El Torcal is a wonder that can not be missed if in the area of Granada. It is like walking through a city of stone, traveling to another planet, or a Jodorowsky movie set (the Holy Mountain).
This is a mountain 17km south of Antequera. Its steep sides are primarily cliffs, like a great fortress rising out of the hills, impregnable. From its bottom one could not guess what is on top, just another mountain of rock debri. Its secret is revealed as we take the very steep road, seeking out the easiest passages like a goat track, upwards to its top. Then the mystery of this mountain is revealed. It plateaus out onto twelve square kilometers of limestone rock formations that have been carved first by the ocean millions of years ago, then by wind and rain, freezing winters, ice ages and earthquakes. The result is twelve kilometers of limestone blocks, chasms, gorges, rock stacks, piles, creating the weirdest landscape. Some of the most unusual rocks have won affectionate names such as the Camel and Canary. Some balance precariously on others like a ball upon a seal’s nose.
Could that be the camel?
From the information center there are two marked routes, the easy 1km route or the medium difficulty 3km route. One is not instructed ‘not to’ wander off route but twelve square kilometers is a pretty big area and it is a labyrinth from end to end. Through prior arrangement guides can take a party off route to see some of the inaccessible wonders.
One of many canyons that form the labyrinth.
The landscape is rock but there are blessed green pastures tucked between the rock stacks. Knarled oak grows where ever soil has built to sufficient depth, trees covered in lichen. In the shade of deep gorges moss grows over the rocks. We did not come across any springs and I wonder if there is any water there at all save what rain collects in the rock pools. These days El Torcal is inhabited by Iberian Ibex, fox, deer, vultures and eagles. But once it was an important neolithic and copper age sacred site. There are three known about caves with rock paintings.
We had great fun. However Anika’s strength expired half way through our one kilometer walk. It was revived through some creative play, hide and seek.
Go hide and seek
Thorn in the foot
Entrance to the site is free. It is at a high altitude so bringing a fleece top is recommended though without any breeze and overhead sun we were too hot. Sheltered from the cold wind, the air is very still up here, very quiet, adding to the atmosphere.
There are opening and closing times.
We found a great camping spot at the bottom of the mountain. It gets busy during the day (especially on weekends) as it is the source of a fresh water spring that gushes from under Torcal. At this time of year the water comes out with considerable force. The water fills a pond. It is so crystal clear, without any sediment, that it is like looking at a chlorinated pool. Unfortunately swimming is prohibited.
The Spring is on the road to the El Torcal, shortly after the turning for the A343. There are picnic tables, a playground, good walks and parking on both sides of the stream.