Monfragüe is the newest of Spain’s National Parks, established in 2007. The park is 1,950 km2 (~753 sq mi) in area and is largely uninhabited – there’s just one village, Villareal de San Carlos, with a population of 28. It lies in Extremadura in western Spain and runs along the valley of the River Tagus.
The park is especially noted for its birdlife, and was designated a Special Protection Area by the European Union in 1988. It does indeed have an impressive array – it’s home to the world’s largest colony of Black Vultures, with over 200 pairs living and breeding there, as well as the biggest surviving number of imperial eagles – more than ten pairs. The Black Stork, the Eurasian Eagle Owl and the Azure-winged magpie also thrive there.
The landscape also hosts the world’s largest and best Mediterranean forests and shrublands, comprised of holm oaks and cork oaks intermingled with rockroses and strawberry trees, heathers and mastics amidst ashes, willows and hollies. In part, it is the existence of this forestland which provides an ideal wildlife habitat for the Iberian lynx, with the result than Monfragüe is one of the few remaining areas where these animals have survived.
There are three main, marked routes through the park for walking or a guided walk or tour in a bus is available if you book in advance. And there are companies operating within the park which organise activities such as archery and canoeing.
Results of new testing in 2012 show that the cave paintings found in El Castillo cave in the park could well be the oldest known cave art, possibly as much as 40,000 years old.