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Hiking trail

Villaluenga del Rosario to Benaoján

Hiking trail
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  • Winding Dirt Track
    / Winding Dirt Track
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Mountain Scenery
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Soaring Griffon Vultures
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Griffon Vultures
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Dramatic Limestone Scenery
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Church (Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Rosario), Benaoján
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
m 1300 1200 1100 1000 900 800 700 600 500 400 20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 km Refugio Cortijo del Libar

Today’s walk from Villaluenga del Rosario to Benaoján passes through dramatic limestone scenery. There’s one climb to tackle but much of the day is gentle walking through picturesque valleys.

20.6 km
5:30 h
562 m
867 m

You will drop from Villaluenga into the Llanos del Republicano. This is often called a valley, but that doesn’t really do it justice. When you’re standing in the Llanos (the Plains), it appears more like two giant and near-vertical walls of rock running parallel to each other and into the horizon, or like two separate mountain massifs glaring at the other across a flat and barren No Man’s Land. As you walk across the plains the cliffs ahead may appear impossible to pass… but that’s exactly what you’re about to do.

After winding steeply up a narrow gap in the cliffs you’ll emerge into a second valley. This valley resembles a corridor and allows for gentle walking while surrounded by impressive mountains and rocky outcrops. In places the limestone landscape is particularly breathtaking, contorting into jagged pinnacles and spires and appearing like a gothic cathedral.

The ‘pueblos blancos’ (white villages) of Montejaque and Benaoján are both stunning, not just for their tapas-fuelled plazas and narrow streets, whitewashed houses and colourful churches, but equally for the bowl of dramatic mountain scenery that surrounds them.

Author’s recommendation

Look up! Stare into the skies and scan the rocky outcrops to admire the enormous Griffon Vulture. As I walked through the valley I could feel dozens of pairs of vulture’s eyes watching me. User
Macs Adventure
Updated: March 05, 2020

Highest point
1026 m
Lowest point
527 m

Safety information

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.

You must cross several cattle grids; walk carefully as you cross them and bear in mind they may be slippery when wet.


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.

Tips, hints and links

Points of Interest

Refugio Cortijo del Libar

This mountain refuge has the capacity to sleep 60-70 people, however, it currently looks unloved and has fallen into disrepair. In 2016, the Mayor of Montejaque gained control of managing the property; he hopes to reopen it and use it as a base for school children to interact with nature. Hopefully, this will take effect soon; until then it remains another brooding mountain ruin – perfect for photos!


Llanos del Republicano

The Plains of the Republicans is a large limestone valley with steep mountains slopes on either side. At one end is the Sima del Republicano – this is a sinkhole where the meandering river drains into the limestone earth. This large plain acts a transition zone; there are subtle differences in the flora, fauna and mountains on either side.


Food and Drink

You will reach Montejaque after 18 kilometres, where there are a few options to buy food or drink and to refill water bottles.


Plaza Alameda, Villaluenga del Rosario (865 m)
36.696680, -5.385824
30S 286860 4063877


Church (Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Rosario), Benaoján

Turn-by-turn directions

0.00km – Start in Plaza Alameda, facing the Church of San Miguel. TURN RIGHT following the sign for Plaza de Toros. At the crossroads after 100 metres, BEAR RIGHT onto the uphill cobbled road.

0.25km – Just after passing the bull-ring on your right, BEAR RIGHT to follow the winding cobbled slope as it heads downhill. Ignore all side roads.

0.45km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON as you reach a roundabout in the main road. After crossing over the roundabout you will pass a gravel car parking area, and then follow the paved lane passing a cheese shop and a 'Padel' court (like an enclosed tennis court) on your right, and a floodlit football pitch on your left.

1.70km – Just after cresting the hill and passing a gravel car park and a whitewashed house, BEAR LEFT as the road forks, following the wooden post with red and white markings and the sign for ‘Sendero Llanos del Republicano’.

1.90km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON through the gate and along the gravel road, ignoring a footpath immediately on your right. If the vehicle gate is locked, there is a pedestrian gate just to the left. 

You are now entering a private hunting area, 'coto privado de caza'. 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.

2.10km - BEAR RIGHT as the road forks, following the sign for ‘Sendero Llanos del Republicano’, and a GR7 sign to ‘Puerto del Correo’. Remain on this road ignoring all side paths.

3.20km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON through the gate and along the road. After 300 metres, TURN LEFT to walk along the muddy vehicle tracks. Ignore the GR7 signpost here as its direction can be misleading.

4.10km – BEAR LEFT to pass through the metal gate, following the sign for ‘Sendero Llanos del Republicano’. As the path forks after 20 metres, BEAR RIGHT to leave the vehicle tracks and walk towards a lone oak tree. There is a wooden post with red and white markings to guide you.

4.40km – BEAR RIGHT as the path forks to pass through the wooden gate, following the GR7 signpost to ‘Puerto del Correo’. Once through the gate the path will begin winding uphill.

5.00km – As you approach the saddle between two rocky outcrops, the path will split several times. There is often a white arrow to guide you, but the paths always rejoin regardless. In general, keep to the established rocky path, heading uphill and parallel to the dry-stone wall on your left.

6.30km – Upon reaching an information board and map for the GR7, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON to begin heading downhill through a gate in the dry wall, following a GR7 sign to Montejaque. Once through the gate, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON heading downhill on the rocky path, ignoring a vague muddy track to your left that crosses a gap in a crumbling dry wall. After 100 metres, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON walking parallel to the dry wall on your right and ignoring gates through it.

6.80km – After emerging from the oak woodland, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON through a gap in the crumbled dry wall, and then follow the vague muddy path across the open field. The path can be difficult to follow but you should soon be able to see a gate in the fence on the far side of the field.

7.40km – Pass through the gate in the fence beside a concrete water trough, ignoring a white arrow on a wooden post which directs you left. Once through the gate, BEAR RIGHT to walk diagonally across the field on a vague muddy footpath, towards the wire fence on your right. After 100 metres, just before reaching the fence, BEAR LEFT onto a set of muddy vehicle tracks. You are now walking parallel to the fence on your right.

8.20km – BEAR RIGHT as you reach a more established gravel road, to continue walking with the wire fence on your right.

9.00km – As the road forks, with the left fork leading to Refugio Cortijo del Libar, BEAR RIGHT to cross the cattle grid and walk along the gravel road. Continue along this road for 8.6 kilometres, passing through further gates and cattle grids. Walk carefully, bearing in mind cattle grids may be slippery when wet.

14.70km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON along the gravel road ignoring two turns on your left. The road is heading downhill into the valley.

17.60km – As the road becomes paved and forks beside a signpost for the ‘Serrania de Ronda’, BEAR RIGHT to head downhill. There is a wooden post with a red, white and yellow marking. After 200 metres, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON to descend between a row of small huts, ignoring the left turn.

18.10km – As you arrive at a cobbled road, TURN LEFT and then after 15 metres, TURN RIGHT down a cobbled lane.

18.20km – As you emerge at a T-junction beside the plaza on your right, TURN LEFT to head away from the plaza and Ayuntamiento (town hall) building. After 100 metres, just after ignoring Calle Nueva on your left and before passing a bank, TURN RIGHT sharply onto Calle Manuel Ortega passing a No Through Road sign. As the road forks after 30 metres, BEAR LEFT to head downhill.

18.40km – After passing house number 13 and 17, TURN LEFT to continue heading steeply downhill.

18.70km – TURN RIGHT as you emerge onto the main tarmac road. Remain on this road for 1.4 kilometres ignoring all side roads as you head into the centre of Benaoján.

20.10km – Upon reaching the roundabout you will see three exits ahead; BEAR RIGHT onto the right-most exit which heads steeply uphill. As the road forks beside a supermarket after 100 metres, BEAR RIGHT to pass through the 3.5 tonne weight limit sign and continue uphill.

20.60km – Finish in the plaza by the church (Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Rosario). Benaoján is known locally for its delicious jamons (hams); why not try some while you’re here?


all notes on protected areas

Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

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20.6 km
562 m
867 m


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