MOUNTAIN ROADS | LIMESTONE GIANTS | IBEX | ICE CREAM |
El Torcal must be the land that time forgot (with a fancy visitor centre and car park). The only thing missing is the dinosaurs (although coach tours do sometimes come along).
Wandering this maze of ancient limestone was a memorable and challenging trip. Once covered by the Tetis sea this 30km bed of limestone was thrust up to 1300m above sea level some hundred million years ago and has been cracked and shaped by the weather ever since.
We set off around 7am from our base near Iznajar in order to get the walking here done in the cooler morning temperatures. Our departure was slightly delayed by a baby bird having fallen from it's nest and landing on the roof of the car which required expert animal attention from my ecologist bro.
The final part of the drive was a beautiful winding climb through quiet farming areas around Antequera, and even involved a road closure diversion at one point which diverted us around/through an olive plantation in the little Fiat 500 hire car. Many stops occurred as we climbed the final road including a stop at Mirador Diego Monea and it's wide reaching views.
Arriving at the visitor centre we found a large a seemingly very new complex with plenty of parking and all the facilities an adventurer could desire. Before we got to sample the cafe/bar however we set about the walking route through this crazy mess of limestone, trees and sand. There are three walking routes marked with different colours, however due to being on a tight schedule for other plans and fear of wilting in the heat we opted for the shortest route, around 1.5km long.
So, now time to enter the land of the limestone giants......
The limestone here stretches for 17 square kilometers with each upstanding tower uniquely weathers over millions of years.
We set off to drive from Iznajar to El Torcal as early as possible in the morning to try and make the most of the cooler morning. Once we were able to leave the motorway the drive was set among some typically Andalusian views.
The final few miles of the drive to El Torcal De Antequera provided endless mountain views across the plains including views of Sierra de las Cadras.
If you haven't considered Andalusia as a destination for a rural travel holiday then hopefully this view will inspire a decision to visit. The mountains here seem endless with numerous Natural Parks dominating the horizons including Puerto de las Pedrizas.
Mirador Diego Monea (not sure who he is) viewed from the climb between Villanueva de la Concepción and the El Torcal park. Drop the shapes of these mountains into my local area in the UK and they become a vital tourist attraction, here they are typical of the landscape.
I couldn't get enough of these rolling views across the landscape. One final view from the mirador.
We stopped several times on the drive to climb up to El Torcal to take in the view and as always notice the details of the surroundings.
As we reached the upper height of the road to El Torcal the unique nature of this landscape started to show itself with the strange rock formations which seemed to almost be placed.
Enjoying the brief moments of shade along the route as the day grew warmer and warmer.
Despite the harsh conditions and being at a relatively high altitude, there is a large array of flora and fauna. The sheltered nature of some of the valleys create relatively lush vegetation here and tunnels of trees and shrubs.
It's easy to get a stiff neck constantly looking upwards to the top of the towers to keep an eye out for an Ibex.
Looking at this landscape from any angle creates a scene dissected by lines in all directions and jagged ridgelines. The contrast between the light dust orange and the limestone drained of colour is something unique to this place.
You could stand in any spot and find a new pathway to explore here. Often they may lead to dead ends, sometimes caves and pretty much certainly getting lost at some point. The shapes and patterns were always fascinating though.
Walking through this well concealed part of the route the sense of isolation and the feeling of being small kicks in.
After parking up and heading down the track into the park itself the scale of the limestone pillars became clear.
Once you are within the limestone towers there is no real horizon and you are beholden to the dry mud marking the pathway. We were there early in the day and happened upon a group of Ibex just around one of the first bends. The horned animals were only a few meters away perched on the limestone but unfortunately scarpered before I could grab a photo.
There are multiple paths through the mass of limestone, some of which require a guided tour. We were following one of the shorter paths which was easy to track.
Standing in one of the few clearings where you can imagine being camped while the cowboys or indians lurk on the ridgelines.
This bear has no name, other than Slovenian bear. A hand carved bear purchased from the guesthouse Na Meji in Slovenia and often following my trips.
The massive limestone plateau here has been pushed up some 1300m (same height as Ben Nevis) and has wide ranging views over the surrounding area. There is an observatory here which takes advantage of the viewpoint and low light pollution.
After spending some time enjoying an ice cream & beer at the cafe and cooling down, it was time to hit the road. Heading back down the hill to make our way to The Caminito Del Rey via the city of Antequera. A note to self to return to Antequera which we only passed through but which seemed to have plenty to explore.
We were soon hitting the peak of the days heat as we drove along the roads of the Antquera area. I managed to pull over and jump up the side of the road for this photos of the lone cloud in the sky before feeling the impact of the heat and retreating to the car. Later this day at Caminito Del Rey I would experience a new level of thirst.
WHERE IS EL TORCAL?
Have you been?
Let me know your experience of the place with a comment below, or drop me a question if you want to find out more.