Alava Natural Reserves
Izki Natural Park
One of the great attractions of this Park is its dense forests. This 3500-ha forest of Pyrenean oak is the largest in Europe and is situated on the sandy soils of the Izki river basin. It is the home of large mammals such as wild boars, roebuck and wild cats, as well as its population of woodpeckers. Izki also contains a number of gigantic yew trees, the "Aginal", near Apellániz.
This valley is edged by limestone mountains with massive rock faces such as La Muela, Soila and Arlucea, forming a huge amphitheatre at the head of the valley. In these mountains, the nature of the forests changes and the Pyrenean oak is replaced by the gall-oak on the terraces and by beech woods in high, shaded areas. Another of the characteristic uses of Izki is livestock breeding. There are extensive pastures between the peaks of San Cristóbal and San Justo, where horses and cows graze all year round.
The only village within the Park is Corres, where there is an Information Centre. This village conserves most of its medieval structure and is situated on high ground overlooking a spectacular ravine.
Valderejo Natural Park
Valderejo Natural Parkis situated in a wide valley surrounded by limestone cliffs. This area marks a transition between the Atlantic and Mediterranean climates, with warm, dry summers and winters with abundant snowfall, providing it with a high level of biodiversity. Species of plants and fauna typical of both weather systems can be found in the Park. The main river in Valderejo is the Purón, which has its source to the north of Lahoz.
Woods constitute more than 58% of the total vegetation. The Scottish pine is the most widespread, followed by the holm oak, beech and there is a small area covered by gall-oaks. Meadows and crops occupy the floor of the valley, surrounding a number of ancient villages. This vast plateau is occupied by a mosaic of pastures and scrubland and in some places there are outcrops of limestone rock.
The variety of ecosystems and the negligible presence of man has favoured the development of a rich and varied fauna: large mammals such as roebuck and wild boar, an interesting community of medium-size carnivores, a large colony of vultures which has become the emblem of the Park and a wide variety of a rock and forest birds.
Valderejo Natural Park has areas of great natural and cultural interest such as the Lahoz/Sobrón anticline, the ravine formed by the river Purón, its numerous forests and its rural population centres; in addition to its superb landscapes that provie a setting for the conservation of this area's traditional farming practices and cultural heritage, forming an interesting mixture of nature and rural life.
The recreational and interpretation centre is located in Lalastra. There, next to the Parketxea or Information Centre, you can find a recreational area with facilities for children and areas where you can picnic. There are also several restaurants and rural guesthouses, ideal for getting your strength back after a visit to the Park, especially if you have explored its networks of paths (9 in all), with lengths of between 3.5 and almost 12 km.
Entzia mountain range
The Sierra de Entzia mountain range, which you can reach from Salvatierra over the Opacua mountain pass, is formed by communal lands whose pastures and woods are shared by several villages belonging to the regions of Salvatierra and Campezo. Thanks to the efforts of so many people over the ages, this mountain range is in a magnificent state of conservation. It contains forests of beech, enormous open fields such as Legaire, where horses graze in semi-liberty, megalithic monuments such as the Menhir de Itaida or the Cromlech de Mendiluze, caves and and refuges for shepherds who are always ready to teach you something if you stop to speak to them. The northern slopes are quite steep, but those to the south from part of a small table land which descends slowly and is easy to negotiate on foot or by bicycle The crests that crown the Bayo are one of the favourite places for lovers of hang-gliding and delta wing.
Laguardia Lakes Biotope
Laguardia has two natural freshwater wetlands and an artificial pool, all of which are of extraordinary biological and ecological interest and for this reason they have been declared a Protected Biotope.
This Protected Biotope is located in the centre of the Rioja Alavesa, near the walled village of Laguardia from which it can be seen. It contains four small wetlands. Three of them, Carralogroño, Carravalseca and Musco are natural lagoons, while the fourth, the Prao de la Paul, is a small reservoir created in an area subject to flooding.
The Carralogroño and Carravalseca lagoons are the last of a series of wetlands that were drained of water in order to use the land for growing crops. This would have been the fate of the Musco lagoon, which was drained, dried out and cultivated until its declaration as a Biotope, when work began on its restoration.
These wetlands are home to a number of extremely rare plants and algae and on the edges of the lagoons there are herbaceous plants and reeds that have adapted to the salt water. Dense reed beds cover wide areas of the reserve, mainly in Carralogroño, providing shelter for a large number of birds.