The Guadalhorce Valley

The awe-inspiring Garganta del Chorro (Gorge of the Stream) is a deep limestone chasm where the Guadalhorce River churns and snakes its way some 600 feet below the road. The railroad track that worms in and out of tunnels in the cleft was, amazingly, the main line heading north from Málaga for Bobadilla junction and, eventually, Madrid until the high-speed AVE track was built.

North of the gorge, the Guadalhorce has been dammed to form a series of scenic reservoirs surrounded by piney hills, which constitute the Parque de Ardales nature area. Informal, open-air restaurants overlook the lakes and a number of picnic spots. Driving along the southern shore of the lake, you reach Ardales and, turning onto A357, the old spa town of Carratraca. Once a favorite watering hole for both Spanish and foreign aristocracy, it has a Moorish-style Ayuntamiento and an unusual polygonal bullring. Today the 1830 guesthouse has been renovated into the luxury Villa Padierna spa hotel. The splendid Roman-style marble-and-tile bathhouse has benefited from extensive restoration.

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