GR 249. Stage 01: Málaga - Rincón de la Victoria
The urban coast
Kilometre Zero is at the Paseo Marítimo Antonio Banderas, in the vicinity of Diputación Provincial de Málaga, the sundial and the sign for La Misericordia beach, named after the nearby hospice, Casa de la Misericordia, Asilo Provincial y Hospicio. An institution which dates back at this location to the beginnings of the 21st century, which also served as a hospital during the Moroccan war and as the Málaga Provincial Council job training centre for the children from the working class project in Huelin district.
This above mentioned district stretches to the east and it owes its name to a British descendant Eduardo Huelin Reissig who built a village to house the workers of his sugar cane factory. However, the factory chimneys at this point are evidence of the past existence of La Ferrería de Constancía, an ingenious manufacture related to the steel and iron industry, supplied with iron ore from the Sierra Blanca in Marbella.
One of these chimneys is visible at the beginning of the walk and it is the tallest one of the Málaga coast at a height of 104 metres and known as Chimenea del Plomo (Lead Chimney) named after the lead smelting factory “Los Guindos” which was located below, or the Mónica chimney, named after a painting and a lovely story left on the chimney by a love struck man in 1993.
The Huelin neighbourhood and its beaches witnessed the industrial eruption in Málaga when textile, fl our, tobacco and railroad factories were opened. Nowadays this is just another residential area and its main feature is the park El Parque del Oeste. The beach is famous for a fun event which is enjoyed both by locals and visitors: the so-called Melillero Wave, a surprising phenomenon for the normally calm sea, caused by the passing ferry headed for Melilla or Ceuta.
The Paseo Marítimo promenade, named after Málaga´s celebrity Antonio Banderas, continues under the name of Antonio Molina who came from the Huelin district. Then a recently opened path to the right, between the two chimneys, leads to Monumento al Espetero, a monument dedicated to the Costa del Sol’s traditional work of grilling sea food on long sticks. Next, along the Paseo de Antonio Machado, having crossed the train line which comes into the port, cross the somewhat neglected Guadalmedina river (km 2.9), pass by the monuments to Torrijos and Cenachero and Estación Suburbana de Autobuses at the Muelle Heredía and arrive at the symbol of Málaga´s new image, el Palmeral de las Sorpresas. The port, having been opened to the city, has lent the place a new kind of sense of space and clarity, as proved by the hundreds of passersby strolling underneath the awning and along the two piers Muelle Uno and Muelle Dos.
In the Palmeral de las Sorpresas on Muelle 2 there is the Aula del Mar, opened in 1989 in a space provided by the Guild of Fishermen. It has become an institution on the Andalucían coast thanks to the activities related to environmental education, conservation of coastal ecosystems and the recovery of marine species, especially turtles and cetaceans. They currently manage the Alborania Museum, which is highly recommended.
It is worth a detour to see the only lighthouse in Spain with a feminine name: La Farola instead of the usual masculine El Faro; abandon the northeast direction and head south to the Espigón del Puerto which cuts into the Alborán Sea. This is a good spot to gaze at the most popular Málaga view: the oblong shape of the Alcazaba, La Coracha and the Castillo de Gibralfaro leaning against the Cathedral, popularly known as “La Manquita”.
At the Paseo Maritimo de la Farola a sign indicates the beginning of the GR-92 E-12 while our GR takes you along the pavements and the different levels of the Paseo Maritimo leading you along close to the sand. From the Playa de la Malagueta continue to La Caleta beach (where you follow the road as it veers eastward). At the Pedregalejo beach, you can visit another historical place; its restoration project is currently generating intense discussions amongst politicians and citizens alike; Los Baños del Carmen. This Marine Spa with its exceptional location in an extensive wooded area can be found at km 8.6 and it takes you almost immediately to another local symbol, the Nereo shipyard.
Just before the start of the Paseo Maritimo del Pedregal (the walk swerves to get to the beach and passes it on the right) are the old dry docks, centuries-old workshops, a museum and an Escuela Taller (a training workshop). In 2008 the Ministry of Culture declared the carpentry of the beaches of Ribera de las Playas de Pedregalejo as part of Andalucían historical heritage. One of the craft’s star achievements are the jábega boats, traditional fishing boats whose shape and decoration suggest Phoenician origins and which can still be seen navigating the eastern coasts of Málaga.
Nature haven in an archaeological sanctuary
El Arroyo Jaboneros marks the dividing line between the beaches of Pedregalejo and El Palo while Arroyo de Gálica gives way to the beach Playa del Dedo on the Paseo de la Generación del 27. As it leads further away from the big city, the walk regains the atmosphere of ancient rural fishing communities of the two Málaga neighbourhoods, which today have been devoted to leisure, restaurants and tourism.
And then the landscape changes, leaving behind the port Puerto del Candado (km 12.2) and gradually ascends to the highest elevation of Stage 1, along the road barriers of the N-340. Construction was slowed down here because of a hill formed by limestone ridges. At the foot of the hill a pedestrian walkway has been built. The vegetation on this slope, rising between the rocks of the coast and the road, consists of spiny broom, gorse, esparto grass, Mediterranean dwarf fan palm, and some herbs mixed with the more marine species such as the Sea Daisy (Asteriscus maritimus) or the interesting endemic Limonium malacitanum.
The surprising views over to the Playa del Peñon del Cuervo are spectacular in contrast with the landscape that has been left behind and, above all, which is about to come next. In the middle, there is a prominent crag resembling a peninsula and the delta of the Arroyo del Judío.
The beachis actually an isolated cove between the previous and current hill which reaches into the sea. The tunnel of the Carretera de Almería penetrates the hill where the Paseo de los Canadienses commemorates the work of the mobile blood transfusion unit of the Canadian Dr. Henry Norman Bethune who came from Valencia in support of the people fleeing via the Almería road in 1937.
The cement factory Cementera de la Araña provides the counterpoint to the emerging natural landscape, with its metal towers and the ground limestone dust covering everything, a price to pay for the production of this building material which was in such high demand at the beginning of the century on the Costa del Sol.
The rocky point topped with the Las Palomas watchtower located at km 14.1 km and at the highest altitude of the day, dominates the view with its haughty presence on a rise from where you can see the major part of the coastline forming the first and second stage of the Great Málaga Path. This very well preserved watchtower dating back to the 16th century is almost 11 metres high, built on two floors on top of the rock bed, as it is customary for such buildings. The bulk of the construction is based on stone joined together with limestone mortar, but the finish and the vault are made using strong ceramic brick. You can easily distinguish the two machicolations, one of them supported by stone corbels and the staircase to the upper floor. In both rooms there is a fireplace to generate smoke and flames used in signalling other towers.
But it is not only this medieval tower which is willing to talk about history, above all is the so called Complejo del Humo, a complex of shelters and caves in the cliffs of Los Tajos de la Araña which provide numerous data on the prehistoric population of the coast. Next to the tower there is the Interpretation Centre and Museum of the cave complex, where you can find contact numbers and opening hours.
In any case, to imagine the potential of this place you would have to go back in time when the sea level was tens of meters higher than the current one, there were meadows and coastal forests to provide the early humans’ diet of mollusks and crustaceans with complementary ingredients.
The humans would have been protected by the mild climate and night fires lit in the shelters amongst the rocks. The current use of the same cliffs by the rock climbers from the so-called Escuela de la Cala de Moral generates some controversy.
In order to reach the very end of Stage 1 at the Arroyo Totalán, walk a little further along the road, passing by the exclusive Iberian populations of Maytenus senegalensis bushes, mixed with Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum) and Searocket (Cakile maritima) in the sandy soil. Ahead and on the other side of Arroyo Totalán, the extensive beaches of La Cala del Moral and Rincón de la Victoria await.
1. Initiation Stage :
Access Starting point: Málaga can be reached by the Autovía Del Mediterráneo, the Mediterranean motorway following direction east-southeast. There are motorways leading from the north towards the Antequera region and the rest of the capitals of the Andalucían provinces: the A-45 and AP-46, passing through the Puerto de las Pedrizas. Coming from the Guadalteba and Serranía de Ronda regions, take the A-357 direction west.
Starting point: Kilometre Zero at the Paseo Maritimo Antonio Banderas in Málaga.
Enjoy the walk safely: gers. All stream crossings are done using bridges; pedestrians have the right of way on the various “Paseos Maritimos”, the beach promenades. Normally you should not have any problems getting drinking water; there are some public drinking fountains available on the way. As you leave the El Palo beaches behind, you are walking along the shoulder of the N-340, which is narrow especially if you encounter a cyclist, which is a possibility.
Finally, the cultural landmark, Las Palomas watchtower at the Acantilados del Cantal cliffs, has no protective railings (at the time of writing this guide). There is a steep drop on the southern side of the tower. Take extreme caution while taking pictures.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: Rincón de la Victoria is located between the N-340 coastal motorway and the A-7S ring road. Here the MA-24 branches off in the direction of Rincón de la Victoria or La Cala de Moral, the latter marking the end of Stage 1.
Finish point: Bridge over the stream in La Cala del Moral, a town in Rincón de la Victoria.
3. Alternatives :
Possible "escape routes": At all times it is possible to abandon the itinerary and head straight down towards the N-340 using any of beach access roads. The N-340 is a coastal road which offers intercity bus stops and other city services.
Point of no return : You are close to being halfway through Stage 1 in Los Baños del Carmen. Considering the many possible “escape routes” before you reach Los Baños del Carmen, it is reasonable to keep walking from this point rather than trying to return.
Connections to other footpaths and trails: The GR-92 or E-12 (Senda del Mediterráneo) runs in stages through the Province of Málaga, and one of those stages, about 167 kilometres long, leads through this area. The part which coincides with the GR-249 starts at El Arroyo Totalán and ends at the famous Málaga lighthouse. Logically, the waymarking of the Malaga province GR takes you in the opposite direction to the GR-249.
The capital offers a couple of useful Pequeño Recorrido (PR, short distance) footpaths which give you a good idea of the hilly countryside around you. One of them is the PR A-114 Ciudad Jardín Puerto de la Torre, 17 kilometres long, one way. The path was adapted in 2012 and it starts in the city. The start and fi nish points are connected by the city bus network and both points connect with the GR-249. The PR´s attractions include unusual views of the city and the Agujero and Limonero Reservoirs.
At km 4.3 of the main itinerary, at the level of the Málaga Port, there is another public walk, the A-119 PR Sendero del Mirador. It begins at the Ayuntamiento (City Hall) an is somewhat longer, about 26 kilometres, also it is a bit more demanding than the previously mentioned PR as it leads up to Montes de Málaga. This walk is appealing because of the sea views over the Mar de Alborán, the opportunity of walking up to the Parque Natural de los Montes de Málaga and the descent amongst the old mills through the valley of the Arroyo de Jaboneros. After 10 kilometres of walking, in the delta of the Jaboneros Stream, the PR and the GR connect again.
There are a couple of important historical references which should be mentioned. There used to be two ways to travel east out of Málaga which faced many construction diffi culties due to the mountainous nature of the east coast. One was the Carretera de Almería, a scene of bloody historical events in the past, as referred to by a quite vague information panel found between El Puerto del Candado and El Peñon del Cuervo. The other was the Tren Litoral, coastal train which led out of Málaga, ran along the coast through tunnels and across bridges and then climbed to Vélez Málaga up to Boquete de Zafarraya to continue to Granada Province. The train line was built by the Suburban Railway Company of Málaga at the beginning of the last century. The old station of origin was an eclectic two-toned building at the entrance to Málaga port from the Plaza de la Marina.
The GR-249 passes this historical building which nowadays houses the Instituto de Estudios Portuarios, and this isn´t the last time the walk will follow the now non-existent train lines.