Walking In Andalucia

Walking In Andalucia

LAST UPDATED: 13 July, 2014 @ 9:12 am
Walking in Andalucia by Guy Hunter-Watts
Walking in Andalucia by Guy Hunter-Watts

Walking in Andalucia by Guy Hunter-Watts

Few people are aware that Spain, after Switzerland, is the most mountainous country in Europe. The walking here can be as rewarding as anywhere on the Continent and some of the country’s most spectacular hiking routes are right here on our doorstep in southern Spain, writes Guy Hunter-Watts.

The great belt of the Cordillera Bética disects Andalucía like a mighty sabre and within this rumpled chain of mountains are no fewer than twenty Natural Parks, as well as mainland Spain’s highest peak, the Mulhacén. The diversity of the parks and their trails is astonishing: steep sided barrancos in the Alpujarras, rugged dolomite outcrops in Grazalema, thickly wooded stands of ancient chestnut in Aracena, mighty canyons in Cazorla. There are countless treasures to be discovered and doing so on foot is not only good for your health but also for the planet.

The great news is that over the last two decades there’s been a silent revolution in the hills of southern Spain and you’re now spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a base for your rambles. The Andalusians and their northern European visitors have woken up to the beauty of the interior of the country and people are heading for the hills rather than for the beach: ‘turismo rural’ has entered the vernacular and the most tangible result has been a huge increase in the number of decent places to stay. What is so positive about this trend is that it is fostering a new pride in traditional country life and is providing incomes for people who might otherwise have been obliged to work far from home.

Hand in hand with this ‘rediscovery’ of the villages of inland Spain has come a new-found interest in the hills and mountains which surround them. Old paths are being cleared, routes are being waymarked and groups of walkers, mostly from northern Europe, are beginning to arrive. If you’re looking for purpose-built trails of the sort that you find, say, in the Parks of the USA, then the walking in Andalucía will not be for you. Many walks follow old drovers’ paths which have seen scant use since the coming of the roads. They can be rough or loose underfoot, occasionally overgrown and when waymarking exists, it can be confusing. But this is a part of their appeal and it ensures that you’ll meet with few other walkers and will often be treated to a genuine wilderness experience.

As a general rule the very best time to walk in Andalucía is from late April through to early June and from mid September to the end of October when you’re almost guaranteed mild, sunny weather and when the chances of rain are slight. The months to avoid are July and August when temperatures are just too high to make walking easy or pleasant, although if you limit yourself to shorter circuits, get going early, and take plenty of water you can still enjoy walking in summer. If you’re prepared to risk rain winter is a wonderful time to walk, especially from December to February when rainfall is generally less than in November, March and April.

In my book Walking in Andalucía I’ve chosen six of what I consider to be the most beautiful areas for walking: Aracena, the Axarquía, Cazorla, the Alpujarras, Grazalema and Los Alcornocales. In each of these different Natural Parks I describe six of their best trails. What this means is that you have a fabulous week’s worth of walking in each Park. Most routes are circular which means that you can forget your petrol-guzzling car for the day or even the week. As well as detailed route notes and maps the book lists my favourite places to stay as well as restaurant recommendations. Many of these are the same places which are included in my second guide book to Southern Spain, Small Hotels & Inns of Andalucía. I genuinely believe that with these two books in your suitcase or rucksack you’re well equipped for heading into the hills and discovering some of Europe’s most beautiful mountain walks and villages.

Walking in Andalucia (ISBN 978-84-89954-75-5) and Small Hotels & Inns of Andalucía (ISBN 84-89954-55-0) by Guy Hunter-Watts are published by Santana books and can be ordered at www.santanabooks.com. The books are also available at all good book stores in southern Spain.