A holiday isn’t always sipping cocktails on a rooftop terrace or soaking up the sun on white sandy beaches. For some, it’s seeking out adventure, it’s cycling through the most beautiful landscapes, or it’s working on an olive farm while experiencing the culture. For me, it’s being in nature hiking through the most beautiful natural parks the world over, which is why I sought out the best hiking near Marbella.
Parque Natural Los Alcornocales
Stretching 170,000 hectares and into 17 Andalusian municipalities, Los Alcornocales is known for its history, caves, and cork oak trees. Travelers can take part in eco-tours to learn about the harvesting and processing of cork, or simply delve into the natural surroundings. Explore caves, disconnect while wandering through the heavily wooded trails, relax next to babbling brooks, and, if you’re lucky, observe the wildlife that call the park home.
Torcal de Antequera
One of the most impressive Karst landscapes in all of Europe, the rock formations at Torcal de Antequera are not to miss if you’re in Andalusia. The Jurassic-age limestone is over 150 million years old, giving it just enough time to create a breathtaking view from land and impressive caves under the surface for those willing to explore — some of them of historical importance like the Cueva del Toro, Bull Cave, with its Neolithic artifacts. You’ll find twisted rock formations called tornillos or screws throughout the park, another unique structure created over millions of years.
El Chorro is one of the most popular rock climbing areas in Spain, and climbers, hikers, and bikers alike frequent the area. The Gaitanes Gorge which runs from the Embalse del Gaitanejo to El Chorro is famous for a dangerous footpath called El Caminito del Rey (the King’s Little Path) which just reopened to the public in March 2015 after a 2.8 million euro restoration project. Although it’s officially open to all, it’s still a path that requires a strong stomach and no fear of heights!
Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema + Sierra de Las Nieves
Both natural parks are mountainous regions with flora and fauna and Karst landscapes creating bold rock faces and deep, wondrous caves. In both natural parks, there are various trails for those looking for an easy hike to more challenging paths. Both the Sierra Grazalema and Sierra de Las Nieves are home to smaller white villages providing a picturesque backdrop for a lunch in the southern Spanish province after a morning on the trail.
Even if you don’t have a car (or a friend with a car!) there are many trails close by that you can reach by walking from many Marbella hotels or by taking a taxi. Despite being in the center of the city, natural parks are within reach. Plan ahead, bring a picnic, and always check in to let others know you’ll be in the mountains. As always with Mother Nature, she’s in charge and it’s important to respect the conditions and not put yourself in any danger. And once you’re there, don’t forget to take a minute to stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment.
*Image by Matthew Karsten via Trover.com