You are currently viewing Andalusia: A Traveler’s Guide to Southern Spain

Andalusia, the southernmost territory of the Iberian Peninsula, is the epitome of Spanish culture. It is known for its bullfights, flamenco, sherry, and ruined castles, which contribute to the popular image of Spain. What truly captures your attention here are the magnificent Moorish monuments. For over seven centuries, al-Andalus was occupied by the Moors, a diverse group of Berbers and Arabs who migrated from Morocco and North Africa into Spain. In 710 AD, they landed their first forces at Tarifa. Within four years, they managed to conquer almost the entire country. However, their last kingdom, Granada, eventually fell to the Christian Reconquest in 1492. During this period, the most advanced civilization of the Middle Ages emerged, with its focus shifting between the three major cities of Córdoba, Seville, and Granada.

1. The Garganta del Chorro

The Garganta del Chorro, Andalusia

The Garganta del Chorro is a deep, rugged canyon fifty kilometers northwest of Málaga. This place is truly incredible – a massive five-kilometer-long gap in a sprawling limestone mountain range, which has emerged as the primary hub for rock climbers in Andalusia. The concrete catwalk, El Camino del Rey, is the most breathtaking feature of the gorge. It stretches along the gorge’s length, suspended halfway up its side. Once a marvel of Spain’s hydroelectric scheme in the 1920s, the catwalk now lies in disrepair. Access has been severed at both ends of the gorge, rendering it inaccessible without a guide and climbing gear. You can still explore the rest of the gorge and see the Camino by following the walk described in The Walk from El Chorro. You can also glimpse the gorge and the Camino from trains north of Málaga. The line follows the river along the gorge for a considerable distance, slipping in and out of tunnels before finally entering a long tunnel just before reaching its end.

2. Antequera

Antequera, Andalusia
Antequera, located about 55km north of Málaga on the main rail line to Granada, may not stand out as a remarkable town, but it offers some interesting attractions. These include a collection of impressive churches, a group of prehistoric Dolmen caves that are highly significant in Spain, and a well-preserved Plaza de Toros.

3. El Torcal Natural Park

El Torcal Natural Park

You will pass the entrance to the popular natural park famed for its haunting rock sculptures as you approach Antequera along the old road from Málaga (MA424) via Almogía and Villanueva de la Concepción. The Natural Park of El Torcal, located 13km south of Antequera, stands out as one of Spain’s most captivating geological parks. You can easily explore the massive plateau of glaciated limestone in the park. It is adorned with a lush growth of hawthorn, ivy, and wild rose. Three walking routes from the park’s center are outlined in a leaflet, which you can obtain from the Centro de Visitantes.

4. Nerja

Nerja, Andalusia

The eastern section of the Costa del Sol stretches from Málaga to Almería and is generally unimpressive. There are numerous appealing sierras to explore inland. However, compared to its more developed coastal counterpart to the west of Málaga, there are few attractions to entice you to pause before reaching the twin resorts of Nerja and Almuñécar – the area’s highlights. Nerja is located about 40km outside of Málaga, nestled in the foothills of the Almijara range. The village came before the resort, giving it a unique character that has influenced the development of the villas.

The Bálcon de Europa, a palm-fringed belvedere overlooking the sea, stands out as the central point of the whitewashed old quarter. The beaches surrounding this area are quite appealing, featuring a collection of peaceful coves that can easily be reached on foot. There are also many other fantastic walks in Nerja that you can explore. These walks are well-documented in the Turismo’s leaflets. Alternatively, you can visit Smiffs Bookshop on c/Almirante Ferrandiz 10 to purchase individual leaflets that provide detailed information about walks in the area. Elma Thompson, a local resident and avid hiker, created these leaflets.

5. Cádiz and Seville

Cadiz, Andalusia

Most directions have good transport connections in Ronda. You’ll find that taking any route to the north or west is quite rewarding. Along the way, you’ll pass through a series of White Towns, many of which have been fortified since the days of the Reconquest from the Moors. That’s why you’ll see a lot of “de la Frontera” suffixes.

One of the best routes to Cádiz is through Grazalema, Ubrique, and Medina Sidonia. However, it can be a bit challenging without your own transportation. The route takes you through the breathtaking Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema, then along the outskirts of the nature reserve of Cortes de la Frontera (accessible by following the road beyond Benaoján). Continuing towards Alcalá de los Gazules, the road passes through the northern edge of Parque Natural de los Alcornocales, known for its magnificent cork oak forests, the largest in Europe.

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