The Gargante Verde is a spectacular limestone gorge close to the village of Zahara de la Sierra in the Grazalema mountains a couple of hours drive inland from the Costa del Sol. Access is by permit which must be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre in El Bosque and permits are limited to a small number of parties each day to protect the Griffon Vultures which nest in the gorge. If the trip to El Bosque is combined with a drive around the local villages (especially Zahara and Grazalema) the day spent getting your permit is not wasted as the scenery is excellent and the roads are "interesting" in a "Hardknott Pass on steroids" sort of way.There is a small car park at the beginning of the path which starts off along the lip of the gorge with a small detour to a viewpoint which looks over a Vulture nesting site and gives good views of the birds once they are on the wing. We set off early (10.30am) and there was nothing to see but we got superb views on the way back in the afternoon.
Shortly after the viewpoint the path traverses the bottom of a large crag and then starts to descend steeply into the gorge. The path is quite exposed but the most open sections are equipped with thin metal handrails and no scrambling is necessary.
As the path follows a series of ledges down to the bottom of the gorge a large cave in the opposite wall comes into view. This is just a taster for the much larger cave which is to come and which is one of the gorges main attractions.
The bottom of the gorge is a huge jumble of massive limestone boulders and trees. In wet weather it is actually a sizeable stream and the route becomes a gill scramble but there is a rough path scratched out on the left hand side as you head downstream.
Descending the bottom of the gorge you soon reach a huge cave, the Ermita de la Garganta, with it startling pink limestone roof. Warning notices advise anybody who is not a proficient climber to end their walk here but it is quite easy going for quite a bit further and the surroundings are spectacular.
The gorge continues over more large boulders and narrows to live up to the translation of its name, The Green Throat.
Eventually the gorge descends into a subterranean cave and non cavers must turn round and reverse the route back to the car park.
The hassle involved in obtaining permits might put many people off this walk but it is definitely worth the effort. I would thoroughly recommend the whole Grazalema area to anybody looking for superb walking in the sun, especially early in the year when the landscape is still green.
Thanks for writing up, Andy Looks good, quite jealous - I've been to Grazalema a couple of times, but never actually been into Gargante Verde because of the hassle of getting a permit.
If you're particularly interested in nesting Griffon Vultures, a less restricted place is Canon del Rio Lobos, in Northern Spain near the Sierra de la Demanda.
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