The Andalusian province of Malaga offers some of the most impressive, varied and beautiful hiking in all of Spain. The recently connected Gran Senda de Malaga, for example, is a circular hiking route stretching more than 600km and covering a startling array of landscapes through mountains and valleys, across cliffs and plains, and a vast stretch of the Mediterranean coast. Of particular interest on the route is the “Caminito del Rey” (the king’s little pathway), now fully restored and easily accessible after having become known as the “most dangerous hike in the world”.
However, between the months of June and September, the intense summer sun makes much of Malaga’s extensive hiking network extremely dangerous if not impossible. Some of the more dedicated local outdoor enthusiasts get around this by hiking to the summit of the tallest mountain in Malaga province at more than 2000m, La Maroma, with a nighttime ascent under the full moon. This year the event was made even more spectacular as it was scheduled on the weekend of the recent Perseid meteor shower.
Still, it isn’t necessary to spend an entire night hiking while the sun is down in order to enjoy the natural beauty of Malaga in the summer season. These five refreshing walks take you along and through cool rivers and shady terrain so that you can get your outdoor fix without risking your health. Each of the hikes begins or ends near some of the more quaint and pretty villages of the region as well, so your walking tour need not end where the pavement picks up.
1. Rio Chillar, Nerja
Nerja has long been a much loved little seaside village some 30 minutes to the east of the city Malaga, popular with visiting tourist for its many restaurants, beaches and pedestrian shopping streets on an otherwise quite sleepy stretch of coast. As such, the Rio Chillar has also become quite well known and popular through the summer months, so if you want to keep it quiet it is best to go on weekdays. It is a fairly casual hike as compared to some of the others as it doesn’t require any swimming or difficult terrain, though you will inevitably need to wade in up to your knees so amphibious shoes are recommended as with all of these hikes. The narrow canyon passages and pools are popular highlights of the route, which is linear in nature so you can hike in as far as you like before heading back the same way.
2. El Saltillo, Canillas de Aceituno
“El Saltillo”, so named for the series of small pools and short water falls at the end point, has also been called the “second ‘caminito’ of Malaga” referencing the Caminito del Rey. This hike is much shorter than the Caminito del Rey, but at one point has a similar bridge hanging off the edge of a sheer cliff that is reminiscent of the most famous stretch of that more popular hike. The trail picks up from an open stair way for an immediate ascent, but once above the altitude of the trail doesn’t vary a great deal. Parts are open to the sun, but it takes no more than an hour and a half to arrive at the “saltillos”, a shady, cool resting spot with shallow pools and short water falls. It’s as serene as can be with the gentle sounds of trickling water, the scents of dry pine and wet moss, and the trees above swaying before the blue sky, acting as a sanctuary from the summer heat and crowds.
3. Higuerón, Frigiliana
The village of Frigiliana, overlooking the sea from the hills up above Nerja, has oft been named to round ups of “Spain’s prettiest villages”, in part for the well maintained and hand crafted streets made from smooth river stones as well as the floral window boxes and lush potted plants that the locals so proudly display, but also because of the indelible beauty of the surrounding nature. From here one finds the lovely hiking route along the Higuerón channel. This is in fact a tributary of the Rio Chillar below, and features some similar characteristics such as the “cahorros”, narrow passes where the river cuts deep through the limestone. To reach the end of the route, however, requires much more skill than the Rio Chillar, as you will need to traverse two waterfalls to get there. It is recommended that this hike only be done by or with experienced hikers.
4. Barranco Blanco, Coín
Despite being one of the shortest of the river routes in Malaga, the Barranco Blanco offers some of the most spectacular perspectives on the rivers of the province. The route passes along the stretch of the Alaminos River descending through the mountain ranges just before the waters merge with the Fuengirola River emptying into the sea. Fresh, crystalline waters tumble over waterfalls and through pools along the route, which is a fairly easy one and suitable for the whole family. Be ready for a couple of spots where it will be necessary to swim to continue, but for the most part the route is very accessible.
5. Rio Verde, Istán
Just 15km to the northwest of Marbella, the little village of Istan sits on the southern slopes of the Sierra de las Nieves, one of the more beautiful mountain nature reserves in all of Andalusia. This river route departs from Istan through the narrowest stretch of the Verde River valley, draining ultimately into the tranquil Concepcion reservoir. The path takes walkers through the Natural Park, mainly along the edge of the river channel, exposing numerous surprises around various bends along the way. The end of this itinerary also reveals a beautiful waterfall and a pool of crystal clear water. Here you find a precarious and rickety suspension bridge as well, which requires much care to traverse, but reveals further secrets and surprises.
Alan Hazel is Owner and Director of Cortijo El Carligto. Cortijo el Carligto is a private Andalucían hideaway and luxury rental estate in the hills of Malaga, Spain, overlooking the Mediterranean.