Guest blogger Mick Borroff has been exploring Southern Spain, in particular Nerja and the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama - here are some of his highlights.
We have been regular visitors to the mountains that tower above the south coast of Spain for walking holidays in the early spring and have visited many parts of the hinterland of the Costa del Sol. The last time we visited Nerja to walk in the Axarquia - the Moors ‘lands to the east’, the weather was wet and wild, but this year the sun was out with a vengeance.
The Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama form a National Park to the north of Nerja and have numerous Munro-sized peaks topped by La Maroma at 2069m. There is plenty to go at - many of the valleys and barrancos (ravines) make great outings in themselves as well as forming interesting approaches.
Many of the paths are not on the maps, so the guidebooks are essential
The Cicerone guidebook by Jim Ryan has 24 such walks and the Discovery Walking Guides “Walk the Axarquia” guide a further 30, with some overlap. The latter publish a useful accompanying 1:40k map and GPX route files are available from both publishers for GPS users. All Spanish topographic mapping including the MTN25 raster maps can now be downloaded free or you can use the SityTrail Spain app to get this mapping on your phone/tablet for a reasonable price. However, you should note that unlike the UK, many of the footpaths are not marked on the topomaps, so the guidebooks are an essential navigation tool.
One excellent route is the traverse of La Maroma, the highest of Axarquia’s mountains. There are four main ascent routes and with some late snow still on the northern slopes, I decided to walk from the Alcazar area recreativa over Maroma to the white mountain village of Canillas de Aceituno where my wife picked me up. The views from the trig point were fantastic extending across to the snow-capped Sierra Nevada but it was too hazy to see the North African coast. The descent route partly followed an old mule trail and a few cabras montés (wild ibex) scampered away up the far side of a small valley.
Cabra montés – the wild Spanish ibex
One other benefit of walking in March and April is the profusion of wild flowers. Giant asphodels, cistus, hedgehog broom, stinking hellebores, peonies and many, many others add colourful interest to the walks in springtime.
|Grape hyacinths, orchids, tiny wild narcissi and dwarf irises are just a few of the flowers to be seen|
Another excellent full-day route in the Almijaras is the ascent of the Tajo de Alemendrón (1513m) via the Barranco de Los Cazadores and the abandoned galena workings of the Mina de la Fura and Mina del Tajo. The walk up the dry ravine passes several caves and then uses the old mine mule track before the main ascent. The Alemendrón peak is reached by a moderately exposed scramble and comes complete with a summit book tucked into a metal enclosure let into the rock. The ascent route contrasts nicely with the high-level return, passing several other rocky limestone tops before descending to reach the cool spring of Fuente del Esparto.
Almond trees and pine woods
One other feature of walking in southern Spain is the large number of abandoned farms and other buildings that are encountered in the mountains. The ascent of remote Malascamas (1792m) in the Sierra Tejeda passes the substantial ruin of the Haza del Aguadero farmstead, with one small building, complete with wood-stove, now used as a bothy. This picturesque cortijo was abandoned fairly recently after its access track was washed away by a major flood in 2007. At this time of year, its almond trees are covered in pink blossom, unlike the dark pine woods crossed after descending from the summit trig on Malascamas.
Another splendid walk is along the deep gorge nestling below the ancient spa town of Alhama de Grenada perched on its edge. This easy route along the bottom of gorge passes several ruined flour mills complete with Moorish water channels, millstones, rotten water wheels and rusting driveshafts. The walk returns on the opposite cliff top through an almond plantation carpeted with grape hyacinths before the gorge is re-entered via a sinuous medieval track hewn from the sandstone. We watched a goatherd and his two dogs driving his flock along the grassy terraces of the lower gorge – a timeless scene.
This blog just covers a few of the interesting routes that we did highlighting the vicarious pleasures of walking in this delightful part of southern Spain at the best time of the year to be there - we will certainly be returning.
Fancy going walking in Nerja?
If you would like to go walking in Nerja then you can purchase Jim Ryan's guidebook through Cicerone.
Tell us your story
This ‘tell us your story’ article was sent in by Mick Borroff. If you'd like to share a story with us then please do - we love to hear how you've been using your guidebooks.