When we were looking for a place to but in Andalusia we stayed – forgot the reason why to be honest – in small place called Villanuevo de la Concepción (it seems that names of places in Spain get longer when the villages get smaller).
While driving around to get to know the area better we often passed by the natural park of El Torcal. It is one of nature’s wonders, created over 200 million years ago and provides a fascinating legacy of that period, when Europe and the Middle East was still one continent submerged under the Tethys Sea (Wikipedia tells us).
No matter whether you are a geologist or simply a curious traveler, the landscape will amaze with its limestone constructions resembling a far off planet. For a period of about 175 million years, the buildup of carbonate sedimentation continued with vast accumulations of shells, skeletons, and dead marine life. Over time these were compacted at various levels forming the horizontal limestone layers we can see today, and which have, since the retreat of the water, been shaped by water, wind and ice.
Adjacent to the car parking area is the visitor centre which is a good starting point for your explorations. There is a small shop selling artisan products and a restaurant, which caters for the needs of the thirsty and hungry traveler with breakfast, lunch and dinner being served. Interactive displays offer an excellent guide to the area and explanation of special sights, and helpful staff members are there to further enhance your experience. You can also join a guided group from there.
There are well-signed trails of varying lengths open to all. Off track walks are only permitted if previously authorised. Currently, there are five marked trails, the two most favourite are: The green route is the shorter and the more popular. It goes 1.5 km up through the Torcal Alto and lasts around one hour. The yellow route, which runs over 3 km, is longer, although not that much more difficult. It can be completed in two hours.
The two routes allow you to see the main rock formations from mysterious natural corridors and sculptures that look like everyday objects: el Sombrerillo (the Hat), el Cáliz (the Chalice) and el Macetero (the Flowerpot) are some of the most popular.
This natural scenery invites your imagination to go wild. It also contains important prehistoric mineral deposits and a wide variety of flora and fauna. Especially striking are the “stone trees”, which grow in the crevices of the rocks, and different species of orchid. Animal life includes goats and mountain cats, as well as a large variety of poultry: falcons, eagles, griffon vultures, sparrow hawks and kestrels abound.
More information needed? The official website is: www.torcaldeantequera.com which unfortunately is only in Spanish but using Google translate or a similar tool, you will get the gist of most things. Most importantly you will get the up-to-date information on special tours and events.
We have advised many of our guests to go there and they all came back enthusiastically, so if you love the rocky nature, give it a try!