Hidden in the inland of Malaga, not far from the main road to Seville, you find one of the most spectacular karst landscapes, not only in Spain but in Europe. El Torcal de Antequera. It all started around 150 million years ago when this whole area was safely tucked under the Tethys Sea.
One day, the seabed was pushed upwards by brutal movements in the earth’s crust which created hills and mountains. Some of them reached as high as 1300 meters above sea level. The following millions of years, the erosion from rain and wind slowly turned this land into some of the most impressive limestone landscapes on the continent.
El Torcal de Antequera hiking trails make the perfect day out for the whole family with various stunning natural spots to have your lunch in the middle of this imposing landscape, the perfect hiking trails for beginners.
Curious mountain goats wander around, used to hikers, so you are likely to see them pretty close during your hike compared to other places in the country. This also means that you have to take care if you hike with a dog.
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Table of Contents
How to get to El Torcal de Antequera
El Torcal de Antequera is situated about an hour inland from the Malaga coast and close to the villages of Antequera and Villanueva de la Concepción.
Getting to El Torcal by public transport
There is no public transport that goes to El Torcal de Antequera. So if you don’t drive, you’ll have to take the train to Santa Ana Train Station in Antequera and take a taxi from there, which is a 40-minute drive.
The train from Malaga to Santa Ana takes about 45 minutes, from Granada it’s around 50 minutes, and from Seville, it takes close to 2 hours 30 minutes.
Driving to El Torcal
From Malaga, you take the A-45 towards Seville then take the turn towards Villanueva de la Concepción driving along a hairpin mountain road. When you get close, you’ll see a sign to Centro de Visitantes Torcal Alto, there are parking spots at the bottom of the road.
If there are a lot of cars parked there, there is a big chance that the little parking lot at the top by the visitor center is full. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, you need to get there extremely early to have a chance to park at the top. But on weekdays it’s easier.
From Seville it takes 2 hours to drive to El Torcal de Antequera and from Granada it takes 1 hr 30 min.
Shuttle bus between the lower and upper car park
There is a shuttle bus driving up and down when the upper park is full if you don’t want to hike the Orange trail up to the visitor center where the Green and Yellow trail start.
The shuttle bus costs 2 Euros for a return ticket and has to be paid in cash to the driver. You can also opt for taking the bus one way and hike the other way.
You can bring dogs on the shuttle bus as long as you can show documentation for required vaccinations. But the dog needs to go in the carrier in the back.
However, I’ve taken the shuttle bus down from El Torcal once with Ayla and wasn’t asked for anything. She was also allowed on the bus with me, though it was the last shuttle at night and it was pretty much only my friends and me on the bus.
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When is the best time to hike
El Torcal de Antequera hike is perfect in the winter months. Especially if you hike with dogs, as this is an area without pine trees, thus no processionary caterpillars in season.
Between June and September, hiking El Torcal de Antequera will be way too hot, so I really don’t recommend going in that period.
What to bring
Hiking El Torcal de Antequera is not at all challenging so you won’t need a lot of fancy hiking gadgets.
However, if you struggle with your knees and opt for hiking from the lower car park (which I highly recommend because it’s so beautiful), you might find it useful to bring a knee brace or hiking poles.
You don’t need hiking boots for these hikes, but a pair of good hiking shoes or trainers make a big difference on the uneven terrain.
Other than that, it is an area exposed to the sun and on windy days, you really feel it. So here are a few things I recommend you bring in your day pack depending on the weather.
- snacks and lunch
- neck gaiter
- a bag for rubbish
Ethical practices in El Torcal nature reserve
Here are a few things to remember when hiking in El Torcal nature reserve so you contribute to preserving this amazing corner of the world.
- Don’t feed wildlife
- Don’t leave any rubbish behind
- Pick up any rubbish you find along the trail
- Don’t throw food rests in nature (including fruits, nuts, and seeds – it messes up the ecosystem)
- Be respectful to wildlife and avoid scaring or chasing animals
Visitor center and viewpoint
El Torcal Visitor Center has a café where you can get drinks and some snacks. You can also use the toilets at the visitor center.
From there, you can walk about 50 meters to a viewpoint showcasing the spectacular Andalusian countryside.
Next to the viewpoint, there is a plateau of limestone rock where you can walk up for more stunning views. You should also look down, as there are old fossils on the ground you’re stepping on.
From here you’ll also view a good portion of El Torcal from above. If you stay for sunset, this is the spot you wanna be.
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Practical information Orange trail
- Mountain range:Sierra del Torcal
- Length:7,1 km
- Time:3,5 hours
- Route:Round trip
- Starting point: Lower car park
- Hiking with dogs: Allowed on a leash
Hiking El Torcal de Antequera Orange trail
The orange trail of El Torcal de Antequera is perfect to combine with either the green or yellow route. This trail takes you from the lower car park and up to the upper car park where the visitor center is and where the two other trails start.
Walking from the lower car park, you’ll find the trail on the left side of the paved road going straight up past an old refuge and continuing up towards the unique karst landscape.
It takes a couple of hours up and at some point you’ll meet the paved road where you can walk the last hundred meters to the upper car park and visitor center. You’ll see the green and yellow trailhead to the right at the beginning of the car park.
Practical information Green trail
- Mountain range:Sierra del Torcal
- Length:1.5 km
- Time:45 min
- Route:Round trip
- Starting point: Upper car park
- Hiking with dogs: Allowed on a leash
Hiking El Torcal de Antequera Green trail
The green trail is the easiest and shortest of all the trails, but no less beautiful. both the green and the yellow trails start at the same place at the beginning of the upper car park.
Walking on uneven terrain, it keeps going together with the yellow route for a few hundred meters before it opens up and the yellow goes to the right, and the green cuts across the opening on the left side.
Venturing through unique rock formations that will let your imagination loose, you’re likely to have met your first mountain goat long before you arrive at the visitor center and end of the route.
Practical information Yellow trail
- Mountain range:Sierra del Torcal
- Length:2.8 km
- Time:2 hours
- Route:Round trip
- Starting point: Upper car park
- Hiking with dogs: Allowed on a leash
Hiking El Torcal de Antequera Yellow trail
The yellow trail is the second route starting from the beginning of the upper parking lot. Merged with the green trail for the first hundreds meters, it continues on the right side of the open space you’ll come to. There are signs, so you shouldn’t manage to get lost.
The trail takes you to the Torcal Alto and takes you through narrow caves in the rock and other interesting reminders of early cave settlement in the area. This is a fun route to take for the whole family. Parts of this trail are shaded through a little forest.
The last bit of the trail meets up with the green route again not long before returning to the starting point by the visitor center.
Reflections on hiking El Torcal de Antequera
Hiking in El Torcal de Antequera is a wonderful day out. It’s one of those places that you can go to over and over again as you’ll always see different figures in the landscape and there are really big chances of seeing mountain goats close up.
Unless you have small children, I highly recommend that you do the orange trail combined with one of the others (the yellow is the most interesting one for sure) to get more hiking done. The views from the orange trail are undeniably some of the best up there.
A truly top notch hiking spot in Andalucia.
Other unique hiking trails:
- Ruta de Los Cahorros in Monachil
- La Concha on Costa del Sol
- Rio Molinos in Bayarcal, Almeria
- Caminito del Rey, Malaga
- Arabic Staircase, Malaga
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