Tag Archives: Lizards in Spain

Andalucian wall lizard – Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza

  • English: Andalusian Wall Lizard
  • Scientific: Podarcis vaucheri
  • Spanish: Lagartija andaluza
  • French: Lézard Andalouse
  • German: Andalusischen Mauereidechse
  • Italian: Lucertola Andalusa
  • Portuguese: Lagartixa-andaluz
  • Distribution: southern Spain (Western Andalucia), central and northern Morocco, northern Algeria and northern Tunisia.
  • Similar species: Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis hispanicus) Lagartija ibérica (Basically if you are anywhere other than Western Andalucia its probably an Iberian wall lizard….) – Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) lives in open terrain and does not climb – Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus) has 4 well defined darker stripes and much longer tail.
Andalucian wall lizard - Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza
Andalucian wall lizard sunning itself on a pine tree

The Andalucian wall lizard – Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza is a small, slender lizard with a somewhat flattened head and body. Their body length is between 4 and 6 cm (1½ to 2½inches). The tail can be more than twice the body length, bringing the total length to18 cm in the larger examples (7 inches). The males are the larger and more robust, with voluminous head and longer limbs. They display a wide variety of colours, the background can be brown, grey or green. The dorsal pattern of the males is usually green and brown with black spots forming broken or irregular lines. The females usually have more defined stripes.

Active throughout the year except during the coldest winter days they prefer habitas with platforms where they can sunbathe with close access to shelters, to hide in case of danger. They like to live in stony and rocky areas, old walls, buildings, tree trunks, etc.

Food consists of small insects, spiders, millipedes and gastropods.

Andalucian wall lizard - Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza
Andalucian wall lizard – Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza – Note the hatchlings blue tail.

Breeding can start from late February and lasts until July. During this period, the males engage in fights, after which the winner mates with the female. They can produce up to 4 clutches of eggs per year. 1-5 eggs per clutch are laid which take 48 to 82 days to hatch. At birth they have a brown dorsal colour often with a blue or green tail.

Andalucian wall lizard - Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza
Andalucian wall lizard – Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza – Males fighting during breeding season.

This species was formally treated as a subspecies of Podarcis hispanicus, (See below) but rose to the rank of species (Oliver et al. 2000) and was originally considered to only be in northern Africa, but has also been shown to be present in southern Spain (Harris et al. 2002).


The Iberian wall lizard – Podarcis hispanicus – Lagartija ibérica

To be honest, I can’t tell the difference between these two lizard species and some studies even point to interbreeding along the distribution frontiers.

Identification by geographic location is the key… basically, anywhere between Malaga along the coast towards Cádiz and then the Portuguese border and inland to the Sierra Norte de Seville and back towards Jaen seem to be the territory of the Andalucian wall lizard….. Anywhere else its the Iberian wall lizard…. (Any comments and corrections are most welcome)

Iberian wall lizard - Podarcis hispanica – Lagartija Ibérica
Iberian wall lizard – Podarcis hispanica – Lagartija Ibérica

There is also a subspecies of the Iberian wall lizard, Podarcis hispanica atrata that lives in the Columbretes Islands off the eastern coast of Spain on the way to the Balearics. See wikipedia article in Spanish here.

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Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución

  • Non-Venomous
  • Scientific: Anguis fragilis (The previous Spanish subspecies Anguis fragilis fragilis is now with the western European populations)
  • English: Slow Worm
  • Spanish: Lución
  • Portuguese: Licranço
  • Galician: Escáncer común
  • Family: Anguidae
  • Distribution: Northern Spain and north and central Portugal, as well as the entire European mainland. Western Europe, northern Europe and western Balcans)

Identification and similar species

The Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución is the only truly legless lizard in Spain and Portugal. It can be distinguished from snakes by its eyelids and visible ear openings (features that all snakes lack) and from the Southwest Iberian Worm Lizard (Blanus mariae) by its eyes, these being vestigial and almost invisible in the worm lizard. The Western Three-Toed Skink (Chalcides striatus) is also somewhat similar but on closer inspection will show its small limbs with three toes.

The Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución is the only truly legless lizard in Spain and Portugal. It can be distinguished from snakes by its eyelids and visible ear openings
The Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución is the only truly legless lizard in Spain and Portugal. It can be distinguished from snakes by its eyelids and visible ear openings

In coloration Anguis fragilis has an overall uniform colour, usually brown, grey or bronze but sometimes red or copper, with the underneath a shade of grey. Males are fairly plain but females often have a vertebral stripe, dark sides and belly. The young are a striking gold or silver with a similar stripe and dark patterning to the female. In addition to normal coloration, both albino and melanistic (very dark or all black) individuals have been found. The scales are smooth. Apart from the variation in coloration there are no known differences among the Iberian populations.

Adult Slow Worms reach about 50 cm, of which more than half may be the tail if unregenerated (i.e. not broken off). However, regenerated tails are quite common in this species, as they frequently “break” and the regenerative process is very slow.

Another easy way to distinguish the Slow Worm from a snake is its rather awkward wriggling way of movement as opposed to the smooth, apparently effortless gliding of a snake.

Habitat and distribution on the Iberian Peninsular

The species is found in northern areas of Spain and Portugal including Catalonia, the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, Castilla y Leon, Galicia and the Pyrenees up to around 2,400 metres. In fact, in terms of habitat, it is very adaptable being found from sea level to high mountain altitudes generally and also in a variety of environments including meadows, areas of undergrowth, railway and even motorway embankments.

Spain Distribution map of the Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución
Spain Distribution map of the Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución

The above map comes from the excellent website Aves de Extremadura: http://aves-extremadura.blogspot.com/2017/05/el-lucion-anguis-fragilis-en-extremadura.html (In Spanish) The yellow arrows shows the furthest South that a Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución has been recorded.

The common factor seems to be that the ideal environment is damp but not wet and not too sunny, possibly why this species is not found in the south of the Iberian Peninsula.

Slow Worms are reclusive animals, so their habitat is often characterised by plentiful cover in the form of undergrowth, fallen leaves, stones, etc. They often hide beneath rocks or fallen wood, manmade items such as sheet iron or rubber mats also being utilised.The species is diurnal (daytime active), its maximum activity normally taking place 5-10am and 6-9pm in Spain and Portugal. It may also be encountered after a shower of rain, possibly because of the greater possibility of finding gastropod prey.

What does a slow worm eat?

The Slow Worm preys mainly on gastropods (small slugs and snails) a great reason the species should be a welcome visitor to any garden. 🙂 It will also take arthropods and sometimes small reptiles, basically anything that will fit in its mouth.

Breeding and hibernation

In Iberia the Slow Worm emerges from hibernation in March. Courtship and mating take place in April to May, males fighting and wrestling each other. The mating ritual itself may last up to 10 hours. The females give birth to live young (ovoviviparous birth) after 11-13 weeks and in the days leading up to birth, the female can often be seen basking in the sun on a warm road. 5-26 young are born but on average 6-12 is more normal.

In western Europe males breed at the age of 3-4 years, females at 4-5 years. Slow Worms enter hibernation in autumn, often forming communal dens of up to 100 individuals together with salamanders and (in a hibernation truce!) vipers in suitable frost-free places such as holes in the ground or among roots.

These slow and inoffensive reptiles are known for their incredible longevity – 10-15 years in the wild is cited by one authority, another suggests 30 years, and there is a captive record for no less than 54 years.

The Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución is the only truly legless lizard in Spain and Portugal. It can be distinguished from snakes by its eyelids and visible ear openings
The Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución is the only truly legless lizard in Spain and Portugal. It can be distinguished from snakes by its eyelids and visible ear openings

The Slow Worm appears to be fairly abundant in its range and therefore less endangered by human activity than some other creatures. Unfortunately it is sometimes still mistaken for a snake and may be persecuted as a result. Across its range it has various predators including small carnivores, several birds of prey and snakes, including the Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) but probably the most damaging to populations is the domestic cat.


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Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta

  • English: Spanish Psammodromus / Sandrunner
  • Scientific: Psammodromus hispanicus hispanicus
  • Spanish: Lagartija cenicienta
  • Portuguese: Lagartixo-do-mato-ibérico
  • Family: Lacertidae
  • Distribution: Iberia, Western and central Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). (Absent from most of north and all of north-west.) The northernmost populations were known in the 1980s from Orense, León, Tarragona, Barcelona and Gerona.
  • Subspecies: Eastern Psammodromus hispanicus edwardsianus – Eastern Spain and mediteranean France. This subspecies differs from P. h. hispanicus in having finer body scaling, larger hind feet and coarser scales on the throat.
Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta
Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) showing head scales

Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta is a small lizard with a total length of about 15cm of which one third is the head and body. It can be distinguished from similar-sized small lacertids by its rather large keeled scales which overlap in a shingle-like manner and its weak collar, which is only visible on the sides. By contrast other small lacertids usually have non-overlapping, non-keeled dorsal scales and/or a definitive collar. The ground colour tends to be brown or ash grey but may also be olive or ochre, with a dorsal pattern of 4-6 longitudinal white or yellowish stripes overlaying transverse black bars, giving it a characteristically “segmented or “humbug”” appearance. However in some populations, notably those of the western subspecies, this pattern may be reduced or absent, and some are simply a complete grey, brown or olive.

Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta
Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta

Habitat

The species is found throughout much of Iberia and the southern coastal areas of France. Its absence from the Pyrenees may be due to its preference for lowland habitat: in the south it is found at up to 1,700m (Sierra de Guadarrama and Sierra de Nevada), but normally lives at much lower altitudes. Dry open spaces with firm or sandy soil, often with a covering of low bushes are the preferred habitat. In places without much vegetative covering such as gravel plains or sand flats the lizards will often move at great speed from one place to another and covering some distance, hence the common name of “Sandrunner”. Like many small lizards the Spanish Psammodromus will take cover within the twiggy base of a plant or burrow beneath its roots. Territories are small, about 25m2.

Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta
Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta

Identification will normally boil down to where the animal is spotted. Populations in Andalucía, Castilla la Mancha, Extremadura and Portugal appear to belong to the western (Spanish) subspecies, those of Murcia, Valencia, Cataluña, Aragón and France to the Eastern subspecies.

(All of the images in this article were taken in Andalucia.)

Like most small lacertids, P. hispanicus will eat small invertebrates and a study of Alicante populations showed that about a quarter of its prey was spiders, the rest being made up of varied insects.

Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta
Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta

Breeding

In the mating season Psammodromus make squeaking calls, and on male lizards the flanks turn green. The mating process itself is fairly short, often a minute. Gravid females are seen from April through July. A clutch of 2-6 eggs is laid, usually twice per year. Incubation takes 48 days and the young appear at the beginning of June or the end of July or beginning of August, measuring about 5½ cm in total length. Sexual maturity is reached rapidly, in 8-9 months, as in common with many small lacertid species, Psammodromus hispanicus is not long-lived, 2-3 years being the norm although a few may exceed this.

A study of French (Eastern) populations showed that yearly activity ran between February and September-October. This may well apply to many of the Iberian populations, although it is reasonable to suppose that those in the south may be active most if not all of the year.

Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta
Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) Lagartija cenicienta

Owing to its small size this lizard has escaped direct predation by man, although obviously habitat loss will have had an indirect impact. Notes on the similar-sized Psammodromus blanci from North Africa indicated that it was preyed on by the snakes Malpolon monspessulanus and Macroprotodon cucullatus (both also found in Spain) and the lizard Lacerta [Timon] pater (a close relative of Timon lepidus which is found in Spain), so it would seem at least plausible that these snakes and Timon lepidus would be possible predators of Psammodromus hispanicus.



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Mediterranean Chameleon – Chamaeleo chameleon – Camaleón comun

  • Scientific: Chamaelo chamaeleon
  • English: Mediterranean or Common Chameleon
  • Spanish: Camaleón comun
  • Portuguese: Camaleão

Above image is by Benny Trap who has a fantastic collection of reptile and amphibian images over at wikipedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Benny_Trapp

Distribution

The southern coastal areas of Spain and Portugal. Elsewhere it is found on Malta, Sicily, Crete and the Greek islands of Chios and Samos as well as North Africa and south west Asia. some of these populations were possibly deliberate introductions or accidental transportation in the past. The same may have occured with this species on the Canary islands. (A similar species (Chameleo africanus) exists in the extreme south of Greece).

Mediterranean Chameleon - Chamaeleo chameleon - Camaleón común
Mediterranean Chameleon – Chamaeleo chameleon – Camaleón común

Chameleons probably need little introduction and are instantly recognisable by both their appearance and their behaviour. All are members of the genus Chamaeleo and the only one which occurs in Europe they have laterally compressed bodies, a coiled, prehensile tail (like that of a monkey, allowing them to use it as a fifth limb to grasp branches) a very prominent head with usually some sort of adornment in the form of a casque or horns, fused eyelids that cover eyes which can move independently of each other, and feet with fused fingers and toes, essentially making the normally five digits of most lizards into two rather thick ones that form a pincer shape ideal for grasping and walking along branches.

The tongue is specially adapted for catching insect prey at long range, being coiled up inside the mouth like a huge spring with an enlarged sticky end. Chameleons invariably stalk very slowly through vegetation (usually in the trees, although they do descend to the ground), focus on the target prey and shoot the tongue out at it and equally quickly withdraw it back with the prey stuck on the end.

Although chameleons are renowned for changing colour, this is in fact more a reflection of their mood, communication to other chameleons or body temperature than any conscious attempt at camouflage.
As a rule these are not social animals even by the standards of reptiles, adults tending to avoid one another. Males have their own territories that often include females and defend these spaces fairly vigorously.

Chamaelo chamaeleon is a medium-sized chameleon with a total length of about 30cm/12”, of which somewhat less than half of this is the tail. The head is distinguished by a crest or casque on the top that curves backwards and a flap-like lobe on either side of the head. The normal ground colour is a grass green, but this can change to blackish, brown, grey or white, sometimes with orange spots or a broken white line along the side. Individuals spotted at night are often very pale. They are daytime animals, being most active in the morning and afternoon.

Mediterranean Chameleon - Chamaeleo chameleon - Camaleón común
Mediterranean Chameleon – Chamaeleo chameleon – Camaleón común

The species is found in the southern coastal areas of Spain and Portugal, including the Algarve, Málaga, Cadiz, Huelva and Almería. Oddly enough for a normally arboreal lizard it can be found on coastal dunes as well as bushes and in pine and eucalyptus woods. In Iberia it prefers low altitudes, up to 800m, but in North Africa can be found in the Atlas mountains almost twice as high.

Although there are no scientifically recognised variations in the Iberian populations at any rate, one authority noted that Iberian and North African populations tend to have a shorter tail and a lower casque on the head of the male.

The Mediterranean or “Common” Chameleon’s diet consists of various insects such as grasshoppers and crickets, flies, butterflies and moths, but they sometimes take small lizards or nestling birds.

The breeding season is later in the year than for most reptiles, during August and September males become notably aggressive towards one another, displaying their colours (often a deep green with black spots), puffing out their throats and gaping. Females are also displayed to. Mating lasts about 15 minutes and normally takes place twice daily over a two week period. After 50-60 days the female digs a hole 15-20cm deep and lays about 30 eggs. Incubation lasts no less than 8-9 months, so that eggs laid in one year do not hatch until July or August of the next. Reproduction is a strain on the female, nearly half dying after their first clutch, but chameleons in general are considered short-lived creatures with lives of just a few years.

While some lizard species are active all year round in the chameleon’s range, the chameleon itself has a period of winter inactivity from December to March, during which it normally buries itself or hides beneath rocks.

Threats to the survival of Mediterranean Chameleon – Chamaeleo chameleon – Camaleón comun

The Chameleon in Iberia has, unfortunately, many factors conspiring against its future survival. Partly, the very slow gait of this lizard makes it easy prey for domestic cats, road traffic and bush fires.

Habitat loss due to housing projects, golf courses and road building has fragmented populations especially along the coastal areas of the south. There are also natural predators such as the Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) and the Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygarus)


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Large Psammodromus – Psammodromus algirus – Lagartija Colilarga

  • English: Large Psammodromus
  • Scientific: Psammodromus algirus (Linnaeus 1758)
  • Castilian: Lagartija Colilarga
  • Catalan: Sargantaner gros
  • Portuguese: Lagartixa-do-mato
  • Family: Lacertidae
  • Distribution: Iberia (excluding the northern Atlantic coastal stretch.) Algeria, France, Gibraltar, Italy, Morocco, Portugal and Tunisia

The Large Psammodromus – Psammodromus algirus – Lagartija Colilarga can have a body length of up to 9cm with a slender tail that is two or three times longer. Its back is a soft brown with two pale yellow or off white stripes running down each flank. The back legs up to the beginning of the tail are a soft orange colour, all of this helps them to blend well with fallen leaves and soil shades under bushes which is where they are normally seen. This can be in forests, woods or more open scrubland but generally not far from shrubs that they can hunt through and use as shelter. They are very agile and can even be seen climbing nimbly through gorse bushes, often only giving away their position as they rustle through leaves. This species is very adaptable and can inhabit areas from sea level up to 2600m in altitude in the warmer southern areas of their distribution range.

Large Psammodromus - Psammodromus algirus – Lagartija colilarga-2
Large Psammodromus – Psammodromus algirus – Lagartija colilarga Note the stripes down the flanks.

This is the most numerous species of lizard in Iberia. Their diet consists mainly of arthropods – beetles, spiders, grasshoppers and ants, they will also eat small lizards and fruit or seeds. If the temperature exceeds 15 degrees then they can be active throughout the year only hibernating in areas where the temperature drops lower than this. They are generally diurnal but may also be out on summer nights.

Large Psammodromus - Psammodromus algirus – Lagartija colilarga-2
Large Psammodromus – Psammodromus algirus – Lagartija colilarga – Lunching on a grasshopper.

The males can have blue spots along their sides just above the forelimbs and can also show red / yellow colouring on their faces during the breeding season. Breeding begins in the spring and there may be two or rarely three clutches consisting of between 2 to 11 eggs. The incubation time can vary from one to six weeks with the young appearing from August through to October. The young are 2.5 to 3cm in body length and have the same colouration and patterns as the adults. This species may live up to 7 years.


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Lilford’s wall lizard

Lilford’s wall lizard (Podarcis lilfordi ) is a species of lizard in the family Lacertidae. The species is endemic to the Balearic Islands, Spain.

Spanish: Lagartija balear

Its natural habitats are temperate Mediterranean-type shrubby vegetation, rocky areas, and rocky shores. Originally distributed throughout the Balearics, the introduction of alien species which started with the Romans has confined the species to the uninhabited islets around the major islands, on almost each of which a local subspecies has evolved.

Lilford’s wall lizard grows to a body length of around 8 cm (snout to base of tail). The tail is about twice the length of the body. The dorsal surface is usually greenish or brownish but varies much between different island subpopulations. There is usually a pale dorso-lateral stripe and there may be several dark streaks or three dark lines running along the spine. The underside is white, cream or pinkish.and the throat may be blotched with a darker colour. Hatchlings very often have a blue tail.

Native to the islands of Menorca and Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, the Cabrera Archipelago to the south of Mallorca, and most of the neighbouring rocky islets This lizard is not present on the main islands any more due to predation by introduced species (cats) and also habitat loss.

Feeding and breeding habits

It mainly feeds on insects, spiders and other arthropods, snails and some vegetable matter which includes flowers, fruits, nectar and pollen.

Some plants endemic to the Balearic Islands depend on this lizard for pollination and plants known to be pollinated by it include the mastic tree Pistacia lentiscus, rock samphire Crithmum maritimum, wild leek Allium ampeloprasum, clustered carline thistle Carlina corymbosa and the sea daffodil Pancratium maritimum.

Breeding takes place in the summer and females sometimes lay up to three clutches of one to four eggs. These hatch in about eight weeks and the emerging young measure 3 to 3.5 cm

There are twenty-seven recognized subspecies many of which are found on only a single island (From wikipedia).

  • Podarcis lilfordi lilfordi (Günther, 1874) – Aire islet, off the southeastern coast of Menorca
  • Podarcis lilfordi addayae (Eisentraut, 1928)
  • Podarcis lilfordi balearica (Bedriaga, 1879)
  • Podarcis lilfordi brauni (L. Müller, 1927) – Colom islet, off Menorca
  • Podarcis lilfordi carbonerae Pérez-Mellado & Salvador, 1988 – Carbonera islet, off Menorca
  • Podarcis lilfordi codrellensis Pérez-Mellado & Salvador, 1988 – Binicondrell islet, off the southern coast of Menorca
  • Podarcis lilfordi colomi (Salvador, 1980) – Colomer islet, off northeast Menorca
  • Podarcis lilfordi conejerae (L. Müller, 1927)
  • Podarcis lilfordi espongicola (Salvador, 1979)
  • Podarcis lilfordi estelicola (Salvador, 1979)
  • Podarcis lilfordi fahrae (L. Müller, 1927)
  • Podarcis lilfordi fenni (Eisentraut, 1928) – Sanitja islet, off northern Menorca
  • Podarcis lilfordi gigliolii (Bedriaga, 1879) – Dragonera islet, off north of Majorca
  • Podarcis lilfordi hartmanni (Wettstein, 1937)
  • Podarcis lilfordi hospitalis (Eisentraut, 1928)
  • Podarcis lilfordi imperialensis (Salvador, 1979)
  • Podarcis lilfordi isletasi (Hartmann, 1953)
  • Podarcis lilfordi jordansi (L. Müller, 1927)
  • Podarcis lilfordi kuligae (L. Müller, 1927)
  • Podarcis lilfordi nigerrima (Salvador, 1979)
  • Podarcis lilfordi planae (L. Müller, 1927)
  • Podarcis lilfordi probae (Salvador, 1979)
  • Podarcis lilfordi porrosicola Pérez-Mellado and Salvador, 1988 – Porros islet, north of Menorca
  • Podarcis lilfordi rodriquezi (L. Müller, 1927) – Ratas Island lizard – Formerly Ratas Island, in Mahón’s harbour (Menorca). Extinct after island was demolished in harbour expansion.
  • Podarcis lilfordi sargantanae (Eisentraut, 1928) – islets located by the north coast of Majorca (Sargantana, Ravells, Bledes and Tusqueta).
  • Podarcis lilfordi toronis (Hartmann, 1953)
  • Podarcis lilfordi xapaticola (Salvador, 1979)

Above image Wikipedia By Orchi – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=890856


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.

http://grazalemaguide.com/