Andalucía is known by the beauty of the beaches, the party in the cities and the incredible food. This time, though, I wanted to explore beyond the clichés and get lost in the landscapes and mountains of the countryside. So, I planned a road trip around Andalucía and as one of my stops I chose exploring the mountains of Málaga province, in the centre of Andalucía. Here I showed you my 7 stops in the back-side of Malaga.
El caminito del Rey
El Caminito del Rey is a trekking path that flows along the narrow gorge of El Chorro. The path was originally built for facilitating the workers to reach the hydroelectric power plant of Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls. Since the king Alfonso in 1921 used the path for attending an event it is known as El Caminito del Rey.
The path is a suspended way along the walls of the gorge, providing the adventurers with an enjoyable walk over the river. It was originally made with concrete and it had a handrail to help the walkers. One of the most attracting steps of the walk is the multiple bridges that help the adventurers to cross from one side to another of the gorge. The length of the path is 3km, 1m in width and it goes up to 100m above the river.
El Caminito used to be the most dangerous pathway due to deterioration and bad maintenance. In 2011 the regional government of Andalucia and the local government of Malaga renovated the path and implemented safety measures to open El Caminito del Rey as a touristic attraction in 2015, which was listed in Lonely planet.
- The current path consists of a 4.9km access and 2.9km of El Caminito del Rey.
- The Caminito can be performed by all ages
- The starting point of the route is in Ardales. Note that the route is linear, not circular
- There are coaches (around 1.5€) to go back to the starting point
- The route takes around 4h
- You have to book your visit prior to your trip
- The route costs around 10€ (It used to be free for the first year)
- Tickets are available online
When we visited El Caminito, we were so unlucky that was the period when the management was changing from a company to another and couldn’t perform the route (so we kept it in the bucket list for future visits to Andalucia).
Bobastro ruins are located in the Mesas de Villaverde, on the road MA-444 between Alora and El Chorro. Bobastro is an old village at the north of the province of Malaga that is a must for archaeological tourists.
The town was the fortified capital of the Mozabar rebellion in the 9th and 10th centuries. After serving in Cordoba’s army, the general Umar Ibn Hafsún deserted and returned to Bobastro in 885. He conquered some territories of Andalucia (Auta, Comares, Mijas, Archidona) and the Emir of Cordoba included him in the government as the governor of Kura de Rayya (province of Malaga). However, Umar broke the agreements and went back to the mountains. Hafsun became the leader of the rebellion, which united Mozabars and other Islamic groups that opposite to the Emirate of Cordoba. The rebellion was based on the multiple restrictions and injustices the Emirate imposed to Mozabars and Mullawads. The rebellion was known due to the several victories they reached while gaining territory and power over Andalucia. When Umar died by natural causes, the sons lead the rebellion until Bobastro was taken by the army of the Emirate in 928.
Bobastro ruins consist of caves, structures, the ruins of the Alcazar, a Muslim necropolis and the Mozarabic church. Umar Ibn Hafsún built several churches in Bobastro, one of them being on the top of the town next to the castle. The second one was built on the suburbs of the town and the ruins remain since it was excavated on the rock. This is the unique Mozarabic church of the Al-Andalus territory. It is open to the public and it was part of the place where the monks accommodated. This monastery was built only for the use of the religion community.
- Visiting hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 3pm
- Guided tours: There are guided tours each hour
- Price: 3€ (regular), 2€ (reduced for children 5-12y), retired people)
Beyond these ruins, another church of the Mozarabic city can be found on road. The hermitage of Virgen de Villaverde, patron saint of Ardales, is found in the way back to Alora. In fact, the hermitage is placed next to a perfect restaurant (Bar Restaurante “La Ermita”) to stop for having lunch (10€ the complete menu).
When riding along the county of Guadalhorce, one notices Álora from the road due to the majesty of its Arabic castle. The town is a white-houses town that climbs the small mountain up to the Arabic castle. One can drive up to the castle through the small and labyrintic streets of the town and enjoy the views of the valley and the town from it. The entrance to the castle is for free.
Pizarra is a small town with traditional and colorful Andalusian houses. One can have a walk along the streets and squares while enjoying the views, having a beer in one of the multiple bars or relaxing in an urban park under the shadow. As a curiosity, on the top of the hill there is a hermitage that one can visit after a short trekking from the town.
We visited Pizarra during Eastern and, though we don’t like too much processions, we saw the procession of “Nuestra Señora de las Penas” which is only ride by women. We were surprised by this fact, since usually men are in charge of riding the figures along the processions.
El Torcal de Antequera
El Torcal de Antequera is a mountain placed at the South of Antequera that will definetely surprise you. One sees a piece of rock from the road. One approaches the mountain, parks the car and goes up by foot or by bus (1.5€/person). Once the top is reached, one discovers a totally different mountain from the previous “solid rock”. El Torcal is a limestone mountain that after a karstification process (dissolution by water and erosion) became a mountain full of various shapes and forms that create a labyrinth on the top of it. Some of these shapes have been named, such as the Camel. Furthermore, there are several caves and underground paths, which have Neolithic artifacts. Due to the stunning beauty of the area, it was listed as a Natural Site of National Interest (1929) and Natural Park (1978), following a protection program for its nature and patrimony.
- You can reach El Torcal from the road A45, from the town Villanueva de la Concepcion
- It’s not highly recommended to visit El Torcal during summer due to the extreme hot temperatures in the area
- There are two trekking paths to follow for visiting the top of El Torcal. The green path is the short one and takes around 1.5h. The yellow path is longer and lasts 3h [Due to the difference of distance, most of the visitors choose the green path, so follow the yellow one for enjoying El Torcal by your own and in a calm mood]
- The entrance is free, although if you want to take the bus, it costs 1.5€ per person and trip
At the East part of the Sierra de Grazalema, there is a small town that you might visit to enjoy the views from the top. Montejaque is a village full of white-houses that climb the mountain to a belvedere that serves as a spot to observe the entire valley. One can park the car somewhere in the town and walked following the small streets, full of houses with colorful doors and go up to the belvedere.
Ronda is a city that you won’t regret to visit. When visiting and walking around, it seems just another Andalusian city with churches and temples (e.g., Church of Santa Maria la Mayor), a bullfighting arena (Ronda bullring), history museums, memories of l’Al-Andalus (e.g., Arabic baths) and the streets full of people.
But, no! Ronda is special since it was built on the top of the Tajo canyon, setting a panoramic view of the city that is just stunning: the city divided in two parts with the Tajo cliffs in between. El Puente Nuevo (the new bridge) unifies the two parts of the city and is placed 120m above the river.
But that’s not all. Beyond all the detailed touristic attractions (like museums, etc.), from the top of Ronda, one can enjoy the views of the region while watching the sunset, and take a picture from the balcony of the city.
When visiting Andalucía you have to enjoy the food, it’s just full of taste and colors. In Ronda, you can enjoy a splendid menu for a just price (around 10-12€) in the main square (la Plaza del Socorro). Don’t forget to eat some Salmorejo or Gazpacho (the typical tomato soup) and the “tapas” of the day.
As a cultural note, writers Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles used to visit Ronda in vacation periods and wrote about bullfighting, the civil war and Ronda’s beauty in their books.
Zahara de la Sierra
Zahara de la Sierra is already in the province of Cádiz but it is worthy to stop to this wonderful medieval town up on the mountains. Already from the parking, at the bottom of the village, one is amazed by the views of the mountains and the Zahara lake.
The vertiginous streets get you up to the square of the Church. That is not the most beautiful or big church I’ve ever seen, but it’s placed just attached to the mountain and it’s practically impossible to avoid saying “Ooohhhh!” when you see it for the first time. In that moment, you realized that the consumption of metabolic energy during the ascension was worthy.
But that’s not all! From this point of the village, one can relax for some minutes while observing the entire valley, its shapes and colors: from the blue of the lake to the brown of the top of the mountains. One just needs to sit in one of the bars of the square and have a drink and some tapas. That’s Andalucia! Relax and admire the landscape between mountains, rivers, lakes and climbing villages.
After this wonderful moment, one can go up to the mountain and visit the Arabic castle of Zahara. This is one of the most antique fortresses of Cadiz province. Nowadays, there remain only the ruins of the fortress and the two towers (Torre Homenaje y Torre Hexagonal).
To reach Zahara de la Sierra you can follow the road that surrounds the Zahara Reservoir. During this drive, the turquoise colors of the waters dance with the green and brown colors of the mountains. It’s a perfect spot for a pic for your Instagram account.
We stayed in an amazing camping that was placed in the epicenter of most of these stops. In the village of Pizarra, we stayed for 3 wonderful nights at Camping Park Pizarra. Check out more in this post.