Guy Hunter-Watts introduces this 21-day trail coast to coast across Andalucía. It's been twenty years in the making and he's excited to share this glorious route with Cicerone readers.
Where is the Andalucían Coast to Coast Walk?
The Andalucían Coast to Coast Walk was inspired by a wish to create a long-distance walk linking the two great seas which cradle Andalucía. The route extends from Maro on the Mediterranean coast to Bolonia on the Atlantic, traversing the region’s mountainous interior and connecting seven of Andalucía’s most beautiful protected areas.
Why should you walk there?
The 416km, 21-day trail leads you through stunning hilltop villages, past fascinating archaeological sites, along Berber footpaths, across Roman bridges, through deep gorges and over high passes. Should you walk the route in its entirety you’ll have journeyed from sea to ocean through the heart of one of the most beautiful tracts of mountains in Europe.
When should you go to Andalucía?
As a general rule, the best time to walk in Andalucía is from March through to June and from September to late October. This is when you’re likely to encounter mild, sunny weather: warm enough to dine al fresco yet not so hot as to make temperature an additional challenge. Wildflowers are at their best in late April/early May and this is the time when many walking companies plan their walks.
Most walkers avoid July and August when temperatures regularly reach the mid to high 30s, making walking much more of a challenge.
If you’re prepared to risk seeing some rain then winter is a wonderful time to be out walking in Andalucía, especially from December to February when rainfall is generally less than in November, March and April.
How do you get there?
Málaga is the closest airport to the walk’s start point and has charter flights from all major cities in the UK as well as scheduled flights with British Airlines and Iberia.
For the middle to end section of the walk Jerez or Seville would be closer than Málaga while for the final five days Gibraltar would be the nearest airport.
How hard is the Andalucían Coast to Coast walk?
This is a village to village walk, with an average daily distance of 20km and the longest day clocking in at a little over 26km. This means that each stage of the walk can comfortably be covered in a day with time to spare for exploring the beautiful villages through which the walk passes. There are few campsites along the way so most walkers who tackle the route choose to stay in hotels and pensions in the destination villages where there are plenty of options for all budgets.
What is the best bit?
Recently declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve the Grazalema park is home to no less than a third of the wildflowers in Spain and is one of the country’s prime birding locations. As you head along the wild and little-known Líbar valley you’re bound to be treated to the sight of dozens of griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) riding the thermals that rise up the abrupt cliff faces on which they nest. The trail passes through another swathe of deeply weathered karst and past ancient stands of gall oak (Quercus faginea) and cork oak (Quercus suber) forest before you cross back to the Guadalevín valley to reach Cortes de la Frontera.
FYI: For your information
Visitors to inland Andalucía often express surprise at how little English is spoken, where even in restaurants and hotels a working knowledge of English is the exception rather than the norm. In addition, the Spanish spoken in southern Spain – Andaluz – can be difficult to understand even if you have a command of basic Spanish: it’s spoken at lightning speed, with the end of words often left unpronounced.
It’s worth picking up a phrasebook before you travel. And be prepared to gesticulate: you always get there in the end.
Other long-distance routes through Andalucía
The GR7/E4 footpath begins in Tarifa and ends in Athens, traversing the whole of Andalucía in its early stages. About a third of the way across southern Spain, the footpath divides into a northern and a southern variant, the latter looping all the way round the southern flank of the Sierra Nevada. The total length of all the Andalucían stages of the route is around 1200km.
The GR249 or ‘La Gran Senda de Málaga’ is a more recent creation. The route describes a huge loop via the mountainous interior and the Mediterranean coast of one of Spain’s most beautiful provinces. The route covers about half the distance of the Andalucían GR7, some 650km in total.