GR 249. Stage 02: Rincón de la Victoria - Vélez-Málaga
The suburban railway of Málaga from the capital to Ventas de Zafarraya
Stage 2 of the Great Path of Málaga owes its layout to the coastal railway formerly linking Málaga with Vélez and with the province of Granada passing through El Boquete de Zafarraya. The cost of continuing the railway along the coast rendered it practically unfeasible due to the mass of Sierra Almijara, which stretches across to the sea with high sea cliffs in Maro, Cerro Gordo and Cantarrijan.
The surviving tunnels, bridges and even some stations and train stops can be seen every now and then, but it is noteworthy that you actually walk along the former train tracks most of the time. The railroad was opened in 1908 to address the transit of passengers and goods along the coast, communicating the main coastal cities (to the east and west of Málaga) with the port. The last section to open was the stretch which climbed from Vélez Málaga, made so much more diffi cult by the mountainous terrain that a cog railway system had to be used to help the train negotiate the steep slope. This was actually the last stretch to be closed, in 1968, leaving a certain feeling of nostalgia in the memory of the locals stemming from what the train meant for them not so long ago.
Between the Cala del Moral and Rincón de la Victoria
Stage 2 begins in the city limits of Rincón de la Victoria, which includes the two abovementioned population centres (in practice they are very closely connected and La Cala is involved in the life of the capital city). They are located in two coves separated by a rocky headland which is known as El Cantal or Los Cantales. Geology has deeply marked the landscape here. The white Jurassic limestone appears on both sides of the Arroyo Totalán forming fossil cliffs on at least three levels, supported by a base of conglomerate rock, sandstone and red-tinted lutites which you can only see at the beginning of this stage. When
you start walking, the profi les of Acantilados de Araña cliffs to the west are the fi rst example of how the cliffs will look along the way. Los Acantilados de Araña is formed by an abrasion platform and marine cliffs, reaching 150 meters above the current sea level. At the foot of the Araña cliffs you will fi nd the cave, Cueva de Tesoro, which is worth a visit.
The Cala del Moral beach has a long breakwater which aims to correct the phenomenon of the coastal drift which carries sand and boulders laterally. Here, at this spot which involves both visible forces of nature and human construction, you will find Los Cantales, a place whose name originates in the word “cantera”, a quarry. In this case, and because of the quality of the rock, limestone was quarried in blocks for masonry, not to be ground up as it is currently done at the Araña quarry.
The GR-249 takes the only possible walking option which is along the cliffs, where you can either use the abandoned railroad tunnels, now converted into a pedestrian and cycling trail or a spectacular stairway with protectiverailings, which gives you more sea views. From the stairway built here by the city, you have an opportunity to witness the dynamic nature of sea cliffs, with their fl at abrasion platforms visible and the evident erosion and wave-cutting of the bases of rock and even some caves and small arches. Moreover, the railway embankments show the underground rocks, cutting through and so exposing some of the caves which are, in some cases, filled with marine deposits of pebbles, sand and shells. The rock dwelling vegetation visible on the sunny side of the cliffs and exposed to a saline environment is characterised by its resistant nature. Most frequently present are the samphire and sea daisy, and once again you can see the local endemic Limonium malacitanum.
You can also see here the old beacon tower Torre del Cantal, in the middle of a housing estate. The tower is visible when you look west when exiting the last tunnel. It is very similar to the watchtowers seen at Stage 1 with a conical shape, circular at the base and with machicolations, which, despite its possible Arabic origin, marks an important remodelling in the sixteenth century. Curiously, the watchtower cannot be seen from the beaches of La Cala del Moral.
The Rincón beaches
The long Paseo Marítimo de la Virgen del Carmen, along the former old railway, shows the visitor the deep seated seafaring tradition. One of its most prized sea foods has been named after Rincón de la Victoria, as the Victoria anchovy, “boquerón victoriano”. Apart from successive streams on the way, sometimes bordered with railway sleepers as they cross the sand, the walk leads you along a wide dirt track, its surface firm and well used by locals and visitors for sports.
The path is bordered by houses and gardens for many kilometres, in the first line of the beach. At approximately km 3.6 you should look for an exit to the north, crossing the N-340 which here is called the Avenida del Mediterráneo, and reach the Casa Fuerte Bezmiliana, a fort built in 1766 a few meters from the sea to hold back the attacks of Dutch and Saxon pirates, well worth a visit if possible. In Rincón de la Victoria you can also see El Castillo de Bezmiliana and a magnificent Roman villa rich in mosaics with geometrical and mythological motifs.
Between the access to the Casa Fuerte and El Torre de Benagalbón (km 6) in the built up area about a 100 metres from the walk, at a makeshift roundabout, there is an abundant population of Searocket (Cakile maritima) with some scattered specimens of Sea Daffodil (Pancratium maritimum) just as you cross El Arroyo Granadilla. El Arroyo Benagalbón is followed by Arroyo de Santillán, where the remains of a rail bridge marks the beginning of the city limits of Vélez de Málaga and the first of the former coastal train stops ( at km 8) called Chilches, significantly damaged by the graffiti but well preserved architecturally.
Chilches, Benajarafe and Valle Niza
Just like other coastal towns, Vélez has been built along the N-340 road and close to the beach. In its first Vélez section the road has been built partly on the former train platform which leaves just a few meters for transit, except for the first open flat areas, widely used by campers and for parking. La Torre de Chilches tower is the first one which is easily accessible from the walk; however it is on the other side of the N-340. This modest watchtower has slightly different features compared to the previous towers as it dates back to the beginning of the 16th century and its then architectural model. It has a solid appearance with four embrasures and brick fillings.
The walk now follows a narrow breakwater which separates you from the sea and it narrows progressively. At some point you will see on your right, one of the traditional orchards with figs and other fruit trees, surrounded by cane to protect it from the breeze and salt (km 10.4). As you reach Benajarafe, with its pleasant pavements along the N-340, you will start noticing again that you are following the old railway line when you reach the Station of Benajarafe, integrated in the urban structure. The coastline you pass by, as usual to the south, houses an important seagrass “meadow” selected by the Aula del Mar for its project Cordón Verde Litoral (Coastal Green Belt) located near the delta of the Vélez River.
The unique vantage point of Stage 2 is the tower of Benajarafe also called Moya or Gorda (which means fat, and is due to its size). There is a public access to the tower across the road. The tower is worth visiting. It has an interesting horseshoe shape of a military bastion and dates back to the 18th century. The building has a robust feel. The living quarters of the tower occupy the fi rst rocky outcrop of shale, 30 metres above sea level, overlooking a large expanse of the sea. Already placed at a vantage point, the tower stands 11 meters tall. Its walls are two meters thick, made of stone, capstone and brick. It is the only tower on this coast with such a peculiar shape (however there is another almost identical one on the coast of La Cala de Mijas).In addition to offering two rooms, it also housed two cannons used to hold off frequent attacks by pirates and privateers, both northern and African. The tower there is a brick chimney used to get rid of the smoke produced by a factory which was hidden underneath.
The walk leads to the beach, with its characteristic greyish colour of sand, and as it passes a few surviving clumps of tamarisk it takes you by an old house built of blocks of sandstone. You will be able to see where the sandstone has come from later on in the walk. Arriving at Arroyo Iberos stream the walk takes you upstream and then down under the N-340 (at km13.2) and around a housing estate Valle de Niza, crossing the road from Cajiz (MA-3203) to arrive at Arroyo Almayate amongst fi elds. Close by there is a campsite and a major international avocado export company. However the must do stop is the Castillo del Marqués, which, after many transformations, was finally converted into a catering school. Just like its twin, the Bezmiliana Casa Fuerte fort was built in 1766 to fi ght off threats coming from the sea. It was able to house four cannons. The highlight is the fort´s façade crowned with hornwork fortify cations and a double rampart (which aimed at more effective defence of the entrance), plus another semi-circular one. The main body of the building built of stone blocks is square-shaped, built around an arms court and surrounded by a moat, which nowadays has been filled in.
The Old Málaga Road or Camino Viejo de Málaga
As you find yourself again on an old abandoned railway platform, you will fi nd the evidence of the even worse destiny met by the failed Niza Beach urbanisation project, passing by abandoned roads and gardens on an enormous plot of land. The landscape changes with the appearance of chalk hills to the east. These nearby hills reach their maximum height at the Torre de Jamal. The Christian watchtower from the 16th century, which can be accessed at km 6.2 km, does not follow the usual architectural models since it is square, 12 meters high and built using much more brick. The surroundings, fairly degraded at times, are dominated by herbs and hawthorn, plus a few abandoned olive groves and isolated copses of Aleppo pine trees.
The walk descends and takes you across a bridge dating back to the same period as the Moya tower and the two forts seen in Stage 2. Having passed by another house built with blocks of sandstone the walk continues on an asphalted road that leads to Casas de Cabo (a stream), and shortly after that goes back to following the former train tracks leading you again through orchards in the so-called Tajo del Pinto. Past Monte Azul housing estate the walk passes through a vast wild area of abandoned citrus trees and thriving rabbits. Next you encounter the Arroyo del Búho and then the station of Almayate. Almayate is a new urban centre which depends on the city of Vélez Málaga, it is famous for its orchards and fisheries, its recently discovered cave hermitage and an historical treaty of being able to establish a settlement less than 1 league (3 nautical miles) from the sea, a privilege granted after the Christian conquest.
The most famous of the hills that surround this small town is El Peñón Almayate (or Del Toro, named after the bull-shaped black metal advertising panel on top of it).This is a headland of sandstone, a witness to the forces which shaped the coast in the past. This hill is where stone blocks were quarried for the two built houses which are now ruined and which you passed by earlier at Stage 2 but also those which were used to build the Cathedral of Málaga between the 16th and 18th centuries. However, the easiness with which this stone could be worked was the reason why the quarry existed as early as the 8th century B.C. and had continued operating until very recently.
The rock harbours a selection of marine fauna (especially molluscs). In the past it stoodas the western bastion of the now non-existent inlet of the Vélez River which was used by the Phoenicians to build a settlement, Los Toscanos. The rock continues being a distinctive feature of the landscape. The ancient Phoenician city of Los Toscanos, situated on both sides of the river, forms an extremely important part of historical legacy. The western part, which is accessed at km 18.5 in Almayate and at km 20.0 before crossing the river, consisted of the city, the port which was an embarkation point both for people and goods, storage for a multitude of amphorae and a walled outside area. There are other archaeological sites nearby at the top of the Cerro Peñon and Cerro Alarcón hills, also in the north-west and at the Necrópolis de Jardín. The main necropolis was on the other side of Vélez, at the Cerro del Mar. The planned Archaeological Park of Lower Vélez (Parque Arqueológico de Bajo Vélez) comprises sites also dating back to Roman and Arabic occupation.The high cliffs of the rock, shelter under it one fertile soil which formed here in historic times and covered the ancient Phoenician bay. Few coastal farming areas of the city are as extensive as the plains of Vélez River, or as productive. The subtropical Mediterranean climate is due to the sheltering against the northern winds offered by Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and the Arco Calizo Central.
At the junction in Los Toscanos you can turn south, crossing the N-340 and, in the middle of a plot dedicated to growing vegetables and fruit, you will fi nd La Torre Manganeta, dating back to the 16th century, a tower which is in quite bad shape and is also the most humble of all the towers seen so far. The difference in height and distance from the sea between this vantage point and the Phoenician city shows the evolution of the sea level and accumulation of basin sediments. The slightly north-east tendency of the walk´s direction becomes directly north as you cross Vélez river across the battered railway bridge, just at the entrance of the village of Torre del Mar, which you swerve around on the right. Again you will fi nd yourself between
irrigated fields and the river on your left, and in the distance, from a place called La Barranca, you can already make out the view of the capital of the Axarquia region. Behind you, the view of Vélez Málaga with its fortress crowning the brown hills and mass of Sierra Tejeda and Almijara at the back is simply spectacular. When the walk gets closer to the riverbed again, you will pass by a water treatment plant on your right and then you will walk underneath the A-7. Here crops begin alternating with industrial buildings because of the closeness to the city. The GR-249 passes above the A-356 by gradually turning northeast, as Stage 2 ends at the Nuestra Constitución roundabout.
1. Initiation Stage :
Access Starting point: La Cala del Moral can be accessed comfortably from Autovía del Mediterráneo. There is a traffi c hub close to the starting point where access roads intersect: the A-7S, MA-24 from Rincón de la Victoria and the coastal N-340.
Starting point: Arroyo de Totalán, where you enter the city limits of Rincón de la Victoria direction east.
Enjoy the walk safely: This long and linear journey, with the beginning and the end of the stage being so far apart, should be well planned. There should be no problems with accommodation or in case you need to return, however these things should not be subject to improvising. There are possibilities to stock up on food or water almost all along the way. This becomes more difficult from Almayate onwards as the path moves away from the road, that great vertebra of the coast. On this last section of Stage 2 there is a certain amount of traffic related to the comings and goings of farm vehicles and you should take care walking on the side of the road.
The only troublesome stream crossing is over the Santillán, due to the collapse of the old railway bridge, but normally the strea´s waters do not pose any danger except for major storms, which are not frequent. The little climb along the streambed in the Arroyo de Iberos should not present any difficulty under normal conditions. The cliffs of El Cantal have protective railings, but be careful standing close to the breakers when the weather is rough. The same rule should be followed in places where a narrow jetty of rocks separates the path from the crashing waves. At the moment the railway bridge over the river Vélez has no protective railings, but it is wide enough to pass through quite safely. Be careful not to trip over the nuts and bolts which pepper the concrete.
Finally, and as a general rule on the coast of Málaga, the west to east direction of the path suggests that you will be facing the sun during the first hours of the day and having the sun directly behind you during the rest of the day. It is necessary to protect yourself from the sun´s effects.
2. Completion of Stage:
Access to finish point: The A-356 road mentioned above. It connects the Autovía del Mediterráneo by two intersections with the A-45 in Casabermeja and the Puerto de las Pedrizas.
Finish point: Nuestra Constitución roundabout, at the western entrance to Vélez Málaga off the A-356 road
3. Alternatives :
Possible "escape routes": Practically any point of the journey is near the N-340, with all the services of the long stretched city which is what the eastern Costa del Sol actually is. At the beginning the N-340 is inland, to the north, and from km 13.2 (Arroyo de Iberos) it runs toward the coast, to the south.
No return point: From the Peñon de Almayate onwards (the Almayate rock has an image of a bull at the top, approximately at km 19.5) it is more suitable to finish the stage than undertaking another alternative.
Connections to other footpaths and trails: From Stage 1, the GR 92 E12 continues meandering along the coast of Málaga, sharing itinerary with our GR but in the opposite direction. There are not many public paths along the coast and the existing ones seem to concentrate all in the same area, north of Rincón de la Victoria centre. There are three consecutive local “senderos” departing from Arroyo de Granadilla. As can be expected in this environment, they end up climbing hills and heights with spectacular views towards the south and the coast.
The SL A-82 Arroyo Granadilla Cerro Capitana is a circular 8.5 km walk that has the access to Albenda Tower as one of its attractions. The interesting ramble through the bottom of the valley is shared by the SL A-83. The two paths meet again at the highest point, offering more alternatives. The first path, Arroyo de Granadilla (or Granadillas on other signs) follows a loop to the west. The 7 kilometre circular called Cerro del Tío Caña takes you to the east.
Finally, the SL A-84 Cerro de Benagalbón Cerro del Tío Caña is a linear, the two walks coincide along the last few metres but in this case the walk starts from the centre of the village of Benagalbón and reaches Rincón de la Victoria as it descends. The three footpaths offer flexibility and allow planning a personalised walk. It is also possible to visit the Cueva del Tesoro (before El Higuerón) as a guided tour. It is located on the upper cliffs above Los Cantales and with very easy access from the GR. Prehistoric human occupation and the legends and anecdotes surrounding it are combined with the attractiveness of its formation process, linked to the elevation of the land and changes in the level of the sea in successive geological times, together with the erosive action of the Mediterranean.
Also, there are three areas at Stage 2 which have drawn the attention of scientists and teachers resulting in different studies which sometimes are accompanied by detailed routes. These are Los Cantales, Peñon de Almayate (also called the Bull Rock or Cerro del Toro) and the delta of the Vélez river. In these three places, because of geology, flora and fauna, different groups of people have designed their own interpretive itineraries that are accessible in various formats, also as publications sponsored by CEDER Axarquía.
The same occurs with the obvious historical and heritage values reflected in the routes and suitable focus on the times of the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, the industrial era, etc. The coast line and the abrupt terrain have caused the traditional foot paths, animal paths and roads to be laid out along more or less the same route throughout the centuries. The Camino de Vélez (or the Camino Viejo de Málaga, its name changes depending where you start), has been known forever, in fact it is still possible to make out the surface of the old path at the end of it. Other than that, only spoken or written testimonies to this millennial passage way exist, and it can be traced to Roman times.