River Walk up the Rio Chillar, Nerja


Chilling at the River Chillar, Nerja
One of the best ways to cool down on a hot summer´s day is to take a walk along the Rio Chillar from Nerja.  Unusually for Andalucía, this route is most suitable for walking during June, July and August, as there is plenty of shade, plus the river to keep you cool.

The scenery is spectacular and there are birds, butterflies, dragonflies, wild flowers, grasses and even sugar canes to be spotted along the way.  If you’re really lucky, you might even catch sight of a mountain goat.

This is a very popular walk for visitors and locals alike, and can get quite busy, especially at weekends.

As you progress, you will criss-cross the river many times until eventually you have no option but to wade through the water.  The riverbed is very stony, sometimes with pebbles and often with boulders, which can make your feet sore after a couple of hours walking – so don’t wear flip-flops or they will float away in the water.

As you walk, the current is flowing towards you from the mountains, so at times you will need to take care not to slip on the wet (and sometimes mossy) river boulders.  This is where a walking stick might prove handy.

Eventually you will reach a very narrow section of the gorge where you can touch both sides at the same time.  Here is where you will encounter the first set of rapids (cahorras), which are easily negotiated with care, and where there are knee-deep pools in places.  You will become aware of the roaring sound of the river.

A little further on, the gorge widens out again, and there are plenty of places to eat a picnic and take a cool swim in one of the natural pools, filled with crystal clear water.

The river walk up the Rio Chillar is suitable for families as children love splashing in and out of the water.   Click here to read the account of a family who negotiated this walk with three young children.

Don’t worry about getting lost on the river walk, as you just follow the river bed and, because you return the way you came, you can make the walk shorter if you want to.  We walked up at a strolling pace, past the narrow gorges, had a swim in the pool, stopping a couple of times along the way and returned to the cement factory in under 4 hours.  

The river walk continues on past where we stopped, until eventually you reach a dam, where there is a series of refreshing waterfalls for you to bathe beneath.

MY TIP: Go earlier in the morning and take a picnic lunch to enjoy by one of the pools.

Word of warning

DO NOT attempt this walk if there is a forecast of rain or there have been recent storms.  The narrow gorges (barely six feet wide in places) roar with flash floods during bad weather.  Take a mobile telephone, though I’m not sure how strong a signal would be, and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back.

What to wear

It’s best to wear shorts or, at the very least, something you don’t mind getting wet.

You should wear strong, comfortable walking shoes or trainers to protect your feet and ankles as often you will be wading somewhere between ankle and knee-deep in water, particularly when negotiating the gorges.

What to take

Sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water.   A stout walking stick will prove useful, too.   You might also like to take a towel, swimwear, camera and a picnic.

How to get there

On foot: You can walk down to the river bed from just behind the bus station on Avenida de Pescia in Nerja.  At the roundabout near the bus station, walk to the end of Calle de Joaquín Herrera and follow the path down to the river.  Google map here. 

You will then need to walk up towards the cement factory, always keeping the river on your left, past gardens, avocado groves, builder’s yards, caves and fincas.  Eventually the valley begins to narrow and you can begin to really enjoy the beauty of the pine trees on the steep slopes of the Sierra Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama National Park.  

By car:  If you want to save a couple of kilometres by taking your car to the start of the river walk, drive east along Avenida de Pescia from the bus station, towards Maro.  At the roundabout go straight ahead – you will see Iranzo supermarket on your right and, a little further on, Nerja Health centre (Centro de Salud) on your left.  At the next roundabout (which is signed to Burriana beach to the right), turn left (inland) onto Calle Julio Romero.   After two hundred metres or so, bear right onto Avenida la Constitución and follow this road as it climbs uphill.   A little further along, where the road forks, stay on Avenida la Constritución which is to the right.  

Look out for two large electricity pylons on top of concrete blocks on your left, and you should turn left here, between the pylons onto Calle Mirto.

On your right there is a large, free car park where you can leave your car whilst you do the river walk.

You can drive closer to the start of the river walk (though parking is more restricted and there is a danger of being towed away and fined if you park in the wrong place).  If you want to park closer to the river  – drive past the row of houses on your left and continue until you see a fork in the road.  Take the right fork towards the mountains, and follow the newly concreted road which slopes downwards and underneath the motorway bridge.   Google map here

Motorway bridge over Rio Chillar, Nerja

Soon after you drive underneath the motorway bridge, there is a large lay-by on your right with parking for 6-8 cars.  After this, the track becomes narrower and more stony, but you can keep driving until you reach the end of this track, just before the old, abandoned cement factory on your right.  

Official car park at Rio Chillar, Nerja

Can you see the abandoned trainers hanging from the wire, above the gates?

This is also where the official car park is, with parking for 63 cars (at a cost of €1).  As you can see, when we visited yesterday (27th June 2014) the car park was locked, and judging by the weeds around the gate, hasn’t been used for some time.   Perhaps this car park is only open in August – I don’t know.  There is another large lay-by (with parking for 10 cars) just outside these gates, where we parked our car.  

I wouldn’t recommend you abandoning your vehicle just anywhere at the side of the track down here (other than the two lay-bys I have mentioned) as they are likely to be towed away at a cost to you of between €100 and €600 euros.  You have been warned!

This is one of my favourite walks in the Axarquía.  Where do YOU love to walk?

 

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The Old Railway Line at Zafarraya

Zafarraya Pass, Spain

You might remember, I’ve told you before about the spectacular U-shaped Zafarraya Pass (El Boquete de Zafarraya) marking the boundary between the provinces of Málaga and Granada, and which can be seen for miles around.

Standing over 900 metres above sea level, the Pass has been used for centuries as a key route through the sierras, linking lands south-west of Granada, with the towns and villages along the coast, east of Málaga.

Old railway bridge at Zafarraya

On the approach to the gap in the mountains, above the road on the left, a small tunnel through the rock can be seen.   This once formed part of the Periana to Zafarraya railway line, abandoned fifty years ago.  The tunnel is now used by horse-riders and walkers who enjoy strolling along the dirt road where the railway once ran.

Last time I went through the Zafarraya Pass, instead of whizzing by, I decided to stop and have a look.  After driving under the the old iron railway bridge, I parked in the small car park on the left side of the road.

Pathway to the railway

It’s only a few steps up the gentle slope to where the narrow gauge railway once ran.  The main tracks were removed long ago, but there is still a short length remaining to illustrate what it must have looked like.

Narrow gauge line running towards Zafarraya, Spain

Old train line, Zafarraya

The views from the Mirador El Boquete (lookout point) both across the Pass and down towards the coast are stunning.  This is a lovely peaceful place to stop for a picnic, and there are a couple of picnic tables for public use.

From here you can see the peaks of Tajo de la Cueva and El Morron de La Cuña, the hamlets of Espino, Los Cortijillos, Los Pavitos and Los Morales as well as numerous white houses, dotted like paint spots on a canvas, as far as the eye can see.  The village of Alcaucín and the Parque Natural lie ahead, overseen by La Maroma, the highest mountain in the Axarquía region at 2066 metres.

If you cast your eyes further down the valley, La Viñuela reservoir and the Mediterranean Sea glimmer in the distance.

El Boquete de Zafarraya, Spain

Mirador del Boquete, Zafarraya

View towards the coast from Zafarraya

I wandered along the dirt track, and ahead of me I could see the old narrow railway tunnel.  

As I approached, the enormity of the task in building the tunnel was obvious.  It had been hewn through the rock by hand.   What a job!

Entrance to old railway tunnel, Zafarraya, Spain

Inside the old railway tunnel, Zafarraya

Hand carved stone inside the tunnel

Tunnel through the rock, Zafarraya

Rather than just strolling as I did, and depending on how fit you are, you might enjoy an adventurous walk or a more gentle ramble from Periana, the source of the old railway line, back to the Boquete de Zafarraya.  

Whatever you choose, be sure to watch out for the fabulous birds.

Views along the track towards the coast

How to get there

To get to the Zafarraya Pass, drive north from the A7/E15 Autovía del Mediterraneo, past the town of Vélez-Málaga and briefly alongside Lake Vinuela, before heading up the A402, a winding mountain road.  

You will see the gap in the mountains ahead, getting closer and closer the higher you climb.

Where do you enjoy walking when you need to find some peace and quiet?