Krista the Explorer
11 Things To Know Before Hiking at El Torcal de Antequera
Updated: Jul 1, 2022
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Hiking at El Torcal de Antequera is probably one of the best experiences you will ever have in southern Spain if you like to explore areas outside of the city. Its unique limestone formations draw thousands of visitors to it all year round, and make it the most important karstic site in the whole of Spain. If you're planning a road trip in southern Spain, make sure you don't forget to make a stop here or plan a day trip to the area. A lot of people head directly for the famous hiking site of Caminito del Rey, but El Torcal is equally just as incredible of a hiking trail in Málaga to explore.
What exactly is El Torcal?: The limestone formations at El Torcal, also known as karst formations, date back over 150 million years, and were formed when the violent movements of the earth's crust forced the limestone out from under the sea. Millions of years of rain and wind have chiselled away at the limestone, creating the unique formations we see today.
Where is El Torcal located?: El Torcal de Antequera is located 30km north of Málaga's city centre, very close to the city of Antequera. It sits at the top of the mountain range, so check the road conditions before heading out.
How to get there: Currently, there is no public transportation that will get you to El Torcal, so the only way to get there is either driving or by paying for a taxi if you're staying close by. If you're driving, make sure you have a good vehicle as you need to pass through a number of small mountain villages with narrow streets. The road leading up to El Torcal itself is well maintained and wide enough for 2 vehicles to pass by one another without a problem.
Are pets allowed?: Yes! Both times I've been to El Torcal I've seen a number of dogs having the time of their life walking around El Torcal.
Is there an entry fee?: Absolutely not! El Torcal de Antequera is completely free to hike around, and even has a parking lot which you can use free of charge. If the parking lot is full, you'll be told to park at the bottom of the mountain and will have to pay €2 for the shuttle.
More detailed information about El Torcal can be found on its official website, which is regularly being updated. Now that all of the practical information is out of the way, here are my tips if you're thinking of hiking El Torcal de Antequera in the near future (and a number of my favourite photos to go with it too):
1. El Torcal has a visitor centre
The first thing to know about hiking at El Torcal de Antequera is that there's a visitor centre located at the beginning of the trail, where the parking lot is. Inside the visitor centre you'll find an information desk, a small shop where you can buy souvenirs, and a cafe in case you didn't bring any food along with you for the hike. The visitor centre at El Torcal also has a small but interesting museum inside of it which explains how these fascinating rock formations came to be, and what archaeological remains have been found here. The museum is free to enter, so you might as well as get some background knowledge before heading out on the trail! Note: The visitor centre does have a closing time, so I would recommend going to it before you start your hike in case you finish hiking later than expected.
2. It's very well signposted
It's always recommended to take a look at the trail map before you visit, but don't worry if you don't have the time - El Torcal is very well signposted. There are a series of signs pointing to various parts of the World Heritage Site in the parking lot, and at the beginning of the trail itself there's a large map showing the different routes available, with the maps being in both Spanish and English. I would recommend taking a photo of the map before hitting the trail, as it's sometimes hard to get a phone reception while hiking El Torcal. The routes themselves are marked with different paint colours on the rocks, so they're very easy to follow.
3. Visit El Tornillo del Torcal first
One very popular spot at El Torcal is El Tornillo del Torcal, which isn't actually on any of the main routes. There is a sign pointing in the opposite direction of the main routes for El Tornillo, and it takes less than 20 minutes to hike to it. This limestone rock formation dates back over 150 million years and is a favourite spot of photographers. If you're feeling brave enough, you can actually climb to the top of it since it's stacked like steps. We visited this spot after our hike and were very tired, so I would recommend visiting it first since it's only a short walk from the main parking lot.
4. Check the weather and bring warmer clothes
One of the biggest tips for hiking at El Torcal is to check the weather before you visit. El Torcal may be located in southern Spain, but it also sits very high up in the mountains, so is often significantly cooler than other parts of Andalusia. I assumed that it would be fairly warm on the hike - but I was in for a big shock! Make sure you bring a few layers with you, especially if you're planning on hiking later in the day as it gets cold very quickly in the shade. If you're thinking of making a full day out of it, I would also recommend bringing a comfortable backpack. I took my SunDrift hiking backpack with me and it fit everything in it and I had no back pain either.
5. Wear boots not trainers
I'm the type of person that prefers to hike in trainers where possible, but for hiking at the El Torcal national park I would definitely say you need to wear some sort of hiking boots. I started off wearing my Tropicfeel trainers and about halfway through the trail I realized it was getting a lot muddier so I had to change into my Icebug hiking boots instead. The boots also had much better traction for climbing over the rocks, and I felt a lot safer walking across the wet areas of the trail.
6. Take it slow
El Torcal isn't all about the incredible karst formations. There are parts of the trails that are completely covered by trees that have grown in between the rocks. This means that these spots are significantly colder when you're walking through them, and that the trail itself is usually quite wet, and in some parts very thick in mud. These parts of the trails are also the areas where you need to climb over a lot of rocks, so be careful because they can be extremely slippery, especially if it's recently been raining or snowing.
7. Pack some snacks or a lunch
If you don't fancy grabbing something to eat at the cafe, it's a good idea to pack your own snacks or lunch. There are plenty of fantastic viewpoints along the various trails for you to sit at when you want to stop for something to eat. We picked a spot lower down on a flat surface and were surrounded by the tall rock formations which was beautiful. If you do plan on bringing your own food with you, please note that there are no garbage bins on any of the hiking trails. The natural park is very well maintained and we saw no litter anywhere, so it's a good idea to bring a bag with you to put your garbage in until you make it back to the parking lot. And of course, don't forget to pack a lot of water too - you'll need it!
8. Put your phone away
This may not come as a surprise to you, but there is very little phone signal at all while you're on the hiking trails at El Torcal. In fact, the only time I ever had any signal was at the highest parts of the trail we were on. So, you might as well as put your phone away and enjoy this unique landscape as much as possible. The routes are very well marked so you won't get lost without a map on your phone either.
9. Different routes to choose from
There are a variety of different routes at El Torcal to choose from. I've been twice and have walked along the green and yellow routes. At the beginning of the trail, there is a map which outlines the difficult, the length, and the route of each of the trails. The green route is the easiest one and takes 45 minutes to complete, whereas the yellow route takes 2.5 hours to complete and is a bit more challenging. Both routes start and finish together, with the yellow route going further into El Torcal in the middle section. There is also an orange route, which starts at the very bottom of the mountain and works its way up to the visitor centre car park, taking just under 4 hours to complete.
10. Views at the end of the trails
If you want to catch some incredible views of the surrounding landscape in Antequera, there is a viewing platform only a few minutes walk from the visitor centre. This spot is very popular in the evening for people wanting to watch the sunset or to look at the stars. Alternatively, there is a trail which sits to the right of this viewing platform, which is also at the end of the hiking routes, where you can climb to the top and get stunning views of the landscape on one side, and El Torcal itself on the other. This is quite a steep hike but takes no more than 15 minutes to get to the top.
11. Watch out for the wild goats
Did you know that El Torcal has wild goats roaming around? On our first hike here we didn't see any, but our second time around we saw a lot. As soon as we stepped on the trail we saw two staring down at us from the rocks, so we quickly moved passed them. Then about halfway through the yellow route we came across an entire herd spread across the rocks, and some were lower down eating parts of the vegetation. They're completely harmless unless you threaten them in some way, so don't worry too much! We stopped for a few minutes to watch them and take some photos and then continued with our hike.
El Torcal de Antequera really is a phenomenal site in the province of Málaga to hike around. It's easy to see why it's considered to be one of the best hikes in Spain, and is definitely worth adding to your southern Spain itinerary if you love to explore nature while you're travelling. Even if you don't hike regularly but want to see the limestone formations in all of their glory, you can easily drive up to the visitor centre and take a walk around for a bit without having to do the full length of the trail.
Southern Spain isn't all about the beaches! There are plenty of unique places in Andalusia to visit, such as El Torcal, which have centuries (if not millions of years) of history behind them just waiting to be explored. I would love to hear your experiences of hiking El Torcal, or answer any questions you have, so please drop me a comment below. And remember to follow my travels on Instagram too!