Spain: Steppes to Pyrenees ~Women-Only~

Spain is famous worldwide for its rich culture and history, gastronomy, and sunny climate. Less well-known is that this unique country is also home to some of the most important natural habitats and birdlife in Europe. From the impressive sceneries of the central plains and steppes, to the mountains of the Pyrenees in the north and the wetlands of the region of Valencia in the south-east, we explore some of the very best landscapes, each with their own emblematic species. Raptor enthusiasts in particular will be in their element, and we will be targeting several threatened and declining species, including Bearded and Egyptian Vultures and the majestic Spanish Imperial Eagle. Join us on this eclectic tour, designed by women for women, as we bird by day and enjoy some of the best food in the world by night!

Next dates

28 April - 8 May 2025

Tour length: 11 days

Group size limit: 7


Donna Belder and Yanina Maggiotto

Spaces available

Day 1: Morning arrivals into Madrid International Airport (MAD). After settling into our hotel, we will head to a favoured birding site near the Manzanares River in a vast Mediterranean forest area declared a Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA), where we will enjoy a picnic lunch and a full afternoon of birding. We hope to get our bird list off to a strong start, with the stunning Spanish Imperial Eagle, Cinereous Vulture, Azure-winged Magpie, Iberian Green Woodpecker, and Golden Oriole all possible right off the bat. Night in Madrid.

Day 2: Morning birding at a site near Tres Cantos, with targets including Spotless Starling, adorable Common Kingfisher, Rock Sparrow and more, plus additional chances for Imperial Eagle and Cinereous Vulture. In the afternoon we will head for the steppes. After checking in at our hotel, we will do some birding in the late evening. Night in Belchite.

Day 3: An early morning start will be necessary to detect some of today’s targets, which include Dupont’s, Thekla’s, and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Montagu’s Harrier, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Iberian Grey Shrike, Tawny Pipit, Black-eared Wheatear, Spectacled Warbler, and the enigmatic Eurasian Hoopoe. Learning from the Spanish and taking an afternoon siesta, we will be recharged for more birding in the evening when the tricky larks become active again! Night in Belchite.

Day 4: Early morning transfer to the Pyrenees, involving a 3-hour drive through some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe. After checking in at our hotel in Escalona, we will spend a full day birding the surrounds. Targets here include Bearded, Egyptian, and Griffon Vultures, Booted Eagle, Common Raven, Bonelli’s Warbler, White-throated Dipper, and Grey Wagtail. Night in Escalona.

Day 5: After a short journey, we will spend the day birding in one of the best-preserved woodland areas of the Pyrenees on the way to high mountains (>2000m above sea level) in Posets Maladeta Natural Park. Bearded Vulture, European Honey Buzzard, Golden and Short-toed Eagles, Alpine and Red-billed Choughs, Red-backed Shrike, Firecrest, Common Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Water Pipit, Ortolan Bunting, Yellowhammer, and the range-restricted Citril Finch are among the many wonderful alpine species on offer. We will also enjoy nice views of super cute marmots. Night in Escalona.

Day 6: After checking out of the hotel, we will spend the morning in a magnificent gorge reached via a short walking trail. We will enjoy a homemade lunch in this stunning and remote area, which provides excellent opportunities for great views of raptors such as Bearded, Griffon, and Egyptian Vultures. Other specialties include Rock Bunting, Crag Martin, Crested Tit, and Red Crossbill. In the evening, we will embark on a long but scenic drive to Valencia, where we will overnight.

Day 7: After a short journey, we will arrive at a reserve beside the Mediterranean Sea, where we will search for White-headed Duck, Collared Pratincole, Common and Sandwich Terns, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Moustached Warbler, and more. To make the most of the distinct habitats that this site offers, we will need to cover some ground on foot, although all of it is on good paths and the entire route is flat. To end the day, we will take a short drive to the historic ruins of Sagunto Castle, a National Monument that is home to Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Pallid Swift, and Little Owl. Night in Valencia.

Day 8: This morning, we will take a 1-hour drive to visit the mountains of Valencia targeting Bonelli’s Eagle, European Bee-eater, Black Wheatear, Golden Oriole, Melodious Warbler, and Spanish Sparrow. In the evening, we will head south to Santa Pola. After dinner, we will go out for a night excursion, the goal being views of the range-restricted Red-necked Nightjar, plus European Nightjar, and Little Owl. Night in Santa Pola.

Day 9: Our first stop will be at the salt marshes of Santa Pola, where we can see an array of specialties including Greater Flamingo, Collared Pratincole, Eurasian Thick-knee, Pied Avocet, Kentish Plover, Little and Sandwich Terns, and Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls. After a couple of hours, we’ll take a short journey to one of the region’s premium wetland reserves. The species list for this site is extensive but the key target species include Marbled Teal, Red-knobbed Coot, White-headed Duck, Western Swamphen, Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Grebe, Whiskered Tern, and the beautiful European Roller. Night in Santa Pola.

Day 10: After checking out, we will head to the steppe and inland lagoons on the way to Madrid. It is approx. 50 minutes to the main area, where we will enjoy a full day’s birding which is sure to include some of the best birds of the tour! Here, we will be seeking Black-bellied Sandgrouse, both Great and Little Bustards, Lesser Kestrel, Crested and Calandra Larks, various raptors, waterfowl, and more. We will return to Madrid in the evening and spend our last night soaking up the atmosphere of this ancient city and enjoying some of the best food in the world. Night in Madrid.

Day 11: Morning transfers to Madrid International Airport for outbound flights.

Tour details

Cost: $ 3800
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ TBC

Accommodation: Good accommodation throughout the tour.

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy roadside birding. Some short walks required, mostly on good quality and mostly flat trails.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals (excluding drinks), drinking water, overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.