36 walks in six of Andalucía’s Natural Parks are the subject of a new book entitled ‘Walking In Andalucia’ by Guy Hunter-Watts. The guidebook explores six of Andalucía’s most beautiful Natural Parks – the Sierra Nevada regions of Aracena, Grazalema, Los Alcornocales and the Gaucín, La Axarquía, the Alpujarras and Cazorla – along the great belt of the Cordillera Bética mountains in 36 mostly circular walks.
The guide contains a mixture of half-day and full day walks, which are evenly divided among these six regions. The walks themselves are graded from easy to medium to difficult.
“When researching the book my starting point was to look for the most beautiful walks in the six Natural Parks and protected areas,” Mr Hunter-Watts told the Chronicle.
“Those that I consider to offer the best hiking in Andalucía. I was keen to include as many circular walks as possible, departing from villages that could be easily accessed by car or by public transport,” he explained.
In fact most walks included in the book involve some steep ascents and descents but the routes have been chosen so that all are within the capabilities of anybody in good health who walks on a regular basis. The routes are based around the villages of Aracena, Grazalema, Jimena de la Frontera, Cazorla, Bubión and Cómpeta, all of which lie within protected nature reserves.
“Year-round walking is possible, but the area is best enjoyed March–June and September–October: the higher Natural Parks of Cazorla and La Alpujarra are still comfortable in high summer,” he suggested.
The guidebook includes detailed route descriptions, clear mapping, notes on history, plants and wildlife, practical information about travel, food and drink, language and communications.
The Cordillera Bética offers some of the finest year-round walking in Europe. Towering above the Mediterranean, mainland Spain’s highest mountains rise to almost 3500m, and wrapped within this mighty range are some of Spain’s most beautiful villages and trails.
Choosing a favourite, he admitted, is always a difficult one.
“I might be tempted to choose a circuit that begins and ends in Montejaque, one of the prettiest villages in the Grazalema Park. It’s a walk of approximately 12 kilometres that cuts through some of the most stunning karst (limestone) scenery to be found in Europe and past beautiful stands of ancient oak forest. During the course of the walk you cross three navas – vast, open meadows which are blanketted with flowers in Spring time, whilst in autumn the meadows are one of the best mushrooming areas in the sierra: gatherers come from all over Andalucía in search of the setas de cardo (boletus or oyster mushrooms).”
The book, he added, is primarily directed towards the ex-pat community in southern Spain, residents of Gibraltar along with the walking community in the UK market, although the book is a great tool for any English speaking person interested in discovering the most beautiful mountain trails in Andalucía.
“I originally decided to write the book (the Cicerone guide is a reworked, redesigned, and rewritten version of my previous Santana guide Walking in Andalucía which ran to 7 editions, first published in 2000) because in the late 90s there was very little written about walking in this region. Having worked as a walking guide for many years I knew many of the walks and was eager to share that knowledge.”
Published by Cicerone next year will see a further guide to The Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema, which he is currently researching.
Cicerone Books also have several other walking guides describing other walks in Spain.
The book includes 36 mostly circular walks of 4–21km, between half and a full day 102 colour photos and 38 colour maps author’s recommendations for the best places to stay in or around southern Spain’s most beautiful mountain villages.
The author Guy Hunter-Watts has lived and worked in Andalucía since the 1980s. After studying at the universities of Santiago and Salamanca he taught English in South America before moving to the Ronda mountains, where he has been leading guided walks for almost 25 years. His work as a walking guide and freelance journalist has taken him to many corners of the planet including India, Namibia, Tanzania, Latin America and Mongolia.