Updated: February 14, 2023Published: November 22, 2022
Are you a water-type of person? Those who can’t go on vacation without having a touch of nature in them? Because if you are, better save this article!
Spain is a peninsula which means that three of its borders are surrounded by water, and inside that peninsula, there are plenty of rivers, lakes, and lagoons that will take your breath away.
After reading this article, you will know the most important bodies of water in Spain plus the most beautiful to visit. And that is not it! I have also added an underground lake in the caves that inspired Jules Verne for one of his books.
So, with no further ado, let’s get to it!
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I know the term “bodies of water” doesn’t need much explanation, so I’ll clarify that in Spain, we have a little bit of everything from salty, fresh, and small to large bodies of water.
What bodies of water surround Spain?
So, the vast bodies of water surrounding Spain are the Atlantic Ocean, the Bay of Biscay, and the Mediterranean Sea. Those three are the most mentioned as natural borders with Spain, but there are others besides those. Before moving on, I must empathize with the adjective “vast” because the others are smaller in the category.
Let’s define the most significant bodies of water. Oceans are the biggest bodies of water in the world, and as a reminder of science class, they cover 71% of the planet. Oceans have sub-categories that we know as seas, which have coastal borders. And a bay is a coastal body of water that directly connects to a larger main body of water. It has the form of an inlet that curves inwards.
It is important to know these differences to have a clearer vision of the bodies of water in Spain. As mentioned, the Atlantic Ocean is the biggest and most important natural body surrounding the peninsula. Two sub-categories of the Atlantic ocean touch the coasts of Spain: the Mediterranean Sea, the Cantabrian Sea, and the Balearic Sea surrounding the islands.
If you want to know some curios facts on the Mediterrean Sea, we have created some specific articles for that:
In the north, the coastal part of the Bay of Biscay is the Cantabrian Sea which is connected to the Bay of Santander (Cantabria), the Bay of Santoña (Cantabria), and the Bay of La Concha (Basque Country).
In the south, the coastal connection of the Atlantic Ocean with the Iberian Peninsula is the Gulf of Cadiz. In addition to the Atlantic Ocean, the eastern and southeastern coasts of Spain are bordered by the warm Mediterranean Sea, which gives the country the fame of having endless and perfect summers.
And, to end this section of massive bodies of water surrounding Spain, it is worth mentioning the Alboran Sea. The westernmost portion of the Mediterranean Sea exchanges water between the latter and the Atlantic Ocean. The Alboran Sea is located between the southernmost part of the peninsula and the north of Africa, surrounding the Strait of Gibraltar.
What are Spain’s most important rivers?
Rivers are like the veins of a country. They flow all over the country, showering lands and allowing agriculture to flourish. Spain has a total of thirty-four rivers, which you’ll see in the table below, but only fice is considered the most important due to the longitude.
Here are the main rivers in Spain you should kow about!
The Tagus is the Iberian Peninsula’s longest river ( 1,007km). This river begins in the Iberian system, specifically the “Montes Universales” near Teruel, and ends in the Atlantic Ocean in Lisbon.
At a length of 910 kilometers, the Ebro is the Iberian Peninsula’s second-longest river. Its source is in the Cantabrian coastal range near the Atlantic, in the area called Fontibre, and it flows all the way to the Mediterranean Ocean.
With a length of 897 kilometers, the Duoro is the Iberian Peninsula’s third longest river. Its source is in the Urbión Mountain in Soria (Castile-León) and flows westward through Porto and the Atlantic Ocean. This river baths the banks of one of the most essential wine lands in the country, the “Ribera del Duero.” In addition to that, people can enjoy trekking along the river or sailing it in Portugal.
The Guadiana is about 745 kilometers long, has a basin of approximately 60,748 kilometers, and about 30 tributaries. Around 140 kilometers of this river is shared with Portugal, but it flows back to Spain into the Gulf of Cadiz.
Flowing for some 657 kilometers, the Guadalquivir is only the fifth-longest river in Spain. Nevertheless, Moorish conquerors gave it the name ‘Great River,’ as it was a critical commercial route during the Al-Andalus. From its source in the rough and romantic Sierra de Cazorla, it flows through endless olive tree groves and into the Atlantic Ocean. The Guadalquivir is Spain’s only navigable river from the Gulf of Cadiz to Seville.
You have the complete information of this rivers in the articles below!
Complete list of Spanish rivers
Mediterrean Slope Rivers
Atlantic Slope Rivers
Cantabrian Slope Rivers
I know this information wasn’t enough, so to have more details about the Spanish rivers, check this articles:
There are two main differences between lakes and lagoons: depth and water tightness. Lagoons are shallower than lakes and only have water inlets; whole lakes have inlets and outlets. This means that lagoons are connected to the biggest bodies of water.
Knowing this, I will list the most stunning lakes and lagoons in Spain that you can’t miss.
1. Covadonga Lakes
These stunning lakes are located on the Asturian side of the “Picos de Europa” National Park, which extends into two more autonomous regions (León and Cantabria).
The Covadonga lakes are in the municipality with the same name; the area is famous for the “Cova Dominica” or the Cave of the Lady (the Virgin Mary). This cave has been there for over a century and is considered a treasure in Spain. The basilica also carries Covadonga and is located twelve kilometers away from the lakes.
The Covadonga lakes are three glacial bodies of water called Enol, Ercina, and Bricial. The last one is the smallest of them all and is only visible when the melting of the snow or the rain begins. Rocky mountains surround these lakes, close to which you can do some hiking and mountaineering and enjoy the views.
There is something else! While visiting, look for the Asturian Mountain Cattle, and enjoy the views next to this docile, cute animal.
“La Laguna Negra” is another glacial lagoon found in the Urbión mountain in Soria (Castile-Leon). The lagoon is 2,000 meters above sea level, surrounded by grey-rocky mountains and abundant pines, which paint the environment with a spooky touch. So much so that the writer Antonio Machado Ruiz used the lagoon as a corpse reservoir in his book Tierra de Alvargonzález.
The shores of the lagoon are perfect for some hiking and picnis.
3. De la Mata and Torrevieja Lagoon
La Mata and Torrevieja Lagoons are located in Alicante inside the Mata-Torrevieja Natural Park. Both are salty water lagoons with a pinkish color due to algae known as dunaliella salina, which joins with a small crustacean, whose name is artemia salina and has a reddish hue. The combination of both gives the water its pink color, and is why flamingos are present in the area; they love crustaceans!
The lagoons are ten minutes away from the city of Torrevieja in the province of Alicante.
4. Sant Maurici Lakes
The lake of Sant Maurici (Catalan for Mauricio) is located in the Aigüestortes Natural Park in Lleida. This national park can be found in the heart of the Pyrenées, and the main attraction is the water. I know…this is what we have been talking about all along, but the water in this park is different.
The Aigüestortes Natural Park has over 200 bodies of water between streams, rivers, and lakes, and the Sant Maurici lake is the largest. Sant Maurici is 1,912 meters above sea level and has an area of 21 hectares. Besides enjoying the peaceful vibe that this lake offers, the park is generally perfect for hiking or biking; and is also the place to go for bird lovers. If you are patient, you can see the majestic eagles and vultures flying around.
5. Sanabria Lake
Not far from the city of Sanabria in the province of Zamora (Castile- Leon) is the Natural Reserve of Sanabria, where the biggest glacial lagoon ins Spain hides.
The Sanabria lagoon is 318 hectares of land, and 51 meters in depth, which makes it the biggest in the Iberian Peninsula. This national park is perfect for any nature lover because of its varied flora, fauna, and hiking routes to explore. This is definitely one of the best bodies of water in Spain that you can’t miss when visiting.
Remember what I said about Jules Verne? “Clovis Dardentor” is a 19th-century adventurous novel by Jules Verne in which he mentioned the Drach Caves of Mallorca. A description of the Drach Caves would sound surreal if only read on paper, but thankfully anyone can visit these wonders of nature in the Balearic Islands.
The Drach Caves are located in Porto Cristo town on the eastern side of Mallorca island. There are four interconnected caves that are 25 meters under the ground; these are “cueva Negra,” “cueva Blanca,” “cueva de Luis Salvador,” y “cueva de Los Franceses.” The intriguing thing about these caves is that the rainwater is responsible for the fascinating drops of limestones. How did it happen? Well, the gradual erosion process has led to the creation of the caves and lakes we can see now, with the dripping water covering the cavern of stalactites and the corresponding stalagmites.
Each Drach Cave has a mini lake, but the most essential body of water there is Lake Martel. The latter has 115 meters long and 30 meters wide and is one of the biggest underground bodies of water on Earth!
Drach Caves must be in anyone’s bucket! Visiting is 100% worth it, and the tour ends with a musical and moving surprise.
And these are the most important bodies of water in Spain! Oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, and even underground lakes! If you are a nature lover, especially a water-person, this article should be very useful for your next trip!
If you have any doubts, we will be very pleased to help you!
Inigo Navarro is a seasoned travel writer with a deep understanding of Spain's cities, culture, people and language. Born and raised in Spain, he has spent years exploring the country and is currently one of the most-read Travel Bloggers about Spain. Inigo is also an experienced digital marketer, a father to 4 beautiful children and a huge Real Madrid Fan. ¡Hala Madrid!