“Paradise for birds in the plains of La Mancha”.

Within the large natural region of La Mancha, which extends through the provinces of Ciudad Real, Toledo and Cuenca, we find a large number of scattered wetlands with a high natural value. The endorheic complex of La Mancha gives rise to a unique aquatic landscape in the dry plains of Castile-La Mancha, offering variety with the presence of seasonal or permanent water bodies in an eminently agricultural environment. In addition to the landscape values, there is the biological diversity of the lagoon environment, due to the existence of a succession of ecological niches that provide a great wealth of marsh plants and fauna, hosting a large number of migratory birds in passage, being also an area of vital importance for waterfowl that live there all year round. All this makes La Mancha’s endorheic and semiendorheic area one of the most important marshlands in the Iberian Peninsula.

Alcázar de San Juan has in its municipal area the Natural Reserve of the “Complejo Lagunar de Alcázar de San Juan composed of the lagoons of La Veguilla, Camino de Villafranca and Las Yeguas.

Located in the vicinity of the city, it has an extension of 695 hectares of protected area, with a high ecological value, which has also led to the adoption of various figures of protection and recognition: Wildlife Refuge, Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA), Biosphere Reserve of La Mancha Húmeda (UNESCO), and included as Wetlands of International Importance within the RAMSAR Convention.

A settlement area of great faunistic value, the fluctuating saline lagoons of La Mancha, with salt concentrations that exceed those of sea water, have vegetation adapted to quite restrictive conditions – making these wetlands and their surroundings of great value from the point of view of biological diversity, where the presence of endemic halophilic species is constant.




One of the most characteristic wetland types in La Mancha are the “Tablas”. These are temporary and shallow puddles that appeared during rainy periods and were formed, generally due to the overflowing of rivers. One of the most remarkable tables for its values and waterlogged surface of this region is Las tablas del Záncara, also called Junta de los Ríos, which have their origin in the overflow of the Gigüela and Záncara rivers. At present, and only in very favorable years, up to 150 hectares are flooded. This is the treasure that remains, after a significant regression in the area originally occupied by this wetland in the 1960s, more than 3,500 ha.

The different nature of the rivers that make up this table, fresh water in the Záncara and salt water in the Gigüela, give rise to a wetland with very peculiar characteristics on these soils, mainly reflected in the “halophyte” vegetation of great botanical interest, isolated in small formations.

We must be aware of the privilege of enjoying such a valuable and unique environment that allows the survival of these plants, and constitutes, at the same time, an essential habitat for a great diversity of birds.

Additional information about the site:




The Cerro Mesado Lagoon has the peculiarity of being the only lagoon in La Macha and one of the few national lagoons of hydroeolic origin.

If the water factor has been a determining factor in the genesis of this basin located in a confluence floodplain between the Záncara and Cigüela rivers, the wind factor has been no less important, since the powerful erosive action of the winds has led to the deepening of the basin. For authors such as Díaz, it is a deflation bucket.

Deflation is the sweeping of loose and fine materials by the wind. The end result is a selection of rock fragments caused by mechanical weathering. This process has acted incisively on the basin, increasing its water volume retention capacity.

The Cerro Mesado lagoon is located southwest of Alcázar at an altitude of 630 meters above sea level and covers an area of 20 hectares.

It has a width of 400 meters and a maximum length of 700 meters. Due to the exceptional nature of its genesis, it is one of the most interesting lagoons of the Mancha Húmeda, and at the same time, paradoxically, it is one of the least known.

Visit recommended for the months of March and April.

We offer different alternatives to visit all these spaces.

On foot:

By bicycle:




Three lagoons make up a 695-hectare Nature Reserve belonging to La Mancha Húmeda: Laguna de la Veguilla, Laguna del Camino de Villafranca and Laguna de las Yeguas. Populated by unique species in the world that make the lagoon complex of Alcazar de San Juan a fascinating place to visit and an example of the biodiversity of La Mancha. They combine very saline lagoons (with little vegetation and low diversity) and eutrophic lagoons (with a high concentration of organisms and nutrients).
It is a strategic point in the migratory routes of many birds (from south to north in summer and from north to south in autumn) as well as a breeding and wintering area for more than two hundred species.

Animal species

Laguna de la Veguilla: flamingos, grey herons, cranes, the spectacular Purple Gallinule, ducks such as the red-crested pochard or the tufted duck and the striking blue-billed duck: the white-headed duckling. The freshwater supply in turn allows the lagoon to be surrounded by emergent vegetation: the reed beds.

Laguna del Camino de Villafranca: Waders such as avocets or stilts. In turn, there is in this lagoon the so-called Isla de las pagazas, a breeding refuge for the Piconegra pagasa.
These three species breed in Alcázar, which constitutes a Criterion of International Importance to justify the inclusion of the lagoons in the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Laguna de las Yeguas: Surrounded by albardines, almajos and the peculiar coralillo, the presence of unique and endemic arthropods give us an idea of the uniqueness of these environments. It is not uncommon in summer to see the Dulcinea tiger beetle, enjoy the colorful wasp beetle on the mad marshmallow, listen to the silver rattlesnake cricket or observe the habitat of the rare Broscus uhagoni or the Poecilus (Sogines) zaballosi, unique species in the world.

Additional information about the site: