GR 249. Stage 31. Marbella - Ojén
La Sierra de Marbella
The actual coastal margin of Marbella which can be considered flat and appropriate for construction is very narrow. This is the reason why the walk climbs into the vicinity of the Palacio de Congresos as you go past the mouth of Arroyo Guadalpín.
There is a short walk along Calle Ramón Gómez de la Serna until you cross Avenida Ricardo Soriano and take direction north-west along Avenida José Mora y Aragón passing above the section of Autovía A-7 which is not split into the toll road Autovía de Peaje. The long Avenida Butchinger keeps climbing north-west and becomes Calle Albinoni, which leads to an unused quarry converted into an auditorium used for a well-known festival.
And the sierra begins (km 3), its familiar view being the background of hundreds of photographs taken on the coast of Marbella and Puerto Banús and published in gossip magazines, with the unmistakable sharp image of Pico de la Concha.
The walk swerves east and enters fully Monte Público Sierra Blanca y Nagüeles, belonging tothe district of Marbella. You can even use the city bus system to arrive at the starting point of this stage but now it is time to venture out deep into the Pinar de Nagü eles. This is a wood made up of pointy Maritime pines, Carob trees and Wild olives where the most interesting part is the diverse vegetation sheltered underneath the trees. There are abundant specimens of goodsized Savin juniper and Lentisc accompanied by Dwarf palm, Cistus, Wild asparagus and Spiny broom.
The Camino along the area called Romeral used to be a forest track originally but the frequent passage of motor vehicles has worn it out quite a bit. On your left, pass by the wall of the quarry with the sign for the Auditorio de Marbella, whilst you catch a brief glimpse of the white cliffs of la Concha in the background.
The track has many junctions but you need to follow the middle track which fi nally turns into a path and embarks on a pronounced climb along Cañada de las Encinas up to a junction in the paths in the midst of Esparto grass and limestone dolomite rocks. The branch which leads uphill goes to Minas de Buenavista while the chosen direction of the GR is the branch going down, crossing Arroyo de las Piedras with its thickets of oleanders, and leads up to Puerto de los Pilones. A flat area on the side of the track which was prepared to place here a high voltage electricity tower is also being used to accommodate a few bee-hives. These are the same electricity lines which you have been following in the first section of the stage.
Another descent and subsequent ascent takes you to the top of Puerto de los Mochileros. A third gentle downhill section takes you to a junction in the path. The path direction south leads to Marbella, to a housing estate called Urbanización Cascada de Camoján.
However, the GR follows the path to the left which goes uphill along the Cañada de la Janta. This is one of the areas richest in vegetation due to being in the shade.
Here you encounter the fi rst signifi cant climb, whilst you walk amongst two types of pine trees: Maritime and Aleppo; other candidates for the plant catalogue contain Juniper, Myrtle, Narrow-leaved Phillyrea and Mediterranean Buckthorn. Some of these plants reach quite impressive sizes. El Puerto de Camoján (km 5.4) is a first-rate look-out point. Towards the east, the direction of the walk, note the Cañada de Calaña with the site of the hermitage and on the horizon, La Cruz de Juanar. In the south, there is the bay, La Bahía de Marbella, in all its splendour, with the Strait and the Rock of Gibraltar and the Riff Mountains on the African coast, visible on clear days.
La Ermita de los Monjes and Puerto Rico Alto
Descend gently direction north, leaving the electricity power line behind you for good now, and follow the slope which has been affected by the fire and where Esparto grass prospers. In contrast, the bottom of the valley is very overgrown and supports a dense pine wood. In order to get there you need to perform a slightly complicated manoeuvre walking along a section with a rope railing and next you arrive at the Ermita de los Monjes (kilometre marker 6). There is very little left of the building but it is more recognisable nowadays thanks to the cleaning job done by volunteers, both of the building and access roads. The small number of monks who resided in this isolated spot, ideal for the Franciscan order, had lived on the premises starting from the 16th century. The hermitage was connected to the church Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación via a path made especially for the worshippers. The chapel was dedicated to a succession of three Virgins: Virgen de las Angustias, la Soledad de la Sierra and Dolores. There are footpaths that ascend the mountain or lead down to Marbella, but, as it normally does, the GR crosses the stream and leads to a dense wooded area, almost jungle-like, which some time ago must have been cultivated, judging from the high dry stone walls of the terraces.
The second significant climb leads to a vantage point (Puerto de las Golondrinas) close to the viewpoint Mirador de los Gitanos. On your right ignore a little path which follows the itinerary of Vereda del Faro. Still affording a view to Cañada de los Monjes, the walk climbs northwards along the western slope of the ridge until a new junction located in the Puerto de las Pitas (km 7.4), which is sign-posted. Here the options of going up the sierra repeat, but you should turn eastwards and start the descent towards the Arroyo de laLaja and the subsequent ascent to the Puerto del Pino, yet another privileged vantage point.
During the steep descent it is possible to see the area of Puerto Rico Alto with its neat woods and the reddish rock face of the fossilised cascade, and the footpath which departs direction east, which you will be walking in a while. In such an area, rich in water, vegetation at the bottom of the valley becomes leafy, even Strawberry trees and Portuguese gall oaks start showing up on the sandy and clay soil, well penetrated by water and poor in lime. El Arroyo de Puerto Rico (km 8.5), an old irrigation channel, a lime kiln and some ruins can be seen in succession between the two junctions with the PR A-169 which comes from Marbella and continues towards Juanar. From the Puerto de las Golondrinas up to Puerto Rico, the Vereda del Faro and the GR-249 share routes, however in opposite directions.
Surrounded by the Grey-leaved cistus embark on a gentle section of the walk in search of Hoya de los Cabañiles, where another junctiontakes you to Puerto Rico Bajo and links with the PR A-169. It is worthwhile turning around for the views in the west and to admire the other face of the rock cascade, its base full of caves, where you can frequently see local and visiting rock climbers enjoying the warm rocks. Still looking back, you can also see footpaths leading downwards, the pipeline which carries channelled water, and a few gauging boxes.
Las Minas del Peñoncillo and the Sierra Blanca de Ojén
The recent industrial history of Marbella is closely linked to the area where it borders with the districts of Ojén. Past the Hoya of the Cabaniles, which lends its name to an old path that emerges from the GR, you reach the Puerto de Acebuches, which is quite deforested. Soon you can see a wide fl attened gully. It is one of the of el Peñoncillo, located higher up.
The mining activity was related to the production of iron from pyrite and magnetite, transformed in the Altos Hornos (high furnaces) of the ironworks Ferrería de la Concepción y el Ángel (at Río Verde). This pioneering company reached three-quarters of all the production of Spain in the mid-19th century. At the end of the century the industrial landscape changed when the Scottish company The Marbella Iron Ore Company Limited bought the mine. They closed the processing plant and updated the extraction process, replacing cables with 6 kilometres of a mine railway named San Juan Bautista after one of the mines. They installed a long metal jetty at the beach to be able ship the ore to England. The result of the long history of steel production was the deforestation in the surrounding sierras of Marbella.
There is a boundary stone at kilometre 10.8, right on top of another open pit mine, though the cut in the rock it creates is not visible from the path. This is where the current direction east changes suddenly to direction north. The GR-249 has already been passing through the district of Ojén, and the boundary stone marks the extensive Monte Público Sierra Blanca (with the markings MA-10007-JA). A thin fence separates the wooded area which is also a hunting reserve, Reserva Andaluza de Caza, from the luxurious housing estates in the woods, which have been built partly on the fl at areas on the site of old mines. The walk leads along the limits of the monte público for quite a long stretch.
There are a few consecutive uphill and downhill ections leading along the villas, swimming pools, sports grounds and even facilities for young fi ghting bulls. Then you arrive at an area with well-developed pine trees of the three species: Stone, Maritime and Aleppo.
More ups and downs fi nally result in a view to Ojén, just past a pile of collapsed white marble rocks which had rolled down from the quarry above. The village shines against the black mountains.
In the back, and you reach the area which has been burnt. The slope is very steep unexpectedlyblocked on the right by the road escarpment, and yet it sustains lentiscs, European Dwarf Palm, Carob trees, Junipers, and a few Tree violets.
The vegetation turns spectacular on the steep slopes which surround Arroyo del Tajo Negro. Here the plant diversity is widest of the whole stage, making a strong contrast with the areas which have been affected by the disastrous fire. The pine wood mixed with Wild olive is not well developed but the scrub reaches jungle-like proportions as all the splendid species you have been seeing throughout the day tangle together right here. When you reach the first rest stop the end of the stage is near. Reach the small hill with antennas on top, take the track which leads down to the road which you cross using an underpass, and follow the sharp bends to the eastern part of Ojén where stage 31 ends.
1. Initiation Stage :
Access Starting point: From the main streets of Marbella, between the Avenida del Príncipe de Hohenlohe and Ricardo Soriano. In order to get to these use any access roads to Marbella splitting off the A-7 and the AP-7, to the east or west of the city centre.
Starting point: At El Paseo Marítimo de Marbella, at the level of Arroyo de Guadalpín, at the Playa de la Fontanilla beach.
Enjoy the walk safely: Whilst the tangle of many footpaths constitutes one of the main attractions of the Marbella area stage, it might also be an issue should you abandon the sign-posted GR. In any case, it is important to remember that all the possible exits are in the south and also that climbing towards the mountains increases the possibility of difficulties.
A large section of the walk leads underneath an electricity line. Although this should not pose any potential danger, be extra careful if the weather forecasts thunderstorms. There are bee-hives, correctly sign-posted in the Puerto de los Pilones, the fi rst hill in the sierra. Before you reach the Ermita de los Monjes there is a somewhat slippery section due to the stretch of bare rock surface on a slope. It has
been equipped with a rope handrail.
There are few streams you need to wade across and they are shallow, so they do not create any problems in general. However, at the Arroyo del Tajo Negro (at the end of the stage) as well as another tributary before that, there are quite high cascading slopes of travertine rock and you should not approach the edge.
There is no easily accessed water source, especially drinking water source, during the whole stage. The route mainly follows direction north-east however you are walking in the sun in the midst of the Costa del Sol, which should suffi ce as a warning.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: The road which connects Ojén with Marbella (southwards) and Coín is the A-355. The old road which used to connect the village with the Costa del Sol is the one mentioned earlier A-7103, which comes off the A-355 and joins it again later.
Finish point: Western entrance of Ojén, using the old road which crosses the village, the A-7103
3. Alternatives :
Possible "escape routes": Best places to return to Marbella are: the Ermita de los Monjes and the area of Puerto Rico. From these easily identifi able landmarks take any of the paths which lead south and downhill.
No return point: Best places to return to Marbella are: the Ermita de los Monjes and the area of Puerto Rico. From these easily identifi able landmarks take any of the paths which lead south and downhill.
Connections to other footpaths and trails: In the Pinar de Nagü eles there is a possibility of doing a walk to Istán along the traditional Camino. The PR A-140 Marbella-Istán departs from Parque de Nagü eles and leads along the western skirt of Sierra Blanca. It coincides for a few metres with GR-249, just before you
enter a wood, and it is slightly less than 9 kilometres long.
The environmental agency, part of the Marbella town hall (La Delegación de Medio Ambiente y Playas del Ayuntamiento de Marbella) has added on to the design of walking footpaths in Sierra Blanca with five suggested routes.
Ruta 1 coincides with the one described above. Ruta 2 is the Cañada de las Encinas–Mina de Buenavista and matches the fi rst part of the GR as it enters the sierra. Instead of crossing the Arroyo de las Piedras it continues uphill.
Ruta 3 (Nagü eles-Ermita de los Monjes) uses an identical route as the initially suggested walk from Pinar de Nagü eles to Ermita de los Monjes (km 6.2), however it later turns off southwards and leads down along the Cañada de Calaña.
Ruta 4, la Senda de los Monjes, in reality leads along the above-mentioned Cañada, but in the opposite direction.
Ruta 5 is the one which could be considered a star walk of the Marbella area, la Vereda del Faro. Actually, the effort devoted to recovering the walk and releasing a specifi c publication about it was all well worth it. It is a circular, it goes up via Puerto Rico, turns west, and without going up to the Ermita it leads down
to Marbella through Montúa.
The PR A-169 Marbella-Juanar departs from the old cemetery of Marbella, goes up the Camino de los Cabañiles up to the Puerto Rico Alto, where it coincides for a short while with the GR-249, and then leads to Refugio de Juanar crossing the mountains northwards.
In order to fi nd other options now you need to proceed to the area of Ojén. From the village, at the same spot where the GR stage ends, the GR-243 Sierra de las Nieves departs direction west towards the area of Juanar, where it forks: one branch towards Monda and the other direction Istán. This very route is also catalogued as PR A-167 Istán-Ojén, 12 kilometres long and crossing part of Sierra Blanca which hasn´t
been described here yet, the north.