El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

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El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve: Quick facts

  • El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve covers 1,171 hectares.
  • Its rock formations are truly spectacular, many of which recreate shapes and forms that can be interpreted as more recognizable objects (depending upon each person’s imagination!).
  • Perfectly formed fossils are visible at several points in the Nature Reserve.
  • Human history is long in the area, from ancient burial chambers to Roman roads and open cast mines.
  • Height above sea level:between 700 and 1,337 metres.
  • El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve is strategically located within Andalusia.
  • The “mollete de Antequera” (a type of semi-cooked bap) is famous throughout the south of Spain, and is a perfect complement for breakfast.

Geography of El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve is in the municipality of Antequera, in the centre of the province of Málaga. It forms a part of the limestone mountain chain that crosses the heart of the province, and creates a natural barrier between the Vega de Antequera (plains) and the Montes de Málaga. It is visible practically throughout the province. It is separated from another nearby formation of limestone mountains known as the Sierra de Cabras, by the mountain pass known as the Ass’ Mouth.

Walking & activities in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

Walking is by far the most important and most interesting activity, with truly spectacular rock formations to be seen from a distance, and walk amongst. Routes tend to be short, particularly in the higher part of El Torcal Nature Reserve. In the lower part is a long and in parts steep path, that follows the route of an old Roman road that crossed El Torcal some 2,000 years ago.

El Torcal also has a limited number of challenging climbing routes. It is a photographer’s paradise, with views across the province as a background, an infinite number of rock shapes to be portraited, and clear, clean skies (there is even an astronomical telescope as proof of the sharpness of the air).

Accommodation & gastronomy in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

Due to its physical characteristics, size and legal protection status, there is no accommodation within the Nature. There are however a small number of country hotels nearby, and the town of Antequera has an excellent choice of small cosy hotels, plus larger hotels with an extensive range of services.

In addition to the attractiveness of the town, gastronomy is another reason to enjoy visiting Antequera, well represented by the following dishes:  

  • “Porra” is a cold soup, somewhat similar to gazpacho, but thicker in consistency due to the addition of bread.
  • “Ajoblanco” is also a cold soup, but white in colour due to the high almond content. It is often adorned with grapes.
  • “Gazpachuelo” could be considered both as a hot soup or a stew, due to its liquid nature, but with many solid ingredients: potato, fish, onion, mayonnaise, bread and boiled eggs.
  • “Migas” – literally breadcrumbs, this is small pieces of bread lightly fried with garlic and chorizo.
  • Other dishes are game, rabbit and goat, plus marinated fish, a method of preserving fish that goes back to Roman times.
  • “Bienmesabe” is a local pudding, made from ground almond, spongecake and “cabello de angel”, a transparent jam made from a type of pumpkin.

Cake shops and convents in Antequera sell many types of biscuits and cakes that are typical of the area and that often coincide with local festivities such as Easter and Christmas.

Finally, no mention of food in Antequera would be complete without the famous “mollete”, a partially baked soft white bun or bap that when toasted is the perfect complement for butter, olive oil, tomato, cured ham, jam… whatever you want!


Human activity in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve has no towns or villages within its boundaries, and yet has a long and distinguished human history. The presence of man goes back some 4,000 years, with remains having been found in caves and other areas. Extremely well preserved megalithic tombs just outside Antequera, have been proven to have been made with stone transported from El Torcal.

The Romans were also present, leaving behind one of their famous trademarks, a Roman road, as well as an open cast mine, relics of which can still be observed.

The Arabs recognised the strategic importance of the area, building a watch tower and burying the deceased.

In more modern times, El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve. has been used and is still used for the grazing of sheep and goats.

The town of Antequera is considered to be in the heart of Andalusia, both geographically and also in terms of road communication, since it is on the axis of the A-92, the motorway that crosses Andalusia from east to west, and the A-45, from north to south between Córdoba and Málaga.

Flora in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

The tree population in El Torcal de Antequera is relatively scant, due partly to the geology of the Nature Reserve, but also due to human intervention that cut down species either for utensils or to open up new land for grazing. The latter reason is why most trees are in fairly inaccessible sites, difficult for animals to enter. The most common of remaining tree species are the holm and the gall oaks.

The lack of top soil and profusion of rock forms has favoured other types of vegetation, with a wide variety of hardy bush-type species as well as a number of rock-based lichens and mosses.

Fauna in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

The once abundant wildlife in the area has been dramatically reduced through hunting, grazing and agriculture use over the centuries, with the remains of wolves, Iberian lynxes and even bears having been found in caves within the present day Nature Reserve.

For this reason, the largest of the 22 species of mammal registered is the protected mountain goat. Small carnivores are relatively abundant: the wild cat, genet, pine marten, weasel, fox and badger are all present, their prey made up of moles, shrews, mice and occasionally rabbits.

Bird species number 82, outstanding amongst which are birds of prey, of the nocturnal variety (eagle owl, barn owl, tawny owl, little owl and scops owl) as well as daytime species such as the kestrel and the falcon, or the rarer golden eagle or Bonelli’s eagle. Far more common are thrushes and partridges, the rufous tailed rock thrush, the wallcreeper and the alpine accentor.

The 11 types of reptile are based on lizards and snakes, who flourish within the cracks of the rocks and basking on the warm stone surfaces.

Geology in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

El Torcal de Antequera is a truly outstanding example of the weathering of a type of rock that while fairly characteristic of the south of Spain, does not appear in such a unique and attractive form anywhere else in the region. Sedimentary rock rose from the Tethys seabed millions of years ago, forming El Torcal mountain range, which interestingly still exhibits some fabulous examples of imprints of fossilized ammonites.

The relative elasticity of the land mass produced a mushroom type form, with a flat top and steep sides. It is from this moment that the processes of erosion and dissolving begin due to a prolonged period of intense rain and the action of snow, present during many months of the year that not only fractured the rock but also then led to the producing of immense cracks and cavities.

Climate in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

El Torcal de Antequera is affected from the south by the ocean winds that blow inland from the Mediterranean, and from the north by the immense plains that bring drier, hotter air.   Added to this is the fact that the maximum height of the Nature Reserve is considerable (1,337 metres), therefore rainfall is relatively high, ranging from a minimum of 536 mm to a maximum of 1,050 . Rain is highest between November and December, and lowest between April and May, whereas in July and August it is very uncommon. Snow may fall in winter, but only lasts for 2-3 days.

Additionally, an interesting effect of the difference in air currents is the appearance of mist, especially in the higher parts of El Torcal de Antequera. This happens on an average of 42 days per year, and while making walking difficult due to the possibility of getting lost in rocky terrain, it can be a very attractive sight from the Visitor Centre.

Winters are logically cold, in contrast with hot and dry summers. Average yearly temperatures are around 14ºC.

Water & river systems in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

In spite of the undeniable effect of water erosion on the structure and appearance of the rock in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve, it is relatively uncommon to see surface water in and around the area. This is due to the porous nature of the formations, with large cracks and caves. The water that is not found above ground is however stored in underground cavities, the location of which has created a close relationship between nature and man. There are some 15 “pilones”, or watertroughs in the Nature Reserve, whose location has influenced the grazing of animals and the inhabitation by previous populations.

The largest of these underground sources is La Villa, which continues to supply Antequera with water.

Festivities in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve

There is no permanent population in El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve, and therefore no fiestas or festivals. The nearest town is Antequera, one of the few in Andalusia to celebrate two fairs, one based principally on local agriculture and crafts (May), the other being a more social event, with the setting up of a temporary “village” with attractively decorated marquees, horses parading through the streets, and locals dressed up in flamenco style attire.

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