El Torcal in the south of Spain, a magical place
I have been living half my life in the south of Spain. There are many special places to visit in Andalucia and one of them is El Torcal, an unusual and magical place. El Torcal was included as a landmark within the Antequera Dolmens site. This was incribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list July 15, 2016.
When visiting, you will have the feeling that you are transported to a faraway past, the land of dinosaurs. You can spend the whole day there as there are 3 different routes, from easy to more difficult. Take a picnic, water, sunscreen and good walking shoes along. The views can be breathtaking and you will shoot a lot of pictures for sure. Take into account that it could be colder up there but on a sunny day also really warm. Best is to be prepared for both weather conditions.
What is El Torcal?
El Torcal is an original Karstic landscape and a nature reserve located in the Sierra del Torcal mountains. Thru out the ages the elements like water and wind have shaped the limestone to bizarre forms. You will find it close to the city of Antequera in the south of Spain. This park opened for the first time in 1929 and boasts 17 square kilometers. In 1978 it became a National Park Reserve. The highest point is Camorro de las Siete Mesas and is 1346 meters in elevation. The limestone you see there is 150 million years old and in previous times was a seabed. During the Tertiary era, this seabed was uplifted and formed the now visible mountain range. Through erosion, the flat-lying limestone blocks became visible and form some unusual shapes and patterns. The names like Camel, the Screw, and the Sphinx will give you an idea what to expect. People have also compared it to a moon landscape. The fact is, when you walk there you will feel transported to another world.
Caves, fossils, and orchids
There are many caves and underground spaces. One of them called Cueva del Toro (the cave of the bull) where Neolithic artifacts were found including ancient cave paintings. There is evidence of human habitation from 5500 BC and continuous habitation since the bronze age. The other cave is called la Marinaleda and it seems it was used as a burial place. Visitors will see fossils on their walking trip. These fossils come from the time when this area was a sea.
You will see the first inhabitants: the Ammonites and Belemnites. The Belemnites looked a bit like squids and belonged to the cephalopod class of the mollusk phylum and are related to the Ammonites and also to the modern octopus, squids, and nautiluses. Besides the unusual rock formations, you will see an abundance of fauna and flora.
There are 664 plant species to be found. Thirty (30) different types of orchids have been identified. Visitors are requested to not pick flowers or dig out plants as some of these species belong to the list of protected ones. Even if the area seems to be barren there actually is a lot of life. Lizards sunbathing, small rodents, foxes, mountain goats, and birds of prey like the golden eagle or the griffon vulture. Nowadays the area is a specially protected place for birds.
The golden eagle is a magnificent hunter. They have powerful feet and with their sharp talons grab hares, rabbits, marmots and some ground squirrels. They reign over vast territory which can be as big as 200 square kilometers. They build large nests on cliffs and higher places. El Torcal is managed by the Environment and Water Agency of Andalucia and that is good, one should protect the valuable areas. In the US nowadays, National Parks are in jeopardy, which is really sad.
A prime location for Astronomical Observations
As the location of El Torcal is far away from cities with their pollution the air is clean. At a height of 1200 meters above sea level, you can observe a clear starlit sky. This observatory is for public use. The El Torcal Astronomical Observatory shows its visitors the possibility thru its fully equipped facility and with the skilled staff to enjoy this experience to view into the cosmos. There are also nighttime sessions which you can attend.
To visit El Torcal is a real event for young and old I can really recommend.
Photo Source: Pixabay
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