Overtourism: all the Spanish beauty spots you need to book in advance to visit

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Spain is known for its white sand beaches, rugged landscapes and breathtaking views.

But these beautiful landscapes are threatened by the trampling and mistreatment of thousands of tourists.

According to a investigation According to Eco-union, an environmental NGO, 16 million visitors descend on Spain’s national parks each year, an increase of 77% over the past two decades.

“In most Spanish national parks, situations of visitor saturation occur at certain times of the year,” warns Eco-union.

“They have intensified in protected areas in general in recent years.”

To protect these natural beauty spots, many Spanish regions have imposed caps and restrictions on visitors.

If you’re planning on visiting one of these gorgeous places, here’s what you need to know.

Which Spanish tourist destinations restrict visitors?

Most of Spain’s national parks impose certain restrictions on incoming visitors.

Doñana National Park, Andalusia

Famous for its wetlands and “pink carpet” of flamingos, this National Park limits daily visitors on several popular routes – for example, only 886 people are allowed per day on the routes from Huelva to El Acebuche and El Rocío.

To secure your spot, you can book a guided tour online on a few different websites. If you want to explore the park on your own, you can walk the boardwalk trails around the five visitor centers.

Martimo-Terrestrial National Park of Cabrera, Balearic Islands

This vast marine park – the largest in Spain – covers 908 square kilometres. Mainly oceanic, it is also home to the isolated archipelago of Cabrera. To prevent overtourism, visitors on board the boats must request a pass and can only anchor in two specific places. Scuba diving is strictly limited. Passes for both activities can be reserved here.

Mount Teide National Park, Tenerife

Mount Teide is the largest and oldest of the The Canary Islands’ National parks. It is also one of the most popular, with 15 million visitors per year. If you want to climb its ancient volcano, book ahead here – only 200 people per day are allowed on the last stretch of the path to the top of Teide.

Murcia National Parks

Private cars are severely restricted in the regional natural parks of Calblanque, Monte de las Cenizas and Pea del Guila. During pre-season, the number of cars in each park cannot exceed the number of parking spaces – a rule which is applied to guarded entrance barriers. Between late June and August, private vehicles are completely prohibited, with visitors being offered buses instead.

Picos de Europa National Park, Asturias

During high season, tourists can only reach the popular lakes of Covadonga by bus or licensed taxi. The road may be closed at short notice when the parking lot fills up.

Praia das Catedrais, Galicia

The “cathedrals” beach is famous for its majestic natural rock formations, sculpted by the sea over thousands of years. To visit from July to September and during Holy Week (April 2-8, 2023), you must book a free ticket online in advance. Visitors are capped at 5,000 per day and you can book here.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Basque Country

This small island became world famous after being featured on the hit TV show Game of Thrones. The visit is free, but if you want to climb its winding steps, be sure to book a ticket before your visit. Only 1,500 visitors are allowed to visit per day and you can book here.

Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, Madrid

The green pools of La Charca Verde are a popular beauty spot. In the face of soil erosion and wildlife disturbance, the national park authority has limited the number of daily visitors by car to 270. Details of the restrictions can be found here.

Urbasa Natural Park

The Urederra River has stunning turquoise waters and flowing waterfalls. However, access to the source of the river is now limited to 500 vehicles per day. Further information on restrictions and reservations can be found here.

Valle de Cabriel Biosphere Reserve, Castilla-La Mancha

This famous area is known as the setting of Don Quixote of La Mancha. It is also home to the Chorreras del Cabriel waterfalls in Cuenca, but only 400 people a day are allowed to enter the surrounding reserve. You can book online here.

Other national parks with visitor caps include Serra d’Irta Natural Park in Valencia and Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park in Aragón.

If not, how does Spain limit tourism?

National parks aren’t the only towering Spanish destinations restrictions imposed on tourists.

Spain is the second most visited country in the world after France. Tourism is an important pillar of the economy – but also drives up prices for locals, making cities prohibitively expensive.

To counter the impacts of overtourism, Barcelona charges a tourist tax, visitors must pay €3 for a stay of more than 12 hours and €1 for a stay of less than 12 hours. These costs – along with an existing surcharge of €1.75 – are usually added to the price of booking cruises or hotels.

Earlier this year, authorities announced a cruise-specific tax to help curb the Pollution brought by these giant ships. They have not yet specified how much it will cost passengers.

Elsewhere, many hotspots don’t necessarily have a problem with the Number of visitors they receive – but with the way these visitors behave.

In June, one of Mallorca’s most popular party areas – Palma Beach – prohibits people wearing football shirts from entering restaurants. It was part of a wider dress code designed to discourage drunks bad behaviour.

This new restriction complements existing rules that limit so-called “excessive tourism”. Resorts in Magaluf, Playa de Palma and San Antonio in Ibiza banned all-you-can-eat deals, bar crawls and happy hours, among other measures aimed at curbing excessive alcohol consumption.

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