Spain

Extremadura & La Mancha

An 8-day, small group birdwatching tour to central Spain in late autumn

Limosa’s November birdwatching tour to Spain commences with a five-night stay amid the rugged sierras and rolling steppe grasslands of Extremadura, followed by two nights exploring the tucked away lagunas of La Mancha. It’s a holiday that will take you from the vulture-filled skies over Peña Falcon, via flocks of bustards, sandgrouse and thousands of wintering Cranes out on the plain, to the little known rural wetlands of “Don Quixote country” - home to White-headed Duck, Western Swamphen and even the elusive Moustached Warbler. Escape the onset of winter in the UK and join us for a Spain birding tour with a difference!

Tour Dates & Prices

Mon 16th November 2020

Mon 23rd November 2020

  • Contact Us

Mon 15th November 2021

Mon 22nd November 2021

  • Spaces

Tour Cost: 8 Days from £1895 inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £215Land Only: £1770Group Size: 6Leaders:  Fernando Enrique

What's Included?

  • 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 Extremadura, 2 nights La Mancha)
  • All main meals - and drinking water provided (plus some wine with dinner at the first hotel)
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, permits, tour-based tips & taxes
  • Map & Limosa Checklist of birds

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature.

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights • Please note that wine with meals is not included within the tour cost at our second hotel, Chateau Viñasoro

Tour Cost: 8 Days from £1895* inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £215*Land Only: £1770*Group Size: 6Leaders:  Fernando Enrique

* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • 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 Extremadura, 2 nights La Mancha)
  • All main meals - and drinking water provided (plus some wine with dinner at the first hotel)
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips & taxes
  • Map & Limosa Checklist of birds

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature.

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights • Please note that wine with meals is not included within the tour cost at our second hotel, Chateau Viñasoro

Tour Highlights

  • Five nights at a beautifully restored country house hotel in fabulous Extremadura
  • The vulture-filled skies of magnificent Monfragüe National Park
  • Great and Little Bustards, Black-winged Kite, both sandgrouse, Iberian Magpie, Iberian Grey Shrike
  • Thousands of Common Cranes wintering in the oak woodlands and fields
  • Two nights off the beaten track in La Mancha, exploring the wetlands of "Don Quixote country"
  • White-headed & Ferruginous Ducks, Greater Flamingo, Western Swamphen, Iberian Green Woodpecker
  • Ruddy Shelduck, 8 Dotterel and Moustached Warbler among surprises on our 2019 tour
  • Small group size - maximum of 6 participants
  • Expertly led by Limosa's resident, English-speaking Spanish specialist Fernando Enrique

Outline Itinerary

  • Fly London Heathrow-Madrid and transfer west to our lovely hotel near Trujillo, in Extremadura. Night Viña las Torres

  • From our base near historic Trujillo we explore beautiful Monfragüe National Park and the wild steppes and sierras of Extremadura. Four further nights at Viña las Torres

  • We head back east to discover the rural wetlands of sleepy La Mancha. Night Chateau Viñasoro, Alcazar de San Juan (2 nts)

  • After a morning enjoying the wetlands, we return to Madrid. Fly Madrid-London Heathrow

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Trip Reports
Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying EX Spain 1119 FE_MG_9738 ck card.jpg
We'll listen out for the the telltale ‘chuckling’ calls of Black-bellied Sandgrouse passing over the steppe © Fernando Enrique, Limosa

Hoopoes bouncing through the dehesas on zebra-striped wings; tawny autumnal grasslands dotted with groups of stately Great Bustards; squadrons of Black and Griffon Vultures floating silently in the sky above the immense rock pinnacle of Peña Falcon; and the thrill of seeing thousands of spectacular Common Cranes, trumpeting loud their arrival here from northern Europe to winter beneath the oak trees and in harvested fields of maize and rice... Starting amid the rolling steppes and rugged sierras of Extremadura and concluding with visits to the tucked away wetlands and lagunas of rural La Mancha, our November birdwatching tour to the 'wild heart of Spain' promises all this and more!

From Madrid, we head west to delightful Viña Las Torres, a small and beautifully renovated private estate set amidst wonderful birding country not far from Trujillo. With good home cooking (and wine included with our evening meals), this comfortable Hotel Rural will be our base for the first five nights of the holiday. More than 90 species of bird have been recorded within five minutes walk of the hotel - so it can be hard to tear ourselves away from here. But we will, for our late autumn days in Extremadura are usually sunny and always memorable, filled with more birds than you could wish for!

Visits to magnificent Monfragüe National Park form the centrepiece of our stay in Extremadura - one of Limosa's all-time favourite places. Birds of prey are more numerous here than anywhere else in Western Europe. In late November, we will be looking for the scarce Black-winged Kite, immense Black and Griffon Vultures, and up to three species of eagle: Bonelli's, Golden and the endemic Spanish Imperial.

Autumn is also an excellent time to see the solitary Iberian Grey Shrike and exotic Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpie, two Iberian specialities that make their home in the beautiful dehesa woodlands that ring this national park.

Out on the rolling plains, flocks of Calandra Larks and droves of bustards - both Great and Little - will already have come together for the winter. As we scan the fields for them, we may be lucky to unearth secretive Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, and parties of Stone-curlew, too.

During our stay, we’ll pay a short visit to the historic hilltop town of Trujillo, enjoying far-reaching views from the medieval battlements and a refreshing beer at a cafe in the cobbled Plaza Mayor, watched over by the formidable statue of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of Peru.

Leaving Extremadura, we loop north and east beyond Toledo, where the lagunas (lakes) of La Mancha lie scattered like confetti across the rolling rural heartland of Spain. Nestling in a landscape made famous by Cervantes' classic novel Don Quixote, these tucked away wetlands are important to the threatened White-headed Duck plus a fine array of waterbirds in winter that can include hundreds of Greater Flamingos, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Black-necked Grebe, Western Swamphen and - with a little good fortune - Moustached Warbler, too. We spend two nights in this sleepy 'backwater', at a comfortable hotel in Alcazar de San Juan.

Limosa has been operating a wide-ranging annual programme of birdwatching tours to Spain since 1990. Guide Fernando Enrique joined the Limosa team back in 2014 and is our English-speaking Spanish specialist. He has excellent experience of Central Spain, having lived, birded and led tours in both Extremadura and La Mancha - including our November 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 tours there.

Join us as we return for another exciting and refreshingly different birdwatching tour to Spain, discovering the land of the Conquistadores and Cervantes' fictional hero, Don Quixote!

Little Owl hole in wall EX Spain 1119 FE_MG_8284 ck card.jpg
Could this Little Owl at Campo Lugar be a lookout for the notorious hole in the wall gang?... © Fernando Enrique, Limosa

Day 1
TO MADRID & TRUJILLO

Our November birdwatching tour to Spain begins with a morning flight from London Heathrow to Madrid, where Fernando will be waiting. We head west towards the rolling steppe grasslands, beautiful oak woodlands and rugged sierras of Extremadura - the 'wild heart of Spain'.

The journey will take around three hours, but we'll stop along the way to enjoy a light tapas lunch... and maybe have a first try for the elusive Black-winged Kite. Although it is late autumn, the prospect of seeing birds such as White Stork and Hoopoe here will come as a welcome surprise.

Early evening arrival at our comfortable rural retreat, a small, privately-owned and beautifully renovated country house hotel set amidst wonderful birding country just a few miles south of the medieval hilltop town of Trujillo. Cattle Egrets, Spanish Sparrows, Spotless Starlings and Common Waxbills forage in the fields, and exotic Iberian Magpies (that’s Azure-winged Magpie in 'old money') regularly gather to roost in the hotel garden. Night Viña Las Torres

Days 2 – 5
MONFRAGUE NATIONAL PARK, THE STEPPE & SIERRAS OF EXTREMADURA

To begin our appreciation of this lovely region we only have to take a short walk outside - more than 90 species of bird have been recorded within five minutes walk of the hotel. We might hear the eerie cries of Stone-curlew drifting over the steppe, the dry rattle of a Cirl Bunting from the hillside or see watchful birds of prey soaring effortlessly overhead.

North from Trujillo, our route to Monfragüe National Park passes through mile after mile of unspoilt dehesas - a park-like habitat of cork and evergreen oaks, foraged by pigs and alive with the ceaseless chatter of Iberian Magpies. Tetchy Sardinian Warblers scold us from the brush and smart Iberian Grey Shrikes perch like sentries beside the road, while the squat form of a Little Owl glares down at us from one of the massive ‘erratics’ that are so characteristic of this part of Extremadura - the ‘hard lands’.

This is probably the richest spot in Europe for birds of prey. As the immense shapes of Griffon Vultures launch themselves from sun-warmed crags to patrol the sweeping skies, we’ll be on the look out for Red Kite, Peregrine and three big eagles: Bonelli’s, Golden and the endemic and rare Spanish Imperial Eagles are all resident in the park. With luck, we might even come across a huge Eurasian Eagle Owl, out sunning itself on a favoured ledge.

Always magical, Monfragüe’s Cistus-covered hillsides and deep plunging valleys are equally rich in small birds. Crested and Thekla Larks, Dartford Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Rock Bunting and Red-billed Chough are all likely - and we could find Crag Martin, Firecrest and Short-toed Treecreeper, too.

To the south of Monfragüe our attention will turn to the sweeping plains, a vital stronghold of the spectacular Great Bustard, which gather into flocks (or ‘droves’) at this season. We should also see the declining Little Bustard as we search for Black-winged Kite; sailing on the breeze like a giant paper plane, winter is perhaps the best time of year to see this oft-elusive bird of prey. We’ll listen out for the distinctive Pochard-like calls of nomadic Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and the telltale ‘chuckling’ of Black-bellied Sandgrouse passing over the steppe. And as we scour the fields for them, flocks of Calandra and Sky Larks, Spanish Sparrows, Corn Buntings, finches and pipits may be put to flight by the sudden appearance of a low-flying Hen Harrier or a dashing Merlin - both are winter visitors here.

Come November, thousands of stately Common Cranes will have arrived from northern Europe to feast on fallen acorns as well as the glut of spilled food left behind in the region’s harvested fields of maize and rice. They make a stirring sight - and sound - and are one of the highlights of any late autumn visit to Extremadura!

Finally, no visit to this wonderful region would be complete without enjoying a short stroll through historic Trujillo town, with its winding cobbled streets, delightful medieval architecture and mellow pan-tiled roofs. We’ll pay a short sightseeing visit here, to admire the glorious views across the plains from atop the medieval battlements and afterwards dropping back down to the beautiful Plaza Mayor, with its imposing statue of the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro mounted on horseback. Even in autumn, a few White Storks are likely to be attending their rooftop nests in town. Nights at Viña Las Torres

Days 6 - 7
LA MANCHA: WETLANDS & LAGUNAS

After breakfast this morning, we bid farewell to our hosts at lovely Viña Las Torres and set off eastwards across Extremadura to Toledo, the provincial capital of neighbouring Castilla-La Mancha. Our destination this evening is Alcazar de San Juan, a small country town in the sleepy rural backwater of La Mancha. It's a longish drive, but we'll pause along the way to enjoy a couple of choice wetland sites, where sightings of Western Swamphen, Spoonbill, Great Egret, Bluethroat and Penduline Tit have been among highlights from our last three visits here.

Like so much of Spain's vast central plain or meseta, the open and undulating landscape of La Mancha is relatively sparsely populated. Scattered here and there amongst the patchwork of cereal fields and vines are numerous shallow lakes or lagunas - some reed-fringed freshwater habitats bursting with activity; others saline, sterile and seemingly devoid of life. Yet each holds it's own fascinating population of birds.

Of major importance is La Mancha's thriving population of rare White-headed Ducks - the males with their extraordinary sky-blue bills swollen like a prizefighter's nose! In November, we should also find hundreds of Red-crested Pochard and Greater Flamingos here too, along with Black-necked Grebe, Western Swamphen and good chances of the rare Ferruginous Duck.

Marsh Harriers sail low across the autumnal hems of reed, and Hen Harrier is also possible. We should hear the pig-like squealing of Water Rails (though actually getting to see one is another matter entirely!) and the 'cut glass pinging' of Bearded Tits, while Cetti's Warblers shout as we pass by the waterside tangles and tamarisks. Zitting Cisticolas frequent the drier margins and, if the gods are smiling, we might even encounter the very localised Moustached Warbler here - our 2017, 2018 and 2019 groups were all lucky!

Eight 'out-of-season' Whiskered Terns put on a surprise showing for our 2018 group, and we’ll visit an impressive winter roost site that on our 2019 tour produced more than 900 White Storks and 90+ Marsh Harriers! Other species to watch for in La Mancha include Bluethroat, Water Pipit and the endemic Iberian Green Woodpecker.

Although intensively cropped, La Mancha's arid, stony, steppe-derived farmland still supports a surprising variety of dry country birds. In November, we could come across Calandra and Crested Larks, Stone-curlew, and Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse as we travel between one wetland site and the next.

Our well-chosen accommodation for these two nights is Chateau Viñasoro, a comfortable rural retreat set amid the vineyards of La Mancha. Two nights Hotel Chateau Viñasoro

Day 8
RETURN TO MADRID, FLY LONDON

We have time this morning to enjoy more of La Mancha's varied winter birding, with further chances to look for White-headed Duck and the prospect of waders such as Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover and Little Stint. Two Ruddy Shelducks were a late and unexpected addition to our trip list here on our November 2019 tour!

Our birding over, reluctantly we must return to Madrid and check-in for our late afternoon flight back to London Heathrow, where our autumn birdwatching tour to Spain concludes.

White-headed Duck ad m Andalucia Spain Stephen Daly_Daly Wildlife_5672 ck card.jpg
The lagunas of La Mancha are an important stronghold for the endangered White-headed Duck © Stephen Daly/Daly Wildlife

WHAT TO EXPECT
An 8-day, small group birdwatching tour to central Spain in late autumn, getting you right off the beaten track.

With five nights amid the rugged sierras and rolling steppe grasslands of Extremadura, followed by two more exploring the tucked away lagunas of La Mancha, it’s an out of season holiday that will take you from the vulture-filled skies over Peña Falcon, via bustards, sandgrouse and thousands of wintering Cranes on the plain, to the rural wetlands of “Don Quixote country” - a winter home to White-headed Duck, Western Swamphen and even the odd Moustached Warbler!

The weather in Extremadura in late autumn is typically warm and sunny, 12-20C (54-68F). It can be chilly first thing, however (and occasionally cold with ground frost possible at this season). Some rainfall or showers are likely in autumn, so be sure to pack some warm and weatherproof clothing, too.

BIRDS
120-140 species

ACCOMMODATION
7 nights accommodation in Spain, staying at two delightful and perfectly situated rural hotels in central Spain.

We spend the first 5 nights in Extremadura, staying at lovely Viña Las Torres, a small and beautifully renovated country house hotel (‘Hotel Rural’) situated at the heart of the Sierra de Lagares, just a few miles from Trujillo.

From there we travel to La Mancha for a 2-night stay at the Hotel Chateau Viñasoro, set amid the vineyards near the provincial town of Alcazar de San Juan. All rooms have private facilities.

MEALS
All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with a light tapas lunch on Day 1 and concluding with lunch on Day 8.

Delicious home-cooking - and with some wine included with our evening meals - at the first hotel (Viña Las Torres). Breakfasts and evening meals will be at the hotels. Lunches will be a mix of picnics and light cafe lunches.

[Please note that wine with meals is not included within our tour cost at our second hotel, Chateau Viñasoro.]

WALKING
Easy, short walks. Wear comfy walking shoes or lightweight boots, with sturdy corrugated soles for grip.

In Extremadura, one uphill walk followed by a steep climb up a series of stone steps to reach the viewpoint overlooking the heart of Monfragüe National Park is optional (and may not be offered on every trip).

The landscape in La Mancha is more gentle and the going easy over predominantly level terrain.

TRAVEL
Return flights from London Heathrow-Madrid with British Airways / Iberia.

Ground Transport   By minibus

Moustached Warbler La Mancha Spain SPA 1118 FE MG_8678 ck card 2.jpg
Moustached Warbler is never an easy bird to find, but our last three visits here have all been lucky © Fernando Enrique, Limosa

Ask About This Tour

If you have any questions about this tour or wish to be added to our Wait List, please enter your details here and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Alternatively, contact us by email or phone. We look forward to hearing from you!

Or complete the contact form and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.

* = required field