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near Zahara de la Sierra, Andalucía (España)
This spectacular hike into the green canyon (garganta verde) offers a gigantic half-cave (natural chapel-hermitage), great views, rock faces, breeding griffon vultures (in season) and other birds of prey, Iberian ibex, and a for southern Spain perhaps unexpectedly green scenery. The Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema is the wettest place in Spain (wetter than Galicia) and therefore very green. Attention: this hike requires a permit that can be obtained by e-mail in advance from the visitor center in El Bosque (firstname.lastname@example.org), quoting the date, the amount of people and the hike (Garganta Verde). You then have to fill out a digital form. It is free, but the amount of permits is limited. The canyon houses one of Europe’s largest colony of griffon vultures. I saw vultures on several nests on the rock faces on the other side of the canyon. Do not forget your binoculars. The griffon vultures are big, but the nests I saw were on the other side of the valley. Female Iberian ibex were seen close to the start and at the edge of the canyon. If you start early, you have the canyon to yourself. The hike ends about 250 m after the cave. From there you can only proceed with proper equipment and experience. On the canyon floor, the GPS does not work well, but it is difficult to get lost as there is only 1 path. Due to the GPS being off frequently, the real length of the hike is a bit shorter (about 6 km). There are no services in the canyon.
The start is at a dedicated parking on the road from Zahara to Grazalema (CA-9104). There is a water through here where you can hear and see frogs. After about 500 m you can turn left for 125 m to a viewpoint across the canyon. After returning to the main path you continue slightly down- and then uphill, until after about 1.4 km you get to the edge of the canyon (here also the nesting area starts). From here you start your descent to the canyon floor. After 250 m there is a peculiar rock formation on your left and a bit further (200 m) a steep rock face with orange and black on your right. You descend further, passing by a railing with a view towards the opposite rock face with griffon vulture nests. A bit further there is a steeper descent on stone steps with metal railing. A cave is visible on the other side of the canyon floor. After about 2.5 km you get to the canyon floor. You walk on the usually dry river bed between boulders to the Ermita de la Gargante Verde, a huge half-open cave. From here you can scramble your way further along the river bed and the ever more difficult to negotiate boulders until you cannot go further without proper climbing and canyoning gear and experience. You then return along the same route to the starting point.
You scramble along the river bed of the Arroyo de los Bocaleones until it is not wise to go any further.
You get to the canyon floor here. The hike continues in the river bed.
Large spectacular, half open, cave in the canyon.
Steep rock face with orange and black rock.
A strangely shaped rock on the edge of the canyon
The descent is steeper here with stone steps and metal railing and cable.
Here, the real descent at the edge of the canyon starts
A large cave can be seen at the other side of the canyon.
You have a good view towards the nests of the vultures high on the other side of the valley. Still about 400 meters, so you really need binoculars.
Viewpoint of the Garganta Verde
Water through near the start. Frogs can be found here.