If hiking to you means meandering leisurely across open meadows and up mountain paths past gorgeous scenery, spotting rare plants and wildlife, strolling through ancient geologic formations, and exploring timeless Mediterranean villages that have existed since before the Renaissance, all while keeping five-star accommodations on the agenda, then the following adventure might just appeal to you. It’s fun, outdoorsy, and has just the right touch of indulgence.
There are hundreds of outfitters all over the world that cater to various and often specific needs of travelers and adventurers. Of the very few that successfully combine multiple aspects of outdoor adventuring with high-end hotels and food, Country Walkers is regarded as one of the best. They offer a multitude of easygoing multi-day hikes with guided walking tours of many a traveler’s list-topping locations. One such trip is a mesmerizing journey into Old Spain. For those who love exploring national parks, this trip will be particularly enticing. It’s a walking tour of Andalucía, from Granada to Seville, which takes you into an ancient world of astonishing natural phenomena and ageless towns, while treating you with comforts that are both traditional and modern.
This journey begins in Granada, where you’ll get an expert tour of the famous Alhambra in all its Moorish glory. Then it’s off to the nearby village of La Joya, where beautiful gardens and spectacular views of the Mediterranean from your hotel fuel your senses and ready you for a week of unforgettable discoveries and exploration…
Over the next several days you’ll be guided through a series of natural wonders and captivating villages, each with their own unique combination of endemic charms. Among your first stops is the Torcal de Antequera, a maze of surreal rock formations dating back to the Jurassic Period. The park’s mind-blowing rock shapes have been carved by millions of years of erosion and look more like artist-made sculptures than natural objects. It is truly trippy! Keep your eyes peeled for fossils, such as snails, scallops, clams, and the attractively coiled ammonites, a once highly abundant group of ancient cephalopods that disappeared with the dinosaurs. (Don’t be surprised if your guide says something cheeky like, “Welcome to the real Jurassic Park!”) As for things that didn’t go extinct, the area supports a stunning display of wildflowers, such as native roses, peonies, and over 30 varieties of orchids. Wildlife includes Andalusian mountain goats, curious foxes, graceful griffon vultures, and a dazzling array of butterflies, among others. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot an elusive Iberian ibex.
As your trek continues towards Seville, your path goes through yet more stunning natural areas, namely the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, one of Spain’s most ecologically significant regions, and home to numerous protected species. One of which is the Spanish fir tree, an ancient relic from the last ice age that grows only in a few spots of Andalucía and parts of Morocco. Here you’ll also find thick flocks of griffon vultures and at least three species of eagles – but don’t worry, those raptors don’t hunt people. The park is also home to numerous subterranean caves and grottos and it’s an ideal place for spelunking and exploring lush, deep canyons. One of its caves is home to Spain’s largest colonies of bats, estimated at over 100,000 leathery winged individuals; nature’s best mosquito control!
The natural splendor on this multi-day hike will surprise and enchant all. However, for some, the best part may be exploring Andalucía’s famous White Towns, such as Benamahoma and Benaocaz. The ancientness of these towns is reflected in the mix of Roman, Moorish, and Old Spanish architecture. Some of the settlements even date back to prehistoric times and harbor cave paintings tens of thousands of years old. Much has been written about the White Towns (check out this and this for some in-depth info) and their ancientness and romanticism is practically unmatched in all of Europe.
Here’s where the indulgence comes in. Throughout the trek, Country Walkers weaves in a little bit of luxury into your daily hikes in the form of lavish picnics of locally sourced delicacies that exemplify the richness and diversity of Andalucían cuisine, such as farm-fresh cheeses and veggies, tapas, jamon, and vino dulce (sweet wine) from Málaga. Nights see trekkers even more pampered with lavish feasts such as grilled wild boar, Mediterranean sea bass, and colorful seafood paellas exploding with flavor and complimented by local wines and seductive surroundings. All of which is enjoyed in specially selected Michelin-starred restaurants and the extraordinary venues that Country Walkers arranges. Hotels like Funente del Sol and Vincci de la Rabida offer perfect reveries after a day in the sun. Parador de Ronda, an 18th century town hall turned resort, stands out as particularly splendid as much for its history and bold beauty as for its location; next to the white town of Ronda’s massive bridge, the Puente Nuevo, and overlooking a 350-foot cliff-drop into the Guadalevin River Gorge. The views are truly arresting. That pano function on your mobile phone will come in very handy here.