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Málaga province

Málaga province

Thirty kilometres north of Malaga is the 12km² Torcal de Antequera Natural Area, with one of the most dramatic and exceptional karstic landscapes in Europe. This surreal and lunar grey limestone plateau, dating from the Jurassic period, is riven by deep gullies and characterised by its fantastically weathered natural sculptures, like the Tornillo Natural Monument.

The Guadalhorce river has sliced through limestone to create a spectacular gorge 50km northwest of Malaga, the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes, otherwise known as the Garganta del Chorro. Its 4km length has sheer walls towering up to 400m in places, while its width is only 10m wide at certain points.

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.

The Sierra de las Nieves National Park (36.6771, -4.99606) is located in the hills behind Marbella and to the east of the Ronda-Marbella road as it winds up the mountain along hairpin bends. The park centres on Mount Torrecilla (1909m) and covers an area of 30km by 20km or 18,530 hectares. The Sierra de las Nieves, formerly a natural park, was declared a National Park in January 2021.

It is easy to understand why Malaga City is capital of the Costa del Sol. Once considered the poor cousin of Andalusia’s capital city, Seville, it now competes successfully for attention, thanks to its profusion of quirky museums, delightful pedestrianised centre, innovative restaurants and stylish hotels, many featuring trendy rooftop terraces with bar, pool and stunning views.

La Axarquia area is still breathtakingly beautiful and has not been spoilt by the interest and influx of foreigners. The main attractions are the area's dramatic hill and mountain scenery, its unspoilt, white washed villages and the strong sweet wine that is made from sun dried grapes.

The Costa de Sol can be divided into two sections: East and West, with Malaga city at its centre. The eastern Costa del Sol is much shorter, stretching from the provincial capital as far as Nerja, where it meets the Costa Tropical of Granada province.

The Gran Senda de Malaga (Great Malaga path) is a long distance footpath that encircles the entire province of Malaga. It has been given the footpath number GR-249 and is divided into 35 stages averaging 18km nominally starting at Malaga City and more or less following the provincial boundary in an anti-clockwise direction. Each stage starts and finishes in a town or village.

The Lagunas de Campillos are five seasonal saltwater lakes with a protected area covering 1,126ha. Only one lake, the Laguna Salada, hardly ever dries out. Some lakes used to be permanent but have suffered from the agricultural activites in the surrounding areas that has put pressure on the water levels of the lakes. But they still provide an important resource for birds based in the area, like those at the nearby Laguna de Fuente de Piedra and the Laguna de la Ratosa.

The Cañón de las Buitreras is the strikingly named Gorge of the Vultures, after the colony of griffon vultures that nest in the area. The gorge itself is impressive, with often near-vertical sides at times reaching 200m high. In the bottom of the gorge is the Guadiaro river, which has eroded the limestone rock.

The Spanish fir, pinsapo in Spanish (abies pinsapo), is a rare tree most commonly found in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. The pinsapo de las Escaleretas is the oldest pinsapo on record at over 350 years old. Its dimensions are impressive: it is 26m high, with a trunk measuring 5m in its circumference and branches that cover an area of 200m².

Within the Torcal de Antequera Natural Area is this protected geological feature, the Tornillo del Torcal. Its name - the Screw of Torcal - comes from its distinctive appearance, as its limestone layers have been eroded making them look like the threads twisting around a screw. It is used as a symbol for the Torcal Natural Area.

The only lakes in Andalucia occupying a depression in the land formed by erosion, the Lagunas de Archidona are two lakes situated 900m apart which make up a protected area of 193ha. The biggest lake, Laguna Grande, is freshwater and significantly deep at 10m, with no significant seasonal fluctuations in its water level. The Laguna Chica is saltwater and shallow, with a fluctuating water level.

Between Antequera and Estepa is this small protected lake and surrounding area. The reserve covers 168ha. A good time to visit is in winter, when there are many waterfowl.

In the north of Malaga province 19km from Antequera is the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra, a famous beautiful lagoon. The largest natural lake in the Iberian Peninsula at 2.5km wide and 6.5km long, it is a haven for birds with over 170 different species recorded here.

This is a unique stretch of near-virgin coastline in Malaga, which runs for 12km east of Nerja to La Herradura in Granada province and covers an area of 1,815ha, including a protected part offshore. Its dramatic rocky steep cliffs (acantilados) plunge down to the sea, leaving a few sheltered bays with beaches inbetween, which can be accessed via staircases or tracks.

The small protected area of the Sierra Crestellina, of 478ha, is a limestone ridge rising to 926m at its highest point. It stretches for 4km north-south, immediately north of the village of Casares.

Located in the southwest part of Malaga province, the Sierra Bermeja is a mountain range with an average height of 1,000m (its highest point being 1,450m), covering 1,236ha. It is an area that has undergone major volcanic activity; the rocks are rich in the olivine mineral. Rainwater has oxidised the iron and magnesium present in the rocks and the iron oxide has coloured the rock reddish-ginger, a hue that gives the sierra its name.