Tuesday, October 20, 2009

El Chorro in Andalucia - Brilliant but don't tell anyone!

We went hiking and playing in the lake at the weekend at El Chorro in AndalucĂ­a. This is a stunning area with amazing scenery, fantastic walks and lakes, great places to eat and drink, yet on a gorgeous day like yesterday (mid October) when it was in the high 20's there's nobody there. Well I say nobody there were a few locals and tourists about, but when I compare it to a similar UK spot like the Peak District or the Lake District it’s empty in comparison.

Click here for a map showing El Chorro

Real shame because I am sure the types of folk who enjoy areas like the Peak District and the Lake District in the UK would have a great time in the Spanish parks, especially in the Winter Months when the mild Spanish winters offer great conditions for exploring these unspoilt regions.

Here’s a few ideas for things to do on a day in the El Chorro area (short walk in the late morning, lunch in El Chorro, then a scenic drive, fun on the lake or another short hike in the afternoon):

Arrive mid morning and, as you arrive from the south via Alora, drive across the dam to El Chorro (a very small village). As you climb up to the village you come to a right hand hairpin turn, with a road to the left (actually straight on) signposted to a campsite. Follow this road to the end, going down by the water, before turning to the right. Here you will see a ornate arched railway bridge (see the first image in this blog) ahead of you on the mountain side. Park up here in the mall car park. Take a walk up the track. The track is a little rough but fine and we have done this witg kids on many occasions (with Esme the 5 year old yesterday!). The track winds up with great views over the gorge. You can see the old Kings Walk (el Camino del Ray) now accessible only to climbers. See the second image in this blog.

If you follow the track upwards from the viewing platform, you take a series of fairly steep steps and eventually get to the top of the hill with a seating area (see the forth image taken looking up the valley over the village of El Chorro), looking down over the railway line and Kings Walk. At the weekend there were several large Griffon Vultures circling (see the third image) in front of the cliff face as we walked up (we must have looked a little tired!). You usually see Vultures in the air over El Chorro.

From here you can head towards Village, or the large cross on the hill top. The walk back takes you down towards the railway line, and down some steps to rejoin the trail to the car park. A nice circular walk taking about an hour.

Once back in the car drive back into El Chorro - here there is a small parking area by the railway station. You have a choice of a small shop/bar to the left of the station, or the La Garganta Hotel across the road to the right. The La Garganta Hotel has a superb terrace at the rear, overlooking the valley, and offers good service and food (we ate there at the weekend and were well looked after).

Then for the afternoon take a drive back down to the Alora Road and head right after crossing the dam, towards Argondales. This road winds about 8-10 miles through yet more stunning scenery up to the lakes. There is a superb drive off to the left (signposted Mirador) with a few bars/restaurants with great views, and a large reservoir at the top.

Alternatively (as we did at the weekend) head on up to the T junction and turn right. Over the next mile you have several places on the left offering kayak hire and pedaloes to have fun in the lake (see the fifth image). Or if its a little cool for the lake, you have the opportunity for another 1 hour walk on the right.

The road to the right (after two or three car parks on the left) is signposted for walkers. There are often a lot of cars parked about 100m up this road, but these are usually for the restaurant - nice place with simple food and great views over the lake. Keep going up this road until you see a vehicle width trail off to the right with a barrier. Park up here and this trail takes you down to a dam (see the sixth image), at the water level in the bottom of the valley, and to the right after the dam to the start of the Kings Walk (which is closed off for safety reasons).

Or if you fancy getting into the action in this area a little more try Quad Biking, Horse Riding, Climbing, Mountain Biking, etc. See the YouGoDo guide for things to do in El Chorro.

Great place to visit but tell only your closest friends - I don’t want to be stuck in Matlock Bath sized traffic jams when I am next in the area!

Outdoor Paul

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