The dramatic and fascinating landscape of the El Torcal protected area is entrancing. Natural erosion has cut valleys and pathways through this enormous rock garden and created erratic sculptures in the process.

El Torcal protected area

  • Andalucia – Malaga province – Near Antequera

The dramatic and fascinating landscape of the El Torcal protected area is entrancing. Natural erosion has cut valleys and pathways through this enormous rock garden and created erratic sculptures in the process. Thin layers of rock stacked like pancakes are pinned down by massive blocks and this seemingly inhospitable terrain is host to many specialist rock loving plants.

This ‘Paraje Natural’ covers some 20 square kilometres of protected area and was first recognised for its singularity in 1929. The highest point in El Torcal is Camorro Alto at 1.378m above sea level.

Not too far away is the beautiful Cortijo Los Lobos – Rural mountain retreat in Villanueva del Trabuco with self catering holiday cottages, horseriding and stunning walking trails. Read more here:

Have a look at Get Your Guide for activities close to the el Torcal protected area

The dramatic and fascinating landscape of the El Torcal protected area.
The dramatic and fascinating landscape of El Torcal.

This mountain was actually a sea bed during the Jurassic period and underwent great upheaval during the Tertiary period. Unusually the bedrock remained level whilst being elevated, creating an upland plateaux that is unique in southern Spain. Natural erosion over centuries concentrates on weaker areas with wind, frost action and dissolution by rain water constantly shaping it anew. Silt is released during this erosion and deposits in the valleys as a clay base, forming seasonally damp meadows that contrast with the jagged cliffs of limestone. These grassy areas hold a mixture of plant life such as celandines, narcissi, peonies, orchids, bluebells and thistles.

Find a hotel close to the El Torcal protected area


Trees that take hold in the more soil rich parts are: Evergreen oak (Quercus rotundifolia) and Kermes Oak (Quercus coccifera), Gall Oak (Quercus faginea), Wild Olive (Olea europaea sylvestris), Sorbus (Sorbus aria) and two forms of Acer (Acer monspessulanum, A. granatense). Climbing Ivy (Hedera helix) and Honeysuckle (Lonicera implexa) blanket some of the white cliffs in rich greenery.

Two rock dwelling plants have taken their names from this area, they are Linaria anticaria and Dianthus anticarius, both are limited to a small area in the Baetic mountain range. Anticaria as part of the name refers to the old Roman name for Antequera in whose municipality the parkland lies.

Linaria and Dianthus at El Torcal near antequera
Linaria and Dianthus at El Torcal near antequera
Linaria antecaria at El Torcal
Linaria antecaria at El Torcal

There are some plants within the park that are on the Red List of endangered species: Atropa baetica and Sarcocapnos baetica subsp. baetica are in danger of extinction, whilst listed as vulnerable are: Saxifraga biternata, Acer opalus subsp granatense, Acer monspessulanum and Sorbus aria.

Mediterranean plants mix with more common European plants such as: Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and shrubby wild roses Rosa pimpinellifolia and Rosa sicula along with Lentisc (Pistacia lentiscus), Turpentine tree (Pistacia terebinthus), Dwarf European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) and Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo).


The roughness of the terrain allows for many reptiles to go virtually undetected Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida), Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus) and Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis hispanica) you may see. Lataste’s Viper (Vipera latastei), Montpelier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) and Ladder snake (Elaphe scalaris) are more timid.

The Spanish Ibex (Capra hispanica pyrenaica) has become quite used to visitors here and may pose beautifully for you on a prominent rock.

Birds to look out for among the rocks are: Black Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Red-billed Chough, Rock Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart and Little Owl with wintering Alpine Accentors. Griffon Vulture, Eagles and Kestrels may be seen in the open skies while Eagle Owls find refuge amongst the cliffs.


There is only one road that leads into the parkland, it is accessed on the southern side of the mountain on the road between Antequera and Villanueva de la Concepción. This mountain road terminates at the visitors centre, Mirador (viewpoint) and car park from where the signposted walks begin. It is recommended not to wander away from the path as it can be very easily to get lost amongst the rock formations.

Also in the area

The Antequera Dolmens Archaeological Site, included in the List of World Heritage Sites of te Unesco, is made up of the Dolmens of Menga, Viera and El Romeral in Antequera, Malaga, and is considered one of the best and best-known examples of European megalithic complexes. Megaliths were the first forms of monumental architecture in European prehistory and were developed, according to data currently available, from the beginning of the 5th millennium BC, the Neolithic period, about 6,500 years ago.

“El Caminito del Rey”, in English, “The King’s little pathway”) was initially built as an access route. It enabled workers at the hydroelectric power plants of El Chorro Gorge and Gaitanes Gorge with an easier way to transport materials, maintain and inspect the workings of the two power plants. Construction of the “walkway” began in 1901 and was finished in 1905 and in 1921 King Alfonso XIII visited and walked along the path for the inauguration of the Conde del Guadalhorce dam and since that time it became known as the “Kings path”

More information here:

Information centre at El Torcal protected area

Access to the “Torcal Alto Visitor Center” is free. The center has an interpretive area, multipurpose room, guide service, observatory, souvenir shop, restaurant, toilets and parking.

Getting there.

The most recommended access is through the city of Antequera. Once in Antequera, follow the signs to “El Torcal” or “Villanueva de la Concepción”, until you reach the A-7075 mountain road. After passing the sharp curves of the “Boca del Asno”, near kilometer 42, turn towards the “Centro de Visitantes Torcal Alto“. At the end of this narrow road, there is the destination.

The access road from Málaga is the A-45, towards Cordoba-Seville-Granada up to Casabermeja exit. Take this exit and go on by A-7075 until “Villanueva de la Concepción”. When you arrive to this small town, you should continue in direction of “Antequera” until you get to the detour the “Centro de Visitantes Torcal Alto”.

The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

3 thoughts on “El Torcal protected area”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *