Hiking El Torcal de Antequera is a must do on a trip to Andalucia. Located only 45 kilometres from Malaga, El Tocal has some amazing unique karst formations which formed 150 million years ago, in the Mesozoic age, when this entire area was a seabed, deep underwater. Can you imagine that, knowing that now the Torcal is 1200 meters high?
The Torcal of Antequera has its own microclimate which helped shaping the limestone formations. Many of the caves around El Torcal have paintings and remains of the prehistoric man, believed to date back to the Megalithic age.
Hiking in El Torcal de Antequera is a unique experience and, if you haven’t decided yet to add it to your Andalucia itinerary, I hope my post and my photos from my recent hiking trip there will convince you.
How to Get to El Torcal de Antequera
Getting to El Torcal de Antequera is easy, both from Malaga and from Granada. I started my trip in Malaga and drove to El Torcal. There is no public transport to the National Park so, if you don’t have a car, the best way to reach the visitors centre is by taxi from Antequera.
The chances are that if you have landed on my article you are planning a stunning trip around Andalucia and therefore renting a car to reach all the off the beaten path places Southern Spain has to offer. When I travel I usually rent cars through Holiday Extras because they are very transparent with the fees and warn you about all the extras. As you probably know, many websites will advertise renting cars in Spain for 2 euros/day. That is not the case, as when you reach the rental office you will be hit with additional fees and insurances that will raise the fares to around 20 euros/day. Better to know beforehand what to expect and pay a fair price for your rental car.
From Malaga it takes around one hour to reach El Torcal de Antequera. Most of the way is on the A45 (or AP46 – a toll road which costs 3.60 euros) highway towards Granada, only the last 20 kilometres or so will be on a mountain road. Once you reach Villanueva de la Conception village, the scenery becomes so pretty! The road continues to climb up the mountain, forcing you to go slow (I used mostly the second gear) and giving you the chance to take a quick glance at the landscape below it. You can see all the way up to Morocco!
The visitors centre at El Torcal de Antequera has plenty of parking spaces. There is no charge to park your car here.
You can hike El Torcal de Antequera as an easy day trip from either Malaga (check out my free things to do in Malaga post) or Granada (check out my off the beaten path guide to Granada). Or you can stop overnight in Antequera, which is what I did.
For another great road trip in the area, check out my road trip through the Alpujarras post.
Where to Stay When you Hike El Torcal de Antequera
I booked the Hotel Convento La Magdalena for my trip to Antequera. Located in the beautiful countryside, surrounded by olive tree orchards and with a view towards the El Torcal de Antequera, this five-star hotel with a spa used to be an old monastery. I booked this hotel because it provided free parking, spa and breakfast for only 75 euros per double room.
The hotel is pretty spectacular because it kept so many of the architectural elements of the old convent. Every two rooms have a massive private lounge with a fireplace and banquet dining tables. The spa was lovely as well, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the valley below. It was so good to relax in the jacuzzi after the hike. As I visit in November, the summer terrace wasn’t open, but I do plan to return in a warmer month for at least a few days to do a detox in nature. The only sounds I could hear around the hotel were the birds and the donkeys.
Oh, and another amazing thing about this hotel is that they kept the original church, through which you have to pass when going from the rooms to the spa. It is quite a sight. You can read my full review of the hotel by clicking here.
What to Wear When Hiking El Torcal de Antequera
Even if the most popular trails are relatively flat, don’t imagine that you can hike with sandals or, even worse, flip flops. Proper hiking boots with very good grip are recommended. I completed the Yellow Trail from El Torcal de Antequera wearing hiking boots with ankle protection and I still struggled. The path is very rocky and slippery, especially if it rained recently, which happened during my trip there. I had to use my arms to jump through rocks quite a few times.
The weather changed quickly during the two hours hike. I started the hike on a cloudy sky, passed through fog and a bit of wind, only for the sun to come out towards the end. On top of my tshirt I wore a jumper and a wind breaker, which was very useful. For the legs, I wore a pair or jeggings, which allowed me to move freely. I wouldn’t recommend jeans as they restrict your movements.
If you happen to have trekking poles with you, do bring them along. They can be helpful, especially downhill.
So, to recap:
- Proper hiking boots with good grip
- Waterproof windbreaker jacket
- A jumper
- Sunscreen, in summer
- A hat, in summer
- At least 2 litres of water for all the trails except the Green one
- Trekking poles (optional)
Hiking Trails at El Torcal de Antequera:
The Green Trail
The Green Trail is the easiest of all. It has 1.5 kilometres and it can be easily completed in 30 – 45 minutes. If you don’t have much time, or if you are traveling with children, this is a great option to get to experience the landscape from El Torcal de Antequera.
The Yellow Trail
The Yellow Trail is 3 kilometres long and it’s marked as medium difficulty. I personally wouldn’t say it was difficult. What I struggled with mostly was the mud, which made the path very slippery. It takes 2 hours to complete this trail, because of the rough terrain, mostly covered with stones and rocks.
The Orange Trail
The Orange trail starts at the entrance to the National Park and finishes at the Visitors Centre. This is a 3.6 kilometres long path (one way) and it is marked as difficult. Driving from the entrance to the national park to the Visitors Centre, I can tell you that the difference in altitude is quite noticeable, so if you want to hike the Orange Trail, you will need to expect a steeper path. The gradient of this path is +263 meters. However, this trail is very rewarding when it comes to viewpoints, following old canals and shepherds’ refugees.
The Red Trail
The Red Trail is not marked and can only be done with an organised tour from the visitor’s centre, only on certain days. This is a very hard route, 8 kilometres long, that takes 5 hours to complete. By going with a guide, you will learn about the geology, the flora, the fauna and the traces left by the prehistoric man in the Torcal de Antequera. You will also see fossils. Children under 10 years old and people with reduced mobility can’t join this hike. The cost of the hike is 16 euros per person, and you can book it by clicking here. During summer there are several other guided hikes organised by the Visitors Centre which you find out more about by clicking here.
In the warmer months, the local observatory is organising star gazing nights. Because there is no light pollution up there, the stars can be observed clearly. You can check the next activity by clicking here and sign up by clicking here. Unfortunately, the website is in Spanish with no English translation. I don’t know if the star gazing evenings are bilingual or not.
The Yellow Trail – in detail
The Yellow Trail, same as the Green Trail, start in the parking lot. They are joined for the first few hundred meters. The scenery is spectacular from the first steps and doesn’t disappoint as you follow the markers.
El Torcal de Antequera doesn’t only have unique rock formations but also a diverse flora and fauna. One of them is the Montpellier Maple Tree from the Green Route, which is dominating the view at its 9 meters height. This tree is very vulnerable, and it is included on the Red Book of Endangered Wild Flora of Andalucia. It’s pretty amazing how this tree pretty much grows out of the bare rocks. I would love to see it again in spring, with leaves on it. I can imagine it’s quite a spectacular sight.
The path follows a very rocky area, after which the two trails split: the green one returns back to the visitors centre, whilst the yellow one continues upwards. Whilst the terrain remains the same, the trail goes through narrower passageways, up and down. Some parts of the trail might seem hard to figure out how to cross, but just use your arms and you will manage to pass through. The narrowest section is somewhere halfway, where I had to cross between two stone walls, on one side. It was pretty cool.
Reaching the highest point of the Yellow Trail, I could observe a few Iberian Ibex (mountain goats) staring at me from the top of the cliffs).
There are quite a few places to stop along the route, to catch your breath or just meditate a little bit. During my hike I only met two other people on the Yellow Trail, so I could pretty much enjoy it all to myself.
When you finish the hike, don’t forget to pass by the “Mirador Las Ventillas”, which is located at the end of a wooden walkway, just in front of the visitors centre. From here, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Morocco.
Practical Information About Hiking El Torcal de Antequera
- The visitors centre has a small café and also toilets. If you want to bring your own food, there are a few picnic tables on the green spaces around the parking.
- You can learn more about the karst formations in the Visitors Centre, from where you can also buy a map of the hike, with geological information about the areas you will be passing through.
- The weather at El Torcal de Antequera can change very quickly. I left from a very sunny Malaga only to reach a cloudy, foggy, El Torcal de Antequera. Also, the temperatures can be quite extreme up there, in summer especially. The best seasons to hike El Torcal de Antequera is autumn or spring.
- Make sure you bring plenty of water with you, at least two litres.
- Remember not to leave any trace behind you. This is a natural park.
- At El Torcal de Antequera there are trails for everyone, from children to experienced hikers.
- You can visit El Torcal de Antequera year-round, free. Just keep in mind that the extreme temperatures in summer and the rainy season in winter can make the trails hard to navigate.
- Do not leave the marked path. Because of the fog and the similar landscape, it is easy to get lost around El Torcal de Antequera. Also, do not enter inside the caves. Whilst on the path the chances of meeting the local fauna are very slim, off if though there are snakes, including the Montpellier – one of the few venomous in Spain.
Have you been to El Torcal de Antequera before? Are you planning to hike El Torcal de Antequera during your trip in Andalucia? I would love to hear your opinions and questions in the comment section below.
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