El Torcal de Antequera Natural Area

El Torcal, Antequera, Andalucia. Spain © Michelle Chaplow
El Torcal de Antequera Natural Area boasts one of the most dramatic and exceptional karstic landscapes in Europe

Torcal de Antequera Natural Area

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 whole area was under the sea until 150 million years ago. The violent movements of the earth's crust then forced it upwards into hills and mountains, some 1,300m high. The limestone retained its horizontal strata, which over the years have been eroded by the rain and wind to form the incredible shapes you can see today.

Geologically, the area can be divided into four sections: Sierra Pelada, Torcal Alto, Torcal Bajo and Tajos and Laderas. Torcal Alto is the most impressive, divided from Torcal Bajo by a magnificent rocky ridge, Las Vilaneras, which has the highest point in El Torcal at 1,336m, known as Camorro de las Siete Meses.

There are also caves, like the Cueva del Toro, where Neolithic remains have been discovered.

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At the car park is an information centre, a small museum on the area's flora and fauna, a cafe and an astronomical observatory. It is the starting points of walks.


There is no accommodation in the small natural area. Stay in one of the villages nearby. There are a hotels in Villanueva de la Concepción, and Antequera nearby.

Hotels in Villanueva de la Concepcion

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Finca amorosa

Boasting mountain views, Finca amorosa provides accommodation with terrace, around 46 km from Jorge Rando Museum. The property has garden views and is 47 km from Museum of Glass and Crystal and 47 km from Picasso Museum. The bed and breakfast features rooms with air conditioning, free private parking and free WiFi.

Hotels in Antequera town

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Hotel Manzanito

Featuring a terrace, Hotel Manzanito is located in Antequera in the Andalucía region, 49 km from Jorge Rando Museum and 50 km from Museum of Glass and Crystal. With a shared lounge, the 2-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. Private parking can be arranged at an extra charge.

Coso Viejo

Coso Viejo is a typical 18th-century Andalusian house, situated in the historic centre of Antequera. It offers free Wi-Fi and air-conditioned rooms with satellite TV.

Each bright, spacious room at Coso Viejo is equipped with a free safe. A hairdryer and toiletries can be found in the private bathrooms.

Camping Torcal, 6km south of Antequera, has a swimming pool and bungalows to rent. It's on the Antequera-Villanueva de la Concepción A-7075 road.

Despite its rocky terrain, the Torcal area has an impressive range of flora, with over 650 plant species - including 30 varieties of orchid - being recorded here. There are many other wildflowers, like peonies, dwarf irises and rock roses. Lichens and bracken are also abundant here. Rock plants like various species of toadflax grow on the limestone itself.

Between the rocks are holm oaks, gall oaks, elder, hawthorn and maple.

Declared a special protection area for birds (ZEPA), the Torcal area supports a rich birdlife. Raptors seen soaring above the rocks often include sparrowhawks, common kestrels, peregrines, griffon vultures, Bonelli's eagles, and at night, little owls and eagle owls. Other birds are those commonly found in rocky areas and cliffs, like crag martins, black wheateaters and red-billed choughs.

Mammals are few in the park, but there are dormice, rabbits, badgers, weasels, foxes and the occasional Spanish ibex. Reptiles are numerous, such as ocellated lizards, spine-footed lizards, southern wall lizards, ladder snakes and Montpellier snakes.

Three walks have been signposted in the area. Make sure you've got good walking shoes or trainers and in warmer weather take plenty of water.

Ruta Verde (green route) is the easiest and shortest, at 1½km, and takes about 40 minutes.

Ruta Amarilla (yellow route), at 2½km long, covers most of the green one and another kilometre, taking you to Las Ventanillas (Small Windows) at 1,200m with panoramic views of Malaga.

Ruta Roja (red route) is the longest, at 4½km long, and takes around three hours. It has a viewpoint at 1,339m, where you can see the whole of the Torcal area and, on clear days, the African coastline.

You are highly recomended not to leave sight of these walk and not go walking (without a guide) through the rocks yourself (as the video above) since many visitors have become completely disoriented and unable to find their way back. 

Villages nearby:
Villanueva de la Concepción

Extra reading

Five fascinating facts on Antequera

For more information about El Torcal read El Torcal de Antequera in the Andalucia magazine and another page with suggested walks.

Searching for Spanish Ibex

Video from wildlife photographer Marcos G. Meider in search of the Spanish Ibex mountain goat in El Torcal Natural Park early one cold morning. It includes " a compilation of images that I've taken during my years visiting this brilliant place."


From Malaga head 20km north on the A45. At the Puerto de las Pedrizas, Km 148, turn left to Villanueva de la Concepción and then follow the signs to El Torcal, about 1km out of the village.

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