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EL TORCAL NATURAL PARK AND NATURE RESERVE

 

Firstly the boring bit.  In the Jurassic period around 150 million years ago El Torcal was at the bottom of the ocean, the Earths crust was forced upwards when mountains were formed and the limestone setting of El Torcal was formed at some 1200 metres (4000 feet) above sea level.  The wind and rain over the millennia has eroded the limestone to form the weird and wonderful shapes that cover some 20 sq km (12 sq miles). 

Even if you have no interest in how the formations came about you cannot help but be awed and amazed by the extraordinary landscape

 

There are towers with layers stacked so high that they seem to defy gravity .  Panoramic views that keep us coming back as they are always different, we have been here on fine sunny days when you can see forever, on one occasion we drove through the clouds and from the summit stood in brilliant sunshine looking down on the other mountain peeks jutting through a floor of white fluffy cloud.
The seemingly barren landscape appears to be incapable of supporting life but the park is home to an amazing variety of flora and fauna.  There are reportedly 30 varieties of orchids growing here, six of which are apparently exclusive to El Torcal.  The spanish ibex is reasonably common and there are foxes, rabbits and other small mammals.  However one of the greatest delights is to arrive early as the sun is heating the ground and forming thermals as the heat rises you are treated to the wonderful sight of Eagles and Vultures hitching a gentle lift to work.  Literally dozens of them pass in front of you (within feet of the "mirador" viewing platform, when they gain enough height they break away and disperse over the surrounding countryside for a days hunting.  Later in the day you can still catch a glimpse of the larger birds cruising, and certainly other birds of prey including falcons and sparrow hawks.
There are three walks through the park for the hardy and have been marked out with different coloured arrows on wooden sticks. The green route crosses the summit and is the shortest and easiest, 1,5 km.(about a mile) and takes about 30 - 40 minutes. The yellow route covers most of the green area, is 2,5 km. (just over a mile and a half) long and takes you to "Las Ventanillas" The Windows, at 1.200 m. for panoramic views of the valley of Málaga. Finally the red route is the longest and most difficult, 4,5 km.(close to three miles) taking about three hours, with a viewing point 1.340 m. up where you can see the whole of the El Torcal Park.  Also a very short distance from the car park is a "mirador" or viewing platform with fantastic views and an orientation table, that points out Villanueva de la Concepcion, the region of Campanillas River and Málaga, and on a clear day the coast of Africa.

Should you prefer to be "chauffeur driven" please contact us for details of our MPV service we drive you sit back and relax in air conditioned comfort and take advantage of the extended lunch.

Click here to contact us

LA LAGUNA DE FUENTE DE PIEDRA

OK - I realise that if you don't speak spanish that La laguna de fuente de piedra is a daunting title, but as long as you can find it on the map you will find that it has been been well worth your while remembering.

Laguna de Fuente de Piedra consists of a large lagoon, with brackish water. The lake is 2.5 kilometres wide and 6.5 kilometres long, and has the breeding colony of Flamingos to be found inland in Europe. The water is never more than four feet deep.

Although you are not allowed into the the lake itself, everything can be seen from outside the fence, there is a viewing area just in front of the reception building.

Make sure that you go into the reception building and shop, where off to the right is an excellent interactive exhibition with pictures and models supplying stacks of information about the flora and fauna of the reserve.  There is also a small cinema that shows some really amazing photographs of the lake in all seasons and although the commentary is in spanish  you really do not have to understand as the brilliant pictures speak for themselves.

AND ONCE AGAIN IT IS ALL FREE

Next to the reception area is a small lake with reed beds where Terns can be seen as well as Reed Warblers and other species. Nevertheless, most of the fame of Fuente de Piedra is due to the Flamingos. It holds the largest colony of breeding Greater Flamingos

in Spain and, together with Camargue in France, is the most important breeding place for these birds in Europe. Up to 11,000 pairs breed here during the good years, though there have been years when not a single pair was able to breed because of the low water levels during dry periods. Other special breeding species also use the lake.  In winter, the area is a good place to see wintering Cranes and Stone Curlews which can be found in the surrounding fields. During spring migration, it is an attractive site for Waders. In summer, it is advisable to visit early in the morning as the sun haze at noon makes identification of the the birds impossible. Temperatures can become very hot in this area.

During dry years (1994-95, for example) the lake might be totally empty and when this happens birds are scarce.

Historically the water was renowned for its curative powers, and gave the town its name. Those who drink it will be cured of their "mal de la piedra", illness of the stone, meaning gall stones. After the Moorish domination, the town was abandoned in 1461, reconstructed once more in 1547. Then followed its period of maximum splendour, with the water being exported as far as the Kingdom of Naples and America. But  after a series of epidemics in the 18th and early 19th centuries decimated the population of the town, and the fountain had to be lifted and brought to another site, and it was believed that this caused the water to lose its curative properties, and the fountain was abandoned, to be finally covered over in 1959.

In 1994 it was restored and it can now be seen in the Plaza de la Constitución. The history of the town itself has always been closely linked with the history of the salt lake, the Laguna Salada. This was worked for the extraction of salt from Roman times until 1951. The lake was named a National Hunting Refuge in 1981.

PARQUE ARDALES AND EL CHORRO

The town of Ardales is surrounded by beautiful countryside, particularly because of the three made made reservoirs that supply the province of Malaga.  These are all massive the El Conde de Guadalhorce, El Guadalteba and El Guadalhorce.  The Parque Ardales takes in El conde de Guadalhorce and scenery is constantly changing with the seasons, as the water rises and falls (it is around 40% full in the picture below)

  If you can make the trip in the springtime mid January - February and early March and are fortunate enough to catch the Almond trees that line the Ardales end of the shore in bloom you cant expect a breathtaking vista of the deep blue water and masses of the pink almond blossom making a frame that changes with every twist in winding road that follows the contours of the lake.

 

 

 

 

There are idyllic campsites, restaurants, bars, tapas kiosks, pleasant walks, you can rent a kyak, fish, swim, relax on a beach.  In fact all of the recreation available on the crowded coast is here and relatively remote.

The Park also incorporates "El Chorro" where sheer rocks rise from the deep green water resembling the hide of an Elephant with deep grey wrinkles.  A great favourite with rock climbers and another spot where if you look you are almost guaranteed to see an Eagle soaring around the peaks.

 
 
Now for lunch - if you have planned your day right you should be here between 1.00 pm and 4.00 pm
By now your senses must be reeling with the variety of the scenery and natural delights that you have encountered and be ready for your lunch
The Restaurante Garganta is a gastronomic experience at reasonable prices with sensational views - Lunching here makes the trip worthwhile even without the mornings delights
 

A great menu and this view

I have no ties with this restaurant other than thinking that it is exceptional both in the cuisine and location.  Besides the pictures restaurant there is a first floor restaurant that serves a buffet, which I cannot comment on as I have never made it past the main restaurant.  There is also a very busy outside terrace, serving drinks as well as food.  The menu has a starters section followed by first courses and then main courses.  The first courses are huge and I would recommend that one between two people is more than sufficient there are many dishes that are easily recognised and some that you may not have tried before, how about MIGAS, a delicious dish based on fried breadcrumbs or REVUELTA, scrambled egg with mushroom or asparagus.  A word of warning to the slimmer's butter is used with abandon as is garlic.  The main courses offer various fish dishes, lamb, steaks, and venison all cooked to absolute perfection.  No matter how busy it gets the food is not neglected, reckon on a first course costing around 6 or 7 euros - main course 10 euros and a bottle of wine from 7 euros. say 20/25 euros including wine.  I really cannot comment on the sweets they again are huge but I have never managed to get that far.

 

Should you prefer to be "chauffeur driven" please contact us for details of our MPV service we drive you sit back and relax in air conditioned comfort and take advantage of the extended lunch.  Click here to contact us