Isla Mayor, with a culinary tradition of rice, and spectacular marshes
The town of Isla Mayor was established in the early 20th century amidst the Guadalquivir marshes and rice fields. This gateway to Doñana National Park from Seville will captivate you with its stunning landscapes.
Isla Mayor is a unique destination in the province of Seville. Its flooded lands are home to Europe’s largest rice-growing area, with over a hundred bird species. This beautiful natural environment has been used as the setting for ‘La Isla Mínima’, one of the most popular Andalusian films.
Explore this spectacular enclave, where you can enjoy different routes that blend adventure and mystery. A town in which you can also sample a unique cuisine, including red crayfish rice, its signature dish. Last but not least, you will be amazed by the cosmopolitan nature of the locals, descendants of English and Valencian people that brought the rice-growing tradition.
Come and discover Isla Mayor, a part of La Marisma with picture-perfect landscapes.
Getting to Isla Mayor
If you travel by car from Seville, the quickest route is the SE-30 ring road towards Coria del Río exit 15A. Continue on the A-8058 until you pass La Puebla del Río and reach la Venta El Cruce. Turn left at the roundabout and take the A-8053. You will arrive at your destination in a few minutes.
The town does not have a train station, but you can travel by bus from the Plaza de Armas Bus Station in Seville. Take the M-143 line.
The best way to discover the town is strolling through the town centre. However, if you prefer to enjoy its natural surroundings, hike along its trails. Alternatively, bring your bike and cycle.
Reasons to visit
- What is Gañanía? These lodgings were used by the day labourers who worked in the rice fields. Currently, most of them are owned by private institutions.
- If you like birds, you can watch about 150 different species in the marshes.
- Explore the town and enjoy the Isla de Pájaros project. A street museum in which the façades of public buildings have drawings of local birds.
- Have you seen the film La Isla Mínima? If so, enjoy the route that takes you to the sets where this great Andalusian film was shot.
- Visit the hamlet of Alfonso XIII, which the King inaugurated, and learn about its remarkable history. It is home to families from different parts of Spain, descendants of the first workers who grew rice here.
- Take a boat ride on the Guadalquivir to the town’s pier from where you can see the two riverbanks, Isla Mayor and Isla Menor. Admire a beautiful sunset over the marshes.
- Are you a fishing enthusiast? Try your hand at it, and if you are lucky, you may catch a flathead grey mullet, elvers or red crayfish, typical of Isla Menor.
- The cuisine is delicious. Be sure to try arroz con pato or cangrejo rojo. The two most typical local dishes. Do not miss the Día del Arroz in February, and enjoy the free tastings and performances.
- Have fun at the Día del Cangrejo in September, known as La Cangrejada. You can sample the red crayfish, a local delicacy, and participate in the ‘fallas isleñas’. This festival is a legacy handed down by the Valencians who settled here in the early 20th century.
- Enjoy the Isla Mayor Carnival and take part in the traditional Burial of the Crayfish that ends the festival. There are no sardines here!
- Take a guided tour of Herederos de José Escobar’s fighting bull farm at Finca Isla Mínima. You will get to see the bulls up close.
What to see
Start your visit at Calle Málaga, where the San Rafael Church is located. This modern parish church is presided by an image of Our Lady of Solitude. It is also home to the sculptures of Cristo del Perdón and the patron saint of the town, San Rafael Arcángel.
Continue on Calle Santa Teresa for about three minutes until you reach the Virgen del Rocío Chapel, where people worship the image of the Virgin Mary. The townspeople feel boundless devotion to her. Every year, many locals make the pilgrimage to her shrine and accompany the statue during the procession.
Stroll through the town and admire the public buildings, such as the Town Hall. You will learn about the different bird species that populate the marshes. Thanks to the ‘Isla de Pájaros’ project, many important buildings have been embellished with drawings of local birds. A means for people to learn about them. They are painted in bright colours in the pop art style.
As you walk through the streets of Isla Mayor, you will see some houses with unique architecture. Some are called gañanías. These houses had been used by the labourers who worked in the rice fields. The others are known as las casitas de los ingleses. The first British settlers of these marshlands lived in these houses. Both architectural styles are very remarkable and are now part of local history.
Be sure to visit the village of Alfonso XIII, so-called when the King inaugurated it in 1927. It was the first town in the Guadalquivir marshland. It is now home to about 800 people. You can visit the Nuestra Señora del Carmen Church, whose first foundation stone was laid by King Alfonso XIII.
The Isla Mínima route is also interesting because it allows you to explore another part of Isla Mayor. This route includes a former Andalusian cortijo turned into a hotel, several fighting bulls and Spanish purebred horse ranches, and the San Lorenzo de Escobar Chapel.
Last but not least, go hiking or cycling on the marsh routes. You will be captivated by the stunning surroundings. Try your hand at fishing in the River Guadalquivir or enjoy a bird-watching route. You can get information at the Isla Mayor Tourist Office.
Places to visit
- Nuestra. Señora. del Rosario Auxiliary Chapel
- Casitas de los Ingleses
- Nuestra Señora del Carmen Church
- San Rafael Church
- Isla Mínima Village
- Alfonso XIII Village
- Nuestra Señora del Rocío Auxiliary Chapel
- Doñana National Park
Isla Mayor is 41 kilometres from Seville in the Guadalquivir-Doñana tourist region. The area is home to the marshes of the Guadalquivir River and partially situated within the Doñana National Park.
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