Maro Caves - Barranco de la Coladilla - Rio Chillar Gorge - Nerja

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The Parque Natural de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama is a magnificent tumble of unspoiled mountains, stretching over 35 kilometres from east to west and 20km north to south and almost deserted save for the crumbling ruins of abandoned cortijos and shepherds’ huts. It has a wonderful variety of scenery and habitat. The lower slopes are cloaked with forests of pine, evergreen oak, or open garrigue. The higher slopes are more alpine, with small delicate flowers clinging to the rock. The highest peaks are sheer crags of bare rock stark against the sky. Rushing streams plunge to the coast, carving deep, shaded valleys and gorges between the mountains. Birds, butterflies and small reptiles abound, wild pig root in the scrub and ibex graze the slopes.

This walk offers a delightful sample of the best of this dramatic landscape, exploring two of its most beautiful valleys and the ridge between them, with extensive views of the surrounding peaks. It also provides the opportunity, particularly in spring, to enjoy wonderful displays of wildflowers and orchids, butterflies and birdlife and if you're lucky, to spot a group of ibex. It's not however, a walk to undertake after heavy rain, or when rain threatens. There is a real danger of flash floods in the Chillar Gorge in bad weather and the high rock walls on each side offer no chance of escaping water sweeping through the narrow fissure, which is barely two metres wide in places. On two occasions I’ve found the bodies of ibex caught in the flood. But with sensible precautions and a careful eye on the weather, it's a memorable walk.

It starts at the entrance to the Maro Caves, then follows a track flanking the normally dry riverbed of the Barranco de la Coladilla as far as the picnic area El Pinarillo. This track runs high above the steep Coladilla Gorge, passing through pinewoods, garrigue and wildflower meadows with attractive views to the chain of small peaks lining the valley. From el Pinarillo, we drop down to cross the Barranco, then climb slopes clothed in cistus and helianthemum, rosemary and lavender, gorse, broom and stately asphodels to an open saddle beyond, the Collado de la Aprateros. From here, stunning mountain views extend all around. We now climb gently round the mountainside before following a steep but well-marked footpath down to join the Rio Chillar.

For the next three or four kilometres we follow the Chillar through a narrow winding gorge. In places it opens out into a flat-bottomed valley, the stream rippling across its stone bed under the dappled shade of pine trees. Elsewhere it narrows to a mere fissure in the rock, perhaps two to three metres wide and twenty to thirty metres high. Often we have to wade, sometimes shin-deep, or clamber across large boulders. Good footwear, a stout walking-pole and careful footwork are essential. Finally clearing the gorge we emerge into a wider valley and follow the Chillar, now tamed, through pinewoods and farmland to Nerja.

Spain - Southern Spain - Malaga - Axarquia

Features

Birds, Butterflies, Cafe, Flowers, Gift Shop, Great Views, Mountains, Pub, Public Transport, Restaurant, River, Sea, Tea Shop, Toilets, Waterfall, Wildlife, Woodland

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