Costa del Sol and Costa de Almería: Places to Explore

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The Guadalhorce Valley

Coming from Antequera, take the El Torcal exit, turning right onto A343, then from the village of Alora, follow the small road north to the awe-inspiring Garganta del Chorro (Gorge of the Stream), 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 is, amazingly, the main line heading north from Málaga for Bobadilla junction and, eventually, Madrid. Clinging to the cliff side is the Caminito del Rey (King's Walk), a suspended catwalk built for a visit by King Alfonso XIII at the beginning of the 19th century. It has been closed since 1992, but the €9 million renovations are due to be completed in 2015.

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 (town hall) 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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