Fuente de Piedra, a wonderful nature reserve in Andalusia
The Fuente de Piedra lagoon: a paradise for nature lovers and flamingos
In this article, you will find the essential information to get to the Fuente de Piedra lagoon:
- Overview of the Fuente de Piedra lagoon
- The characteristics and history of the lagoon
- Fuente de Piedra and the flamingos
- The fauna and flora of Fuente de Piedra
- The type of vegetation in the Fuente de Piedra lagoon
- The lagoon and man and the return to nature
- Walking in the lagoon
- Geographical location of Fuente de Piedra
- Where to sleep near Fuente de Piedra
- What to see around Fuente de Piedra
- Some useful links (car rental, other ideas for visits)
Overview of the Fuente de Piedra lagoon
The Fuente de Piedra lagoon, attached to the village of the same name, has been a nature reserve since the 1990s. It is home to the largest colony of flamingos in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the second most important lagoon in the western Mediterranean, after the Camargue in the south of France.
The characteristics and history of the lagoon
After being used to harvest salt for almost 2000 years, the lagoon was declared a nature reserve at the end of the last century.
This lagoon is a wetland located in the centre of Andalusia (just outside Antequera), in the province of Malaga. It is the largest lake in Andalusia and also the largest lagoon with 1400 hectares.
This lake – and lagoon – is supplied with water in three ways:
- 4 streams: Santillán, El Humilladero, Arenales, and the Mari Fernández stream
- an aquifer (groundwater)
Its waters are saline and shallow. The waters are saline because the water that arrives in this lagoon does not flow anywhere else to reach a sea or an ocean. Therefore it becomes loaded with mineral salt over time.
The water only disappears by evaporation, depending on the season, leaving only an expanse of salt, a salar.
Fuente de Piedra and the pink flamingos
The lagoon is a major nesting site for the pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus).
This colony of flamingos spends the winter in Morocco either in the mouth of the Muluya River, in the coastal lagoon of the Mar Chica or in the Souss-Massa National Park.
In rainy years, up to 20,000 pairs of flamingos have been recorded.
The fauna and flora of Fuente de Piedra
This site is exceptionally important for a large number of bird species, which use it as a resting place during migration but also as a nesting place.
The lagoon is classified by the European Union as a special protection area for birds (SPA).
The lagoon is frequented by 130 species of birds, including a number of birds of prey and waders (birds that live in the marshes and have long legs).
These are mainly water birds, such as the grey heron, the black-headed gull or the black-billed gull,
the slender-billed gull, the stork,
crane, and greylag goose, as well as various species of ducks.
A total of 213 animal species from the amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal families can be encountered.
However, amphibians and aquatic reptiles are very limited in the nature reserve due to the high salinity levels of the water.
In contrast, it is impossible not to see rabbits because there are so many all around the lagoon!
The type of vegetation in the Fuente de Piedra lagoon
The vegetation in the lagoon is known as halophilic vegetation. This means that it is adapted to saline soils. Species such as the reed and the broom reed can be observed,
and tamarisk, oleander and rush can be observed.
The lagoon and man and the return to nature
The area around the lagoon has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Several remains corresponding to the Upper Paleolithic period have been found. These lands have been permanently inhabited since the Iberians, who established commercial contacts with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians.
Later the Romans settled on the site at the eponymous village. The Romans had installed a fountain in the village after discovering a water source with beneficial properties. Fuente de Piedra’s name comes from the name given to this water source by the Romans: “Fons divinus”, divine fountain.
The exploitation of the lagoon by man began in Roman times, when salt was harvested. This activity continued until the 1950s. For almost 2000 years, in the spring, once the water had evaporated, the salt crystallised on the surface was harvested.
To facilitate its exploitation, various structures were built to promote irrigation and evaporation.
It is curious to note that the traces of these canals, which favoured the sedimentation of the salt, can still be seen today. These same dykes are now used as nesting sites for many species of birds!
Walking in the lagoon:
Just a few metres from the parking area at the entrance, there is the Cerro Palo viewpoint, from which you can observe the most complete panorama of the lagoon. Then there is another path, well signposted, which will take you to two small lagoons called “El Laguneto” and “Cantarranas.
Then you can take the Las Albinas path, which will take you to the Mirador de la Vicaría in about 45 minutes.
Location of Fuente de Piedra
Where to sleep close to the lagoon of Fuente de Piedra
What to see around Fuente de Piedra?
Fuente de Piedra is located about 20 km from the beautiful town of Antequera.
Antequera is known as the geographical centre of Andalusia and is nicknamed the “convent city” with its 33 churches.
For nature lovers, there is of course the El Torcal Natural Park , the Pena de los Enamorados and dolmens just next door, also 20km away. These were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2016.
Some useful links (car rental, other ideas for visits)
Here is a great car rental agency in Andalusia and more specifically at Malaga airport : book a rental car.
If you are in Andalucia as part of a tour with several major cities to visit, here are some links that may be of interest:
- Discover must-sees before visiting Cordoba
- Visit Malaga on foot.
- All you need to know about Granada, the Alhambra, the Albaicin neighbourhood before visiting Granada
Discover other beautiful places in Andalusia in the Andalusia blog pages.
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