Let the season be your reason to visit Andalucia: go in spring to discover age-old pathways and a region blooming with colourful wildflowers
Andalucia, the dazzling deep south of Spain, heartland of flamenco, sherry and the grand sierras is one of those iconic travel destinations. It’s close enough to the UK and well enough serviced with budget flights to make it an accessible weekend break, yet it's also a big enough region to merit longer trips. But to really see it at its best then get your season right. Spring is a blooming good time to go.
Andalucia’s spring flowers carpet hillsides, swathe mountains and fill forests. It’s a craze of colour swaying in the breeze. A wildflower-walking holiday is just one way to step into this painterly landscape.
Head northwest to Andalucia’s first designated natural park, Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, for this bountiful natural beauty. This is one of Spain’s most ecologically outstanding regions, where rare griffon vultures can be spied soaring on the warm thermals and over 30 different species of orchid can be found as well as the unique Pinsapo fir trees.
One of the region’s famed pueblos blancos, or white-washed villages, is Grazelema and an ideal place to base yourself. Only a two-hour drive from Malaga, the contrast couldn’t be greater. Nestled in a high valley in the Sierra del Edrinal, beneath the dominating rocky mass of Peñon Grande, the village is a twist of cobbled streets, where colourful flowers tumble from window pots and the high sierras rear above and green verdant valleys trail below.
What the region can also offer is an age-old set of well-trodden walking routes used by shepherd, goatherder and muleteer for centuries. The Drovers’ Roads provide perfect natural corridors for exploring as well as abundant wildflower-spotting opportunities. Today you don’t need a herd to explore them.
Surrounding villages like the lofty Zahara de la Sierra, with its Moorish castle precariously perched atop a craggy cliffside, are connected by a twist of different paths, worn into the landscape after years of use by this rural traffic of sheep, goats and mules. Close by, the Salto del Cabrero or Goatherd Leap, preserves the legend of the broken-hearted herder who flung himself from the 80m-high walls of this chasm. Oak forest and limekilns add interest to the journey, which finishes in the village of Benaoján. The Ravel Valley can be explored on an even track lined with cistus and bee orchids. Common sightings also include the flowered orchid and helleborines. The Valley of the Mills offers orchards and mills, some of which once drove the looms that wove the famous Grazalema blankets.
An ideal walk to take through this pastoral landscape full of folklore and flowers links Grazelema to the neighbouring village of Montejaque. The rough cobbled track of the camino medieval, the medieval road, skirts out of town beneath towering limestone cliffs and then weaves through corkwoods. Bedecked in the spring months with the tall white wispy asphodel plant, this woodland was once a hive of activity and bustling noise as workers gathered the cork strips for sale. Below, broad lush open plains, speckled with plump rounded treetops, hum with birdsong and the occasional buzz of dragonfly.
Later down the track, orderly lines of olive trees cut stripes across the hillside and the rich brown earth glows with reddish hues in the afternoon light. Wild flowers scatter the banks, a confused sea of blushing colours with reds, yellows and pinks lapping at the edges. The route climbs a little higher towards a rocky pass amidst the towering Sierra de Montalate. Up here in the peaceful solitude the distant buzz of machinery from the sheep farm down below is the only sign that life has moved on in any way.
Slowly but surely, the signs of village life at Montejaque come into view. Chickens scratch in the verges for seeds and a terrace of squat stone cottages line the route into town. In the central square a pavement café spills onto the streets and you can enjoy a plateful of well-earned tapas. By now you will definitely be feeling the spring in your step.
- Wildflower walking tour operator: Andalucian Adventures,
- Flights: easyJet flies to Malaga