5 Natural Wonders of Andalusia: between Crazy Hiking Trails, Thunderstorms and Hot Deserts.

August 19, 2018

Ronda, Andalusia, Spain
Ronda in the evening light

I'm standing on the edge of the city and at the same time on the precipice. We are in Ronda and looking down over a hundred meters - just some steps away from the last houses. It's like the white buildings were spraying over the cliffs like spindrift. At the same time, the pale and warm evening light sinks over the landscape. At Puente Nuevo the lights are illuminating the gorge between the two districts with fiery orange.

From here we start our expeditions into the wild nature and the hinterland of Andalusia. Beside big cities like Seville, Granada and Malaga, lay remote beaches, picturesque mountains with unbelievable hiking trails on wooden planks and rocky landscapes that are comparable to the National Parks in Utah and Colorado. I take you to the five most beautiful natural wonders of Andalusia. I hope you're free from vertigo and ready for an adventure!

1. Caminito del Rey

Walking along the abyss at Caminito del Rey
Walking along the abyss at Caminito del Rey

After we have parked the car precisely at the precipice, we take a last look at the tickets and set off. For a long time Caminito del Rey was one of the most dangerous hiking trails of the world because it was in a very bad condition. It was even closed to the public. The original path was built between 1901 and 1905 and spanned the Gaitanes Gorge for better exchange between the communities on the various sides. Of course, therefore one builds a 1.8 miles long, completely crazy track, which leads along vertical rock walls on planks. That would not happen today in times of wifi and drones. Too bad - because the Caminito del Rey is just breathtaking.

Unfortunately, over time the path became impassable. Which did not prevent some hikers from still climbing the route anyway. Between 1999 and 2000 numerous adventurers had an accident on this trail - four of them died. In March 2015, the completely restored trail reopened to visitors. And was promptly overrun. That is why there is now a ticket system in which only about 15 to 20 people every half an hour are permitted to walk the trail.

Caminito del Rey, Andalusia, hiking trail
Looks like Zion - but it's Andalusia
That means you are almost completely alone on the trail and can observe the unbelievable nature undisturbed. That also means that tickets are extremely scarce and sold online for ages in advance. They are usually sold out for up to three months. They cost $12. The Caminito del Rey is not a circular route, but runs linearly. So you have to either walk the same way back and forth or buy a bus ticket for $1,70 to take a shuttle bus from the south entrance back to the north entrance, which is definitely more pleasant. The climb itself is no longer dangerous! Nevertheless, here and there a bundle of nerves flutters when the view falls through the wooden planks into the 300 feet deep abyss, were a turquoise river thunders through.
The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and almost comparable to Zion National Park in the USA. As we walk over the path, strong wind whistles, which makes the enormous temperatures of 95 degrees a little more bearable. However, the gusts also set the highlight of the path - the freely swinging bridge over the gorge - in motion. Extra freely swinging on this day. The helmets are distributed by the operators of the Caminito del Rey at the entrance. They are compulsory and a purely protective measure for insurance reasons. The trail itself is about 1.8 miles long. The walk from the car park to the northern entrance of the path is about 1 mile (partly through a tunnel) and the path from the end of the path to the southern entrance is another 1.7 miles long. It takes you about 4 hours at a slow pace with many stops for a great view and photo options. Climbing skills are not necessary and Alex has even mastered the path despite his fear of heights!


2. Torcal de Antequera

Beautiful rocks at Torcal de Antequera
Beautiful rocks at Torcal de Antequera
"This is Bryce Canyon - only in gray!" This first reaction to the sight of Torcal de Antequera hits the mark. Like enchanted statues the jagged rocks pile up under the blue sky. We decide to walk the medium-long hiking trail through the large area and stomp over wrinkled stones, dust and branches for two hours. On the left and right, magical rock forms rise up like cathedrals, while an eagle circles quietly. Suddenly it snorts in the light wind. We're stopping. A goat runs diagonally across the deep crevasses as if walking down a promenade. It doesn't look that svelte with us. Especially not when I slide my ass over a slab of stone because I don't dare to jump. In general, however, the trail is also easily passable without hiking equipment. In the morning around 9 am it is still quiet and even in midsummer it is cool. Besides, the light is fantastic!


Torcal de Antequera, nature in Andalusia, lonelyroadlover
Blue sky and grey rocks - infinity at Torcal de Antequera

There is also a shorter trail for families with children and an even longer trail, but it is not a circular trail - for the supernerds among hikers. You can park for free at the visitor center and even send off your postcards there.


It is hard to imagine, however, that at this point - so high in the Andalusian mountains - there was once a sea. Stone deposits have formed layers of lime. When Europe and Africa collided (so that was a really long time ago!), the landscape unfolded uniquely. The area is between 3.600 and 4.600 feet high. If you have binoculars with you, you can see not only goats but also reptiles and an incredible number of birds. We spent a whole morning wondering about the stacked stone formations and realizing once again that no futuristic urban design can beat the beauty of nature. The entrance to Torcal de Antequera is free.

3. Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada, Andalusia
Chasing clouds at Sierra Nevada

The road winds down into the valley like a knotted shoelace. The large, green lake at the bottom is now only a small spot that shines in the landscape. We went up to an altitude of more than 6.500 feet after we started from Granada off to the northern side of the Sierra Nevada to the visitor center of El Dornajo. This does not take long by car - only about 30 minutes.


The car roars in second gear as we puff up the steep mountain roads. Behind the dark fir trees, a view breaks out for which I would plunge into the abyss - if it were not so counterproductive. We stop dozens of times in the small bays at the roadside and drive up to Mirador Monte ahi de Cara. This is the moment when I would like to pack and store the breathtaking landscape in small glasses like the sand I fill up at the beaches around the world to put it on my shelf.

Road trip Sierra Nevada, Andalusia
This is something for all the lonelyroadlovers
Unfortunately we don't see any snow at this altitude in the middle of August, but it is a pleasant 70 degrees cool and green trees, barren steppes, white cotton clouds and a glimps of being the king of the world dance around. The Sierra Nevada is a natural park in huge parts and not an area through which one can drive comfortably by car, as in some National Parks in the USA. At certain points only hiking is possible, which we unfortunately do not tackle, because we are planning on going to the Desert of Tabernas in the evening, which can be done in one day without being in a hurry. For a great view into the Sierra Nevada our small tour is definitely enough.
In the south of the area you can also see wonderful white villages like Bubión or Trevélez. But there is no road going from the northern Sierra Nevada near El Dornajo down to these villages! You'll have to put up with several hours of driving around the area. Also keep in mind that the roads are very curvy and narrow and you can usually only drive 20 to 30 mph. It's not dangerous, but here 3 miles can take much more time than a ride on a highway, so you shouldn't write too much on your daily schedule. In winter, the Sierra Nevada is also a great skiing area. There is no general admission to the nature park.

4. Tabernas Desert

From Granada to Tabernas
One of those beautiful roads from Granada to Tabernas
The only desert in Europe - wow! The driest place in Europe - even more wow! And what happens then? An apocalyptic thunderstorm breaks out and we look breathlessly at the shredded black clouds. Welcome to Tabernas Desert! As soon as we can lower the windshield wiper's alertness, a landscape opens up in front of us that would again fit very well into the USA. The memories of my four-month solo trip are bubbling on my mind and we thunder towards the pastel-coloured mountains with their wavy and wrinkled form on a 50 percent gradient. During the day it can get up to 120 degrees. There are about 3000 hours of sunshine a year. Here, too, you can park comfortably at the visitor center and hike through the desert free of charge. As it is getting late in the evening (especially in summer I recommend not to come here between 1 pm and 5 pm because of the enormous heat!), first pink stripes appear on the horizon. At the same time, a foggy, bluish veil covers the mountains.


Lonelyroadlover in the middle of Tabernas Desert
Me in front of those wonderful rocks

There are various hiking trails, which constantly open up new, grandiose views over the wonderfully shaped landscape. The soil is dry, but the wasteland seems like a mysterious painting. "I keep thinking it's all just a canvas," Alex says in the silence. Nothing to hear but the wind. Not even goats. While I dig my water bottle out of my backpack after only three minutes, as if I had been in the Sahara for two weeks, I look at the thorny bushes, the black beetle on the ground and the golden blades of grass on the tops.


The evening light pours mysterious light over Tabernas Desert, draws deep and long shadows and slowly cools the lands. In addition to nature, you can also visit the scenery of western villages, some of which can be seen in films such as "Once Upon a Time in the West" or "Lawrence of Arabia". However, the villages are of course artificially created and some now have the character of amusement parks and cost a lot of entrance fees. Since I'm not so enthusiastic about such attractions, we save the $25 for the Wild West Jurassic crap and instead sit on some stones in the middle of the desert and enjoy the sunset. The silver sickle of the moon hangs over leafless trees, while the stones on the ground glow pink. From Tabernas Desert to Granada it is about 83 miles and to Almería about 18 miles. The route from Granada to Tabernas is spectacular with its red rocks, canyons and the Sierra Nevada in the background.

5. Alcaidesa Beach

The beautiful Rock of Gibraltar at Alcaidesa Beach
The beautiful Rock of Gibraltar
But enough rocks now! After all, there is also the sea in Andalusia - twice! First the Atlantic near Cádiz and then the Mediterranean near Marbella, Málaga and Almería. Unfortunately, the beaches along the tourist cities (in summer) are often overcrowded. And by that I mean an army of parasols between which you can no longer see the sand. In addition, many places are ruined with skyscrapers, hotels and bars. Nevertheless, there are insider tips, natural beaches and remote paradises, which I cannot present here in detail.
But I would like to recommend one beach: Alcaidesa Beach near Algeciras. Not only is it 1 mile long and 200 feet wide, it also has a magnificent view of the Rock of Gibraltar, which seems to sink into the water like a Titanic out of stone. The sand is dark gray and the whole area is surrounded by high rocks with palm trees. Even in the high season in the afternoon, there are no huge crowds.


Sunrise at Alcaidesa Beach
Sunrise at Alcaidesa Beach

Funnily enough you have to pass a control house with a barrier at the entrance, because the beach belongs to the in-crowd housing estate La Alcaidesa. However, there are no entrance fees, special authorisations or parking fees, which is why the job in the control house seemed a little pointless to us. Probably the guy in there would rather lie on the beach as well than let crazy people in and out all day, whom he is not even allowed to bully. We manage to visit the beach at sunrise. Holy moly! The sky seems to be covered with red, pink, violet, blue and yellow and we can pop ourselves on a rock like Caspar David Friedrich and look into infinity.

Also, with luck, you'll find large brown shells in the sand. Restrooms and showers are also available. However, you should bring a paraso (yes, that annoying thing that ruins the atmosphere  at beaches!), because there is no shade down there. Because we found Alcaidesa Beach so incredibly beautiful, we even drove back another 50 miles from Marbella in one evening.


If you have any questions about details of the natural wonders of Andalusia, don't hesitate to write me a comment, an email or a message on Facebook or Instagram. And now get yourself out of the house!

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