Category Archives: Natural Parks

Guided and self guided walking in the Sierra de Grazalema

The Sierra de Grazalema. One of Spain’s most famous natural parks. A fabulous location to spend time be it resting, walking, bird watching or photography.

The park status envelopes several beautiful towns and villages; Grazalema, El Bosque, Ubrique, Zahara de la Sierra, Benaocaz, Benamahoma, Prado del Rey, and Villaluenga del Rosario are within the Cadiz side of the park. Ronda, Benaojan, Cortes de la Frontera and Montejaque, are in Malaga province.

Why not try a mixed guided/self guided walking holiday?… Three self guided walks, two guided walks and a day trip to Ronda. All inclusive, transport, hotel, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

See more information about walking holidays in Spain at www.wildsideholidays.com

Desfiladero de los Gaitanes Natural Park

Paraje Natural - Desfiladero de los Gaitanes
Paraje Natural – Desfiladero de los Gaitanes

The 2,016 hectare Natural Park of the “Desfiladero de los Gaitanes” has a unique natural setting and is an extraordinary site of geomorphological interest. Set in one of the most stunning locations in the province of Málaga, the famous El Chorro Gorge has been carved by the river Guadalhorce and is made up of Jurassic limestones and dolomites. The canyon is around three kilometers long and it’s walls reach dizzying heights of 300 meters narrowing to just 10 metres apart in places.

The rock here is of different origin and age and the river has carved and eroded fascinating geological formations, caves and chasms. There are over 20 caves in the area of great geological and archaeological significance, (In nearby Ardales, for example important paleolithic rock art can be seen with over 1,000 drawings in its more than 1,600 meters of galleries.

The terrain around the gorge at El Chorro and across to the reservoirs of Guadalhorce are protected natural areas and are covered in Aleppo pines, wild olive and holm oaks make up the backdrop on the hills either side of the gorge, with an undergrowth of rosemary, rock roses, dwarf fan palms, thyme and lentiscus. Closer to the river are rushes, reeds, tamarisk and oleander, as well as poplar, willow and eucalyptus trees.

The view from the mirador.
The views from the mirador above the Guadalhorce reservoirs are stunning

The rare Bonelli’s and golden eagles are here though you need to keep your eyes to the skies to see them, The easiest bird to spot here is the ever present griffon vultures which are present all year round. There are also red-billed choughs, crag martins, blue rock thrushes and crested tits, as well as numerous swifts, swallows and house martins in spring and summer.

The walk to the Camino del Rey from the Guadalhorce side.
The walk to the Camino del Rey from the Guadalhorce side.

Spanish ibex can be seen peering down at you from the heights and other mammals present that you may see are badger, fox and red deer.

Because of the proximity to the now famous Caminito del Rey the area has become a very popular area for climbers with people coming from all over the world to sample the very difficult climbs and to “walk” the kings path. However, you don’t have to be a climber to visit and enjoy this beautiful area of Andalucia. There are some lovely walks along the river and of course the small village sitting on top of the Conde de Guadalhorce dam is fascinating and a great place to spend an afternoon exploring and sampling the local food. Our recommended restaurant is the “Meson del Conde” adjacent to the beautiful  boutique hotel Posada del Conde.

The view from the mirador close to the Guadalhorce reservoir
The view from the mirador close to the Guadalhorce reservoir

The Guadalhorce and Guadalteba Reservoirs

The three Reservoirs known as Guadalhorce – Guadalteba are nestled in a stunning area of outstanding beauty close to El Chorro and the Camino del Rey and withing the boundaries of the Natural Park area called “Desfiladero de los Gaitanes”. The natural environment corresponds to the village of Ardales but only one of the reservoirs, the Conde de Guadalhorce, is in the municipality of Ardales. The two lakes are in the municipalities of Teba, Campillos and Antequera .

Conde de Guadalhorce Reservoir:
Construction began on this reservoir in the autumn of 1914 under the direction of the famous engineer Rafael Benjumea and was initially called Pantano del Chorro. It was completed in 1921 and  inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII. It was at this time that the Caminito del Rey got it’s name as the king walked this pathway at the time. For some unknown reason, in 1953 the name of this reservoir was changed to Conde de Guadalhorce.

The views from the mirador are stunning
The views from the lookout point are stunning

Guadalhorce – Guadalteba Reservoirs
Construction of these two new reservoirs began in the spring of 1966 and completed in 1971 and 1973 respectively. At the same time as building these dams, a new the railway line and three road sections were also constructed, as both a large stretch of the railway line and roads were flooded by the rising waters. Also, the residents of the village of Peñarrubia and its neighborhood, Gobantes (where the railway station was) were evicted and their homes lost under the water.

House of the Engineer and the Kings chair
One of the most iconic artifacts from the construction days of the reservoirs is the King’s Chair located just before the dam wall of the Conde de Guadalhorce. There is a chair and table carved out of stone and this is where King Alfonso XIII sat and signed the completion of construction document for the Conde de Guadalhorce reservoir.

The kings chair and table where the document was signed to declare the dam project finished.
The kings chair and table where the document was signed to declare the dam project finished.

From the Chair of the king, if you look to the other side of the reservoir, you can see the very impressive and grande chief engineers house or “Casa del Conde” which is closed to the public but would make an amazing place for a hotel, museum or even a house for me when I finally win the lottery! If you walk along the dam wall you will come to the small church which was also used as a school. A stroll across the dam is lovely and if you continue along a few hundred meters more you will come to the hotel and restaurant La Posada del Conde, a fantastic place to eat or stay for the weekend.

Book a room at La Posada del Conde

There are several signposted footpaths in the area where you can enjoy the wonderful pine forest scenery with interspersed eucalyptus,thyme,rosemary and broom …The biggest fish populations in the lakes are barbel and carp. Look out for Kingfishers, red billed chough, the ever present griffon vultures and if you are very lucky you might catch a glimpse of a European eagle owl. The mammals present in the area are Spanish Ibex, otter, rabbits, hairs and wild cat.

Another of the attractions of the reservoir is the “Mirador” or viewpoint located a little further up the hill from the restaurant “El Mirador”.  From this point you get a bird’s eye view of the whole reservoir system and the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

If you really want peace and quiet, the best time to visit this area is during the week in spring and autumn as during the summer months and weekends the lakeside becomes full of people swimming and kayaking whilst the cliffs around the El Chorro and Camino del Rey areas are a haven all year round for climbers. That said you can visit this area at any time of year and you won’t be disappointing. It truly is a wonderful part of Andalucia and the construction of dams is quite remarkable.

Getting to El Chorro, reservoirs and Camino del Rey

El Chorro

In order to visit the Caminito del Rey you need to get to the small village of El Chorro located in Málaga province, Andalusia, Spain. El Chorro is a few miles away from the larger town of Alora.

GPS etc

Coordinates are 36°54’0″ N and 4°43’60” W in DMS (Degrees Minutes Seconds) or 36.9 and -4.73333 (in decimal degrees). Its UTM position is UF48 and its Joint Operation Graphics reference is NJ30-10.

By Car

From Malaga take the A-357 towards and past Cartama and around 47 km (from Malaga) take the exit towards M-442/Ardales/MA-5403/El Chorro. (About an hour)

The Map below explains the route towards El Chorro to take by car from Cádiz or Seville.

Map El Chorro
Drive to El Chorro
By Train

You can easily book a train ticket online from ACPRail. Click the image on the right and just fill in your departure station and type El Chorro in the destination. Follow the instructions and print your e.tickets straight away.

The image on the left takes you to the Spain e-pass page. A fantastic and very economical way to travel by train in Spain.

The Spain e-pass
The Spain e-pass
Getting to El Chorro by train
Getting to El Chorro by train
By Bus

Time tables keep changing and it’s impossible to get an updated timetable for buses to El Chorro. Also, the buses from Malaga, for example, go to the town of Alora, and then you have to wait and change for a bus to El Chorro. With that in mind and as the village of El Chorro sits on a railway station I am going to recommend the train and forget the bus. (see above for trains to El Chorro)