Let’s face it, 2020 is proving to be a tough year. When we return to a semblance of normality, some of us will yearn to travel to a destination to relax. Others will want a holiday to disconnect. Many of us will look for a bit of wellness and pampering. These are all very valid motives to re-sync with our travel bucketlists. But once we’ve beaten this difficult period of confinement, uncertainty and apprehension, maybe what some of us will need is not a holiday, but a JOURNEY to nourish mind, body and soul!
It was none other than Hippocrates who said: “Walking is man’s best medicine.” And we completely agree with him! We believe that the experiences lived, the conversations had, the communing with nature, the immersion in rural lifestyle and the feeling of good health and accomplishment during a walking holiday are indeed a fine medicine.
Andalucia offers us some of the most enriching hiking journeys in Europe. We want to tell you about 6 of our favourites!
Camino Mozarabe: from Málaga to Córdoba
‘El Camino Mozarabe’ is one of the lesser-known routes of the Camino de Santiago. The ‘Mozarabes’ were Christians who lived under Muslim rule in Islamic Al-Andalus. Despite being a religious minority in Andalucian lands, many Christians embarked on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Today you can retrace their steps through the centre and heart of Andalucía. This particular journey represents the Al-Andalus of centuries past as well as the Andalucia of today.
Beginning in the bustling city of Málaga, it quickly delves into the foothills that are sprinkled with villages perched amongst orange and olive groves. It crosses the karstic landscape of El Torcal mountain range, visiting the charming city of Antequera. Then it scythes through the rich agricultural lands of central Andalucia before skirting the Sub-Betica mountain range. Continuing down into the Guadalquivir basin before arriving at Córdoba and the Mezquita – one of the finest examples of Mudejar architecture and a pinnacle of the cultural and religious fusion and coexistence of Andalucia. What a perfect finish to a journey to nourish the soul!
Camino del Sur: from Huelva to Zafra
This is another lesser-known route of the Camino de Santiago which begins from the city of Huelva, close to the Portuguese border. This camino was created for pilgrims who had travelled by boat from the Canary Islands or even Latin America!! What we love about this route is the fact that along its 181km, travellers experience such a broad variety of Spanish scenery in such a short space of time. What’s more, it is perhaps the best combination of Spanish gastronomic surf & turf you could wish for! Once you depart from Huelva, famous for its seafood and beautiful Atlantic coastline, you quickly enter into rich farmland, comprising of cereals, orchards, vineyards and olive groves.
Having gradually and gently climbed in elevation, the route also passes through the mining area of Rio Tinto. Due to the metals found in the soil and the colour of the Rio Tinto river, the mindblowing scenery is remeniscent of being on planet Mars. In fact, NASA regularly studies this ecosystem as these are the closest conditions we have to Mars on Earth!! Perhaps the most beautiful section takes us through the oak forests of Aracena, renownend as being one of the finest areas in Spain to raise Iberian pigs and produce our coveted Iberian ham. Once you leave Andalucia and enter Extremadura, as you descend on your walk, the broad plains of Extremadura with their endless vineyards stretch out before you until you reach the final destination which is the beautiful town of Zafra.
Camino del Rocio: Huelva’s Pilgrimage
If we are to talk about spiritual journeys in Andalucia, we have to include the Camino del Rocio! The image of the “Virgen del Rocio” (Virgin of the morning dew) appeared before a shepherd from Almonte (a village in Doñana Natural Park) in the fourteenth century. Over the centuries, the Virgen del Rocio grew in popularity, as did her number of devoted followers. Once a year, in late spring, religious brotherhoods from all over Andalucia (and today from all over Spain and the rest of the World!) would embark on a pilgrimage to visit her, pay their respects and watch her being paraded through the streets. Incredibly, by the end of the twentieth century, over 1,000,000 pilgrims converged on the hermitage of El Rocio to pay their respects!
One of the most famous routes begins from Seville (55km) and heads due West, into the rich farmland of the Aljarafe region. Agricultural surroundings soon become pine forests with sandy soil as the route delves deeper into Doñana park. If you walk this route at the same time as the many thousands of other pilgrims, you’ll be accompanied by flamenco music, singing, lots of eating and drinking and a festive and jovial atmosphere. If you walk this route on any other date (trying to avoid the heat of mid-summer), Doñana park will offer a wealth of wildlife and impressive scenery. The grand finale of being able to look up at the Virgen del Rocio at the end of your pilgrimage is truly a goosebump moment and a memorable finish to an unforgettable journey!
Sierra Morena: from Portugal to Jaén
It is often said that the journey is more important than the destination. This is very much the case with the Sierra Morena Path! It starts at the Portuguese border and winds its way East through the 4 provinces of Huelva, Sevilla, Cordoba & Jaen. Amounting to a total of 550km and divided into 28 stages. The series of ancient smuggler’s routes, forested trails, Roman roads and country tracks all connect up along the natural ridge that separates the Guadalquivir river valley to the south and the Meseta Central plateaux to the north.
However, it is the mix of scenery that makes this journey unique. The luscious Mediterranean woodland, open farming land, groomed Dehesa estate land with Holm & Cork Oaks and vast expanses of olive groves with granite outcrops accompany the hiker throughout. The six separate Nature Parks which the trail crosses only highlight these distinctions in terrain more. Pockets of civilisation and human influence make up the overall picture; hilltop fortress such as at Baños de la Encina or Almodóvar del Río, whitewashed rural villages throughout, monasteries & sanctuaries, illustrious Andalucian estates, old mining areas for copper, lead & silver and the still waters of reservoirs are among just some of these on view. Whether it is a few consecutive sections, cherry picking the best of the best or completing it from start to finish, this is a journey for those keen to discover inland and traditional Andalucia!
La Gran Senda de Malaga: a Circular Route around the Province
The province of Malaga really has it ALL; coastline, dramatic mountains & canyons, characterful villages, culture & local crafts galore, the height of luxury and an exceptional climate all year round to cap it off. The best way to discover it all, is this circular and innovative trail of 650km, divided into 35 stages! Around a third of the route runs parallel to the coast from Manilva to Nerja, while the rest runs inland across plains of olive groves, up mountain peaks of 2000m, along lagoons and river valleys or across classic Andalucían estate & farming land.
The route sets off East from Malaga, in an anti-clockwise direction, reaching Nerja & its ‘Balcony of Europe’ lookout spot over the Med. From here, it heads inland for some spectacular sections along and into the Sierra de Tejada, Almijara & Alhama. Some of the most strenuous but also most rewarding stretches lie here, largely for the views and the town of Frigiliana (see clip here!) Further on, the naturally occurring salt water lagoon of Fuente de la Piedra (around 400m above sea level), the reservoir of La Viñuela and the canyon of El Chorro are just some of the impressive sights to be had along the way. It continues through the town of Ronda into the Genal valley all the way down to the coast. Then the home straight is a combination of swanky beachfronts up to Marbella and inland mountain villages with plentiful panoramic views. Truely an enriching hiking journey to fill you with enthusiasm for everything Malaga has to offer!
La Alpujarra Pathway: from Lanjarón into Almería
Running along the southern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, beneath the peninsula’s highest peak Mulhacén, this 150km trail is a perfect challenge to be done year-round. The route is divided into 13 stages of varying length and level of challenge. It takes in the spectacular scenery of the Las Alpujarras of Granada & Almería, or ‘Land of herbs & grazing land’ as the Moors named it. In fact, there is a strong influence of Moorish civilisation in the local architecture and many of the small mountain villages’ names are derived from their original Arabic names. The start point is the quaint town of Lanjarón (from Al-Lancharon meaning ‘Place of mountain springs), renowned throughout Andalucia for its excellent mineral water.
The route follows the course of the River Guadalfeo with its luscious scenery of almond and citrus tree groves and a number of water mills. The region is also home to Chris Stewart, author of ‘Driving Over Lemons,’ a much recommended pre-trip read. The trail continues on into the Almerían Alpujarras, home to vineyards, fine views and even more charming towns before heading north to the route’s end point of Fiñana. The natural charm of the Alpujarras, its heavenly hiking and the warmth of its inhabitants never fail to leave visitors with a feeling of needing to return!
So, there you have it! A varied selection of hiking trails to discover all the very best corners of the Andalucian landscape. Away from the urban bustle, interlaced with cultural and gastronomic experiences, totally private for you and your companion(s) and tailormade to your energy levels, preferences and holiday time. If you feel that a a hiking journey for mind, body and soul is what you need, then one of the above routes is for you!
For more info and inspiration, get in touch with us here or send us an email at email@example.com and we’d be delighted to get planning with you!