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.
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.
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.
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.
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.