Garganta Verde in the Sierra de Grazalema

A walk in the Garganta verde.

Digging up old articles and reviews from 10 years ago or more I came across Steves great trip report about a walk in the Garganta Verde. First published in 2012.


“After recently enjoying a family holiday in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, Steve has written this article to share his experience of hiking the Garganta Verde.”

Remember that to enter this restricted area you need a permission from the park authorities. Read here about how to obtain permits for restricted areas in the Sierra de Grazalema


As part of our week at the end of August with Clive and Sue (of The Grazalema Guide and Wildside Holidays) we had permits for a visit to ‘La Garganta Verde”‘ a “must do” for the more adventurous visitors to the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.

The ‘Garganta Verde’ is a 400 metre deep, limestone gorge with a Griffon Vulture colony at the top, ‘La Ermita’ a pink cave at the bottom and dramatic landscape at all points in between.

The drive up to the car park along the CA-531 Grazalema to Zahara road provides plenty of stunning panoramas for the photographer, and a sense of wonderment as to just how the many cyclists that use the route can possibly keep pedalling when the legs of mere mortals must surely be reduced to jelly!


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A nice short flat walk as far as the griffon vultures viewing platform

Leaving the car park the path appears deceptively gentle and pretty much remains that way until you reach the Griffon Vulture colony. On route there are good views of Choughs, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian Warblers, Crag Martins and we were lucky enough to see a Short-toed Eagle surveying the scene from a rocky promontory.

The views from the Griffon Vulture viewing platform are excellent and will, with a bit of luck give photographers frame filling shots of these huge birds as they soar by at eye level. They really are close enough so that as they pass by you can hear the sound of the air rushing over their wings. It really is an amazing sight to see 30 or more of these birds in such a small area and so close, many of them perched on the cliffs in front of you, but do remember to respect the natural silence of your surroundings.

Of course the gorge has much more to offer than just the Griffon Vultures, that is merely the first course! Resuming our descent, winding our way down the steep but well defined path, we came across several Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius.) Large striking butterflies with a restless flight, but seemingly more approachable on these slopes where you can look into the tops of the trees that are, in effect, growing below you.

Garganta Verde in the Sierra de Grazalema
The gorge – Garganta Verde in the Sierra de Grazalema

As we dropped down the trail that clung ever more tightly to the side of the gorge, the walls of rock started to close in above us and the sky became visible only in letterbox format. With the bottom beckoning we became acutely aware of the stench of rotting flesh and soon found the source, the corpse of a young Spanish Ibex that had perhaps slipped, falling into the depths of the gorge and was now slowly being devoured by maggots, at these depths having escaped the searching eyes of the Griffon Vultures.

The river bed and the pink cave

Once you reach the bottom, the floor is littered with huge boulders gradually diminishing in size as you walk northwards towards the “pink cave”. Numerous very large pink woodlice, superficially similar in structure to sea slaters, boldly scuttled over the rocks.

Stepping into the pink cave is like being transported to the landscape of another planet. The bottom of the gorge has cut through the cave, bathing it in a gentle light which gives the vast cavern the appearance of some huge film set for a Sci-Fi epic about Mars. The roof of the cave plays host to a group of rock doves and bats can be seen making short tentative flights during the middle of the day.

Garganta Verde in the Sierra de Grazalema
Trees at the bottom of the gorge

It is easy to lose a sense of scale at the bottom of the gorge, there are some well established trees growing near the mouth of the cave which seem to melt into the fabric of their surroundings. It was certainly something of a surprise that such a spectacular gorge didn’t have any hint of water flowing through it at the time of our visit.

The natural beauty of this lost world is something to be savoured and the sense of stillness and tranquillity that it evokes is priceless. So of course we lingered a while, soaked up the atmosphere and had our lunch.

Climbing out of the Garganta Verde

The climb out of the gorge is definitely a long hard slog for Mr and Mrs Average fitness, particularly in the 40C temperatures that we found ourselves in. Frequent stops along the zig-zag path, searching out the few scattered spots of shade was very much the order of the day and taking plenty of water was an absolute must. But even in our struggle ever upwards the shear beauty and spectacle of our surroundings was always apparent, and of course the sense of achievement when we reached the top was immense!

Garganta Verde in the Sierra de Grazalema
The pink cave – Garganta Verde in the Sierra de Grazalema

All in all an unforgettable walk if you are prepared to dig deep and of course approach the whole thing sensibly carrying plenty of water, wearing a hat and a good pair of walking boots.

Many thanks to Clive and Sue, who were not only exceptional guides and perfect companions for this walk, but also organised everything from the permits to the ice packs, despite the fact that they had promised themselves never to do the Garganta Verde walk in August again!

Notes:

Steve catgorised this walk as medium to hard simply because of the steep descent/ascent to and from the cave in the bottom of the gorge and due to the uneven and sometimes slippery pathways.

Remember that to enter this restricted area you need a permission from the park authorities. Read here about how to obtain permits for restricted areas in the Sierra de Grazalema


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