Researchers have suggested the remains of large circular structures underneath the wetlands of Doñana National Park could be remnants of the long-lost city of Atlantis. First mentioned by Plato in 400 BC, legend has it this underwater metropolis fell victim to a tsunami so powerful it destroyed an entire city, taking the ancient civilization with it.
Using satellite imagery, a team from Hartford University identified artificial islands built in the form of concentric rings; evidence, they believe, of the submerged ruins of this ancient city.
“We found something that no one else has ever seen before, which gives it a layer of credibility, especially for archaeology, that makes a lot more sense” explained researcher Richard Freund. In 2009, a team used a combination of deep-ground radar, digital mapping and underwater equipment to survey the site, which bore remarkable similarity to other ruins found elsewhere in central Spain. The team believe these settlements were built in Atlantis’ image by residents who survived the tsunami and fled inland, adding another layer of intrigue to the age-old mystery surrounding the location of Atlantis.
Fiction or not, the park is known for other recent outstanding discoveries, such as the 87 Neanderthal fossilized footprints found in 2020. Nor is its wildlife ordinary; black storks, a shy species whose precise numbers remain unknown, inhabit the marshy areas while spur-thighed tortoises that live to a hundred years old drag their ancient bodies along the rippled sand of its windswept dunes. The Iberian Lynx, a wild cat that’s severely threatened, flourishes among the dry scrubland.
On the outskirts of the reserve, Kukutana, a family-owned Andalusian farmhouse, aims to preserve the surrounding ecological splendour that still feels like a well-kept secret, like the signs of Atlantis buried beneath the shifting sands. No sign of neighbours, just miles of soaring woodland pine and protected reserve. Excursions from the house make the most of the abundant nature, including 4×4 rides into the park with highly knowledgeable guides who know the lay of the land like an old friend.
The wetlands hold much of Doñana’s character. While the subterranean island of Atlantis remains elusive, the surface reveals utopian displays of wildlife. Some half a million migratory birds flock here each year, seeking refuge in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun. From purple gallinules flashing green and turquoise in the light to waterfowl in their legions, as well as red-knobbed coots that sprint overwater before taking flight.
Close to the shores, the park’s towering gatekeepers come in the form of moving sand dunes, scattered with sprouting pink armeria pungens and sandpipers darting across the surface as they look for insects. Below tells a different story; smothered tree trunks and branches swallowed whole by the ever-shifting sand, branches and dried canopies thrusting out from their sandy graves.
Nearby, the town of El Rocío appears to be frozen in time. Situated on the north-western edge of the reserve, cowboys roam the streets while horse-drawn carriages trundle down the roads kicking up dust. Expansive sandy boulevards are fringed with huge whitewashed houses that open up onto Wild-West like porches; posts are located outside bars and shops for locals to tie their horses to, with elevated bars for those wanting to quench their thirst without dismounting.
A glass of cold sherry shifts an exhilarating morning into the slow pace of Andalusian life at one of the age-old bodegas in the fishing town of Sanlúca de Barrameda. Here locals feast on plates of palm-sized prawns and bluefin tuna fresh from the morning catch. The Andalusian seafood – deep fried sardines and clams, to name but a few – is exquisite, especially when washed down with a local Manzanilla.
Kukutana, meaning ‘to meet’ in Swahili and inspired by a trip to Kenya, is a family home traditionally restored using reclaimed and renovated furniture from nearby villages. The Llorente family bought this Andalusian farmhouse just after Doñana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 from Carlos Melgarejo, a great friend, champion of the park and a founding member of the Doñana Biological Station.
The house has been fully refurbished, with six suites perfect for exclusive hire. The grounds encompass landscaped gardens, an antiquated bullfighting ring and a pool shaded by mature pine. With organic, seasonal food lovingly prepared in the kitchen, and a warm fire to relax by in the evening, it’s the perfect spot from which to explore the nature reserve, coast and surrounding countryside. And who knows? You may even discover Atlantis on your travels.
I’m struggling to put into words everything that we have experienced these past days, from the very first moment it has all been exceptional. The team and the hosts are marvellous, the experiences unforgettable - we will cherish these days forever.
A unique experience surrounded by friends and hosted by this wonderful family who have poured their dreams and love into this project. The most memorable G&T in history! We will be back soon.
The magic of southern Spain and the warmth with which we have been received have made these days unforgettable. What an incredible project you have created!
Thank you for the most magical few days in this piece of Paradise! It was the most memorable time and holiday that we have ever had. The food was delicious, the horses were beautiful and cannot believe that we saw a Lynx! We cannot thank you enough for all you have done. Hope to see you again soon and best luck for the creation and adventures that you plan.
J&M.H United Kingdom