Extremadura & Gredos
An 8-day, small group birdwatching tour to Extremadura, in Central Spain
Now in its 30th year, this hugely enjoyable two-centre birdwatching tour to Central Spain remains one of Limosa’s all-time favourite trips. After seeking a host of rare and spectacular breeding birds amid the rolling steppe grasslands and dehesa oak woodlands of Extremadura, we climb high into the beautiful Sierra de Gredos in search of alpine specialities. The bird list for this Spain birding tour is exceptional, including both Great and Little Bustards, Great Spotted Cuckoo, White-rumped Swift, Iberian Magpie, Bluethroat and Citril Finch. Add Spanish Imperial Eagle among more than a dozen different birds of prey - plus two wonderfully situated hotels - and join us for a trip that offers the best birding in all Iberia... at the very best time of year!
Tour Dates & Prices
Wed 12th May 2021
Wed 19th May 2021
5 Spaces Available
Tour Cost: 8 Days from £1845* inc return flights from London Heathrow
* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)
- Limosa Tour Leader
- Return flights - London Heathrow to Madrid, nonstop with British Airways/Iberia
- 7 nights accommodation in Spain, staying at two good and comfortable hotels (5 nights in Extremadura, 2 nights Sierra de Gredos)
- All main meals - and drinking water provided
- Minibus transport
- All excursions, entry fees, permits
- All tour-based tips (hotels, meals etc) & taxes
- Map & Limosa Checklist of birds
Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature.
The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights
- Unrivalled spring birding amid the steppes and sierras of Central Spain
- 5 nights in Extremadura - THE best place in Europe for birds of prey
- Based at a superbly situated hotel overlooking beautiful Monfragüe National Park
- Spanish Imperial Eagle, Great and Little Bustards, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Roller
- Plus 2 nights at a characterful Parador, set high in the splendid Sierra de Gredos
- Great Spotted Cuckoo, White-rumped Swift, Iberian Magpie, Iberian Grey Shrike, Bluethroat, Citril Finch
- Small party size - maximum of 6 participants
- Expertly led by Limosa's English-speaking Spanish specialist Fernando Enrique
Fly London Heathrow-Madrid. Transfer west to our hotel in Extremadura - right on the doorstep of Monfragüe National Park. Night Monfragüe
From our base near historic Trujillo, we have four days to explore wild and beautiful Monfragüe National Park and the rolling steppes and sierras of Extremadura. Four further nights Monfragüe
We travel north through Monfragüe National Park and climb up into the Sierra de Gredos. Night Parador de Gredos
We enjoy a full day of alpine birding in the Sierra de Gredos. Night Parador de Gredos
Return to Madrid, fly London Heathrow
A dusting of snow on distant sierras; Bee-eaters hawking over the dehesas; hillsides pervaded by the heady scent of Cistus; and picnics beneath pine trees topped by the nests of bill-clattering White Storks... The distant ‘raspberry’ of a Little Bustard unseen in the grasslands; warm Spanish skies thronged by over a dozen species of birds of prey; the somnolent gaze of an Eagle Owl squinting back at us from a crag in the bright afternoon sun... This long-running holiday to the rugged steppes and wild sierras of Spain’s ‘Secret Wilderness’ offers all this - and more!
Our travels begin in Madrid, from where we head west to Extremadura - the ‘wild heart of Spain' - and the fabulous Spanish steppes. We’ll spend the first five nights of our tour here, staying at a wonderfully situated Hospederia - right on the approach to beautiful Monfragüe National Park and with great birding right on the doorstep. From seemingly endless horizons of evergreen oaks to the wide blue skies and broad sweep of the region’s glorious steppe grasslands, our days in Extremadura are typically hazy, sun-drenched and memorable - filled with more birds than you could wish for!
Nowhere else in Europe do birds of prey breed in such number or variety, while the likes of Black Stork, Western Swamphen, Roller, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Iberian Grey Shrike, Little Bustard and the spectacular Great Bustard are among a long list of other possible treats in store.
During our stay in Extremadura we’ll make a thorough exploration of magnificent Monfragüe National Park. Western Orphean Warbler, Rock Sparrow and Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpie will occupy our time in the delightful woodlands as we keep a keen eye on the skies for Monfragüe's plentiful birds of prey. Black and Egyptian Vultures breed along with all five Iberian eagles - Booted, Bonelli’s, Short-toed, Golden and Spanish Imperial - while hordes of Griffon Vultures throng the dramatic rock pinnacle of Peñafalcon. We’ll seek the elusive Black-winged Kite, scan the cliffs and crags for Eagle Owl and the rare White-rumped Swift, and pay a visit to the historic old town of Trujillo with its splendid medieval architecture adorned by nesting Lesser Kestrels, Pallid Swifts and White Storks.
We conclude our holiday with two nights at a characterful and comfortable Parador, set high in the Sierra de Gredos. With views out over the pinewoods - and a chance of seeing Citril Finch on the lawn outside - these lovely mountains are another of Spain’s best-kept secrets! Melodious and Western Bonelli’s Warblers, Firecrest and Pied Flycatcher frequent the forests, and Ortolan Buntings serenade us from alpine slopes heavy with the scent of yellow-flowering broom.
As the road winds higher, and rare and imposing Spanish Ibex gaze down from the ridges above, we enter the realm of the exquisite Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Water Pipit and the localised Bluethroat. It should all make for a thrilling finale to this wonderful two-centre holiday - our best-loved European tour.
Limosa has been operating a wide-ranging annual programme of birdwatching tours to Spain since 1990, including dozens of trips to Central Spain. Led by our highly rated English-speaking Spanish specialist Fernando Enrique - who has lived in Extremadura and knows the area well - this five-star, small group tour will introduce you to the very best birdwatching in all Iberia - at the very best time of year!
TO MADRID & MONFRAGÜE
Our May birdwatching holiday to central Spain begins with a morning flight from London Heathrow to Madrid, where Fernando will be waiting to welcome us.
We set off west towards the rolling steppe, beautiful oak woodlands and wild sierras of Extremadura. The journey should take around three to four hours, but we'll pause along the way to enjoy a light tapas lunch at a nice little venta Fernando knows and also to scan the grasslands for Montagu’s Harrier and Bee-eater - and maybe have a first try for the ever-elusive Black-winged Kite!
Early evening arrival at our hotel for five nights, a wonderfully situated Hospederia that lies right on the approach to magnificent Monfragüe National Park. Cattle Egrets and White Storks forage for lizards and grasshoppers in the pastures, handsome Spanish Sparrows and Spotless Starlings nest in numbers about the scattered Extremaduran farmsteads, and Black Kites float effortlessly over the grasslands. Night at a hotel overlooking Monfragüe National Park
Days 2 - 5
MONFRAGUE, STEPPE GRASSLANDS & SIERRAS OF EXTREMADURA
Monfragüe National Park sits amidst mile upon mile of unspoilt countryside, where centuries of traditional land management have created the unique dehesas - a timeless, park-like habitat of cork and evergreen oaks, foraged by pigs and alive in spring with calls of Hoopoes, Woodlarks, Rock Sparrows, Woodchat Shrikes and beautiful Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpies. Rocky fields and verges brim with an exuberance of wild flowers at this season; Sardinian Warblers give their scolding ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ call at every halt; and dusty, pink-chested Iberian Grey Shrikes perch boldly beside the road.
Monfragüe is arguably the finest place in all Europe for birds of prey and we can expect to encounter a dozen or more different species. Immense Griffon Vultures patrol the skies, along with the even bigger Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Red and Black Kites, Peregrine and five species of eagle: Short-toed, Booted, Bonelli’s, Golden and Spanish Imperial. The latter is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered raptors.
The scarce Black Stork is perhaps easier to see well at Monfragüe than anywhere else we know, and we’ll check a favourite spot for the powerful Eurasian Eagle Owl - both these species should have young at this time.
Truly a magical spot, Monfragüe’s plunging valleys and Cistus and herb-scented hillsides are equally rich in small birds. Crag Martin, Thekla Lark, Blue Rock Thrush, Dartford, Subalpine and Western Orphean Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper, Hawfinch and Red-billed Chough will all be about in spring. Parties of ‘bibbling’ Alpine Swifts sweep past beneath us to their nests and, with any luck, we will find the scarce and declining Black Wheatear, too. The rare White-rumped Swift is an essentially African species that we have often seen at Monfragüe in the past, and a late arrival to Europe that's best looked for from the middle of May onwards.
The sweeping plain that lies to the south of Monfragüe is a major stronghold of the aristocratic Great Bustard. Early mornings (don’t worry, it doesn’t get light until about seven!) offer the best chance to see these magnificent birds, before the grasslands disappear beneath a sea of shimmering heat-haze. With Hoopoes, Stone-curlews and Calandra Larks calling all about us, from a vantage point overlooking the steppe we shall scan for the dominant males as they perform their quite extraordinary display - one that culminates in the great birds shaking and turning themselves ‘inside-out’ to become a mass of white feathers that's variously been likened to a foaming bath or a giant chrysanthemum - and visible at tremendous range! We should also see and hear the ‘raspberry-blowing’ Little Bustard, with its distinctive Newcastle United-stocking neck!
Extremadura's flowing grasslands are interrupted by chains of low rocky sierras and slow-flowing rivers, and for sheer variety of birds this whole region is hard to beat. Little Bittern, Night Heron, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Short-toed Lark, Spectacled Warbler, Penduline Tit and Golden Oriole are among many that await our discovery. Spanish Sparrows - which despite their name are actually rather scarce in Spain - can be locally common here, with flocks of several hundred sometimes seen. We may also hear the unmusical rattling cackle of the Great Spotted Cuckoo (which boldly lays its eggs in the nest of Magpies), watch Red-rumped Swallows swooping low to their nest in a culvert beneath the road, or come face to face with the squat form of a Little Owl glaring down at us from one of the massive ‘erratic’ boulders that are so characteristic of these ‘hard lands’.
We’ll also drop by at a productive wetland site that’s home to Purple Heron, Western Swamphen and Savi’s Warbler, and have further chances to look for Black-winged Kite. Out in the region’s rice fields we may encounter two tiny finches: Common Waxbill and the startling Red Avadavat - both have been introduced here. In breeding plumage, the male Avadavats can resemble a fast-flying strawberry!
Before leaving Extremadura, on one day we'll pay a visit to Trujillo and spend a little time wandering the narrow, cobbled streets of this historic hilltop town. The Conquistadors may have long since departed this famous place but there are still plenty of rooftop White Storks, Lesser Kestrels and Pallid Swifts to enjoy as we sip an ice cold beer in the beautiful main piazza. Bring your camera - on a clear day, the views across the plains from atop the medieval battlements are superb! Four further nights at our hotel overlooking Monfragüe National Park
Days 6 - 7
SIERRA DE GREDOS
Bidding a reluctant farewell to our hotel this morning, we travel north, passing once again through spectacular Monfragüe National Park. Along the way, we’ll watch for raptors such as Bonelli’s and Golden Eagles, and have further chances to try for Western Orphean Warbler, White-rumped Swift and other of the region’s more elusive inhabitants. If it is hot, we may picnic in Monfragüe beneath the shade of some fine old Cork Oaks, with bill-clapping White Storks and Nightingales to serenade us.
From here, we continue into the delightful Gredos Mountains, where the creaking, oak-boarded corridors of our second super hotel - and a whole suite of new birds - await!
With views out across a patchwork of upland meadows and bottle-green pines to distant snowy peaks, the imposing Parador de Gredos makes the perfect base to conclude our tour. The sound of cowbells drifts up the hillside from fields below, Firecrests and Western Bonelli’s Warblers breed nearby and Honey Buzzards clap their wings in Nightjar-like display high above the forests. For those who can manage to tear themselves away from the comfort of their hotel room, a pre-breakfast amble nearby might well be rewarded with the likes of Crag Martin, Crested Tit, Black Redstart and Cirl Bunting.
We’ll devote the whole of Day 7 to birding in the mountains, soaking up what is surely some of the loveliest countryside in all Spain. Iberian Green Woodpecker, Melodious Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Common Crossbill frequent the pinewoods that flank the tumbling streams in the valleys, with the lilting spring song of pastel-coloured Ortolan Buntings to tempt us up on to the higher slopes.
Higher still, we will search for the extremely localised Bluethroat (unusually, the birds found here have an all blue throat), while on alpine hillsides heavy with scent and laden with yellow-flowering Spanish Broom we should add Rock Bunting and Water Pipit. The handsome Common Rock Thrush breeds here too, the exquisite spring males resplendent in chestnut, white and blue. The elusive Citril Finch is another possible treat in store as we try to avoid ‘sharing’ our picnic with a rare and imposing Spanish Ibex! Two nights Parador de Gredos
DESCEND TO MADRID, FLY LONDON
After another hearty Parador buffet breakfast and a last chance to look for the likes of Citril Finch, Hobby and Dipper this morning, we head down from the mountains towards Madrid.
Our route there may take us past the fortified medieval town of Avila, with its castellated pink stone walls looking for all the world as though they must have been built for some blockbusting Hollywood epic. Though our birding is all but over, we may still be lucky to spot the odd vulture, Booted Eagle or Red Kite along the way.
Arriving back in Madrid, we catch a late afternoon flight to London Heathrow, where our spring birdwatching tour to Spain concludes.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Since our very first visit here in 1990, this two-centre birdwatching tour to Central Spain has remained one of Limosa’s all-time favourite trips.
We begin by seeking a host of rare and spectacular breeding birds amid the rolling steppe grasslands and dehesa woodlands of Extremadura, before setting off in search of alpine specialities, high in the beautiful Sierra de Gredos. The bird list for this tour is exceptional, with Great and Little Bustards, Great Spotted Cuckoo, White-rumped Swift, Iberian Magpie, Bluethroat, Citril Finch and Ortolan Bunting among a long list of species to look forward to.
Add Spanish Imperial Eagle among more than a dozen different birds of prey - plus two wonderfully situated hotels - and join us for some of the best birding in all Iberia, at the very best time of year!
The weather on the Extremaduran steppe in May is usually warm to hot and sunny, with occasional showers or thundery rain some years.
More variable in the uplands of the Sierra de Gredos, where our hotel is situated at an elevation of ca.1500m (5000ft). Often warm and sunny in the mountains, but it can feel cool, especially early and late in the day. As with all upland areas, it can occasionally be cold and/or rainy here, too. Snow is unlikely (but not impossible) in the Sierra de Gredos in May.
Opportunities for incidental bird photography can be good to excellent, especially for flying raptors and storks at Peñafalcon in Monfragüe National Park.
7 nights accommodation in central Spain, staying at two good and comfortable hotels. All rooms have private facilities.
Our trip commences in Extremadura, where we spend five nights at the Hospedería Parque de Monfragüe overlooking magnificent Monfragüe National Park, some 25 miles north of the town of Trujillo.
We conclude our holiday with two nights at the comfortable and characterful Parador de Gredos, at the heart of the picturesque Sierra de Gredos.
All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with a light tapas lunch in Spain on Day 1 and concluding with a packed lunch on Day 8.
Breakfasts and dinners will be at the hotels. Lunches will usually be picnics in some of our favourite places.
Overall easy. The short but steep walk up to the Castillo de Monfragüe to enjoy the spectacular view and to scan for White-rumped Swift is optional and involves climbing some steep steps, but all taken slowly.
In the Gredos Mountains, we offer one longer and more moderate walk (optional and weather permitting), for a maximum of 1-2.5 miles (2-4 km, depending upon where our target birds are this year). There are some uphill sections of path, but all taken at a gentle pace - and with good chances of seeing song-flighting Bluethroat as a reward! Comfy walking shoes with sturdy corrugated soles are advised here.
We fly London Heathrow-Madrid with British Airways / Iberia.
Ground transport by minibus