Wild beauty in the Spanish Pyrenees: The Aigualluts waterfall below the Aneto Peak. Photo credit: Miguel303xm.
Dave van Deudekom wrote this guest post on Walking in Spain: the Pyrenees versus Andalucia. He is a co-founder of walkingholidayinfo.co.uk, a directory for walking holidays in Europe and the UK by independent local businesses.
The Spanish Pyrenees and Andalucia are two popular destinations for walking holidays in Spain. Yet these walking destinations are opposites in many ways.
The majestic Pyrenees Mountains lie in the north of Spain at the border with France, while Andalucia sits in Spain’s far south along the Mediterranean Sea.
The Spanish Pyrenees – A formidable natural barrier
The Pyrenees are a formidable natural barrier with very few low passes where you can cross. With many peaks over 3,000 metres high, they form a challenge to anyone who wants to travel to the other side.
The Pyrenees Mountains stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean. And as you travel along the ridge, you can see the landscape and climate changing. From the barren, wild and dry East to the much greener and wetter West.
The Spanish Pyrenees are still very rural in character and offer great landscapes to explore on foot. Typical are the many waterfalls and mountain streams, as well as the large number of enormous amphitheatre-like valleys with steep sides (known as cirques).
There are many sign-posted tracks and trails in the Pyrenees and so each year the area attracts large numbers of walkers and hikers.
The Pyrenees have many high peaks, but for Spain’s highest mountain you have to travel about 900 kilometres South to another very popular walking region: Andalucia. There, in the Sierra Nevada range lies the Mulhacén. At 3,479 metres high, this mountain rises above the Pico d’Aneto in the Pyrenees with 75 metres.
Andalucia – Rich culture in a varied landscape
Andalucia lies on the Spanish South coast, along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a large and varied area with an enormous biodiversity and surprising variety in weather. Andalucia holds the records for both the wettest and driest place in Spain. In some parts, there can be long periods of torrential rain, but you’ll also find Europe’s only official desert here, the Tabernas.
All this variety makes for many wonderful walking opportunities. Generally, the climate is warm and Mediterranean. But if you go up into the higher mountains like the Sierra Nevada, the Alpujarras or the Sierra de Aracena, you can get cooler walking weather even in summer.
Andalucia also has a rich culture. It’s always been an important place because of its strategic location around the Strait of Gibraltar. Over time, many civilisations have had control of the area and all have left their marks.
Now some of Europe’s most beautifully preserved architectural monuments are in Andalucia. The area has literally hundreds of cultural sights: from cathedrals, castles and forts to mosques, monasteries, and historic city centres.