When I started planning my trip, one of the things I wanted to do in the Algeciras area was exploring the Parque de Los Alcornocales. This natural park extends over 170,000 hectares of land and is made up of the largest oak forest in the world. It is one of the most important protected areas of Andalusia and is known as “the last Mediterranean rainforest”. Definitely worth a visit, either hiking or running!
But first let me introduce you to Algeciras. Primarily a port and industrial centre of key importance in southern Spain and gateway to Morocco, this city is not much of a tourist destination. Most tourists only stop for a few hours and I made it my base for purely logistics reasons: accommodation is cheaper than in Gibraltar and there are good bus connections with towns nearby and with the airport in Malaga.
While Algeciras is unlikely to take your breath away, especially after visiting other Andalusian towns, the main square of Plaza Alta – with the church of San Isidro and a beautiful fountain in the middle of the square, all decorated in colourful tiles – is worth checking out. You can complement that with an evening stroll along C. Alfonso XI, with its shops and cafes. The food market in the Plaza Mercado Ingeniero Torroja and the Moroccan quarter, with its kebab kiosks, halal butchers and tea shops, are quite interesting too.
But now let’s go to the Parque de Los Alcornocales! With a number of routes to choose from (I used a couple of apps as well as had a chat with the owner of my hostal), I decided to head to the area called Cobre – take bus #5 from Algeciras centre, or you can walk/run like I did. Cobre is the starting point for the Senda de Los Prisioneros and the Sendero Rio de la Miel. They are both popular and well marked routes, with the first being considered more difficult than the second one. I started along the Senda de Los Prisioneros, soon encountering some ascents on rugged terrain and with no tree cover. I cannot imagine how hot it can get in the summer sun! After stopping by a farm and attracting the attention of some curious goats, I continued on for a bit but soon had to stop in front of a fence and a large locked gate. I turned around and back, and reached the start of the route to the Rio de la Miel. Steep, narrow, and with large boulders to step over, this path took me along a stream and to a beautiful waterfall. Such a great place where to rest for a bit and enjoy the surroundings before heading back to town! I didn’t meet a single soul in my wanderings and I really enjoyed the whole adventure. I suspect that in busier tourist season it would be quite different, though.
I was planning to do a second hike/run towards the end of my stay as I wanted to follow the route called Garganta del Capitan. But the torrential rain on my last day only allowed a shorter run along a coastal path before it all became too wet to continue. And I had to abandon any plans to hit the trails. One more reason to visit again?