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Freqently Asked Questions

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Accommodation

Do I need to book my accommodation in advance in the area?

Yes. If you want the hotel which is best-suited to your needs, do not risk it. Go ahead and book your room. Many of the villages have local fiestas or long week-ends when Spanish tourists come to visit and the best rooms go quickly. Easter is always very busy. Ronda is a popular destination and booking in advance is a must. Note that Easter and the Ronda Feria in September are high seasons: you may need to book well in advance and be prepared for higher prices.

Clothes

What clothes do you recommend when walking?

Walking socks can make a big difference between tired, sweaty, blistered feet and feet that are dry and well protected. It is worth investing in good quality special walking socks which wick away moisture and feel nice and dry all day. They should be long enough to protect the ankle from the edge of your boots.

Convertible walking trousers which can be turned into shorts are a good idea for Andalucían mountains especially in the spring and autumn when temperatures can vary. Wearing jeans is never recommended; they are heavy, stiff and soak up the rain.

Walking poles are always a good idea, especially if you are accustomed to using them. We always have extra walking poles available should you need them.

A comfortable light rucksack is a must. Wearing a shoulder bag even on a short walk can be extremely uncomfortable and is strongly discouraged; you may need your both hands free in case you have to support yourself on a stony path. Fiddling with a shoulder bag when walking, taking photos, looking through binoculars and trying to have a drink out of your water bottle is nearly a super-human task and could be dangerous. We will loan rucksacks if you do not want to pack one.

A fleece sweater is a much better choice than a traditional heavy wool sweater. A light, warm and breathable fleece is a pleasure to wear on a steep path where a wool sweater would be sweaty and unpleasant.

Windproof and waterproof light jacket is all you need for Ronda and Grazalema mountains.  Worn over your fleece sweater, it can be removed and rolled neatly into your back pack when you warm up when walking.

Sunscreen. The sun in Andalucía can be very strong even on a relatively cloudy day and you don´t want a burn to spoil your lovely walk. With a cool breeze up in the sierras you may not feel the burn, especially in the winter. You can ignore it but it will be there when you get back home. Please wear a hat for the same reasons.

Do I really need to bring walking shoes or boots? Why can’t I wear sneakers?

Yes, walking shoes with thick non-slip soles are the minimum you should consider and no sneakers please! Walking on flat paved surfaces is very different from hiking on steep forest or mountain paths and tracks; an uneven surface is much more tiring for the ankle, and the sole and limestone can be very slippery. Sneakers or (the horror) walking sandals are simply not safe. Dirt getting into open sandals will make you very uncomfortable even after an hour and may cause blisters. Loose rocks and a host of prickly plants in the mountains can make a sandal-wearing walker yell “ouch” every few seconds, which seems like a cruel punishment on your holiday!

Sneakers are designed for practising sport on flat surfaces. They lack the thick soul and grip designed for the mountains. If you do not want to pack walking shoes or boots into your small Ryanair-slim suitcase, consider wearing them on the plane journey; added value of bringing proper walking shoes with you will be comfort and ankle support when walking on the cobbled streets of Spanish towns and villages.

Fitness

How long are the walks you use for the day walks and walking holidays?

We use walks which are approximately between 6 and 17 km. Please note that the length of each walk in kilometres or miles is not a precise indication of its duration or difficulty level. The limestone nature of the local mountains is one reason why some of the paths can be slow going, even though the walk may seem short on paper. On the other hand, some of the longer walks can be quite fast if the paths are smooth and clear.

How fit do I need to be to join your walking holidays with Walk Andalucía?

As far as a walking holiday is concerned, while you will feel fitter and healthier after a full week of walking, it is important to bear in mind that we do not run a fitness programme or a boot camp designed to “punish” or “test” the participants in any way. Our goal is to enjoy the walks irrespective of the pace.

We consider any group of walkers as a team of like-minded friends, supporting each other whilst  walking together. Our focus is on the views, wildlife, history and traditions of the area, not on sporting achievement.

The guide will always try to have a couple of easier and tougher options for every walk. The back-up guide on tougher walks will be there to help and offer alternatives in case someone prefers an easier option. We never start a week-long holiday with a tough walk: it takes time for the group of walkers to adapt to the new environment, terrain and to get to know one another.

Your guide will always prepare you for the walk and explain what to expect, offering flexible options and making sure everyone can have a good time.

How fit do I need to be to join your day guided nature walks?

The emphasis of our guided walks is on enjoyment. Basic fitness and health is, of course, a requirement for any type of outing in the countryside. However, the guide’s role is to adapt the walks and the pace to the necessities and abilities of each walking group as much as possible.

If you are joining us for a day’s walk, please remember that the more information about yourself you give us when booking, the better we can suit the walk to your needs.

Nature Outings

The Outings

Why use a guide for birdwatching, nature and walking?

There are many wonderful routes which have not been described in walking guidebooks, or at least in English language guides because of lack of way-marking and navigational issues; these also tend to be the more isolated walks where it is much easier to be at one with nature and not meet another bipedal creature for miles. Such walks are perfect for exploring with a local guide. Not having to worry about navigation eliminates the slight unease anyone feels when in unknown territory. No chance of getting lost will help you plan your day, and you won´t be late for dinner.

Walking with a guide you have no need to carry lots of equipment, guidebooks, maps or a GPS; your hands and your mind will be free to take photographs or just relax and “be”.

All the questions you’ve always had about Andalucía can be answered. How often is the cork tree stripped?  What is the process of curing Spanish Serrano ham? Will Griffon vultures snack on an occasional rabbit or a small hiker? What is that red fruit on the tree? What do people do for a living in a mountain village of 200 souls? How do I say “another pig’s cheek stew, please” in the local dialect?

Nature guides have their favourite spots and know where to expect a certain bird, plant or a mammal. This makes seeing something special much more likely.

Walking Permits

Why should I care about getting a permit and following the rules?

If you walk without a permit, the authorities do not know what the true flow of people in the strict reserve is and this has an extremely negative impact on the conservation of the walks and nature. Permits have been introduced for a reason. A good example of this is the erosion on the Pinsapar walk in the rare Spanish Fir forest section.

During the forest fire season, should you be on a restricted walk without a permit and there is a forest fire, you could be not only stopped and fined but possibly held for questioning. Forest fires are a serious issue in the Fir forest area and another reason why these particular walks are restricted. The walks are closed to the public from mid June to mid October because of highest fire risk. You can still enter with a registered guide; however, we personally feel that two of these walks, Garganta Verde and Torreón, are best avoided in the heat.

What happens if I walk without a permit?

You could be stopped by the Forest Guards from entering the walk. On the other hand, you might get lucky and enter but be asked for a permit further along and this is when you can be fined. Permits are sometimes checked at the entrance and sometimes just spot-checked.

 

How much does a permit cost?

Permits are free from the El Bosque Park Office. The Grazalema Tourist Information Centre charges just €2 for helping you get one.

Are the four walks in Sierra de Grazalema for which you require a permit the best?

No.  While these are excellent walks, their beauty or popularity is not why they are restricted. The reason why the Park wants to control the flow of visitors on these walks is their proximity to the Spanish Fir (Abies Pinsapo) forest which is a rare protected tree.  There are many truly breathtaking walks in the Park which do not require a permit.

Do I need a permit to enter the Grazalema or Sierra de las Nieves Natural Parks?

At the moment only four walks in the Grazalema Park require a permit: Garganta Verde, Pinsapar, Llanos de Ravel and Torreón. Entering the Park itself does not require a permit and there are villages and comfortable roads within the Park limits.

Sierra de Las Nieves does not have a permit system for any of the walks so far. However, organised large groups such as school trips or walking clubs are required to notify the park personnel before entering the Park reserve, especially the area of the Spanish Fir forest (pinsapar). There are villages and roads in the Sierra de las Nieves Park although some parts of the Park need to be accessed on dirt tracks.

Weather

What’s the best website for local weather forecast?

We like www.eltiempo.es and we suggest you check it for your exact location such as Montejaque, Grazalema, Ronda, etc as local weather can vary quite considerably. The forecast normally starts being most reliable about four days in advance although it is published for next two weeks.

What will the weather be like during our visit?

It would be fantastic to be able to answer the weather question exactly! We can only try to give you an idea of what to expect and how to prepare.

Winter is the season when the rainfall occurs. The rain in winter fills up the rivers, reservoirs and streams and this enables the plants and animals to thrive in spring and survive during the dry Andalucían summers.

The mountains around Grazalema are the first barrier for the clouds coming from the Atlantic and Mediterranean, creating the rainy climate around Grazalema village in winter. It is worth remembering that this occurs in bursts rather than prolonged periods of dreary drizzly weather. Normally from April to end of September there is no rainfall at all or just an occasional shower. The rainiest month, and thus not recommended as best for walking, is November. January can get cold and this is when Grazalema can be powdered with a thin layer of snow. The Sierra de las Nieves is locally famous for knee-deep snow in winter which can last up until April on the highest peaks.

Spring is mild until mid June when the weather can get hot. Typically in spring temperatures vary greatly between mid-day, mornings and evenings. Dressing in layers is best and a light “technical” breathable jacket helps. It can get quite hot between 11 and 4 pm. Early mornings, evenings and nights can be a bit chilly.

Summers are very hot in the whole of Ronda area and all the small villages. The two closest large cities have very different climates: Seville is referred to as the frying pan of Andalucía while the coastal city of Malaga is milder and more humid.

Although autumn is mild, September can still be quite hot on some days. Again, temperatures can vary from morning and evening to mid-day.

When To Visit

Is there a time I should avoid?

The area can be enjoyed any time of the year if you are well prepared and know what to expect. However, if you are a serious naturalist and are on a quest to find certain animals and plants, you may want to avoid Easter, Saturdays and Sundays, local holidays and school holidays. While the walks never get as busy as certain walks in the Lake District in the UK or certain national parks in the US for example, they can get too busy for a birdwatcher or a naturalist who requires undisturbed habitats and silence. We can help by guiding you to walks which are peaceful at all times.

When is the best time to walk and see plants and animals

This depends on what your priorities are. If you want lots of sunshine, then April, May and June are best. July and August can be extremely hot and walking is only possible if you are prepared to get going at 7 am to be back before 2 pm. If you are prepared to do that, you can have a lovely stay.

April and May are best for wild orchids although March and June will also give you many species. Wildflowers start blooming in mid-February and get progressively more abundant until their peak in mid May. Migratory birds start arriving around mid February and last ones are in place by the end of April. They start leaving for their wintering grounds in late August, September and October and the last species leave around November. Resident bird species and Spanish Ibex can be seen all year round, although in the summer the Ibex keep to highest peaks where it is cooler.

Winter is a largely unappreciated time of the year to walk in Andalucía. Especially December and February can be bright and lovely for mountain walking and there are many species of birds which come here from the north of Europe for the winter. Some of them will be unfamiliar to you wherever you come from. Spanish Ibex are best seen in winter when the males are easier to be observed during the mating season. Several species of wild plants such as narcissi, iris, the December clematis and two species of orchids bloom in winter. In late December the almond blossom appears and continues to bloom into mid February. Christmas is good fun in the villages, a truly non-commercial and traditional holiday.