Natural Parks - Málaga Province

 

Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Almara Natural Park

Designated a natural park in 1999, this large and rugged mountainous region of 40,663ha stretches across the provincial border of Granada and Malaga. Its western part in Malaga province is known as the Axarquía and is famous for its attractive villages dating from Moorish times. It is also superb hiking country and its numerous steep mountainsides make it ideal for climbers. Its highest peak is La Maroma, at 2,080m.

Geologically, the area is has some distinctive features. It is rich in quartzite and gneiss, which date from over 300 million years ago. The Sierra Almijara has one of Spains's most important areas of dolomitic marble, which gives the landscape its characteristic grey and white hues where erosion has broken down the marble into small stones. The main rock in the Sierra Tejeda is limestone, which has been severely weathered leaving a lanscape riddled with steep-sided ravines and plunging cliff faces.

There are many caves, the most famous being those at Nerja. Others are near the sierras' highest peak, at La Sima de la Maroma, and close to the village of Canillas de Aceituno. Its abundance of caves make speleology a popular activity here.

Its relative remote nature has meant that it has a high number of endemic species of flora and is rich in wildlife, particularly raptors and mountain birds. Its inaccessibility has also meant that historically, it has harboured bandits and later on, anti-Franco guerrillas during the Civil War. Its inhabitants were part of the Morisco rebellion.

Part of the park has been designated a game reserve, the Tejeda y Almijara National Hunting Reserve.

Access

The park is easily accessible from the Malaga side of the sierras, via the villages of Alcaucín, Canillos de Aceituno, Sedella, Salares, Canillas de Albaida, Cómpeta and Frigiliana. North of Alcaucín is a minor, winding road that leads to a picnic area called El Alcázar, which is located by a stream of the same name and is inside the park. East of Canillos de Aceituno, towards Los Olivos on the MA126 road, is the picnic area La Rahige. East of Canillas de Albaida is the Fábrica de la Luz picnic area.

There are a few options for access to the park from the coastal N340. Either take the exit for Vélez-Málaga, and follow the A335 north towards Alhama de Granada. From this road you can turn off for Salares, Sedella, Canillas de Aceituno and Alcaucín. For Cómpeta and Canillas de Albaida, take the turning off the N340 to Algarrobo. For Frigiliana, take the exit just before Nerja.

WALKS

See our section on the Walk of the Low Axarquia.

There are a total of 13 signposted paths in the park.

Sendero El Robledal-La Maroma - One of the most well known walks, this challenging, linear walk is 8.5km long, ascending 1,000m, and takes around four hours. It climbs the northern face of the park's highest peak, La Maroma. Take the C335 and turn off down a forestry track at the Venta de La Alcaicería. Once at the Casa Forestal de Robledal Alto, take another track that goes south towards Los Barracones, a rural tourism centre. Park here, because cars aren't allowed any further, and start walking.

About half a kilometre later, there is a fork with a signpost indicating the left track for the route to the summit of La Maroma. The track passes through pine and holm oak woodland. After 1 km there is a fire break and shortly afterwards the track changes into a path. Soon the path goes through a narrow v-shaped rocky area, known as the Contadero (counter), because it was used for funnelling sheep and cattle through, up to the mountain, so they could be counted more easily.

After the Contadero the path climbs more steeply. Around an hour and a quarter after starting the walk, look out for the Chorreras del Perro, where in winter water cascades down over sheer slopes of marble. To the right is the limestone peak of the Pico del Sol, at 2,000m.

There are more yew trees here and a waterfall called the Salto del Caballo. Take the left path and 15 minutes' later there's a spring. Ten minutes later the path reaches the peaks that divide the provinces of Malaga and Granada, with superb panoramic views across the park.

The peak of La Maroma is snow-covered in winter, but has some chasms that are filled with snow all year round. There are magnificent views over the whole park. The descent is along the same path.

Sendero Río Verde - This circular route of 7.35km is moderately difficult and takes around three and a quarter hours. It is on the far eastern edge of the Sierra de Almijara, with superb views of the mountains, and starts near the source of the Verde river.

The path starts at Km 28.7 on the Almuñécar-Granada road (via Otívar). Coming from Granada, the road passes Los Prados de Lopera and goes through a tunnel. Before the Parador and petrol station at La Cabra Montés is the Km 28.7 post. The path goes up some stone steps, across a hillside and goes through an area with eroded rock formations characteristic of this limestone landscape. The trees here are mainly young pines, holm and gall oaks, junipers and strawberry trees.

On the right at the bottom of the Chortales gully are some beehives, which are often seen in these sierras. Look out for mountain goats, particularly first thing in the morning or just before the sun goes down.

After descending for around 50 minutes, there are some steep steps. These lead down to some impressive waterfalls, the Chorreras de los Palos, also known as the Cascada de los Arboles Petrificados (the Waterfall of the Petrified Trees). To the right-hand side of the waterfalls is a small cave that is full of incredible stalagmites and stalagtites. The path continues down on this side, where the vegetation changes from the first stage of the walk, to box, heather, willow, fig trees, oleander, ferns and wild olive trees.

The path crosses the Arroyo de las Cabrerizas and follows the left-hand bank for 200m before crossing a forestry track. Fifty metres on there is the Cabrerizas fountain. After passing a weir, there is the second waterfall of this walk, and after crossing and re-crossing the Arroyo, there is the third waterfall, the 30m-high Cascadas del Barranco de Funes. After this is a crossroads of forestry tracks; take the Las Cabrerizas one that climbs up to main road at La Cabra Montés, about 2½km away. This brings you back on to the main road about 1½km south of where you started.

Sendero Frigiliana-Fuente del Esparto - This 5.5km-long linear walk is relatively easy and takes about two hours. It starts in the village of Frigiliana. Look for the Guardia Civil building; to the right-hand side of this is the beginning of the sendero (path). It goes down to the Higuerón river, which is in a steep-sided rocky ravine. The path goes past the Pozo Batán, veers off to the left and then starts to climb up the slope. This is a difficult part of the walk, because the path here is sandy which makes climbing tricky.

The path goes through some pine trees. After 20 minutes is the Cruz de Pinto crossroads, where there are great views north up the Higuerón river and surrounding hills. The path, passing through scrubland, now gets easier and there are often mountain goats here.

Then there are pine trees again and sharp, jagged rocks at the top of the ravine. After an hour, the path arrives at the Chillar river gorge, one of the most impressive in the province. Its sides are often vertical and rise to 300m. The walk through the gorge takes around 15 minutes, then there is the final climb. The path crosses a channel that takes water to the Chillar hydroelectricity power station and 30 minutes later it has climbed up to a forestry track.

Here is the Collado del Apretadero, which divides the Chillar and Cazadores gorges, and it is ten minutes on from here. Then you can either turn back or continue down to El Pinarillo campsite, 4km from the Nerja caves, from where there are buses into Nerja (to avoid walking along the busy main road).


For more on walking the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama:

 

The Mountains of NerjaThe Mountains of Nerja
Guidebook, by Jim Ryan, to the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama mountains in the Spanish region of Axarquía. The 24 day walks are accessible from the holiday towns of Nerja and Vélez-Málaga on the Costa del Sol. Routes range from easy strolls to strenuous climbs. The mountains are largely limestone, with some summits reaching over 2000m. Buy a copy online of The Mountains of Nerja

 

 

Accommodation

There are hotels and hostels in the most of the villages dotted along the park borders. See also our section on Accommodation in the Axarquía.

Camping

There are several designated camping areas within the park itself, with basic facilities only:

Five kilometres north of Alcaucín is the Cortijo de Alcázar, with showers, toilets, picnic areas and barbecue pits. Further along this winding road north is La Alcaéca camping area, which can also be reached from the A335 by taking the road south towards Valdeiglesias and beyond.

Between Canilllas de Aceituno and Los Olivos is La Rahige, with barbecue pits and picnic areas.

Four kilometres out of Canillas de Albaida is the Fábrica de la Luz campsite, with showers, toilets, picnic areas and barbecue pits.

Four kilometres north of the Nerja caves at the Fuente del Esparto is the El Pinarillo campsite, with toilets, picnic areas and barbecue pits.

On the Granada side of the park is the El Robledal camping area, which can be reached by taking the GR141 northwest towards Alhama de Granada. Take the left minor road to El Cerezal.

Organized campsites outside the park include:

Camping Presa La Viñuela, near the Viñuela reservoir
Camping Nerja, at the southern edge of the park
Camping El Pino at Torrox-Costa, off the N340 at km 285

Suggested routes

The centre of the park isn't easily accessible by car. There are, however, roads around the edges of the park, the main one being on the park's western side. There are spectacular views throughout the area, of the snow-capped Sierra Tejeda in winter and the blue of the Mediterranean away to the south.

There are five signposted driving routes in the Axarquía region, named the Mudejar route (passing through villages noted for their architecture); the Raisin Route (referring to the drying out of the famous moscatel grape grown locally); the Oil and Mountains Route; the Sun and Avocado Route; and the Sun and Wine Route. For details, see the Axarquía's website. These drives, though having great views of the park, often skirt round the foothills of the sierras.

For an alternative route, which hugs the western border of the park, take the A335 north from Torre del Mar, off the N340 coastal road. Five kilometres off the A335 is Alcaucín and then head south through Canillas de Aceituno, Sedella, Salares, Canillas de Albaida and Cómpeta. From Cómpeta to Frigiliana there is a detour south towards the coast and Torrox.

If you want to follow the eastern edge, take the road to Otívar that heads north from the N340. Then take a left to Jayena, which crosses a small section of the park, before skirting around it via Fornes and Alhama de Granada. When heading south on the A335, it's possible to go to Alcaucín and continue on the route described above.

Flora

The sierras contain an impressive variety of plant species, many rare and/or endemic. One of the reasons for this is its differences in altitude (ranging from around 100m to over 2,000m), climate variation and its southeast-northwest orientation. The botanical importance of this park is surpassed only by those of the Canary Islands, the Sierra Nevada in Granada province and the Cabo de Gata in Almería province.

Its most notable flora includes the boxwood (buxus baleracica), a type of olive tree known as the olivillo, the Phoenician juniper (juniperus phoenicea), the joint pine (ephedra) and the yew tree (taxus baccata). The yew (tejo in Spanish) used to be widespread in this area and gave its name to one of the sierras in the park, the Tejeda. It was valued for its quality wood, which was made into furniture, and its medicinal uses. But it was largely destroyed because of its toxicity to cattle and sheep. Now all that remains of the yew is a few small sections of woodland, which are the southernmost examples in the Iberian peninsula and one of the best preserved in Andalucía. The Sierra Nevada also has a significant area of yew woodland.

On the upper slopes of the sierras is Mediterranean woodland with junipers, cork oaks, holm oaks, gall oaks and Pyrenean oaks. Pine tree woodland predominates in areas where the marble has eroded down into a fine gravel. There is a wide variety of pine tree species, including Corsican pine (pinus nigra), Aleppo pine (pinus halepensis) and maritime pines (pinus pinea).

Also here are dwarf fan palms, rowan trees, broom, maples such as the acer granatense species, buckthorn (rhamnus cathartica), the savanna shrub maytenus senegalensis, cneorum shrubs (cneorum tricoccom), the white beam tree (sorbus aria), laurestinus (viburnum tinus), cotoneaster (cotoneaster granatensis), goosefoot (adenocarpus decorticans) and Pyrenean oaks (quercus pyrenaica).

The scrubland is dominated by mountain cherry (prunus prostrata), hedgehog broom (erinacea anthyllis), the milk vetch astragalus granatensis, the yellow-flowering echinospartum boissieri and the mountain crucifer shrub hormathophylla spinosa.

Endemic plants that have colonised the dolomitic gravel and sand areas are knapweeds (centaurea bombycina and c. prolongi), saxifrages like the saxifraga erioblasta, the toadflax linaria amoi, the wallflower erysimum myriophyllum, the kidney vetch anthyllis tejedensis, hippocrepis eriocarpa, fairy foxglove (erinus alpinus), silene boryi, the butterwort pinguicula submediterranea, hieracium texedense, purple columbine (aquilegia vulgaris), andryala agardhi, odontites longiflora, the milkwort polygala boissieri and iberis grossi.

The sierras are rich in aromatic plants, like oregano, rosemary, lemon thyme and other varieties of thyme, lavender (lavandula lanata, l.stoechas), savory and sage.

Its steep slopes and poor soils have restricted agricultural use, although local people have extracted pine resin, made charcoal from trees, used trees for firewood and hunted.

Fauna

Raptors are most apparent here, with eagles being the most common birds of prey, like the golden eagle and Bonnelli's eagle which are both permanent residents. The short-toed eagle and the booted eagle can be seen during migration periods. Also here are the peregrine falcon, the goshawk and the common kestrel.

Woodpeckers can be heard in the woodland areas. Mountain species include crag martins, rock buntings, rock thrushes, blue rock thrushes and alpine accentors. In the poplar woods by the rivers are golden orioles and nightingales in summer, while in the streams and rivers are grey wagtails and dippers.

The sierras are well known for their population of mountain goats, an endemic species that was under threat of extinction a century ago. In the last 25 years, its numbers have increased tenfold in the region and, with around 2,000 mountain goats, it is now home to one of the biggest populations of its type in Spain.

Rivers

There are many rivers draining the sierras. To the south and west are the Río de la Miel, Río Chillar, Río de Torrox, Río Rubite and Río Bermuza, while to the north the main rivers are the Río Cacín, Río Grande and Río Verde. There are numerous streams (arroyos and barrancos) and many waterfalls.

Villages

The villages on the Malaga side of the park are Alcaucín, Canillos de Aceituno, Sedella, Salares, Canillas de Albaida, Cómpeta and Frigiliana, as well as the town of Nerja. The villages on the Granada side closest to the park border are Jayena, Játar, Fornes and Otívar.

 

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