With the highest altitude of 1410 meters and with an area of about 11.7 sq. kilometres, El Torcal de Antequera, is one of the most outstanding and important karst park in Europe. The park consists mainly of limestones, which origin dates back as far as 150 million years ago. And because of constant exposure to changing weather conditions, these stones were formed to how they are now today, acquiring unique shapes, passages and caves and made the place having the best karstic landscape in Europe. A visit to this magnificent natural park is really a must for everyone, locals and tourists alike, if only to see the grandeur and uniqueness of this park!
Going up to El Torcal has always been in our plans since we saw a brochure about this in one of the tourist offices in Malaga last year. So you could imagine our excitement when the time drew nearer that we could finally go up here. We were continuously monitoring the weather situations in the area, as we have heard that it was pretty cold up there. And at this time of the year, the temperature in the countysides of Spain was a lot lower than in the coast. So when we saw that it was a little more than 10 degrees in Antequera and with a forecast of only light rainshowers, we were off!
It was a fine Friday afternoon (Feb. 26, 2016) when we drove up in El Torcal, after having done a little bit of sightseeing in the old town of Antequera. We wanted to take advantage of the dry good weather so about 3pm, we decided to drive up. It was only about 16 kilometers away the campsite, and we were in El Torcal in less than 20 minutes. The drive up here was really memorable and spectacular, remembering us of our trips in Norway last year. Though the road was good and asphalted, it was steep, long, narrow and winding, with a number of sharp bends. The higher we got, the nicer the views we had. Hans was telling me to film the drive, or take some pictures. But knowing me, with that kind of road, I just sat there, numb and praying we reach our destination the soonest time possible.
We parked our D’Traveller at the spacious parking area at Torcal Alto, with an altitude of 1209 meters high where a Vicistor’s Center is also located. At first we were the only campers there, with some cars, but later on, I think 5 other campers arrived and stayed the night there. Hans and I went to the Visitors’s Center, next to a small restaurant and asked for some hiking routes and information about the park. There was an exhibit over the park, but unfortunately it was all in Spanish. After that, we walked to the Mirador or Viewpoint “Las Ventanillas”which is just 100 meters from the Visitors’ Center. A magnificent view awaited us there! We could see the coast of Malaga and some small villages below El Torcal. It was a sight to behold! After that I stayed the rest of the day in the camper, doing some computer works while Hans did some exploration, returning back with some nice pictures of the rocks and foxes and sheeps he had seen!
Campsite : Parking, Parque Natural El Torcal
Paraja Natural 29200 Antequera
Coordinates : N: 36.95342 W: 4.54428
HIKING THE RUTA AMARILLA IN EL TORCAL
There are two major walking or hiking routes in El Torcal : the Ruta Verde which takes 40-60 minutes, and the Ruta Amarilla, which takes a minimum of two hours. At one point, these two trails overlap each other. Most of the visitors take the shorter hike. Hans and I opted to do the longer hike, of course! And hoped that if the weather stays good, then we could still do the shorter one. The backpack full with drinks and food, and I armed with my cellphone, camera and tripod, we began our hike. It was 10.30 the next day when we left the camper and almost 15.00 when we returned. The hike was reasonably good; we just made a lot of stops to rest, admire the area, and take pictures! Walking in El Torcal was like being in one of the Jurassic of Indiana Jones films. There were a lot of big massive stones along the trail and at a distance, all of which resemble a certain figure or something! Some look like elephants, dinosaurs, giant animals and even human faces. How fertile your imagination is, how more bizarre figures you’ll see on the rocks! One big boulder stands mightily on top of another big boulder, and it seems like a small push will cause that boulder to slide down! There are even some rocks which look like sleeping Titans or gods and goddesses, and that they might come alive anytime! Spectacular!
Everywhere we looked, they were always stones, stones, and more stones! In various sizes and forms! At one point, I was expecting Hercules or Xena to appear and take me with them in a galloping horse or something! What made our hike more special was the sighting of some foxes, gemsen, sheeps, eagles and small birds. There was even a flock of sheep which stayed just at the side of our vehicle! Our hike ended up at the Visitor’s center. We walked once more to the Mirador, took some snapshots, and went back to the camper to have some rest. We planned to do the shorter hike after our rest. Unfortunately, it did not push through, as the weather made an abrupt change, from sunny to a bit cloudy, to rainy, and at the end of the day, we even experienced a little of snowfall.
HIKING TO THE MONUMENT EL TORNILLO
Located just behind the place where we parked our camper was the walking trail in going up to the El Tornillo del El Torcal, a stone monument which is used as a logo for the natural park. The form of the stone resembles that of a screwdriver, hence the name Ël Tornillo”. It was just about half a kilometre walk, but what made it more exciting and different was that we had to do this walk in the snow! This time, we had our walking sticks with us to give us extra support in walking in the snow. Just like in our previous walk, we saw blocks of stones of different sizes and forms. After less than half an hour, we reached a kind of clearing, and there it was, the most magnificent part of the park before us! In the middle was the El Tornillo, which we have been trying to find in our first hike. And it was only here. Around the El Tornillo were still a lot of stones in unusual forms with some really nice cuts, shades and curves! It was a bit difficult to climb on the stones because they were wet and a bit slippery, but that didn’t stop us from doing so. We just added extra caution in our climbing! It was cold, but we didn’t notice it already as we were immensely enjoying with the sights that we were seeing and with the picture taking that we were doing! It was pure enjoyment! The pictures that we took did not give justice to the beauty of the surrounding! But never mind! We were here! And just when we thought the weather would be better, a very dark thick layer of clouds would again pass by and a thick mist would envelope the whole scenic view! So quickly was the change of weather up here in this part of Spain!
And just when we thought it would be less busier in El Torcal because of bad weather, we were wrong. It was the opposite. It seemed that the Spaniards drove up especially up here to see the snow! It was fun to watch them, young and adults alike, making snow balls and throwing them at each other, taking pictures on the snow, and some even brought with them handfuls of snow back , putting them on top of their cars!
NIGHTS AT EL TORCAL
We spent two nights in El Torcal, and these were the two coldest nights we have ever had in Spain. At one point, it felt like colder than in Holland or Norway! We had to wear extra warm clothes to keep us warm. Also an extra blanket was needed during the night! When the temperature during the day was 8 degrees, at night was almost 1 degree or almost freezing ! On our first night, we experienced storm, in the form of very hard wind. It was like the camper was shaking the whole night that we didn’t have a good night sleep. We could hear the strong gush of the winds, like Sswwooossshhh!!! Fortunately, it was good weather when we woke up the next day, after a restless night!
The second night was a different story. Though the day started good with a fairly nice weather, it began to rain in the late afternoon, which made us to blast our plan to take that shorter hike. From then on, the sky did not clear up anymore. And in the early evening, it began to snow. Yes, snow! That was the least I wanted to see! Anyway, it was wet snow, coupled with a bit of rain and cold wind! It was so cold that we turned on the heater and put on thicker clothes. It rained and snowed a little the whole time that when we woke up the following morning, the mountaintop was white! There was snow all around us, and it was so cold that we did not get out of the camper until 11 a.m. The thought of being stranded up here in El Torcal crossed our minds already, and it was not a pleasant thought! Luckily, later that day, it cleared up a bit, and we saw a lot of cars driving up and down that we had the courage to drive down also. We were not happy of the thought of staying another cold night in El Torcal . Luckily for us, we didn’t have to! After staying two very cold days in El Torcal, there was nothing we would love than to feel the warmth of the sun against our faces again!