Fuente de Piedra is the largest lagoon in Andalucia and one of the best places for bird watching in Spain. What is special about Fuente de Piedra is that it is one of the largest places where you can see tens of thousands of pink flamingos in Spain.
Fuente de Piedra is the largest natural lake in the Iberian Peninsula, and is home to over 170 different bird species.
How to Get to Fuente de Piedra
Getting to Fuente de Piedra is very easy from Malaga. By car, it takes less than an hour to drive the 75 kilometres to Fuente de Piedra, as most of the journey is on the high-speed motorway.
If you are using public transport, there are regular Alsa buses that connect Malaga Bus Station to Fuente de Piedra. The destination is in town, which is 2 kilometres away from the lagoon’s visitor centre. A one-way bus ticket to Fuente de Piedra costs 8 euros booked in advance on the Alsa website.
Where to Park in Fuente de Piedra
If you are wondering where to park in Fuente de Piedra, you should know that the visitor’s centre offers ample parking, which is free of charge.
When to See Flamingos in Spain
The best time to see flamingos in Spain, at Fuente de Piedra, is between February and May, when almost thirty thousand birds take residence on the lake, to breed. From the end of April – beginning of May you will get to see the small flamingo chicks following their parents, learning how to feed and fly.
During the wet seasons, when it rains a lot, the best time to see flamingos in Spain, at Fuente de Piedra, is between August and September. The inland lagoon in Fuente de Piedra is one of the most important of its kind in Europe, hosting the largest breeding colony of the greater flamingos in the Mediterranean and northwest Africa. In some years there are up to 15,000 chicks born here during the breeding season.
Each flamingo pair will lay one large egg only, and both the female and the male will take turns incubating it. It takes around 29 days before the chick hatches. After 7 days, the chicks leave the nest and start exploring their surroundings. They usually gather in large groups called creches. It is interesting to know that flamingo parents recognise their own chick among all the others in the creche, and that they will only feed their own offspring.
During summer, because of the heat, the lake dries out and the flamingos migrate to Africa together with their now grown chicks who have learned how to fly.
The Natural Reserve from Fuente de Piedra
Fuente de Piedra is a temporary saltwater lagoon, which dries out in the summer. It is protected by the Parliament of Andalucia and the European Union, and is considered a special area for birds. Its water level depends on the Mediterranean climate, which sees very seasonal rain, usually in early spring or late autumn. The lagoon is quite shallow, which makes it a perfect nesting location for many species of birds, not just the flamingos.
Fuente de Piedra is one of the best birding destinations in Spain and it covers a surface of over 1300 ha.
There are several trails that you can follow around the lagoon to reach different viewpoints and hides. Some are accessible directly from the visitor’s centre, and some you will need to reach by car, as the lagoon is too large to walk around. The trails are usually very quiet, as Fuente de Piedra is an off the beaten track destination in Andalucia.
One of the easiest trails to follow is Las Albinas, which takes you from the visitor’s centre to the northern part of the lagoon, a distance of 2.4 kilometres each way. At the end of this trail there is a hide.
The Fuente de Piedra Visitors Centre
At the visitor’s centre you can learn more about the lagoon, whilst having a hot coffee and a bite to eat. The building is on top of a small hill, and it has an observation desk from where you can get an idea of how big the lagoon actually is.
Inside the visitor’s centre there is a small exhibition about Fuente de Piedra which shows the diversity of the lagoon.
There are organised tours to the best observation points on the lake, together with access to binoculars and telescopes, and a specialised guide to help you spot the different types of birds. The tours usually run every day, weather permitting, but they might require a minimum number of people, so it’s always a good idea to book online.
The visitor’s centre also run private tours for up to 10 people, which cost 80 euros.
How to Photograph the Pink Flamingos at Fuente de Piedra
To photograph the flamingos at Fuente de Piedra you will need a good camera with a zoom lens. Whilst you can observe the flamingos from different bird watching huts along the path around the lake, you can’t approach the shore.
If you carry a binocular, you can try taking close up photos through it.
Just before the parking lot, the road crosses a smaller lake, where you will often see a flamboyance of flamingos, just chilling in the water. By the way, how amazing is this world, flamboyance? Did you know that a group of flamingos is called a flamboyance?
As you can see from my photos, I only had my phone with me during my trip to Fuente de Piedra, so the shots I took are not fantastic. Soon after the trip I did buy a 55-210 mm zoom lens for my camera and I am looking forward to returning next year, when the flamingos are breeding, to take some amazing close up pictures.
What Other Birds Can You See at Fuente de Piedra
The lagoon at Fuente de Piedra is a paradise for any bird lover. With over 170 different species living here, there is always something to see. Many of the birds visiting Fuente de Piedra are migratory, so it’s worth taking trips here in each season, for different wildlife observations.
Some of the birds you can spot in winter at Fuente de Piedra are: the golden plover, the chiffchaff, the shelduck, the red kite, the merlin, and the crane.
In summer, some of the birds that you can see at Fuente de Piedra are: the great reed warbler, the red-rumped swallow, the nightingale, the Montagu’s harrier, the house Martin, the short-toed eagle, the white stork, the red-necked nightjar, the gull-billed tern, and the lesser kestrel.
Some of the other migratory birds that pass by Fuente de Piedra are the glossy ibis, the yellow wagtail, the collared pratincole, the squacco heron, the green sandpiper, the black kite, and the black-tailed godwit.
On the trails surrounding Fuente de Piedra you can stumble upon different species of lizards, three-toed skinks, ladder snakes, water snakes, grass snakes or horseshoe snakes. None of the snakes living here are venomous. A number of small mammals also live in the fields surrounding the lagoon, such as hares, foxes and badgers.
Where to stay in Fuente de Piedra
There are a few small independent B&Bs in Fuente de Piedra, should you wish to spend the night in the village. I highly recommend it, as this is not your usual touristy destination, so you will get a taste of the real village life in Andalucia, whilst also tasting the local cuisine. One of the local delicacies is the porra antequerana, a cold tomato-based soup made with crusty bread.
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