On the North entrance of the Monfragüe National Park, we can have a taste of the experiences to be lived in a visit to this jewel of the Extremadura geography. Displayed in the new Visitors Center, which is a world class natural museum are exhibits of items that might be difficult to find in their natural habitat. Extremadura is a region in Spain, which is west of Madrid and borders with our neighbor country, Portugal. A region that is rich in cultural and historic sites and also, a magnificent natural heritage.
The North Visitors Center of the Monfragüe National Park has an 850 square meter building home to a state of the art exhibit with varied interactive information on animal species and plants of this unique natural environment. It also tells the history of the Reserve and captures information on its geological and archeological wealth. Visitors can hear the many different trills of birds that choose Monfragüe as their habitat, see their size, their colors, and the characteristics of their nests, from the bee-eater, under the ground, to the stork and its nest. Most people don’t realize the usual size of this nest due to the height at which they build them. The footprints of various animals are illuminated on plates on the floor and numerous images and audiovisuals through out the Center allow visitors to enjoy the park in depths that are often inaccessible. The Center has rest areas, refreshment vending machines and a “chill out” area, which is a small corner with spectacular views of the nearby meadows that invite visitors to indulge in a refreshing brake.
A Walk Through the Meadows
The Monfragüe National Park Visitor Center is built is the middle of a meadow on grounds that have an area of more than two thousand square meters, very close to a town called “Malpartida de Plasencia”, next to the Monfragüe camping site, and has a kilometer long winding path where visitors find explanatory signs about birds and plants that surround the area. It also has a picnic area and a pond where birds come to drink as well as amphibians and different plants can be seen.
The Visitor Center was built to serve not only tourists but also for the local population. They all can enjoy a pleasant place in the middle of nature, which is also ideal to visit with children. The interactive aspect of the exhibits awakens a desire to learn and gather new knowledge.
Ornithological Tourism is the New Treasure of Monfragüe
The Monfragüe National Park is open to the public all year round. Visitors can enjoy sights of the “Salto del Gitano” (the Gipsy Waterfall), the “Fuente del Frances” (the Frenchman’s Water Source), and the Castle on the heights from where you can see the immense flow on the dam built on the Tagus River. Over the water, which seems very still, the great Griffon Vultures fly. The magnificent vantage points along the road are ideal sites to discover birds in the different seasons of the year, but also along the well mark trails that provide good information as well as itineraries.
The ornithological wealth of the Monfragüe National Park is recognized worldwide. Every year visitors arrive with cameras and large telephoto lenses to capture the right moments, as when a bird is drinking from the river, providing food to the nest or simply flying along the green and blue skies.
The International Ornithological Tourism Fair (FIO) or Extremadura Bird Watching Fair is considered the most important of its kind in southern Europe, it takes place in the Monfragüe National Park and is the host to thousands of visitors. The main events take place at “Villarreal de San Carlos” located in the center of the Park, every year during the month of February. The activities include technical conferences, specialized photography conferences (PHOTOFIO), guided tours, workshops targeted to children and many other activities. The 2019 Fair will be the 14th edition of this very successful event. Extremadura, as a region has several zones of special protection for birds, they are designated as “SPA”s, each one with special characteristics, depending on the various species that live or spend seasons in the area. Ornithological Tourism represents an important source of income for route organizers, hoteliers and visitor services, as well as a great way to promote the region.
The Northern Visitor Center of Extremadura is located on the road from “Malpartida de Plasencia” to “Trujillo” (EX-208) at KM9. It opens, from Monday trough Sunday from 9:30 until 17:30 during the winter, and from 9:30 until 19:00 during the summer, every day of the year except for December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st. Admission is free.
Original article by Marian Castillo
Translated by Susana Windt
Published on August 2018