Today’s walk is a scenic traverse of the limestone mountains and pine forests that stand between Grazalema and Villaluenga del Rosario. Stop briefly in Benaocaz to explore the village’s rich history.
These towering limestone peaks (around 1,500 metres high) are one of the first obstacles for weather systems arriving from the Atlantic. Resultingly, a microclimate bubbles around Grazalema, making it the wettest village in Spain and ensuring a unique walk through verdant pine forest. (The majority of the rain falls in winter so you’d be unlucky to experience much yourself!)
You’ll burst above the tree-line to discover unobstructed views of the karst limestone landscape. There’s the wrinkled limestone pavement, the lonely upright pinnacles defying gravity and the grey mountain peaks that can contrast fiercely against blue skies or blend invisibly into the clouds. Speaking of the skies, this area is filled with Griffon Vultures who ride the thermals and encircle the peaks. Their enormous 2.6-metre wingspan(!) is larger than an eagle’s, and in this stark landscape, it’s easy to picture them as pterodactyls in a prehistoric world.
You’ll pass through the village of Benaocaz which boasts an interesting history, from Neolithic caves to a Roman village to a Moorish town. You can stop at the museum to learn more about this rich past. Villaluenga, where the trail finishes, is known for its sheep farming; it has the only shepherd school in Andalucia, once-booming textile industry and the renowned Payoyo cheese – made with a mix of sheep and goat milk - is a speciality of the area.
Try Payoyo Cheese while in Villaluenga. It is typically a blend of sheep and goat milk, and a speciality of the area.
There are some exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk; be careful and remain on the path.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp left bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
Part of this footpath crosses through a 'coto privado de caza' - a private hunting area. The hunting season is roughly 3-months long, starting in early September, and only on the weekends. The footpath remains open during this time and is unlikely to be affected, but be sure not to deviate from the path.
Some of the path passes through areas where there may be cows. Cows will seldom take any notice of you but take care not to surprise them and pass around them with a wide berth.
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required. Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of the steep ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Points of Interest
Ermita del Calvario
This hermitage, constructed in the early 1700s, has a simple single-nave and belltower design but in a striking location, atop a rocky limestone hill on the outskirts of Benaocaz. A 15-minute detour up the hill also reveals a wonderful view overlooking Benaocaz.
Puerto del Boyar
This mountain pass is one of the highest in the area, 1,103 metres elevation, as offers a fantastic panorama overlooking the Boyar Valley. In winter it is popular for Spanish people to drive up to the mountain pass, as it is one of the most accessible places to see snow. It is only a short (100 metre) detour from the trail.
As discovered briefly above, Benaocaz has a rich history, from Neolithic caves to a Roman village to a Moorish town. The museum passes through each of these periods and at each stage explores the relationship between man and nature. Information boards and artefacts up to 100,000 years old help tell the story.
More information available here: https://www.destinationcadiz.com/culture/ecomuseo-historico-de-benaocaz
Food and Drink
You will reach Benaocaz after 11.5 kilometres, where there are a few options to buy food or drink and to refill water bottles.