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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.

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.

Inside five small dolmens (standing stones) can be viewed. They are original and date from about 3,000 BC. Also on display are a number of pottery vessels, stone tools, arrowheads, axes, personal ornaments, necklace beads made of semi-precious stones and perforated seashells. The skulls and skeletons and other bones on display are reproductions as the originals are preserved.

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 area of wine production known as the Serrania de Ronda forms part of the DO Sierras of Malaga, producing what are popularly known as 'the Ronda Wines'. Here modern bodegas at over 750m altitude in the Serrania de Ronda produce young red wines from Romé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo. Their white wine varieties include Chardonnay, Macabeo, Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc.

Just outside Antequera you can visit three 5000-year-old dolmens: Menga Dolmen (the largest in Europe) and Viera Dolmen, which are both located just outside the town, while El Romeral Dolmen is a few km away. These three prehistoric burial chambers represent some of the largest and most complete megalithic structures in Europe.

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.