The next morning we drove to Antequera. Do not take the road coming from the West to go round Antequera, you end up in pretty small streets , so we turned back and took the North and Eastern route around Antequera, to drive to El Torcal. The upper parking lot was already full when we arrived after 10 AM, so we were directed to the lower parking area, where we managed to get one of the last camper spots. We could then choose to take the shuttle bus for 2 euro per person, or walk up via a hiking path that starts at the far end of the parking lot. We decided to walk up the 3,5 km to the visitors centre of El Torcal where the hikes start. The walk up is already very beautiful. At El Torcal Alto, we chose the long walk in the park, the yellow trail of around 2 hours. It is a stunning place, where water and ice have eroded the karst rocks into the most wonderful forms. The only and big downside were the masses of Spaniards making lots of noise, talking and shouting and even singing, taking away much of the wonder of the environment. Because of that we walked the 2 hour walk in just 1,5 hours. 100 metres from the visitors centre you have a beautiful view, but because of the fog we saw nothing. We walked the same way down to the parking area as we came up. This makes the 2 hour walk into a 4,5 hour hike. If possible undertake this walk on a weekday and outside of weekends or holidays. (We did it on a Sunday of a long 1 November weekend…)
We drove to Ronda, where we checked in into camping El Sur, a camping that caters mainly to campers and Mobil-homes, with hardened flat places, and with very good sanitary installations and a restaurant. You can choose to stay on the parking next door (Aere), also managed by camping El Sur, were you pay only 15 euro and also get electricity, camper services and a basic toilet and shower with hot water. We chose a place on the regular camping grounds. (If you stay more than one night and pay cash you get a discount.)
We walked into Ronda that night, a 20 min. walk from the camping. (We decided against the bikes since the road back is a steep one going up, but we did take a little light with us since you have to walk an unlit road with quite a lot of traffic). We walked till the edge of the town, and chose restaurant El Zucio just outside the first gate of Ronda. It turned out to be the right choice, the organic tomatoes with olive oil were heavenly and also the Iberico meat and stew of oxtail was really good, and the service was attentive and friendly.
The next day we visited Ronda, we first walked down along the old city walls towards the Arab baths, the best preserved baths in Spain, still they were a bit of a letdown, as was the whole town of Ronda, overly busy, the shopping street was terribly crowded. We walked from the Puente Vieje to the Puente Neuve and then down from Plaza de Maria Auxilidora to get a good view of of the impressive Puente Nueve that separates old Ronda from new Ronda, over a deep cliff. We then went for a late lunch at Meson El Sacristan on the quiet Plaza Duquesa de Parcent next to the Santa Maria la Mayor church. Again a tasty meal!
Since the Plaza de Toros de Ronda had been terribly busy in the morning we visited it late afternoon when it was a lot less crowded. But again the 8 euro was a bit overpriced for what you get. There are two exhibitions, one about the history of bull fighting which has an important history in Ronda, and one about cavalry.
At that point we had enough of the crowds of tourists and decided to walk back to the camping. We made a stop a Sumo supermarket, but the choice of foods was so limited that we eventually took the camper and drove to the Lidl at the outskirts of town. ( November 1 the next day was a holiday and everything would be closed, as was the previous day which was a Sunday) That evening we ate at the restaurant of the El Sur camping, where they serve you good food, and they have vegetarian options.
We checked out early the next morning, at 8 AM, paid 51 euro for two nights, and drove towards Grazalema. We had a permit for the El Pinsapar walk just outside Grazalema town. It is a linear walk from Grazalema to Benamahoma for which you need a permit. ( which we had obtained online via the website Junta de Andalucia). We got at the start of the walk around 9:30, only two other cars had already parked there and there was no one to check our permit. The walk starts at the far end of the parking through a gate. The first hour you make a steep climb through a beautiful pine wood, until you reach a wonderful viewpoint where you can see the valleys from both sides. From there the walk stays more or less on the same height, (around 1000 m) and from a more open area you come into the silver Pinsapo fir forest, with impressive high old trees towering above you. After another hour the path starts descending towards the village of Benamahoma. A bit beyond that point we had a pauze and had a small lunch, and decided to go back. The path would eventually come onto a road again, and we preferred the forest path. Just before the lookout you can climb up to the Polo Nieve ( a kind of ice cellar) just above the path. After a bit more than 4 hours we reached the parking again. If you do the whole walk and come back again you have to count on around 6,5 to 7 hours.
We drove to the top of Grazalema and parked our camper on the top of the village to have a late lunch. All the terraces were full since it was still a school holiday. We eventually chose Casa Martin, which was also full but we could reserve a table for 20 min. later, so we walked down to the edge of the town and had a drink there at a bar table of a restaurant. The tapas at Casa Martin 1920 were really good and innovative, incredible how you can offer such good food out of just one little oven!! We did not take the hot pot stews, but they also looked really good. It is a small but really friendly and good restaurant! For dessert we chose a piece of pie and a tea and coffee at the Cafetaria Rotacapa pasteleria a bit further in Calle Las Piedras. All the cakes and pies are homemade and really good!
We walked back to the camper and drove towards the start of the Gargante Verde walk which we would do the next day, to see where we could park for the night. I had set my eyes on one of two miradors on this, by the way really stunning road between Grazalema en Zahara de la Sierre. But on the miradors and on the parking of the Gargante Verde a sign stated clearly you could not park a camper or caravan overnight between sunset and sunrise. At the opposite side of the road from the second mirador was a clearing with a stunning view of the water bassin next to Zahara de la Sierre. We decided to risk it and parked our camper there at around 6 PM a little before sunset and enjoyed the sun setting over the hills. Nobody bothered us, but the next morning, just as we were leaving, a police car turned up, to tell us we were not allowed to park here. We answered we had just stopped for some pictures, and after they told us that in that case we had to park at the car park of the mirador at the other side of the road and that we were not allowed to park here overnight, they let us continue. So we got away with a simple warning.
We were the first to park at the start of the Gargante Verde walk, which has only a very small parking area compared to that of the El Pinsapar walk. I guess no more than 10 cars can park here. We started our walk around 9:20, and although the linear walk takes only 2 hours in total the way back included, there is so much to see along the walk it took us almost double the time. The walk is a very steep climb going down the gorge and an equally very steep climb coming back up. Along the way you pass the nesting area of griffon vultures. They often fly by on eye level, sometimes passing just over your head and you can feel the clapping of their wings above you, a great experience. At the end of the walk, which is indicated as the end of the path, you have to continue about 100 m further in the (dry) river bed to come to the cave or ermita, with stunning stalagmites and stalactites. You can walk a bit further but then it becomes quite technical. The cave is really beautiful with the sunlight falling in from above. On the way back we stopped several times to take pictures of the many vultures circling overhead.
We then drove to Sahara de la Sierre where we were lucky enough to still find a parking space at the bottom of the town, a sign forbids campers from entering the village. We walked up and down into the village with the tower of the fortress towering above us. The choice of restaurants is limited and only two were open. We were lucky enough that a table just freed up when we arrived at restaurant La Era. We had some croquettes and Presia de Iberico. You have to be patient and the food is quite simple but good enough.
For our last night we drove back to camping El Sur in Ronda, ate the rest of our food for dinner and breakfast, packed our stuff the next morning and after paying 27 euro for one night, drove back to Mijas to return our camper to Frank of Iberocamper. The return went smoothly and Frank drove us back to the airport in his pick-up truck in time for our flight.
- Download the app Park4Night to find parking spaces where you can overnight with your camper or van.
- Download the app Campercontact to find camping sites when on the road.
- You can also find camping spots via Google Maps
- Gloves are handy to empty your chemical toilet
- A headlamp can be handy
- Take an extra battery for your camera, for the nights you park without electricity
- Take a powerbank to charge phone and tablet when you park overnight without electricity
- Flip-flops and something easy to wear to go to the shower on the camping
- Two sets of shampoo/shower soap so you can shower simultaniously
- The two hikes: Gargante Verde and El Pinsapar are open from Mid October till May, during the summer months it is not open because of the risk of fires. From Mid October till the end of May you need a permit you can obtain online.
- Best time to visit Andalucia is from October till May, during summer it gets very busy and very hot! Spring and Autumn are the best periods!
- If you don’t want to spend money on special toilet paper for your chemical toilet, dispose of your toilet paper in a plastic garbage bag which you throw away in the garbage container.
- If you want to hike the Caminito Del Rey, you need the book long enough in advance. The individual tickets were all sold out two weeks before we travelled to Andalucia in October/November. (book via this link)
- Try to visit Ronda on a weekday, and outside of the holiday periods, otherwise it can get very crowded, this also goes for the hike of El Torcal.
- Go early if you want to park on the parking lot at the visitors centre of El Torcal.