is very long!
Mrs B.
Eire
Our tour leader Byron was very good at his job. A very likeable person with plenty of 'patience'. Couldn't fault him in any way.
Mr G.
Kent
Accommodation at the first hotel (Hotel Maribel) was very modern and the food was plentiful and good, the room was cleaned everyday and was faultless.
Mr & Mrs O.
Buckinghamshire
We enjoyed the holiday and being with like minded individuals, we have not been on an organised trip before … and found Byron, our guide, very good. He was sensitive to the interests of the party even though we were not all out and out birders. The walks were very good and Byron helped us to see birds we would not otherwise have noticed.
R.R.
Marlborough
Byron's an excellent leader with enormous energy and good humour.
V.S.
London
Another lovely week with superb leaders. Thank you. They were kind, well informed and exceptionally knowledgeable and well prepared. The Hotel Mirabal and the manager could not have been more helpful. They had everything you could want and more. They were accommodating and thoughtful in every way.
R.C.
Hertfordshire
I particularly liked the contrast between the two centres and the accommodation, both of which were highly enjoyable and charming in their own ways. Everyone went out of their way to be helpful and make our stay enjoyable. As ever Byron was helpful, informative and sociable. Thank you.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Tue 8th May 2018 - Tue 15th May 2018

YES

£1495

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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Spain

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Tour Reviews

Enjoyed all aspects of the holiday - the leader, the itinerary, the group, the accommodation, the food and the weather!
P.D., Lincolnshire