Route: Atalaya!

Atalaya route - click photo to see full screen
Atalaya route – click photo to see full screen

Difficulty: Medium+

Good Walk for: Spring and Autumn: varied terrain right in the Park, with lots of wildlife about. Stretching your legs – a good uphill and down. Superb views.

Distance: 12Km

Option: You can extend this circular walk by walking out from the town along the road to the Fábrica de la Luz; take the upper road when you reach a division just past a sign welcoming you to the natural park and continue til you reach the “Curva grande,” a large hairpin bend with a dirt track leading off from the outpart of the loop. At the end of the walk you retrace the same route to return to the town. This adds 5 Km easy road walking.

Description: Drive to or Get a taxi drop off at la Curva Grande (debajo de la Cruz de Canillas). If you want to rebook for the pick up now, since the last stretch lacks good mobile cover, the walk is about 4½ hrs including picnic time (3km/h, rough ground). This hairpin taxi point is where the lorries turn; the track that leads off it goes all the way to Puerto Blanquillo. Follow this track and stick with it. After about 20 minutes you pass a track going uphill on the right (you will come down this way); a bit later you ignore a path off into the woods. You pass a house on your left, Finca Buenavista, once used as a fire look-out point I believe – you might walk around it since the views are attractive but it is always closed up. A little further on you will pass above the Montossa Quarry (you sometimes hear it before you see it if work is in progress). You pass a track going down on the left (to Pepe’s farm opposite the Cueva del Melero).

Finally you come, after about 1¼ hrs, to a large concrete water tank (Fuente Borriquero) on the right, which used to be just about always full of tadpoles, but since it was renovated and painted seems to be less wildlife-friendly. Perhaps they will have come back?!

Now head off to your right along the track into the little dry valley that the water tank marks the end of: stay in the (dry) water channel, looking on your right for the start of a path up the bank, just before you reach more old concrete water tanks. The path, once you find it, is fairly clear. It is a bit steep and in late spring rather overgrown, so take it easy and look out for wildlife, which the woods are full of. There are all the small birds you might see in UK pinewoods (finches, tits, warblers etc) and I’ve seen foxes, eagles, ibex, snakes and a flock of bee-eaters too, as well as abundant lizards and butterflies.

Firebreak below Atalaya
Firebreak below Atalaya

After about 45 minutes you will reach a glittering white firebreak that heads up towards the rocky crest of Atalaya. In cooler months I sometimes see snakes warming up here, but they are brilliant at vanishing before I catch a shot. Turn left and walk up to the head of the firebreak (5 min): you will then easily find the path on the left that leads, once again into the woods. This shorter path is a little more open – it takes you up to a col: the low point between Cerro Verde to your left and Atalaya to your right. Straight ahead are views down towards El Fuerte and the coast at Nerja. TR here and follow the footpath that leads you to the left side of the rocky crest of Atalaya: there is a little exposure as the land falls away on your left, but nothing too alarming and great views. As you pass out from beside Atalaya’s rocky side you have panoramic views south of the whole landscape, which is breathtaking: this might be a good spot for a picnic lunch.

Ahead of you from this spot you can pick out Cerro Gávilan, with the fire station on its summit. The name means Sparrowhawk but although I have seen Sparrowhawks in the area I have never seen one just here – Bonneli’s Eagles, Honey Buzzards and Peregrine Falcons yes, but not Sparrowhawks. The path heads on towards this, skirting to the right of one or two outcrops: keep following it (it may be a bit overgrown) until you come down onto a track at the “Cruz de Canillas” junction. A left turn on the track would take you towards Gávilan and Cómpeta, while a footpath on the left leads off on the “silk route” – but these are for another day. Instead turn right and follow the broad and recently relevelled track zigzagging downhill.

After about an hour you meet a junction with the Puerto Blanquillo track you were on at the start of your walk. Here you turn left and follow the track back – another 20 minutes brings you to the “Curva grande” and – hopefully – your taxi will be waiting for you here.

I absolutely love this walk. It can be done in a morning, is enormously satisfying as a neat circular that encompasses height, mountains, woods, maquis and open spaces. Hope you enjoy it too!

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Grass Hopper

Born near the sea on the east side, grew near the sea on the west side; more than 10 years down here in the south … but I’m hopping about in the mountains. Madly in love with the Natural world!

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