Out and About in and around Antequera
El Torcal Nature Reserve (Parque Natural del Torcal)
El Torcal is part of the Sierra (mountain range) Torcal, and is a short drive from Antequera off the C-3310 (around 10 kilometers).
It is of outstanding geological importance, and attracts over 100,000 visitors a year.
It is a landscape of karstic relief – a predominantly limestone region – being a series of different rock shapes and hollows known as Torcas: hence the name of this site.
El Torcal is a wonderful and striking range of limestone forms carved out of the rock by erosive agents, starting some 200 million years ago. In many cases these forms resemble animals, people or objects, and the locals gave them imaginative names, the most famous being: Los Bollos (the buns), La Copa (the glass), El Rincón del Asa (handle corner), La Esfinge (the sphinx), El Camello (the camel), El Sombrero (the hat), Los Tornillos (the screws), Los Prismáticos (the binoculars), La Pera (the pear), and El Aguilucho (the eaglet).
The range rises to some 1,300 meters in parts, and is a labyrinthine of walkways. Fog settles quickly in the area and it is recommended to stick to the proposed routes – created by the Nature Reserve organisation – of varying difficulty, length, and rock shape characters. Guided tours are also available, starting from the Visitor Centre there. There are three routes nominated by different colours: the green route takes around forty five minutes; the yellow just under two hours; the red around three and a half hours. The best time to visit if intending to walk into the landscape is Spring and Autumn, as weather in Winter can be a bit severe at times, and a lengthy walk in the Summer is not for the fair skinned!
El Torcal covers an area of 17 square kilometers, and is a hikers and photographers paradise. Amongst this awesome landscape too there are important flora and fauna which inhabit it. Amongst the flora are holm-oak, gall-oak, maple, hawthorn, blackthorn, honeysuckle, ivy, lillies, wild rose, peonies, and over twenty varieties of colourful orchids. Mountain goats, fox, badgers, rabbits, weasels, mole and doormice popluate the area. It is also a birdwatchers delight, including Griffon vultures, the wheatear, martins, tawny owl, the eagle owl, kestrel, woodlarks, goldfinch, redstarts, buntings, coal tits, and many others depending upon the seasons and the area.
Both the Romans and the Moors used this site as a quarry from which to obtain materials to construct some of the buildings and art forms in Antequera. The 19th century saw a period of deforestation here with the holm-oak wood almost disappearing. It was as late as the 20th century before ecological awareness arose, and it was not until 1929 that the Torcal was deemed a Natural Site of National Interest, with protections.
For a guided tour you can contact the Visitors Centre of Torcal on (0034) 952 243324; (0034) 617444772; or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
At time of writing guided tour rates are as follows, including transport from Antequera to El Torcal:
2 people 20 euros per person
3-5 people 18 euros per person
6-9 people 15 euros per person
Two Hour Route
2 people 25 euros per person
3-5 people 20 euros per person
6-9 people 18 euros per person
If staying in Antequera a visit to El Torcal is a must (and don’t forget to take a bottle of water!).
Mount Peña (or La Peña de los Enamorados – the mountain of the lovers)
Clearly visible from Antequera, and a famous landmark, lies Mount Peña, one of the most romantically linked natural sites in the Antequera Comarca. It lies on the road to Archidona (see the Archidona section below), a pretty town some 17 kilometers away. This great rock is 874 meters in height, and situated in a vast plain which makes it visible from 360 degrees and from far away. It’s distinguishing feature is that it is shaped like a human face staring at the sky. It’s legend stems from the early 15th century when Antequera, for some 80 years, was the on the frontier of the Christian assault and the Moorish kingdom of Granada. The legend goes that a young Christian man, named Tello, was captured by the Moors and taken to a town nearby. The daughter of the governor of the town, Tagzona, fell in love with Tello. As their union was intolerable for that time they eloped. They were pursued by Moorish guards. When they reached this rock, they climbed it, in an effort to avoid the troops. Still pursued however, and facing inevitable capture, they jumped from the chin of the face, prefering death to internment and certain seperation.
The rock is steep but can be climbed at leisure to enjoy a stunning view all round, and of course, reflect on the legend.
Just a 40 minute drive from Antequera, off the road to Campillos lie the stunningly beautiful Ardales Lakes. The surrounding Olive farms of Antequera, and in-country agricultural plains give way to mountain pine forests of the Ardales Lakes. The lakes can also be visited via an alternative route through the small town of Valle de Abdalajais through El Chorro (see the section on El Chorro), leaving Antequera on the road to the Torcal Mountains. This route is very windy in parts but scenic.
There are four Venta’s (restaurant/café’s) and a quaint hotel within the area, including the highly recommended ‘Mirador’ (Viewpoint) venta, situated on top of a rock tunnel (for traffic) and designed in rustic chiringuito style, with panoramic views over the lakes and forestry.
The venta’s are open all year round.
The area offers camping (Parque Ardales with accommodation for 1000), canoeing, pedaloes, swimming, fishing, hiking, birdwatching, or plain sunbathing at the edge of the lakes.
There are three lakes: El Conde de Guadalhorce, El Guadalteba and El Guadalhorce. Collectively they are referred to as Los Embalses (the reservoirs, which indeed they are). El Conde de Guadalhorce falls within the municipality of Ardales, whereas the other two are shared by the municipalities of Antequera, Campillos, and nearby Teba. There is an impressive dam, known as La Presa del Chorro, which was constructed between 1914 – 1921, to create the El Conde de Guadalhorce and El Guadalhorce. The architect of the dam was Rafael Benjumea, Count of Guadalhorce and later the minister for public works (1925-1930). Facing the dam visitors will see the Casa (house) del Ingenerio, which is a photograph in itself.
Guadalhorce is fed by the river Turón. The second and third reservoirs were constructed to regulate the Guadalteba and Guadalhorce rivers.
This area is the main source of drinking water and irrigation for much of the province of Málaga.
El Chorro Gorge
Some 10 minutes drive from the lakes, a windy road passing some eyecatching rock formations, lies the famous gorge and small village of El Chorro. (El Chorro can also be visited by train from Antequera station). It is a water power station, much visited by tourists due to it’s situation at the end of the ‘Garganta’ (or ‘Desfiladero de los Gaitanes’) Gorge, another beauty spot within the province. The gorge is three kilometers long, and in some of the sections is less than 10 meters wide and 400 meters in height. In the narrowest part of the gorge is an old and slender service road which runs at a height of some 100 meters on the gorge face. It is known as the ‘Caminito del Rey’ (the small road of the king) and was contructed between 1901 and 1905 by Rafael Benjumea, and opened by King Alfonso XIII (hence the name). This road is a series of pathways, tunnels, and hanging bridges: a joy to hike. The gorge also harbours the railway which arrives in El Chorro at a quaint little station opposite the old railway hotel, The Garganta, which is now a boutique hotel, with stylized rooms, swimming pool, and restaurant. There are fabulous views from the hotel terrace.
Besides hikers and photographers, the gorge is often scaled by climbers attracted by it’s vertical walls.
The area, too, is rich in birdlife including: chough, kingfisher, swift, owl, tawny vulture. It is also populated by the wildcat and cabra hispanica.
There is open free parking in the area.
El Chorro also has a little supermarket for it’s small population, plus local campers, and there is a charming chapel.
The railway station has a terrace café, in addition to the facilties of the Garganta hotel.
Organised hikes are available with local guides, if you prefer not to go it alone.
El Chorro also has a camp site, with chalets, swimming pool, and restaurant / café bar, in a picturesque setting, just 3 minutes walk from the train station.
To the west of El Chorro, in Valle de Abdalajais, for those seeking ariel views of this beautiful area there is a hang-gliding school.
As with the Ardales lakes, El Chorro is well worth a day visit in itself from Antequera, but a combination of the two in one trip is practical within a longish day.
The small, though historically important town of Ardales, lies just off the road from Campillos to Málaga, being the main town adjacent to the lakes and El Chorro. It’ s centre consists of narrow climbing streets and whitewashed houses, of typical Andalusian character, leading up to the Peña (mountain) de Ardales, with the remains of a 10th century fortress.
Close to the Peña is the Church of Nuestra Señora, built in the 14th Century, and updated in the 18th Century. It is of Mudéjar design, with a Baroque portal. The tower is slender, with a square groundplan, and has a pyramid shaped spire.
The lower part of Ardales contains the Plaza de San Isidro, which is the site of the town hall, and close to the 18th Century Monastery of Los Capuchinos with it’s attractive altar pieces and choir stalls.
Human settlement in Ardales goes back pre-history, and Paleolithic works have been discovered in the Cave of Ardales (Cueva de Ardales – see on). Ardales has seen Roman settlement, and later Moorish. Due to it’s frontier position between the reigns of Castile and Granada, the town took on a militarily strategic importance during the last stages of the Moorish period.
Ardales has a population of around 4000. The principle industry is livestock and agricultural farming, but the tourist industry is becoming increasingly important, due to the town character, and proximity to it’s lakes and El Chorro. It is also easily reachable by car, and a pleasant drive, from Antequera.
There are several bars and restaurants in various areas of the town, plentiful local shopping, and two banks at time of writing.
Locally prepared gastronomy includes the ‘galleta de almendra’ (almond biscuits) and ‘torta de aceita’ (olive oil cake). Other typical dishes on menus include ‘caldereta de cordero’ (lamb stew) and ‘chivo (kid) a la pastoril’.
Cueva de Ardales (or Cave of Doña Trinidad)
Reached by a 3 kilometer track just off the Ardales to Carractraca road.
The cave was discovered in 1821. It has a length of 1.5 kilometers, and features important prehistoric paintings and carvings dating from over 20,000 years ago to the Upper Paleolithic age.
It contains numerous galleries and chambers, named the Gran Sala, the Galería, the Chamber of El Aquero, the Sala del Lago, the Gallery of El Espolón, the Gallery of Grabados and the Sala de las Manos.
There are some wonderful stalagmite and stalactite formations to be seen, small underground lakes and a labyrinth of columns.
The ancient paintings feature deer, goats, horses, and fish. The most significant is known as the Ardales Deer, a black painting with a red spot over the heart.
Burial places have also been discovered there, as well as dwelling areas dating back to the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods.
Visitor numbers are restricted at any one time, and you are accompanied by a guide.
Well worth a trip from Antequera.
Beyond the Mount Peña lies Archidona, with the second largest population in the comarca. Famed for it’s eight sided plaza, the Plaza Ochavada, built in the late 18th century, now containing café/bars and a site for general festivities. There are remains of a Moorish castle in Archidona, and in the upper part of the town is the lovely Hermitage of La Virgen de Gracia. Other buildings of interest are the College of La Victoria, the Parish Church of Santa Ana, and the convents of Las Mínimas de Jésus and Santo Domingo. There are some nice tapas bars and one or two good restaurants.
Fuente de Piedra (Flamingo lagoon)
‘The town of the flamingoes’ is just a 15 minute motorway drive from Antequera, and a pleasant town in itself, noted for it’s wide Western style streets. It’s importance, however, is that it lies adjacent to a flamingo breeding ground on one of the largest lagoons in the Anteqera region. A nature reserve, it is the most important nesting place for flamingoes in Spain and the second most important in Europe. Needless to say it is a main tourist attraction when staying in Antequera. There is a large parking area there.
Notably flat, the town is easy to walk around, and the café’s and restaurants centre mostly around the small and quaint main square. There are shops and a post office, and the town attracts quite a number of foreigners choosing to live there.
Lobo Park (Wolf Park)
16 kilometers from Antequera on the road to Valle de Albadalajais (A-343) lies the Nature Park of wolves. The park is 400,000 square meters, and contains packs of four different species of wolf, living naturally under the care of expert handlers. Visitors can observe the wolves in open conditions. The ‘Wolf Howl Night’ is a quite unique event, when on a full moon the handlers choreograph the wolf packs to howl to one another in chorus (May to October). Reservations are required for this event (ref: www.lobopark.com; email: email@example.com)
The Lobo Park offers:
Guided Wolf Tours
Educational School Programmes
A ‘Petting Zoo’ – enabling young children to get close to some of the other animals in the park Horses
Guided Wolf Tour timetable and rates as at 15.10.13:
Mon-Fri 11.00, 13.00, 15.00, 16.30
Sat-Sun 11.00, 12.00, 13.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.30
Rates: Adults: 11 euros; Children (3-12 years) 7 euros
There is a cafeteria for light bites and drinks, and dinner on ‘Howl Nights’ with a large terrace overlooking the Torcal mountains.
The Lobo Park is open all year round from 10.00 – 18.00
Donkey Sanctuary (El Refugio del Burrito)
There is a splendid donkey refuge 20 minutes drive from Antequera near Fuente de Piedra.
Entry is FREE, and it is especially nice for children although appealing to adults as well. It is open to the public every day of the year.
El Refugio del Burrito is a non-profit making registered Spanish Association, seeking to improve and maintain proper conditions for donkeys and mules in Spain.
The objectives of El Refugio del Burrito are the provision of care, protection and permanent safety for donkeys and mules anywhere in Spain, particularly those that are in need of attention because of sickness or mistreatment, plus actively advocating the prevention of cruelty and suffering of these lovely animals.
The Group started the first Donkey assisted Riding Therapy programme for children with special needs. Therapy is offered free of charge, making the programme available to families who may not otherwise be able to afford it.
There are over 70 rescued donkeys and mules on the farm, being looked after by qualified and self motivated staff.
An on site shop serves drinks and snacks. There is a children’s play area and the site is dog friendly.
If you choose to visit you may want to combine it with a look at the Flamingo lagoon (see above) which is close by.
For more information on El Refugio del Burrito visit their website:
Animal, Bird, Sightseeing, Photographic: Organised Tours
There is a company who will tailor a trip to your requirements for any of the above pursuits and interest, either specifically or collectively.
Tours are generally 1,2 or 3 hours in duration, in four wheel drive vehicles, with maximum capacity 6 people per car.
For rates and more advisory information contact:
Tel: 0034 637 84 92 42 / 0034 671 66 71 11 / 0034 952 84 64 78